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Create a girl in a headdress with ZBrush & Photoshop

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Date Added: 1st May 2018
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Vahid Ahmadi takes us through the ZBrush and Photoshop workflow for another one of his elegant female characters, this time Aries...


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I am freelance digital sculptor, 3D character modeler, and ZBrush mentor, and here are some quick tips about making Aries created and rendered in ZBrush. Post effects were done with Photoshop. This piece was inspired by some beautiful photography, which you can find here, and here.

Blocking the main shapes

I began modeling using a free basemesh from MakeHuman which has different kinds of topologies to offer, and then I went on to create all the shapes using only ZBrush.

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Blocking main shapes in ZBrush

Making leaves in ZBrush using alpha maps

You can make a flat shape without thickness and unwrap a flat UV with it in ZBrush, or make a black background and put the texture on that. I used Transparency in the texture map to 'delete' the black background. If you wanted you could use this texture to 'paint' and use masks with hue or intensity to add some sculpting details on top of that.

Note: there are other ways to do this, for example making fiber meshes, and adjusting profile curves and then applying the texture.

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Making leaves in ZBrush using alpha maps and Transparency

Painting and texturing using ZBrush and Photoshop

To create some high quality textures, first I started polypainting in ZBrush, with some sculpting that to added more depth, and then I made a 4k texture in ZBrush and unwrapped the UV using UV Master. I then used polypaint on the texture again, and took that texture to Photoshop, where I used some free textures and Photoshop paintbrushes. I took it back to ZBrush and finalized the details, using mask by intensity to add more depth, with some subtle final sculpting and painting again using basic brushes and morph target.

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ZBrush and Photoshop painting and texturing

Making quick brush tips and textures in ZBrush

You can simply go to the Noise tab and use ZBrush basic brushes and alphas to make different brush tips for yourself, to add subtle variation to your work.

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Creating new brushes

ZBrush fibermesh hair

I used the ZBrush brown color hair preset in lightbox and changed the color of the texture in Photoshop. Then I made three hair presets for short hairs and long hairs, and then I used the Move brush and grooming brushes to groom the hair in separate SubTools. Afterwards, I played around with the render settings to have more variation. In the BPR render in ZBrush, I rendered the hair with the Hair 2 material, with flat color, then mixed them in Photoshop. Nothing special here, I tweaked it a lot until it somehow worked well with the BPR render in ZBrush.

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Making realistic hair in ZBrush

Rendering in ZBrush

I used Skin Shade 4 and lowered the spec level for the skin. For other parts of the skin, I used the same shader but added variety with different ambient and spec values to make it look more realistic. I then tweaked it with paint and textures, using the following ZBrush settings to render and create different passes to take them to Photoshop.

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Mixing passes and final adjustments in Photoshop

I mixed all the passes in ZBrush and added some subtle background painting and particles in Photoshop, then matched everything together to make it work fine. There are always some tiny flaws from renders that you can correct in Photoshop.

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Final image

Related links

See more on Vahid's ArtStation
Vahid on Instagram
Vahid on YouTube
Making of "Goddess"
Making of "Elf"
Making of "Dawnbringer"
Grab a copy of Beginner's Guide to ZBrush

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