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Making of 'The Sky Fisherman'

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Date Added: 9th December 2009
Software used:

Modelling the Kids

I began modelling the children in 3ds Max. I didn't start from scratch, since I already had a generic human base mesh that I had modelled from a previous project. It helps save time and energy to keep a library of generic objects that you've made over time - no need to redo work that you've already done in the past! Also, in the interest of saving time, I decided that since Eli and Ardent had very similar anatomy and proportions, that I could use the same base model for both of them.

Using Max's basic tools like soft-selection, I took my generic human base mesh and altered the proportions to better fit the look of the boys in the concept art. I then modelled the clothing and prop base meshes, taking note that the only differences between the two kids were their shirts, shoes, and headgear. In Fig.07 you can see the same base mesh with a new set of clothing and props, making them look like the two different characters.

Fig. 07

Once the single base mesh with the two unique sets of clothing and props were ready, I took them into ZBrush and began sculpting the higher-res body. The idea was to get the high-res body sculpt as close to finished as possible, and then duplicate the mesh into two unique copies with their respective clothing and props. This way I would only have to sculpt the high-res anatomy once - thereby saving me countless hours from not having to do the same thing twice.

I relied heavily on anatomy reference when sculpting the body. I collected images from various sources across the internet, and took pictures of myself to use as a guide. I knew the kids needed to look and feel like real children in order for the audience to suspend disbelief and connect with them. I sculpted as much detail as I could with the character in its symmetrical t-pose, taking advantage of ZBrush's symmetry stroke to again save time and effort.   

I apologise if it seems like I'm not going too in-depth about the sculpting process here, but to be honest, there really is no secret trick or tip to this phase of the modelling - 90% of the workload is being done with the Standard and Move brushes. It just takes a lot of time, hard work, and tonnes of references to get a satisfactory final result (Fig.08).

Fig. 08

Once the high-res body sculpt was ready, I used ZBrush's Transpose Master toolset to put the boys in their respective poses. The pose is a very important aspect of a sculpt - it says a lot about the character - so I wanted to make sure they were just right before moving onto other parts. Things to look for when posing your character are silhouette, readability from a distance, and how you can convey that person's personality through their posture. A good way to clearly analyse your character's silhouette in ZBrush is to switch the shader to Flat Colour. The facial expressions were also handled during this phase - mostly by using the Move brush to change their mouth shapes (Fig.09).

Fig. 09

After the poses were complete, it was time to sculpt the high-res clothing and accessories (It's important that you sculpt clothing after the posing phase, because the pose will greatly affect how clothes fold and wrinkle). Hard-surface objects like the shoes were modelled in 3ds Max, while softer objects like the shirts, pants and gloves were sculpted in ZBrush. This project was the second time I'd attempted to sculpt realistic clothing, so it took a bit of trial and error to get a result that I felt was believable. It helps to give lots of thought to the specific material of the clothing, as that tends to dictate how the folds and wrinkles occur.  For example, for Eli's pants, I decided that they were probably jeans, which are fairly heavy and have larger, less frequent wrinkles. For Ardent's shirt, the opposite: a thin T-shirt material with lots of folds and wrinkles being affected by everything from the belt around his waist to the wind in the air. Again, lots of time, hard work, and references led to the final result (Fig.10).

Fig. 10

Final Intergration

With the kids finished and in their places, I gave the entire model one final pass to make sure everything fit together well. During this stage, I tweaked proportions, slightly altered poses, cleaned up any areas that I might have overlooked, and really tried to view the model as one integrated work, instead of a sum of smaller parts. Once it had passed this phase, the model was finished (Fig.11).

Fig. 11

3D Printing

After the 3D model was complete, I had the great pleasure of having the fantastic people at Offload Studios create an 18-inch tall physical 3D print of the model. Their work is truly amazing (magic as far as I'm concerned!), and it's been awesome to see them do what they do best (Fig.12).

Fig. 12


And there you have it! Once again, I'd like to thank you for reading, and a big thanks to 3DTotal for hosting this article and being such a valuable resource to 3D artists worldwide. If you have any further questions about this tutorial or any of my work, please feel free to contact me through my website,, and I'll try my best to help out. Happy creating!

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Readers Comments (Newest on Top)
Jay on Sun, 18 March 2012 12:13pm
nice work?
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