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Making Of 'Swamp'

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Date Added: 9th December 2009


When starting this image I wanted to create a monster that was integrated with its environment.  I began sketching various monsters and ended up with this image which was a type of swamp monster built of wood, mud, grass and moss.  After I came up with a decent sketch I browsed the Internet for tonnes of references.  I usually make one large Photoshop image with a collage of my sketches and pictures that I find on the Internet to refer to while I build my art.

Fig. 01


I modelled the base of the monster quickly in Max, only laying out the basic overall shape.  I brought my base mesh into ZBrush and used various stencils to add mud clumps and cracks to the model.  After modelling the rest of my monster in ZBrush the mesh became too dense to work with in Max, so I broke the mesh into chunks: head, arms and torso.  I further reduced system load by processing a normal map to contain the very sharp details so that my working mesh would not be too dense. Once my mesh was UV mapped I brought the lower density mesh back into ZBrush and used Transpose to pose my mesh quickly.

Most additional details like the vines, slime and trees were simple primitives.  The vines and trees were splines with displacement maps, while the hanging slime and lily pads were planes with a FFD modifier applied to easily deform the shapes.

Fig. 02


When texturing this piece I mostly used the Total Textures Trees and Plants pack.  Since the monster was broken into a few chunks I tried to used tiling textures with masks in my Photoshop files so that I could duplicate my .psd files and simply repaint the layer masks for each individual body part.  In Fig03 you can see that I start with a base mud layer.  I then process my normal map in Crazy Bump to extract various height maps.  I lay these over my texture as Multiply, Screen or Overlay depending on what type of detail I'm trying to emphasise. After emphasising the shapes I then layer various grasses and ground textures.

Fig. 03

To create the textures for the bark on the trees and the vines wrapping around the monster I layered various barks and wood grain and created tiling textures that could be repeated on a spline.  I then copied the diffuse maps to be greyscale, adjusted them with curves and painted additional depth details on them to create their displacement maps. This helped cut down on a lot of modelling work, although it did increase my rendering times.

Fig. 04

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