UNDER THE SKIN Creature artist Dominic Qwek demonstrates the steps needed to truly bring characters to life, layer by layer Publisher The Gnomon Workshop Price £30 Format DVD/Download Web www.thegnomonworkshop.com
Making skin look real in your pictures is a matter of understanding light, and how it affects the surface of the skin. It’s a creative challenge for which 3D software is well-suited.
In this two-hour video, Dominic Qwek reveals his own process for detailing and rendering skin in 3D, although there are plenty of take-home points for 2D artists, too. Dominic breaks his process into three distinct stages, using different software in each.
The most time-consuming stage involves Dominic taking a ready-made creature model into ZBrush and detailing the skin, meticulously building layers of tiny pores, wrinkles – anything that breaks up and scatters the light as it hits the skin’s surface. This, Dominic explains, is how you avoid the silkysmooth ‘CG look’.
You’ll need to know ZBrush to keep up with what he’s doing, but you’ll deepen your knowledge of the roles various brushes and alphas play in creating realism. The closest this process gets to traditional painting is when Dominic applies textures over the model. You’ll recognise many conventions of 2D painting, such as using red and blue to indicate the blood and veins beneath the skin.
The remaining stages are easier to get into. The ZBrush model goes into KeyShot, which is a specialised but accessible tool for lighting and rendering 3D models. The half-hour spent in KeyShot serves as an appetiser if you’re new to the program, but you’ll need to explore it on your own to approach Dominic’s results.
The last stage involves Photoshop, as Dominic applies scumbled textures that blend into the render. He narrates the action with quiet authority, but tends to focus on the 3D process in favour of the anatomical and painterly knowledge that informs his decisions. You’ll finish the video with some understanding of skin, but far more of 3D software techniques.
From ZBrush sculpts (above) to finishing off in Photoshop (right), Dominic Qwek’s got his skin in the game. Skin textures start with a Polypaint base layer in ZBrush.