Shade and ren­der a stylised char­ac­ter

Dis­cover how to mix re­al­is­tic de­tails with a stylised car­toon to cre­ate your own in­di­vid­ual and unique char­ac­ter

3D Artist - - CONTENT -

Sculpt a unique model, use Or­na­trix and ren­der in V-ray


n this tu­to­rial we’ll learn the tech­niques re­quired to be able to make a stylised char­ac­ter with very com­plex de­tails. From skin de­tail­ing to fab­ric and hair shad­ing, we’ll be cov­er­ing the process of sculpt­ing cloth with­out us­ing any sim­u­la­tion soft­ware in Zbrush and 3ds Max. We will also dis­cover how to use Zbrush poly­paint and mix that with Mari tex­ture paint­ing and then take ev­ery­thing to Sub­stance to fur­ther en­hance the look of the skin and cre­ate the tat­toos. Af­ter that, we’ll ex­plore how to cre­ate the hair­cut from block­ing the base in Zbrush and make the ac­tual hair in Or­na­trix. Fi­nally, we will do the light­ing and shad­ing in 3ds Max and ren­der in V-ray.


Block out the main form Be­fore start­ing the sculpt, check some ref­er­ences to see how the char­ac­ter could look and also what type of pose she will be in. Af­ter find­ing ev­ery­thing we need, use a base mesh that you’ve made of a stylised fe­male and be­gin sculpt­ing the ba­sic block­out. It doesn’t need to be any­thing spe­cial, just the usual brushes flike Clay Buildup and Move, Stan­dard and Dam_­s­tan­dard. To clean up the sur­face noise caused by the Clay Buildup brush, use Trim Dy­namic to pol­ish and smooth the sur­face with­out los­ing vol­ume. If you use the Smooth brush, you will lose the vol­ume and the ba­sic shapes. Af­ter fin­ish­ing the rough sculpt, split the mesh into four parts – head, hands, legs and torso – so that we can use the Trans­pose tool to pose the char­ac­ter with­out any prob­lems.


Auto re­topol­ogy wih Zremesher When you work on a char­ac­ter for games or cin­e­mat­ics, it’s usu­ally bet­ter to use Zsphere man­ual re­topol­ogy or any tool of your choice be­cause you need spe­cific topol­ogy for skin­ning and rig­ging. In this case we’re us­ing Zremesher but we’ll have to make some poly­groups to con­trol where we need the edge loops. All you have to do is mask the part you want to group and then click Ctrl/cmd+w to group it. Af­ter clean­ing ev­ery­thing up us­ing Pol­ish By Poly­group, click on Zremesher while hold­ing the Opt/alt key. Keep in mind though that you will have to check the Keep Group op­tion that way as it will remesh the ob­ject and keep the poly­group­ing in­tact.


Edge flow for sub­di­vi­sion con­trol Ex­port the Zremeshed body to 3ds Max so we can add some de­tails and con­trol the lip and eye edges bet­ter. Start by re­mov­ing the tri­an­gles and ngons from the un­nec­es­sary places to pre­vent pinches later when we ren­der the skin. Now that you have the topol­ogy and quads, ex­trude the lips in­side a bit and add some thick­ness to the eyes. Add more edge loops around those parts to get a sharper cham­fer for sub­di­vi­sion. Ev­ery­thing is now ready for us to start de­tail­ing the sculpt in Zbrush with­out wor­ry­ing about los­ing vol­ume when we di­vide.


Add dis­place­ment To add dis­place­ment to the face, use Tex­tur­ing XYZ in Mari and Zbrush. We usu­ally have three type of maps – pri­mary, sec­ondary and mi­cro dis­place­ment – but we won’t do that here be­cause it’s a stylised char­ac­ter. In­stead, we’ll only need the main dis­place­ment. Ex­port the mesh af­ter un­wrap­ping it in Zbrush and use two dif­fer­ent UDIMS, one for the face and an­other for the body, to get a very high-res­o­lu­tion tex­ture. Also, don’t for­get to split the face map up for the dif­fer­ent fea­tures. Do the same thing for the body be­cause Mari will crash if you try to paint a full 16k map. Since we al­ready have the body in Zbrush, im­port the painted tex­ture from the Al­pha menu, go to Mask­ing and click Mask By Al­pha. Now you can use lay­ers if you want to de­crease the dis­place­ment. Go to De­for­ma­tion for the In­flate tool and play with the num­ber as you see fit.


Cre­ate the jacket Ev­ery­thing about this project was about learn­ing more tech­niques and be­ing bet­ter at sculpt­ing so we’re us­ing the old work­flow to ex­tract the shapes from the body. Adopt the same method we em­ployed to cre­ate the proper topol­ogy for the body us­ing Zremesher. Af­ter that, take it to 3ds Max to add the edge con­trol like we did for the body. Now that ev­ery­thing is ready for sculpt­ing, check some leather jacket ref­er­ences and some fold stud­ies be­fore start­ing to sculpt. For this, we are mainly us­ing the Dam_­s­tan­dard brush with and with­out press­ing Opt/alt as well as the In­flate brush on some of the folds be­cause the leather ma­te­rial has a spe­cific look. Once done, hit Zremesher again and keep do­ing that un­til the sculpt is com­pleted with all of its de­tails, in­clud­ing the mi­cromem­ory folds. you can add some re­al­ism to the leather in Sub­stance Painter later.


Make some de­tails For the zip, we could just use the IMM Zip­per brush from Zbrush but we want a non­de­struc­tive work­flow with more con­trol so we’ll use 3ds Max’s sur­face de­former to make the copies of the zip that we mod­elled in 3ds Max. Then make it fol­low the cho­sen sur­face by cre­at­ing a sim­ple plane. you can ex­trude it from the bor­der of the jacket where you want the zip to be by cre­at­ing a shape from both sides of that plane, and then mak­ing a sur­face from those shapes us­ing the NURB mod­i­fier. Now make the zip with very sim­ple box mod­el­ling, copy it as many times as you need and at­tach them all. Add the sur­face de­former mod­i­fier, pick that sur­face and you’ll have a zip. For the stitches, do the same thing ex­cept only use the path de­former fol­low­ing a sim­ple shape. you can also use the same work­flow for the belt but it will be one full mesh that fol­lows a sur­face or a shape.


Tex­ture the skin Now that we have ev­ery­thing ready to be tex­tured, start with the skin. We’ll use Zbrush first for the ba­sic poly­paint­ing, fol­low some ref­er­ences and colour pal­ettes for the colour tones on our faces. Use the Stan­dard brush and change the al­pha to get dif­fer­ent looks. When you’re sat­is­fied with the re­sult, ex­port the sim­ple paint­ing to Sub­stance Painter in the form of a 2D map. Now ex­port the body to Sub­stance Painter and add the poly­paint in­for­ma­tion. Mix it with the dis­place­ment map we painted in Mari and then start refining the skin us­ing some fill and paint lay­ers as well as the cool smart masks pro­vided by Sub­stance.


Makeup and tat­toos The makeup is very sim­ple to do – just add a new fill layer with a black colour that’s just un­der 100 per cent black. Then black mask that fill layer and use the lazy mouse in Sub­stance Painter to do the eye­lashes – fol­low­ing some ref­er­ences, of course. Now that the eye­lashes are done, you can add less rough­ness to the ma­te­rial to make them less re­flec­tive than the skin it­self. Be­fore we cre­ate the tat­toos, how­ever, we need to gather some ref­er­ences. We’re not go­ing to make them from scratch and it’s not the pur­pose of this tu­to­rial so in this project we’ll photobash some black and white tat­toos, and we can paint over them to add some spe­cific words. We’ll do the colour­ing our­selves us­ing some gra­di­ent colours be­cause real tat­toos have a blue tint, like you see in veins, and that is usu­ally caused by light bounc­ing off of skin, giv­ing it that colour.


Skin shad­ing Af­ter ex­port­ing the maps from Sub­stance Painter, we’re not go­ing to use them straight away. First we need to ad­just them in V-ray with some colour cor­rec­tion. For the skin, use the new V-ray al­sur­face shader – it’s pretty sim­ple and doesn’t re­quire a lot of maps so we have more con­trol over the skin’s look. We’ll be us­ing the base colour and the skin colour. For the other two skin lay­ers, it’ll just be the de­fault colour with just a cou­ple of tweaks – that’s how ac­cu­rate this new V-ray shader is. For the re­flec­tion map, em­ploy the map from Sub­stance and mix it with the dis­place­ment map with­out mak­ing it very ob­vi­ous. For the rough­ness, adopt a sim­ple pro­ce­dural map from 3ds Max called cel­lu­lar and mix it with the same map to get a glossy vari­a­tion. Don’t for­get to use the GGX BRDF mode so that you have a re­flec­tion that changes based on the view­ing an­gle. As for the dis­place­ment, just use the map ex­ported from Zbrush as it is but with a small ad­just­ment in the out­put to avoid in­flat­ing the ge­om­e­try when it comes to ren­der­ing.


Tex­ture and shade the clothes Now that ev­ery­thing is in place and the skin shader is ready, try and make a good-look­ing jacket and jeans. For the jeans, use a sim­ple jean tex­ture and then take it to Sub­stance De­signer. Use a fil­ter to process it, make tiles and tweak the nor­mals, dis­place­ment, rough­ness and so on. Then take it to Sub­stance Painter to add the de­tails and that way we can add some da­m­age to the colour and some vari­a­tion in the nor­mal in­ten­sity. It’s pretty much the same for the jacket ex­cept that we’re not go­ing to use tex­tures. In­stead, we’ll use a Sub­stance down­loaded from Sub­stance Source – it’s a free re­source. Add some ad­just­ments to it in­side of the V-ray ma­te­rial to make it look more like fab­ric with some Fres­nel ef­fects to get the frizzy look. For the leather, use Sub­stance Painter to get the ef­fect by start­ing with a sim­ple smart ma­te­rial that looks like leather. Of course, since we have the back de­tails we can make fur­ther changes to it to make it look a bit worn. It’s still a new jacket but we need to tell a story be­hind our tex­ture. As the char­ac­ter is a badass biker, she must get into fights and so some dirt and scratches will make it look awe­some.


Block the hair in Zbrush Be­fore you start work­ing on cre­at­ing the hair, you have to fig­ure out what type of hair­cut you need. If we start us­ing Or­na­trix with­out any ideas about the style and just start groom­ing, we will never finish. Go to Zbrush and play with some curve brushes to get the main look. We’re go­ing to use the Curve­tube brush with a small mod­i­fi­ca­tion un­der the curve mod­i­fiers on the Stroke menu. We’ll change the curve to make it taller at the end – that way, our block­out will look a bit more like hair.


Set up the main hair strands Af­ter we have our hair­cut blocked out in Zbrush, ex­port it into 3ds Max and freeze it so that we will be able to work on the ac­tual hair with­out any prob­lems with Or­na­trix groom­ing. Be­fore start­ing, paint a hair map in Sub­stance Painter so we can con­trol where we want the hair to grow from. Next, se­lect a small part of the head model – we don’t want to se­lect the whole head – and add the Or­na­trix mod­i­fier. It’s worth not­ing that even if you have a map to con­trol it, it will be heavy on your PC, so now that we have the small ge­om­e­try se­lected, add the ox guides from sur­face mod­i­fier. Af­ter that, try to groom the guides to make it look like our block­out mesh. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t try to groom the guides with a high root count as that will make it harder for you to con­trol. Try to use a low count in­stead and then work your way up un­til you’re happy with the look – af­ter that, you can add the ox hair from guides.


Add hair vari­a­tions Now that we have the main form of our hair­cut, try to add some hair vari­a­tion – that’s one of the most im­por­tant parts of hair cre­ation. In or­der to make it look nat­u­ral, we have to split it into dif­fer­ent lev­els of de­tail so we’ll do the same thing that we did in Sub­stance Painter and paint where we want the de­tails to be. Af­ter that, copy ev­ery mod­i­fier you added to the pre­vi­ous hair but only those on top of the ox hair from guides – that way we get the same hair prop­erty but a dif­fer­ent look. We don’t want dif­fer­ent hair thick­nesses as that will look bad when we ren­der. Keep do­ing this un­til you have enough hair vari­a­tion to get a nat­u­ral look with­out los­ing the stylised feel of the hair­cut.


Colour in­ten­sity vari­a­tion Now we’ll go into Sub­stance De­signer to cre­ate a ba­sic greyscale tex­ture to rep­re­sent dif­fer­ent colour in­ten­si­ties in the hair. Since we don’t want it to be too uni­form, we’re go­ing to use an anistropic noise node. Af­ter that, add a blur_hq_ grayscale so that we don’t have a sharp tran­si­tion be­tween dif­fer­ent greyscale val­ues. Next, plug it into a his­togram range node so that we won’t have any in­tense black or white val­ues. Now we’re ready to go to 3ds Max to pre­pare our hair shader.


Pre­pare the hair shader For the hair shader, we’re go­ing to use the V-ray hair ma­te­rial as it’s easy to use and gives a pretty good re­sult. First add a V-ray map called Vray­hair­in­fo­tex to the opac­ity slot. Swap the black and white colours, and change the bias value to 0.1 – that way the tip of the hair will fade out and that will help later with the an­tialias­ing. Then go to the colours and add an­other Vray­hair­in­fo­tex map to the trans­mis­sion slot in the out­put. Keep it on this colour and set a dark colour for A. For colour B, se­lect a brighter colour – the same hue but a dif­fer­ent in­ten­sity. Keep in mind that colours A and B will not be just flat colours as they’re V-ray colours mixed with the tex­ture we made in Sub­stance De­signer us­ing the V-ray dirt map to mix the two.

Colours A and B will not be just flat colours as they’re V-ray colours mixed with the tex­ture we made in Sub­stance De­signer us­ing the V-ray dirt map


Light the char­ac­ter When light­ing your char­ac­ter, al­ways try to have a pur­pose be­hind your choices. If you don’t, you’ll just get lost and keep adding lights with­out be­ing sat­is­fied with the out­come and not even know why it’s look­ing how it does. So for our char­ac­ter we’re go­ing to start by adding the first light on her right side. This will be the key light and then we’ll start adding some more to high­light cer­tain shapes and to sep­a­rate her from the back­ground to make her hair stand out. Add a back­light on her left back side to make her re­ally pop and then use the re­flec­tion and the re­frac­tion fil­ters to do some com­posit­ing later when it comes to ren­der­ing. Also add an HDRI with a very low in­ten­sity, too, for bet­ter re­flec­tion.


Ren­der and comp For the ren­der­ing we’ll use brute force for the pri­mary en­gine and light cache for the sec­ondary one. The ren­der­ing type is bucket and for a sharper ren­der use the cat­mul­l_rom fil­ter. In the im­age sam­pler, put 100 in the Max Sub­divs and 1 in the Min Sub­divs and put 0.005 for the noise thresh­old. The lower you get, the cleaner your ren­der will be and the slower it gets. The rea­son for us­ing the brute force en­gine is that it’s bet­ter for ren­der­ing spe­cific char­ac­ters de­tails with high-de­tailed dis­place­ment. Peo­ple will usu­ally use an ir­ra­di­ance map and a light cache for arch vis and other projects. how­ever, if you have some­thing that re­quires high sam­pling cal­cu­la­tion in ev­ery part of the model, you would want to use brute force. Af­ter we finish, we use the ren­der passes like am­bi­ent oc­clu­sion, re­flec­tion, re­frac­tion and so on. We then make our comp in Pho­to­shop us­ing chan­nel blend­ing and some colour cor­rec­tion.



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