Cre­ate Amaz­ing Char­ac­ter Art

Learn how Abraão Se­gundo used hair and skin shaders to help him cre­ate a re­al­is­tic piece of art based on Co­nan the Bar­bar­ian

3D Artist - - CONTENTS -

In this tu­to­rial we will learn a bit about the work­flow for char­ac­ters and movies, as well as tips that we can use in­side of maya and zbrush to im­prove our de­vel­op­ment as a char­ac­ter artist. the main steps will re­quire a lot of at­ten­tion to avoid loss of qual­ity. the hair was made by my friend, thales Si­monato. We worked side by side so i could give him direc­tions and make fi­nal ad­just­ments.


Pro­por­tions and sil­hou­ettes Source a lot of ref­er­ences for the char­ac­ter, weapons and ma­te­ri­als, and put them all into a ref­er­ence plan in­side of Pho­to­shop. We need to be care­ful with the pro­por­tions and sil­hou­ette of our char­ac­ter, the size of arms, legs, torso and head. For the head size you need to count how many heads there are from the head to the feet – eight is a good av­er­age for re­al­is­tic pro­por­tions. Look at any con­cept that you are fol­low­ing and at anatomy.


Model the head the head is one of the most dif­fi­cult parts. For pri­mary shapes, find ref­er­ences, check the pro­por­tions and the dis­tance be­tween the eyes. Line the ears with the eyes, the base of nose with base of ears, and the mouth more closely to the nose than the chin. For sec­ondary shapes, check all views and break the sym­me­try: look at zy­go­matic shapes, chin vol­umes, dark cir­cles, signs, jaw and other in­stantly recog­nis­able shapes.


Body – main shapes now we need to fo­cus on the sec­ondary shapes, which are the most vis­i­ble and recog­nis­able when look­ing at a model. in this case, these are the mus­cles, shapes and cur­va­ture of each part of the body, arms, legs, torso and hands. after we de­velop the pro­por­tions we will add vol­ume with a brush that you like, Clay or an­other, with the in­ten­sity set to low. al­ways look at a ref­er­ence with the same pose as you want for your char­ac­ter. this will be eas­ier than try­ing to imag­ine it. that way you de­crease the chance of mak­ing mis­takes.


Topol­ogy, Maya and Zbrush there are dif­fer­ent work­flows for mod­el­ling. For this process we have to do the max­i­mum amount of de­tails pos­si­ble on the topol­ogy be­cause if we need some close-ups on some part of your char­ac­ter dur­ing the movie or trailer then those parts will be there with­out any de­pen­dence on dis­place­ment or nor­mal maps.

We can make clothes in­side of marvelous De­signer, ex­port to zbrush, ap­ply the zremesh tool, fix the flow of topol­ogy and fin­ish in­side maya. For pieces and de­tails, like the sword guard, cre­ate a Dy­namesh in­side zbrush, ex­port dec­i­ma­tion to maya, use the mod­el­ling tool kit for topol­ogy and then re­turn to zbrush for fi­nal de­tails. a clean and cor­rect topol­ogy is bet­ter for all pro­cesses such as UVS, masks and poses.

We can solve most of these us­ing our equip­ment in­side zbrush, with zmod­eler. at this stage it is nec­es­sary that you make the model ex­actly the same as the ref­er­ence.


Sep­a­rate files after all parts of your char­ac­ter are in the cor­rect po­si­tion, we need sep­a­rate ztl files. as you don’t have a lot of files, you can put sim­i­lar ma­te­ri­als in the same file. For ex­am­ple: file 01, all skin Subtools, file 2, all met­als and so on. each weapon or shield can be in a dif­fer­ent file too. re­mem­ber that each ztl file can’t be more than 2gb, and each Subtool needs to be less than 50 mil­lion polys. a project like this needs good plan­ning if you don’t have a pow­er­ful ma­chine.


Work on UVS after we sep­a­rate the files, it’s time for UVS. We can choose be­tween nor­mal UVS, or Udim in our projects for cin­e­mat­ics. For the best qual­ity for our tex­tures we chose Udim. make poly­groups in the topol­ogy, re­spect­ing the cut lines that you imag­ine for your project. We will open all that we can in­side UV mas­ter from zbrush. after we ex­port to maya, to or­gan­ise it bet­ter for Udim UV, we can op­ti­mise our tex­tures and or­gan­ise them by hand or use the Lay­out tool.

For the head, the best choice is to open in­side your 3D soft­ware or with Uvlay­out.


Add de­tails Di­vide the Subtool un­til it’s at a max­i­mum of 50 mil­lions polys. it’s very im­por­tant to know that the sec­ondary shapes are nec­es­sary for achiev­ing nat­u­ral de­tails. Cre­ate sep­a­rate lay­ers, pores, scratches, veins, wrin­kles and skin signs. Use al­phas and brushes to reach the best re­sult. Fol­low the tu­to­ri­als on the web­site: tex­tur­

For the skin we use the Dam_­s­tan­dard brush with some ad­just­ments. go to Stroke>mouse avg Set 1, this set­ting will make the brush more sen­si­tive to your move­ments. For scars we can use the Blob brush or Stan­dard plus Clay Build-up and Veins Stan­dard brush.


Ex­port dis­place­ment and nor­mal maps to ex­port the de­tails we can use this con­fig­u­ra­tion: Plugin> multi map ex­porter> Select Dis­place­ment> choose the size (in our case 8192 if you use just one UV set, if you use Udim it can be 4096). Flip V>ex­port Op­tions, and for the Dis­place­ment map set as Sub­div Level 1, Dp­sub­pix 4, mid 0, and set as 32-bit, exr, Scale as 1 and in­ten­sity as 0. We can just use dis­place­ment for skin be­cause this map brings us all of the de­tails that we need from zbrush. We some­times use the nor­mal map for as­sets and small parts.


Ap­ply dis­place­ment with Arnold Ren­der ex­port all meshes to maya, or­gan­ise your scene and let’s start to link all Dis­place­ment maps. First, check your Udim files to see if the names are cor­rect. if not re­name them in the cor­rect form, for ex­am­ple: name.1004, name.1003. Select the mesh and start the process. ap­ply an a is ta nd a rd sur­face and open the hy­pers had er. Select the sur­face node and link your tex­ture and change the UV tiling mode for Udim (mari). Select the mesh again and open the arnold tab on the at­tribute ed­i­tor. Find the two tabs Sub­di­vi­sion and Dis­place­ment at­tributes, open both. Set type to Catclark, it­er­a­tions to 3 or 4, UV Smooth­ing to Lin­ear and Bounds Padding to 1.


Tex­ture in the Co­nan project we used mari for the skin tex­ture on the face. Paint in 8k if you can or, at min­i­mum, 4k. We can use the Project tool in our first layer and a good tip is to use a depth mask for pro­jec­tion. then cre­ate a pro­ce­dural layer with small pig­men­ta­tion of yel­low and red colours. next, cre­ate a layer for red ar­eas, as ears, month, nose and scars. Use dark colours for more vari­a­tion. We can use Sub­stance for all as­sets and cre­ate some masks for mixer shaders in­side the maya with arnold ren­der. in­side Sub­stance you can cus­tomise your ma­te­rial and save for use in sim­i­lar as­sets.


Arnold ba­sics Choose the arnold ren­der, set the file for­mat, cre­ate a cam­era and choose the size. We will start the light­ing process, so select the arnold ren­derer and set the sam­pling. Set the cam­era con­fig­u­ra­tion. Select the cam­era that you cre­ated, go into at­tribute ed­i­tor, open the arnold tab and make your con­fig­u­ra­tion. the last step here is to open the arnold ren­der View, turn on the Pro­gres­sive re­fine­ment and click on up­date Full Scene.

Use dis­place­ment for skin be­cause this map brings us all of the de­tails that we need from zbrush


Light to break the black shad­ows up, cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment Light (hdri) and re­flec­tion. go into the arnold > light > sky­dome Light menu. Select the light, go to at­tribute ed­i­tor > colour and link your im­age (you can find awe­some im­ages on hdri­ Cre­ate one light at a time, and find the best an­gle to show vol­ume shapes for your model. Be care­ful with frontal lights as some­times you can hide the shapes.

For this project we just needed to use four lights: key lights, on the top, the back light and the fill light on the side. try to rep­re­sent the same en­vi­ron­ment of hdri.

For the planes, we use a break di­rect light and cre­ate vari­a­tions on the shad­ows.


Arnold shader For shaders, use ai stan­dard sur­face with the ai mixshader. this way we can work with spec­u­lar and rough. in the first shader we use a map with a lot of vari­a­tion to break the un­real rough­ness. in the sec­ond ma­te­rial we ap­ply the maps, Diffuse or albedo, re­flec­tiv­ity, rough­ness and nor­mal map. Pay at­ten­tion to the re­flec­tiv­ity and rough­ness in­side arnold ren­der. to reach a bet­ter re­sult with these maps you need to link an ai ranger be­tween the im­age map and the shader.

re­mem­ber that if you are work­ing with an Udim shader, you may need to re­name the file, es­pe­cially if you ex­port dis­place­ment from zbrush. For ex­am­ple: name.1001, name.1002. Change the set when you link the im­age.


Skin shader For the skin shader, ba­si­cally we used a mix be­tween two stan­dard shaders: one just for re­flec­tion and the other for the skin.

We used six maps, Diffuse, Spec­u­lar, rough, Deep, Deep mask and SSS (sub­derm). re­mem­ber that it’s very im­por­tant to use the real size in­side maya, for the shader to de­liver the best re­sult. Some­times we can ad­just in the Scale Shader to 0.9. For the dirt over the skin, it’s eas­ier to make a mix be­tween the skin and other shader, this way you have more con­trol. to do this we can cre­ate a mask, in­side Sub­stance Pain­ter, use aim­ixshader to join the two shaders. Con­nect the mask map in the mix Weight and, mix mode in Blend.


Groom hair here we used Xgen from maya. Cre­ate a low re­gion for the hair. On Co­nan’s hair, the chal­lenge was to achieve dry, messy-look­ing hair while main­tain­ing the lay­er­ing and vol­ume at the same time. We ended up us­ing 13 de­scrip­tions, in­clud­ing peach fuzz, fa­cial hair, hands, body hair, boots and the ac­tual hair. the work­flow for the hair is very sim­i­lar to the other pro­cesses. We start block­ing out the main shapes and once it has the right vol­ume we break it up into smaller clumps and add fine de­tails, such as frizz, strays and sub-clumps. For me, this project was very im­por­tant be­cause it was my first time ex­per­i­ment­ing with re­al­is­tic hair groom­ing.

We ended up us­ing 13 de­scrip­tions, in­clud­ing peach fuzz, fa­cial hair, hands, body hair, boots and the ac­tual hair


Ren­der now it’s time to ren­der our project. Let’s set all the con­fig­u­ra­tions. Set the file for­mat as exr, and the size and aa sam­ples if you use depth or hair in your im­age. make sure you set the Sam­ple above 6, Diffuse at 2, Spec­u­lar at 2 and SSS at 3. ren­der the char­ac­ter sep­a­rately from the back­ground, select the Sky­dome and set the Vis­i­bil­ity Cam­era to 0. now in your fi­nal ren­der we’ll come with the al­pha chan­nel. after your ren­der is done, you can hide the char­ac­ter and ren­der just the back­ground.


Post-pro­duc­tion Open the file in­side Pho­to­shop, go to im­age > mode > change to 16 bits. With a new win­dow open, change the method to ex­po­sure and gamma. after this, you can du­pli­cate the back­ground layer, ap­ply a Curve ad­just­ment or a Level ad­just­ment. Cre­ate a layer for glows, find the high­light point in your im­age and choose a soft brush to cre­ate small glows. Find some fog im­ages or smoke on the in­ter­net, try to find black-and-white im­ages and you can cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment fog with small par­ti­cles too us­ing the Screen Blend mode if you want. Be care­ful with the main ar­eas of the im­age, don’t put any­thing in front of your char­ac­ter’s face. Be care­ful with the ad­just­ments and equalise well, with no black shad­ows and no in­tense high­lights.

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