Sculpt stun­ning Zbrush con­cepts

Learn new tech­niques and how to sculpt a project with this mas­ter­class in Zbrush con­cepts from Maarten Ver­ho­even

3D Artist - - COMTENTS -

Maarten Ver­ho­even’s pro guide

In this break­down of this project we’ll show you how Maarten cre­ated the Queen Of The Dead. He’ll try to give an in­sight into how he com­pletes these types of projects. So let’s take a look at how you can speed up your work­flow, learn about what you can cre­ate in Zbrush and how you can max­imise your con­cepts, us­ing sim­ple tools and prim­i­tives, and how to max­imise your re­sults us­ing

Keyshot for ren­der­ing. We will also share some in­ter­est­ing tips and tricks on light­ing in Keyshot that he dis­cov­ered when mak­ing this piece.


Use of a base mesh You like to work fast, so what’s the best way to start quickly? Start with a base mesh. We knew what the ini­tial fi­nal de­sign was go­ing to look like, so we loaded up a pre-ex­ist­ing mesh of a woman. We de­cided to cut up the torso and arms and delete them. Af­ter this was done we added a cylin­der as a tem­plate for the teeth just as a place­holder. Fi­nally they will be up­dated with some high-res ge­om­e­try.


Block out de­tails with Sculp­tris Pro So we started on the face, quickly re­al­is­ing that the de­tails that needed to be added were dis­tort­ing the sub­di­vided base mesh. So for re­fin­ing the cut-off nose and the ear­lobes, what bet­ter way to do this than by delet­ing the sub­di­vi­sions and us­ing the Sculp­tris Pro fea­ture.

Us­ing this set­ting in com­bi­na­tion with any brush in Zbrush is awe­some, you can de­ter­mine the amount of de­tails by ad­just­ing your brush size. Small brushes add a lot of de­tail while a big one cuts away planes and make it more sim­pli­fied. One note on us­ing this fea­ture, you will add tri­an­gles to your sculpt and I would rec­om­mend stay­ing un­der one mil­lion poly­gons per Subtool, oth­er­wise it will be lag­ging on your feed­back while sculpt­ing.


Make the drap­ery Cre­at­ing the drap­ery on this char­ac­ter was very im­por­tant, be­cause this and the tiara would be fo­cal points in the com­po­si­tion, so we wanted to make this as real as pos­si­ble.

I save out the base mesh of the char­ac­ter as an OBJ and load it up in Marvelous De­signer. What you need to do in MD is the most sim­ple thing you can do. Cre­ate a plane and drape it over the char­ac­ter and run the cloth sim­u­la­tion on it. We did a few tweaks on it, ad­just­ing some folds and ex­ported the ge­om­e­try as a sin­gle-plane ob­ject ready to be im­ported in Zbrush.


Sculpt the pe­tals The roses are also an eye­catcher in this piece so let’s work out a quick way to sculpt the pe­tals. let’s start out with a cylin­der prim­i­tive and squeeze it into a thin disc with the gizmo and trans­pose tool. Af­ter this, dis­tort it with the Move brush and cre­ate a sim­ple pe­tal shape with it.

As you can see the topol­ogy isn’t ideal to sculpt on so I would sug­gest run­ning Zremesher over the Subtool again. This will give you a clean ob­ject that you can eas­ily sculpt on and add de­tails like the lit­tle veins and folds. The leaves were also cre­ated in this way.


Make the roses The roses are cre­ated with the pe­tals and the leaves are made in a sim­i­lar work­flow. Af­ter the two sep­a­rate pieces are cre­ated you can make the flower crown. The roses are cre­ated in three lay­ers. Start build­ing it by copy­ing and past­ing them in a cylin­dri­cal way (this was done six times on the bot­tom layer), and tweak them all a bit to give them a more di­verse look. Merge all these to­gether and cre­ate the mid­dle layer with five and the top layer with four pe­tals. The heart of the flower is four pe­tals twisted around each other us­ing the de­form­ers hid­den un­der the gizmo.


Add Poly­paint The only real tex­tur­ing was done in Zbrush us­ing Poly­paint.

Start look­ing for some ex­am­ples of Day of the Dead face paints, and af­ter study­ing some im­ages we can start paint­ing di­rectly on to the model. Ap­ply just a sim­ple skin tone and ap­ply some face-paint fea­tures, flow­ers around the eyes and some swirls. Most of the painted de­tails were painted in white to achieve a spe­cial ef­fect in Keyshot, but more on that later.

The heart of the flower is four pe­tals twisted around each other us­ing the de­form­ers hid­den un­der the gizmo


Build the tiara The tiara is a big eye-catcher in the whole de­sign of this piece, so first we wanted to fig­ure out the di­men­sions. How big is the crown go­ing to be? let’s start with plac­ing lit­tle sticks on the head to see what was needed to give it a halo type feel­ing. Af­ter this, in­sert a disc as a place­holder to add IMM brushes. The whole tiara looks com­plex but it’s so fast and easy to do with IMM brushes. How were they cre­ated? For this we went look­ing on­line for free scanned and cre­ated or­na­ments, crosses and skulls. Then we mod­i­fied them all to suit our theme, Dy­nameshed, dec­i­mated it all and turned them into IMM brushes. The only thing we had to do was make a de­sign with it that looks com­plex and high end. It’s not im­por­tant what’s on the tiara, it’s more im­por­tant that it grabs your at­ten­tion vis­ually.


The dead mask The dead mask was the very last thing that came up in the whole de­sign. We were look­ing for some­thing spe­cial be­cause the tiara was de­mand­ing all the at­ten­tion of the viewer, I needed an ex­tra fa­cial fo­cal point. So we were bold and masked off a sec­tion of the face and ex­tracted the base for the skull mask. We ran Zremesher over the whole thing to give it some nice ge­om­e­try around the edges and went in there with a Stan­dard brush, an al­pha 38 and Sculp­tris Pro on, our favourite weapon of choice.

Af­ter all the shapes were sculpted, we quickly used a Dis­place brush with a scratched metal al­pha on the whole thing to give it all a metal-like feel­ing.


Add de­tails to the cloth We did a few test ren­ders to see how all the shapes would in­ter­act in

Keyshot un­der the real-world light set­tings. Some­how the cloth kept feel­ing like a piece of plas­tic, so we de­cided to fix this by adding some sculpted tex­ture.

Start by cut­ting the piece of cloth to your de­sired length. We knew we were go­ing to ap­ply the power of noise­maker on the whole piece with a UV, but the ge­om­e­try I got out of Marvelous De­signer was cre­ated with tri­an­gles.

Time to let Zremesher do its magic again. Af­ter some nice quads and UV master, we are ready to ap­ply a tileable tex­ture with noise­maker; just make sure to load up the tex­ture and turn on UVS. You can ad­just the size, strength and ap­ply it to the piece of cloth.

The only thing we had to do was make a de­sign with it that looks com­plex and high end


Use Fiber­mesh The lit­tle hair that you can see on the cloth were all made with Fiber­mesh. It’s only a very small de­tail, but when it catches your eye it makes a big dif­fer­ence. To ap­ply the Fiber­mesh we didn’t go for the high­est res­o­lu­tion of the cloth, there are six sub­di­vi­sions on it and we went for four sub­di­vi­sions.

We’ve no­ticed that it’s eas­ier to ma­nip­u­late the set­ting on the Fiber­mesh if your ge­om­e­try isn’t too high, some­how the spread is eas­ier to tweak.

Once happy with the length and den­sity, ap­ply it as a new Subtool ready for fi­nal­is­ing in Keyshot.


Set up Keyshot ma­te­ri­als The great thing about Zbrush in com­bi­na­tion with Keyshot is that you can shoot your model from one pro­gram to the other with­out UVS and maps. So what you see in the fi­nal im­age is 40 mil­lion polys on your screen. I would sug­gest us­ing skin­shader04 from Zbrush while trans­fer­ring your mod­els to Keyshot, and then start tweak­ing your ma­te­ri­als.

One of the nice things is that you can tweak your tex­tures, you can ad­just them with con­trast and bright­ness or add some­thing new. For ex­am­ple, on the piece of cloth I used a sim­ple tileable tex­ture found on­line.

I ap­plied it us­ing box pro­jec­tion but it could also work with the UVS that were still in the ob­ject. I ad­justed the con­trast and scale and it works per­fectly, es­pe­cially in com­bi­na­tion with the lit­tle fi­bres.


Set up lights in Keyshot The gen­eral light­ing setup in this scene is very straight­for­ward, I used an HDRI map as a gen­eral fill light and added two discs with an emis­sive ma­te­rial ap­plied. When I was set­ting up the light I had the feel­ing that the face wasn’t catch­ing any light and I wanted to go for an ethe­real look but noth­ing was re­ally work­ing. That was un­til a great lit­tle ac­ci­dent… the se­cret of how this was solved was by plac­ing emis­sive ge­om­e­try in­side a model with a translu­cent skin shader. The thing that I no­ticed is that Poly­paint will block the light rays shin­ing through ex­cept on the white paint. And that’s how the blue glow on the face and torso was cre­ated, giv­ing it all a ghostly, su­per­nat­u­ral feel.

It’s eas­ier to ma­nip­u­late the set­ting on the Fiber­mesh if your ge­om­e­try isn’t too high, some­how the spread is eas­ier to tweak


Find your com­po­si­tion It all de­pends on the an­gle that you choose to high­light and present your model. In this case I went for three an­gles and fi­nally chose one. But not af­ter I went through my whole post-pro­duc­tion process. I al­ways like to bet on sev­eral horses and make a few ren­ders, giv­ing you some cre­ative choices un­til the end, and to be hon­est you’re work­ing in 3D so ren­der­ing an­other an­gle will only take up time and no work­ing hours.


Re­fine and post-pro­duc­tion The post-pro­duc­tion can take up more time than what you would like to spend on it; the ren­ders in Keyshot are very nice and clean, maybe a bit too clean. I tend to take my time on the post-pro­cess­ing in com­par­i­son with my sculpt­ing, be­cause in this stage you can add a feel­ing to your work with colour cor­rect­ing, a vi­gnette, soft over­lay tex­tures and so on. Many projects like these take up 15 or more ad­just­ment lay­ers to make it work in my eyes. let’s not talk about a paint over, try to re­spect the hard work that you put into your model into a new light. It’s all about pre­sen­ta­tion, so just imag­ine some­one see­ing it for the first time. Be their guide by mak­ing sure they fo­cus on the parts that are im­por­tant to you as the cre­ator of the piece. There is noth­ing more dis­tract­ing than see­ing tech­ni­cally awe­some work with a bad pre­sen­ta­tion.

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