If there are three things that you bear in mind when creating creature designs, what would you say they are?
“When designing a creature, I like to imagine the world or environment that it inhabits. Having a rough idea of where the creature lives, or what the conditions of its surroundings are, helps me produce a believable design. Even if I never get to create the environment for the creature, considering things like whether it lives underground or not can drastically change the way I shape the eyes or body proportions, for instance.
I also try to keep contrast between the elements in the design. This could be anything from the colour and textures to the volumes and details of the model. For example, if I have a highly detailed area to grab the viewer’s attention, I like to make sure it is followed by smoother surfaces or a plain colour where the eye can rest.
Proportions is another thing that is always in my mind when designing creatures. Creating an interesting relation between the main shapes like limbs or face features could make the design look either more appealing or ridiculous.”
What is it about creature design that makes it such an attractive pursuit for you?
“There is something about creature design that is very appealing. For me, I think it’s the fact that designing a creature is like trying to justify the existence of something that is not real. It is also a challenge to make a believable design, so thinking how the anatomy would work, what the purpose of a horn or third eye is or why it has six arms is absolutely fascinating.”
Do you normally work with sketches before getting stuck into sculpting? If so, how do you go about it and why is it important?
“It depends on the project. Sometimes I spend hours producing little thumbnails to warm up and get a good sense of what I’m going for, but I could also jump straight into ZBrush and do my sketching with DynaMesh from the beginning.
Regardless of the project or how I start it, I believe that it is incredibly valuable to go through the sketching process for two reasons.
Firstly, you can create numerous variations that will help you decide what the best option is before you get too invested in an idea that might not be very solid. Also you can share the sketches with other people and then get some feedback to help you refine your original concept further.
Secondly, the more sketches the better. The first few sketches are full of clichés and visual references that you might have collected throughout the day. These are not necessarily bad, but I feel that the designs get progressively more original and more interesting with every iteration.”
What would you say are your favourite tools inside of ZBrush for creature design?
“DynaMesh is certainly one of my favourite tools, especially when used in combination with Insert and custom brushes. Another two processes I found extremely useful are NanoMesh and FiberMesh to add details and fur.”
Finally, what advice would you give to anyone looking to spruce up their creature concepts?
“I’d say use references and look at nature. I think using references is an integral part of the design process, especially in creature design. For instance, if you are sculpting a horn, it’s likely that you would know the exact shape of it and remember all of the intricate relations between its forms, but you will still be relying on your memory. You might not remember all of the little indentations, cracks, dirt and an abundance of things that make it so real.
Also, in nature there is an infinite source of inspiration for creatures. A quick internet search on ‘abyssal fish’ or ‘tropical flowers’ could be the catalyst of a whole new piece of original work.”
If you want to learn more from Pablo, be sure to check out his site zbrushguides.com