This tutorial was written by the amazing Andrey Gritsuk and appeared in issue 106 of 3D Artist. Subscribe today and never miss an issue!
This guide will show you how to create a large, intricate scene using ZBrush, Maya, Marvelous Designer and 3D-Coat. We will show you how to create small details on the creature’s body, such as the roots, flowers and hair, as well as grass, trees, rocks and everything else that makes up the backdrop for the scene. At the end, we’ll set up some lights and render the image in Arnold. Let’s get started.
Step 01 – Research references
Always start with a search for references and try to give this step a large amount of time. A quality set of references allows you to easily imagine the look of the final piece early on, and reduces production time. For the beast I was looking for inspiration in nature, collecting pictures of roots, creepers and rocks.
Step 02 – Search form
When you’ve developed a thorough overview of the project, begin to work in ZBrush. Once you’ve got the right shapes, start to put the overall mass all over the model. At this point I usually do two to three sketches, and then eventually choose one of them and continue to work with it.
Step 03 – Choose your pose
When the overall form is clear, start to think about the final pose that you’d like to achieve with your final character render. Choosing this early on will inform the rest of your workflow. It’s good to think about a few variants and then choose the most suitable. In this case there were two options: the beast has been struck by a spear, runs away and tries to snatch the flower; alternatively, the beast is preparing to repel the approaching enemy.
Step 04 – Create a base form
Now we have a full understanding of the character, we’ll proceed to create the overall mass. First, we’ll want to create our shapes with Symmetry active. When the mass is more or less there, it’s good to put the character in its final pose and separately work on each. At this stage, I use ClayTubes, Clay and ClayBuildup brushes with low intensity to better control the weight. It is important that, even though we’re working on a fantasy creature, we establish the ‘correct’ anatomy – it makes it feel more believable. I try to give this stage a lot of attention
Step 05 – Make additional parts
Now we’ve achieved a
solid base sculpt, we can go for more details. The beast has roots all over its body. To create these I used the CurveTube brush. When making a large number of small parts (in this case stones and flowers on the roots), it helps to create a few basic models and then use Insert MultiMesh to put them in the right places.
Step 06 – Create cloth
In this case the clothes for the character feature a leather loincloth and a piece of cloth under the bracelet that it’s wearing. To create this, we’ll need to import the model of the beast into Marvelous Designer and then create pieces of cloth to the desired shape, sew them together and attach them to belts. The bracelet and chain were created quickly in Maya. After that, take the model back into ZBrush for further detailing.
Step 07 – Produce the scenery
For this particular work I didn’t attempt to do the whole tree, only a part of it. To create the tree trunk, use ZSpheres to approximate the required shape and then pass into DynaMesh for the final shape of the trunk. The grass was made in Maya – simply create four blades of grass and assemble them into five separate bundles.
Step 08 – Combine objects, retopologise and create UVs
For convenience, it’s good to combine objects that will use the same material. Retopologise the sculpt using ZRemesher, then use UV Scanner and UV Master to clean up the garbage and fix any errors. If the model is complex, and when using the UV Master the scan comes out with beams and errors, I export the model to Maya and do the UV scan manually, which I find is a good method. Create Polygroups to make it easier when detailing the model.
Step 09 – Detailing
Starting on the details, you first need to determine which additional brushes you need to
create to detail the skin on the character, the ground, the tree and so on. For detailing I use different methods, for example for clothing. The base texture was created with Surface Noise (Alpha skin), after which you can use Dam_Standard and Standard brushes to add the cracks, creases, wrinkles and abrasions to give it a more natural appearance. For the metal items, use the Clay, ClayTubes and custom brushes to add chips, scratches and other stuff.
Step 10 – Create hair
It’s time to create the character’s hairline – for this we’ll use FiberMesh. Hair can be divided into several zones – right and left leg, right and left hand, eyebrows, small hairs that go all over the body, hair on the head and so on. Each zone is studied separately. To simplify the work with the hair, we’ll create separate strands of hair, duplicate them and place them on the head of the beast. For hair styling we’ll use standard brushes (Groom Spike, GroomerMagnet, Move). When all the zones are worked out, export the curves to Maya, convert them to nHair and set them up for render.
Step 11 – Bake maps and export
After detailing is finished, start baking your maps. For removing the cards, use Multi Map Exporter in ZBrush and take the Displacement Map as a 32-bit EXR, World Normal Map for creating textures and Texture Map (Polypaint) as a base layer for colour.
Step 12 – Build scene and prep for texturing
Start by importing all the models into Maya with GoZ. Before you start texturing, collect all the objects based on the various parts of the body – teeth, eyes, fingernails and so on. If you are creating textures for certain areas it might be convenient to hide other parts of the model that you aren’t working on at that moment in time.
Step 13 – Texturing
For texturing we’re going to use 3D-Coat. Since there are many objects, we’ll paint everything in parts separately – the character, clothes and vegetation. When creating textures I used Smart Materials and created them based on different pictures of stone surfaces. Also use the Blending function for blending layers. After textures are ready, export them under Arnold Render (Standard).
Step 14 – Shader setup
We’re going to use Arnold for the basic materials. For this character I used the free alShader (anderslanglands.com/alshaders/index.html), alSurface for all basic objects and alHair for hair. We’ll be utilising four different maps: Color, Specular, Roughness and Displacement. They were appointed as follows: Diffuse on Diffuse Color, Roughness on Specular 1 Roughness, Specular on Fresnel Reflectivity and Displacement under Shading Group Attributes.
Step 15 – Set up lights, camera and render
You’ll now need to set up three lights: a main light, circuit light and an extra light. Use an HDRI map as a Skydome light. Put the camera at the right angle and then set up a custom render with the following parameters: Camera AA set to 5, Diffuse set to 5, Glossy set to 2, Refraction set to 2, SSS at 2 and Indirect Volume set to 2. We’ll use these passes to set up the final image.
Step 16 – Composite the final image
We can now composite the final scene in Photoshop. Collect all of the passes in the same file and set them up. Do some colour correction and add dust and smoke effects. That’s it, you’re done!