This tutorial was written by the amazing Lvbo Huang and appeared in issue 111 of 3D Artist. Subscribe today and never miss an issue!
ZBrush, Maya, Marvelous Designer, Mari, Substance Painter, Photoshop, Arnold
In this tutorial we’ll be looking at how we can approach a model-creation process step by step. First, by using Maya and Photoshop, we will create a 2D draft to define the modelling, body movement and lighting for the character. We will then make adjustments to the head and body as well as design clothes with ZBrush, and draw skin textures and colours with Mari. After that, we will texture clothes with Substance Painter and introduce some methods for processing hair. When all of these steps are finished, we’ll employ Arnold for rendering. And lastly, we will create an atmospheric image during the post-production stage.
Step 01 – Collect references
It is important to make a reference collection, especially when you only have an obscure creation concept or merely an idea. This way you can visualise your inspiration by referring to numerous vampire-related images or similar fictitious roles on the internet, or you can put more convincing touches to your work through researching films about vampires and related reading materials.
Step 02 – Draw a draft
Use a human body with rigs and some simple props to build the initial scenario in Maya, and create a camera to define rough compositions. You can use Marvelous Designer to make some simple clothes for the character. For the complex part, we can use Photoshop. During the process, we need to make many attempts, as various camera and light setups may produce different effects and inspire us more. It is important that we put most of our effort into the whole image, and not the tiny details at this stage.
Step 03 – Human figure
We need to find some relevant reference pictures appropriate for the character, like those of celebrities and supermodels, and then we can start sculpting. During the initial stage of sculpting, we use Dam_Standard and Clay Buildup. To create some facial characteristics we need to observe points on the face, learn the angles and distances between them and finally add some facial expressions to shape the personality.
Step 04 – Sculpt details
After modelling, it’s now time to begin our detailed sculpting. Different facial masses have various directions, so it is more difficult to make them easily distinguishable on a woman’s face. Taking sculptures as a reference will be beneficial for the next step. Use the Clay Tubes brush to make some transitions on the face, and the Dam_Standard and Smooth brushes for in-depth shaping and smoothing. Although a feminine face is usually smoother than a masculine one, it still has rich transitions and changes, so try to make these transitions as smooth as possible. After sculpting, we need to render it in Maya and then make some more adjustments to the model.
Step 05 – Body sculpt
Body movements are the linchpin for a model. More references and human anatomy materials will be a great help for our work here. First, we need a basic mannequin, and we’ll use Transpose to make the poses we need. At this stage, there may be some extruding and morphing, but these are not our main tasks. The main point here is to create mass directions and movement tendencies.
Step 06 – Process body structure
Human body sculpting, especially that of a woman, is sophisticated work that needs in-depth knowledge. Employ Transpose Line as a measuring tool for ensuring bilateral symmetry. Look for and tag bones with no muscles covering them. Then, process the morphed muscles on the basis of these tags. You can draw some pictures in Photoshop to help learn the muscle lines. Use Dam_Standard to draw muscle lines, Clay Buildup to determine muscle size and the Clay Tubes and Smooth brushes to smooth muscle. Compared to a male body, a female body needs a smooth shape with thinner muscles and relatively prominent bones.
Step 07 – Make the net
We will be using ZBrush and Maya in order to create the netted cloth. To begin, first use Mask to draw the area where the clothes are needed and extrude a poly with the Extract tool in ZBrush. Next use ZRemesher to make an evenly distributed mesh, then import it into Maya and make some adjustments. The next step is to make an individual model for the clothes in Maya and import it into ZBrush. Finally, use ZModeler and NanoMesh to produce our desired effects.
Step 08 – Decorative metal pattern
It is easy to make a metal decorative pattern in ZBrush. We use Mask to paint patterns on the human body and extrude a model with thickness. Use the Infiltrate brush to make the surface swollen and apply the Pinch Plane brush to make shapes. After that, employ NoiseMaker to add a metal-like texture.
Step 09 – Dress and shawl
We’ll make the dress and shawl in Marvelous Designer, which is relatively simple and effective. After creating the poly, use your mouse to pull and nail tools to generate more scratches. You can then make manual modifications in ZBrush to suit your needs, if required.
Step 10 – Texture skin
For the textures of the face and hand, we’ll use textures from texturing.xyz to draw in Mari and then create the detail with the Displacement map tool in ZBrush. As the vampire’s skin is smooth, we only need one texture channel for the desired effect. We should make sure the texture sizes of all parts are consistent. For the details of the other parts, we employ the Surface tool in ZBrush.
Step 11 – Paint skin colour
Different parts of the body have varied colours. For example, any skin that covers prominent bones will look greenish blue and yellow, and those with more fat and muscles will look red. With this knowledge in mind, let’s start painting. Mari provides us with an excellent brush for creature painting. Use widespack to paint larger areas and use sponge1 to add some details. We can paint a natural capillary vessel too. We’ll also add in some make-up for her face and finally, bloodstains will make her character more convincing.
Step 12 – Create metal material
We use Substance Painter here to create metal materials, and a high-quality material effect can be amply achieved with this software. Select Bronze Wear Weapon in Smart Materials to create an initial effect and then add multiple layers of dirt and scratches by using other materials to achieve an additional effect. Use Mask to modify the allocation of these materials to make them more convincing. Before exporting, remember to select Arnold to achieve the same effect in Substance Painter during subsequent rendering.
Step 13 – Groom hair and fur
Hair is generally divided into three layers. The first two layers were created in ZBrush and for the third we used the Curve tool in Maya. First, we have to sculpt a low-poly model of hair in ZBrush as the base, and then use CurveStrapSnap to generate facets. Import it into Maya and add a hair system and paint effect, then adjust the values of the hair system. The eyebrow can be directly drawn onto the surface with the Curve tool. The creation of hair requires lots of patience in order to achieve a natural effect. Finally, we render the hair with aIHair material.
Step 14 – Render skin textures
We use aISurface to create the skin texture, which is a powerful material library that can easily achieve amazing skin effects. First, bake the Displacement map and Normal map in ZBrush with Multi Map Exporter to create the detailed skin texture. Use a Diffuse map that was previously drawn in Mari as the base and then create three maps with the colourising function of the HSV tool to simulate the three layers of skin. The Specular map and Gloss map are crucial in creating the skin texture. Two layers should be created: the first layer illustrates the distribution of the overall glossiness of the skin, including enhancing the bright areas around the lips, nose and eyes; the second map layer will illustrate the details of the highlights. Here, we can use a Cavity map generated in ZBrush to distinguish between the bright and dark areas.
Step 15 – Light the image
Three-point lighting is generally used; first use Skydome Light in Arnold to light the whole scene, while taking the sidelight as the main light source and changing the colour into a slight green. The angle of light is from top to bottom to create a gloomy atmosphere, taking the front light as the supplementary light to generate beautiful highlights for the eyes, and a backlight to show off the curves of the character. Always refer to photography and famous paintings during lighting and rendering, and create several different trials before selecting the final one.
Step 16 – Composite in Photoshop
When rendering, we should be clear of the actual effects produced by every map to the material itself; for example, closing the colour map and another layer of highlight enables us to clearly observe the actual effect of this highlight and also reduces the test time. When we need to modify the effect, we can use some tools originally installed in Maya such as Remap Value. Not all of the modifications need to take place in the mapping stage. The function offered by Arnold to display the single map can show this change for us and also reduce the rendering time.
Step 17 – Final render
This step’s main aim is to adjust the whole picture. ID mapping conducts a partial adjustment, such as enriching the colour of the metal segment by using a scratch texture, and then sharpening tools are used to enhance the detailed parts. The Iris Blur tool is adopted to deal with the depth of the field, which can emphasise the visual centre and highlight the object that we want to express. What we need to bear in mind is that all of this work is for the final effect. If your original mapping has already achieved some great effects, the main goal for post-processing then is just to adjust the atmosphere of the overall picture, rather than covering the disadvantages in the previous production.