Radek Kowalczyk talked about the process of creating The Barber character made during GAI’s Character Artist Bootcamp.
My name is Radek Kowalczyk, I am a Character Artist based in Poland. I graduated from an Art School in Poland a long time ago and after that, I was doing random graphic design jobs, motion graphics, photography, video editing, etc. Making characters was something I always enjoyed doing. Long story short, I’ve been working as a freelance character artist for a few years now and it is the most enjoyable job so far.
Lately, I had the pleasure to work on an unannounced project and Shinobi Striker with a very talented team at Shapefarm – a Tokyo-based company that worked on Vane, a new game on PS4 and Steam worth checking out.
My main goal was to create an acceptable portfolio piece as even after a few years of working as a character artist I had nothing to put in my portfolio. My portfolio was just a bunch of unfinished 3D sketches. So I signed up for Character Artist Bootcamp at GAI to make a commitment and get work done.
The original idea was to create this nice gentleman walking out of a pub after a fight, so it started as a completely different piece. However, when I started making hair for this character it looked really bad and I thought he should be a barber.
Now when I look at it, I wish I would have made a few things in a different way but I guess that’s always the point for everyone.
Body & Clothes
I started with Nick’s base mesh shipped with ZBrush, sculpted basic rough forms then exported everything to MD to block out the clothes. For skin detailing, I made some alphas from the displacement textures found on Surface Mimic. For sculpting, I use mostly standard, dam standard and clay buildup brushes. My best source of anatomy references is Anatomy for Sculptors book.
After exporting everything to MD, I did the main forms of the clothes in Marvelous, then refined them in ZBrush. I was using a workflow described by Ashley Sparling here. To speed up the process, you can also use Maya script by Patrick Anderson.
In MD, I am not aiming for the final look – overall fold shape is usually good enough. I advise to build and simulate one piece of clothing at a time and take advantage of the Freeze and Pin tools in MD. While sculpting clothes in ZBrush, I like to put some preview surface noise on the mesh to simulate final fabric details. For big shapes, I use only standard brush and clay buildup. For memory folds, I drag an alpha made from Surface Mimic textures and sculpt on top of that.
For texturing, I use Substance Painter. I baked all my maps in Marmoset Toolbag and imported them into Painter. In Painter, I projected a patch of albedo map from texturing.xyz to have some nice base to start and hand-painted on top of it.
The pale white skin visible on one of the renders was mainly achieved in Toolbag by adding some blue tint into the diffuse map and also adding some cold tint to lighting. As you can see, the diffuse map has pretty standard colors.
During the GAI course, I learned a lot. Just take a look at Ryan Kingslien’s blog posts about skin. I think it’s a good idea to set up a test scene in Toolbag and preview your texturing early on in the process.
As you can see, all of the renders are using the same textures – the difference is in the lighting.
I use Transpose Master in ZBrush to make a final pose. I kept my meshes separated in FBX file so I could duplicate materials in Toolbag and apply them to different parts. This way I can use the same texture and tweak some of the parameters independently in Toolbag. For lighting, I use 1 spotlight and 3 Omni lights. Skylight is used to give some reflections on the metal parts. I break up hair cards into two parts and slightly differentiate material parameters.