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Julien Desroy shared the details of his Samus Aran from Metroid fanart with a touch of Overwatch style. Software used: ZBrush, Substance Painter, Marmoset Toolbag.
Also, make sure to check out our first interview with Julien in which he talked about another his stunning character:
Changes in Life
More than two years have passed since we’ve last spoken! I’ve been quite busy lately, especially on the professional side. I was lucky to work on some very cool projects but I can’t tell anything yet. Aside from that, I did some smaller personal projects and participated in the Сubebrush challenge.
Samus Aran Project
It’s been a while since I wanted to make a fanart of Samus Aran. I love Nintendo games and, of course, Metroid. On top of that, I wanted to learn more about hard-surface modeling, so naturally, I couldn’t miss the opportunity. As usual, I decided to approach the project with a lot of references (never underestimate the power of references). The main idea was to get more or less the Overwatch stylization while keeping sort of my touch.
Shapes & Details
I’ve started working on the sculpt without any 2D concepts and ended up spending quite some time on looking for design solutions. It was mainly blocking the shapes in ZBrush using DynaMesh and ZModeler brush and analyzing what works and what doesn’t in term of simple shapes. The goal here is to find a good balance between those shapes and details (spheres for the shoulders, helmet and the hips, squares & triangles for the rest of the body). It’s all about contrast, not only in terms of colors but shapes and details as well.
Crafting the Armor Details
The process was a mix of DynaMesh / ZModeler & Retopo brush / Masking and Polygroups. It’s tricky to explain with words so I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves
I’m a big fan of Blizzard and, of course, Overwatch, so it was my goal to achieve a Blizzard look. For the head and body parts, I started to work from a classic basemesh low poly. I really like starting to work on something very low in terms of polygons density as it gives me a lot of flexibility on my brushes when it comes to building primary and secondary shapes. The eyebrows are a simple extract from the head mesh using a mask. Then, I’m using orb brushes (made by Michael Vicente) for the smalls cuts. A couple of HPolish brush here and there and that’s it. Nothing fancy.
Painting the Suit
I painted the suit in Substance Painter. My friend Roman Durand helped me and gave a few pieces of advice on how to do the materials, so I started to set up regular materials without any worries about where to apply them.
As for the process, first I pick up a color and set up the roughness and metallic value depending on the type of material. Then I add an AO to the color, a dirt map (basically a cavity map) affecting the colors & roughness, a curvature map for the edges, and finally, I add a noise map I made with squares brushes in Photoshop. I do that for my main materials (carbons/metal/leathers/painted areas), save and use them on the parts I want. Now I can easily switch between materials and apply them where I want. When I’m happy with the overall setting, I add a gradient (using the position map), scratches or decals and other smaller details.
The glowing effect is a simple emissive map I made Substance Painter using gradients. And then a little of compositing into Marmoset & Photoshop for the glow.
When I was working on the texturing/shading, I tried to work with the most neutral lighting. I usually set up classic 3-points lights in Marmoset (key/fill and rim light), all white, and from that, I can see how the materials behave. Once I’m happy with the texturing and shading, I can have some fun with the lighting and go a little bit crazier with it. I ended up with 2 kinds of lighting: one very neutral and straightforward in which we can see the whole character and one is a bit more… let’s say “sci-fi”.
It’s hard to say how long the whole project took me to complete it. It’s been 1 year since I’ve started to work on this character. At some point, I got stuck looking for something “cool” in terms of design. I took a couple of breaks and worked on some others things meanwhile. Each time, I came back with fresh eyes and saw the parts that didn’t work. I’m also lucky to have good friends who gave me feedback and pieces of advice, it was very helpful (shout out to them!)
The biggest challenge here was the design itself. It can be really tricky to work without a 2D concept. References and fresh eyes (yours and other viewers’) are a way to solve this problem. Also, don’t try too hard when you get stuck. Take a break and come back to the project later or ask someone to take a look at it and listen to what they think about it.
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