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For the past couple of months, I’ve been working on a variety of projects with different kinds of styles. My last portfolio project was fully hand-painted, so I decided to try a different direction and create a PBR character.
In order to diversify my portfolio, I tried to find a fun concept to work from. Eventually, I found an awesome concept made by Flaviano Pivoto which was perfect for the type of project I wanted to create.
Sculpting Stylized Cloth
Translating this concept to 3D came with a few challenges. One of the biggest challenges was creating stylized folds and creases in the clothing. I had to decide on a 3D art style for these folds, so I looked at some games such as Overwatch, Fortnite, and Borderlands for reference.
Here’s my Pureref reference board:
In order to make the clothing feel rugged and worn down, I needed to create a lot of imperfections in the details. Things like loose patches, tight creases and torn off cloth all help contribute to the rugged feel of the sculpt.
I mainly used ZBrush for sculpting the folds in the clothing. My approach was to create the general shape of the pants in a low subdivision, while sculpting the creases in 2-3 subdivisions higher. Using different subdivisions is generally a great way to control the sharpness of the folds you’re creating. To sculpt folds, I mainly used the DamStandard brush with low intensity.
I found some great reference for stylized pants which helped me decide where to place the folds.
The egg head was an interesting challenge. Because I wanted a lot of control over the thickness of the shell, I simply modeled a base in Maya. I modeled half a sphere, extruded it, and fine-tuned the shape with soft-select.
I wanted the egg and the material to stand out, so I sculpted a stylized egg surface in ZBrush. For the exploded shell pieces, I simply masked a piece of the egg and extruded it. Additionally, you can ZRemesh the new piece and reproject to obtain cleaner topology. I used this same technique for creating the patches on the pants.
I decided to make the character game-ready, this meant I needed a lower poly-count. The sculpt was around 12 million polys, but after retopology it ended up being 25k polys.
Additionally, the character was supposed to be animated, so it required a decent topology to deform nicely. The main tool I use for retopology is Quad Draw in Maya. A goal of mine was to maintain the silhouette in the retopology, so I made sure the quads followed the shape of the biggest folds.
The purpose of this project was to create a strong PBR piece. Though I think 3D Coat is a great hand-painting tool due to its connection with Photoshop, I prefer Substance Painter because of its focus on PBR texturing. I also think its procedural generators are very helpful when creating worn-down materials.
Creating a variety of different materials was a fun challenge. The detailed surface materials were all created using tiling textures. For the denim pants, I first found a clear image of denim, then painted over the texture in Photoshop to match the style, and finally made it tileable (using Filter>Other>Offset).
An equally important part of texturing is presenting it well. Things like "Are my tiling textures too small?" and "Is the lighting properly showing my roughness/glossiness?" should be on your mind.
I decided to use Marmoset Toolbag to render the animation and T-pose. Marmoset has great features such as subsurface scattering which I used for the hands and the eggshell. I also used microfibers on the chicken and the cloth which resulted in a soft effect similar to fresnel.
I love breathing life into my characters, so I like to push my characters by animating them. This was something I had to decide from the start because it required me to sculpt the character in a neutral pose. This made it quite easy to rig, create controls, and add subtle animations in Maya.
After the animations were finished, I imported the character + rig into Marmoset and set up an animated turntable with basic lighting.
Overall, this project was a really fun challenge. Working from a concept with few details was a very educational experience. It forced me to work out the style and come up with interesting shapes myself.
Additionally, because of the switch from diffuse-only to PBR, I have become more aware of utilizing the roughness map. Having a lot of contrast in the roughness map will help make the difference in materials more apparent and interesting.
Anyways, I hope this inspires you to make something new! I’d like to thank Tim Moreels for inspiring me to do a full PBR project and giving me feedback along the way.
Manuel Sitompul, 3D Character Artist
Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev
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