Creating a Magic Girl with ZBrush & Maya

Creating a Magic Girl with ZBrush & Maya

Ilya Loginov did a breakdown of his stylized female character Magic Girl made with Maya and ZBrush using ZModeler.


Hey everyone. My name is Ilya Loginov, I am 26. I was born and grew up in a small town near Moscow. Currently, I work as a 3D character artist at Crazy Panda on Pirate Tales project.

I started to learn 3D with 3ds Max in 2013. At that time modeling was a little hobby for me and until 2017 I was spending not much time doing it. Later, however, I decided that I want to become a 3D artist, so I went to Scream School in Moscow to study Game Graphics. There, I realized that I want to focus on the characters.

Concept & References

I really like Terry Wei‘s artworks, so I wanted to do something based on his concepts. Eventually, I chose two Magic Girls. In this article, I will talk about one of them.

Concept art

As additional references, I used Sergey Katsukov‘s works.


During this project, I wanted to practice and experiment with modeling, look for some new decision in balancing ZBrush/Maya, plus get better with ZModeler and try to create as clear geometry as possible.


I started by simplifying the concept to better understand the shapes and volumes which also helped me to block out the model later.

When I started modeling, I made the main forms symmetrically and then immediately decided to get variation in posture. In ZBrush, I worked in two ways: 1) modeling in symmetry and 2) modeling in posture. Some elements were modeled in symmetry, then exported to the file with the posture.

Blocking in symmetry:

Blocking in posture:

Now, I will try to cover some interesting parts of my modeling stage, beginning with one of the most difficult things for me, hair.


  • Main volume
  1. I started with the main form.
  2. Then divided it into secondary forms (curls).
  3. Big curls were then divided into smaller parts based on the principle “one big curl = three small curls different in volume”. During this step, I tried to keep the secondary forms readable.
  • Braid
  1. At first, I made a piece of the needed length and exported it to ZBrush. (I followed these tips. You can use the Transform component to adjust the thickness of the curl).
  2. In ZBrush, I used the Bend Curve tool to get the shape.
  3. I applied Crease to one edge to maintain the style.

Metal Parts

All metal parts were made with Zmodeler. The main tools I usually use are Qmesh (polygons), Inset (polygons), Bevel (edges), Polygroup (polygons), Crease (edges), Mask (edges, polygroups).

Clothes & Props

  • Blouse (top part)
  1. I started with the main form as usual.
  2. Then, I made retopology with edge loops on places with the stitches and used Zmodeler to divide the parts and create thickness. I decided to make the center element with different meshes as an experiment.
  3. Finally, I made the posture and sculpted vertical lines with Chisel Brush.
  • Blouse (bottom part)
Modeling of the base

Since the pattern space is not so big, I decided to experiment and modeled it instead of using surface noise or alphas.

  • Gloves
  1. I created the base form in Maya.
  2. Then subdivided it once and modeled the stitches.
  3. Next, I exported everything to ZBrush and appointed creases.
  • Boots
  1. I sculpted the base form.
  2. Retopologized it in Maya. Then did a bit of modeling and sculpting.
  3. Next, made the posture and sculpted other details.
  • Cloak

As my goal was to get as clear geometry as possible, I decided to model the pattern on cloak. For that, I painted a supporting pattern with polypaint and made retopology with quad-draw.

The rest of the parts were made with the same tools as before:

  • Pants
  • Skirt
  • Staff & Dagger

The staff was started with Zspheres, then I sculpted its form. Dagger is made with Zmodeler completely.

Polypaint & Render

For the color, I did a very simple polypaint. At first, I filled all subtools with flat color and then painted some gradients to emphasize the volume a little. It’s especially important to add gradients on larger elements in order to improve the model because, with flat colors, it looks boring.

flat color/with gradient

After painting, I used Decimation Master and divided the model into different subtools depending on the type of material (metal, cloth, etc.). Then, I exported it to Marmoset.

Two different subtools (metal, cloth):

Marmoset scene:

Some shaders:




It was my first experience making a female character, and I found face and hair especially challenging. However, it was a lot of fun!

Hope you liked the article and good luck!

Ilya Loginov, 3D Artist

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev


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