Big Blue Guy: Character Production Tips

Big Blue Guy: Character Production Tips

Vinicius Favero did a breakdown of his mighty character Kangrinboqe Warrior made with ZBrush, Maya, Substance Painter, Mari, and V-Ray.

Vinicius Favero did a breakdown of his mighty character Kangrinboqe Warrior made with ZBrushMaya, Substance PainterMari, and V-Ray.


Hello, guys! My name is Vinicius Favero and I’m a Brazilian 3D Artist now based in Vancouver Canada.

I graduated in Industrial Design and started working with graphics and illustration in the very beginning of my career. Just a few years later I started to get interested in 3D stuff, so I got some basic classes of 3ds Max and started to pick some arch&viz freelance jobs, however, I never felt that this kind of 3D was what I really wanted to do. It was the pre-ZBrush era and the characters were a very dark area, but I took my chances on it anyway.

I got a specialization in characters and later in ZBrush Sculpting which helped me to enter the market and work for 6 years at advertising.

In 2016, I made a decision to become a freelancer and pursue my dream to work for big Films/Games companies. That determination brought to me an opportunity to work with Gameloft on their Iron Blade Game as a character artist and opened a bunch of doors for me as a freelance professional.

Considering that the Brazilian market is still a baby compared to the CG scene around the world I decided to go abroad and perfect my skills. This is what brought me to Think Tank school and this big blue guy we’re going to talk about.

Big Blue Guy / Kangrinboqe Warrior

I was browsing the internet and found this amazing concept done by Yuming Yin. I got thrilled to do it because I had never done a creature before, so I was getting far out from my comfort zone. I think it was exactly what motivated me to do this guy, because it was a nice way to improve my anatomy, texturing, grooming skills and diverse my characters portfolio as well.

by Yuming Yin

First, I wanted to have a beautiful anatomy base and a strong expression to later work on his finest details and bring some life to his eyes. So I basically blocked the body with a very defined shape, then I modeled the accessories and put everything together to see how interesting the silhouette was.

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Achieving the Right Look

When I start a model, I usually look for a ton of real-world references, not just for the whole shape, but for each part of the body to create an interesting and more realistic look. One of my best references that helped me to build this guy strong but natural-looking was Gio Nakpil‘s sculptures as well as some muscular guys.

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To be real, this kind of work must tell a story. You need to look at the character and understand the environment that he lives in through a well-modeled anatomy, a wrinkle, a scar, some extra fat in the right places. That’s the kind of care you should have when you want to achieve a good result (and when you don’t have a very tight deadline).

I think the most difficult part was the anatomy, to reach a natural result that works with the assets and that brings this natural feeling.

Armor & Helmet

When I decided to do this guy, I noticed that it would need A LOT of sculpting, not just for the body but mainly for his unique armor and weapon designs.

I usually start things like the helmet and the arm skull from a dynamesh piece where I have more freedom to play with forms without concern about topology. Once the base form is finished,  I do a quick retopo and start dividing and adding some more details, as well as fine retouches like cracks and kneads.

Most of the details on the skulls and horns were modeled by hand (with a lot of references, patience, and some alpha maps). I’m not saying there’s a correct workflow, but I usually model everything I can first in Maya, then bring the piece into ZBrush to add the details. Some crazy organic pieces are an exception, I start them directly in ZBrush.

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Except for the skin, most of the tiny details were all sculpted in ZBrush for more control and more information in the displacement maps. Only the micro details were brought with bump maps from Substance

For texturing a piece with this level of details, I learned a very valuable lesson from my mentor Gustavo Groppo: you need to think about the texture in layers as it is in real life. For example, in the metal, you have a raw metal, a roughness pass, the rust, oxidation and on top of everything the dirt. Thinking this way you can work properly on each material and its properties like the glossiness and the micro-bump details individually.

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For the skin, I used the same principle but it was painted in Mari with the displacement maps from XYZ. I projected pores and imperfections to the skin texture of the character in 3 levels: secondary, tertiary and micro displacement. This workflow allowed me to have more control to combine all the displacements generated in Mari with those from ZBrush in V-Ray.

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One thing I learned from all my career is that you must know the purpose of your render. I believe that you need to catch the attention of the viewer at first sight and at the same time make him curious to see more of your art. Personally, I like this “dark side” mood, and I have the classic painter Caravaggio as a top reference for my lighting setups. At the same time, you can notice that in the demo reel turntables I have a more diffuse lighting setup because my intention is more technical: to show all the details. In the beauty shots, you don’t need to be concerned about this thing.

For the shot, I used a very simple three-point light configuration. I have a strong Key light from above, a strong backlight to highlight the silhouette and an HDRI as a fill light for the shadows.

The way you set the light and the render mood is exactly how you want the viewer to interpret your art. Again everything tells a story, every detail and imperfection says something about the environment your character lives in and the stories behind it.

Vinicius Favero, 3D Artist

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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