Bunnygirl: Character Production in ZBrush

Bunnygirl: Character Production in ZBrush

Stefanie Böhm shared a few production details of her stylized character Bunnygirl sculpted in ZBrush.

Introduction

My name is Stefanie Böhm but throughout the community my username is Boehmy. I currently live in Munich, Germany, where I work as a presentation designer. I have been sculpting in ZBrush for about 1.5 years but haven't done any professional work in this field yet. Characters, mainly females, have been in my focus from the start.

Why Character Art?

How does one get into character art? I think for me personally it is easier to convey my wish to display beauty, elegance, style, and aesthetics through character art. I know there are a lot of like-minded people but speaking for myself, the one sentence that comes to my mind when I look for something to sculpt is "I want to do pretty things". I find that this profoundly simple answer is what fits me best.  

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Start of the Bunnygirl Project

I started this project by falling head over heels for the concept art! I'm sure everyone knows this feeling. You look at a piece of art, some design, or in this case concept, and it just clicks. That is what I look for in new projects.

One of my goals with the Bunnygirl project was to get visually as close to the concept as possible, which needed quite a bit of interpretation in the 2D to 3D phase.

Typically, the first thing I do is throw the concept into Photoshop and trace the outlines of the body, costume, and accessories. This helps me in the early blocking and posing stages.

Sculpting

The body of the Bunnygirl started out as my main basemesh, which is already somewhat stylized. I re-work that mesh recurringly every couple of months.

After initial posing, I detached both arms and feet to work on the fur more precisely. The rest of the costume was extracted via masks that I did on the body.

The branches and the tree were the biggest challenge for me in this project. I looked through the net to see how other artists deal with stylized bark but couldn't really find anything fitting. I found some reference of actual trees and thought I would just try to wing it from there, try to add the streaks in, and get the feeling right.

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If you put the final sculpt next to the concept, you will see that I just loosely followed the set directions of the not-so-detailed parts using the Standard Brush, DamStandard and HardPolish, and investing a lot of time, I mean a LOT of time (not that much) to get the look and feel right. I ended up taking lots of freedoms on the backside as well to get interesting silhouettes from all angles.

My favorite brush these days is the Standard brush as it can be used and modified in so many ways. MoveTopology is probably my second favorite. The Sculptris Pro mode has been the best addition to recent ZBrush versions in my opinion. I use this mode a lot to start out accessories and hair.

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Retopology

I generally adjust the topology in ZBrush with Zremesher guides. Some things for this sculpt have been re-made by using Maya's Quad Draw. 80% of the UVs are done in ZBrush using polygroups. The "costume outlines" were giving me some issues so they had to be re-adjusted in Maya.

For the Bunnygirl, I have not pushed the perfect topology as it wasn't intended to be used for animation, I only needed one perfect render.

Polypainting

I love the polypainting stage! Every time I get there I generally look at texturing tutorials over again. There is a lot to learn from professionals, especially about skin texturing. Then, I put on some music and just let the concept inspire me. Throughout this stage, I also ask more experienced people for their opinions.

At this step, I shift over to starting the first renders in Maya and getting the lights right. Color picking the colors out of the concept is good and well, but the light in the final render will change a lot and I find it easier to just rotate back and forth from rendering back to texturing. At this point fo the process, I'd probably taken 4 full renders of the main pose and made notes to myself. What needs to be adjusted color-wise and what color change can be achieved with the light?

Polypainting is very intuitive and with the newest adjustment additions in ZBrush, it has gotten even easier. Heavy programs that are focused on texturing, like Mari, can be extremely intimidating to beginners. For me, they are at least. But alas there are probably things that polypainting will never get done. It's a give and take but for someone starting out in the sculpting world, it is very comforting.

Final Render

Setting up the final renders took quite some time. There is a lot going on with backlights and mesh lights and all their relationships had to be adjusted. Issues occurred, issues were overcome.

I had to ask myself amusing questions like "Why is the hood lighting up from the inside?" Comparing my renders with the concept, I had to take measures like adding fill lights just for inside the ears. These things just ads up and can make your scene pretty heavy.

My tips for post-production:

  • A hustle for a still-image is better than an unsatisfying result.
  • Add a fill light to brighten up the eyes – Acceptable.
  • Remove that texture mistake in Photoshop? Go for it.
  • >>Health tip!<< A clean scene with naming and grouping keeps this stage organized.

 

Feedback

Looking back at it, there is a lot that I would do differently sculpting-wise and a lot that I have learned since I started the Bunnygirl, but that will be saved for the next projects. For these personal at-home-projects, I don't work too seriously and let myself get away with a lot. I am learning every day and it's truly an adventure that I fell in love with. The future will see where I end up, but right now I am enjoying my stylized path. 

Stefanie Böhm, Character Artist

Interview conducted by Arti Sergeev

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    Bunnygirl: Character Production in ZBrush