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Mido Lai showed how he turned a concept art into an amazing 3d character model.
Hello, my name is Mido Lai and I am currently enrolled in the Games Track at Gnomon School of Visual Effects. Before Gnomon, I was a 3D creature modeler and 2D concept artist at X-Legend Entertainment in Taipei, Taiwan for almost 4 years. The project we released was a Japanese style MMORPG called Fantasy Frontier Online. After that project, I felt like I still had much to learn so I made the decision to travel to the U.S. and study game art at Gnomon to improve my skills.
Junseok Kwon is one of my favorite concept artists, and Gina is my favorite character among his work. I’ve always liked how he combines futuristic designs with conventional clothing in a way that makes it look so natural, yet still gives it a sense of place in the world she lives in. I have experience in creating concept designs that require the merging of different elements and understand that it is not an easy task to find a good balance between two different worlds, styles or themes. I think the most adorable feature of the character is the hair that is stuffed into the space helmet. It is a little bit silly, but it also gives the character a unique attitude. I decided to choose this concept because I wanted to see it fully realized in 3D. As I started working on the project, my main goal was to preserve the overall personality depicted in the original piece.
Finding reference is important for both 2D concepts and 3D modeling. Doing this will help you better visualize what you will be modeling. It gives you a better idea of the anatomy that lies underneath the clothing and how the folds will interact with the body underneath.
2. Sculpting with Zbrush
The most important thing when blocking out a concept is to capture the balance of the overall form. Understanding balance means paying attention to the volume and the silhouette of the sculpt. A simple way to approach this is to use simple primitives, such as a sphere, as separate meshes to define forms and apexes. By creating them as separate meshes, this allows you to easily adjust the overall proportions while maintaining a non-destructive workflow.
tip: shift+S to get screenshots and compare different views of the model
When I model my character, I like to use the SpotLight functionality to put my reference next to my sculpt so I can easily compare it to the concept and make my decisions based on that. With the amazing options included in SpotLight, you can easily match your model to the concept just like I did in the image below.
After I find the right angle, I save the camera in using the Timeline, so when I further progress, I can still come back to check my proportions.
2) Detail Sculpting
For me, the head is usually the focal point of my characters. During the block-out stage, you have to make sure the primary facial features are in the right proportions relative to the overall head shape. For example, having the correct positioning between the eyes, nose, and mouth will help you better capture the likeness of the character you’re trying to sculpt. The next step is to capture the secondary facial features such as eye shape, eyebrow thickness, nose shape, etc. Once I solidify these facial features, I now have a strong base for me to add tertiary details like pores and other natural imperfections.
The facial apexes of your model should match those of the concept one to one.
Maintaining correct facial proportions will have a huge impact on your character.
The model has to be clean and smooth for a stylized character; this is a little tip I learned from my instructor, Leticia Reinaldo. First, I create spheres for the eyeballs and adjust the location and size in Transparent Mode. Then I sculpt the cavity that holds the eyes.
Different hairstyles can add interesting personalities to your characters. Gina has very curly hair, which makes her look more inviting and also gives her a happy and carefree vibe. Because of this, translating the 2D qualities into the hair is challenging.
When adding hair to your character, you have to make sure the hair doesn’t take away from the overall silhouette, but rather adds to it. Gina’s hair plays a major role in the type of character she is. A character whose hair covers most of their face comes off as timid, but in this case, the hair only blocks a tiny part of the forehead, giving Gina a more welcoming and outward going personality. Once the fringe of the hair is captured I then continue to finalize the hair shape by adding the swirly ends.
3) Final Posing
Once the final touches are added to the model, I pose the character using a combination of the Gizmo and Transpose Master.
As a concept artist, I like to make sure all my characters feel well grounded on the floor. Doing this adds believable weight to the model and also helps with the character’s gesture, therefore, I like to do the same for my 3D characters. The rhythm of the character is also very important. Keeping a dynamic movement throughout the model is more appealing to the eye than having a repetitive gesture.
3. Presentation with Marmoset Toolbag3
The render and lighting were done in Marmoset Toolbag 3. The helmet makes the lighting a bit difficult because it reflects some of the lights and gives unwanted results. I used a basic three-point lighting setup to light this scene. The key light is placed in front of the model to capture all the details on the face and the reflection of the eyes. Doing this will make the character look more believable. Then I added a rim light to capture the silhouette, and a fill light to colorize the shadows. The floor I used is a plane with a circular-shaped mask to create the illusion of a spotlight on the floor. Lastly, I took the final renders into Photoshop to make color adjustments.
The Key Light facing the front:
Overall, this was a really fun project for me to work on and a great learning experience. I hope this article will help you all create awesome stylized characters for your future projects!