Creating Grotesque Conjoined Twins Using ZBrush & Substance 3D Painter

Eduardo Porceli shared the workflow behind the Goggles Twins project, showed the brushes used for the heads and body, and described the texturing process. 


Hello, my name is Eduardo Porceli. I'm a 24-year-old 3D Character Artist from Brazil. Since I was a little boy, I have always had many memories of drawing and art. I spent a good part of my childhood playing video games and watching movies, but I had no idea how all this was done. It was after seeing a lecture by Glauco Longhi at an art conference here in Brazil that it all made sense, and I started to study on my own.

I gained most of my knowledge through exploration, practice, interaction with peers, mentors, and tutorials by other artists. That's why I truly value artists who share their knowledge with the community, and it's something I intend to do as well to support new artists.

I have a background in graphic design, and for the last 2 years, I have been working as a freelance 3D artist. I have worked on projects involving board games, RPG miniatures, and some VFX projects, such as the first teaser for the upcoming Hunger Games movie. Currently, I am working at Rebel Wolves as a 3D Character Artist.

The Goggles Twins Project

This project began in a very unpretentious way; I simply opened ZBrush and started sculpting without having many things in mind. As I was shaping the form, I saw some possibilities and then started to develop the concept of a fantasy creature with deformed anatomy and a dark fantasy theme – something that causes a certain agony when looking at it. After that, I started to look through my repertoire of movies that had a cool look, and that's when I remembered Hellboy and The Spiderwick Chronicles. Certainly, a good part of the inspiration to transform the project from something medieval to steampunk came from the Hellboy universe. I didn't even build a large mood board, but during the creation process, as I felt the need to broaden my scope, I took some inspirational images from the internet. I really like the exercise of creation and conceptualization, and as it was a personal project, most of the runtime was in the initial part of the ideation and visual exploration.

My goal with this project was to challenge myself in terms of creation and production.


The heads are the most important part of this project. I wanted to create a duality there, using anatomy to express the differences between the two brothers. Phillipe (the one without a hat) is the smartest and at the same time, he is in the most uncomfortable position, I wanted to show this discontent in his expression. Frederick is the hottest and clumsiest. One of the challenges here was working from the beginning without symmetry.

Here, the focus was on determining the primary and secondary shapes. I wanted to give the skin a lot of weight and create the feeling that it is stretched out where the heads come together. I used ZBrush to model everything organic in this project, almost always using only the program's native brushes like Clay Buildup, Dam Standard, and Move. The micro details were created using the Flipped Normals skin kit and made directly in ZBrush; you can arrange them in layers for more control.

For Frederick's nose, I used Clay Buildup to create the volumes of the snouts, and with Dam Standard, I carved around to define them a little more. In the eyes, I used Texture XYZ maps. To create glaucoma in Frederick's eye, I simply adjusted the ramp that creates the transparency of the cornea to be more opaque in the central region.

To create the hair, I used XGen in Maya. Below you can see how the guides turned out.

Body & Clothes

To model the body, I used ZBrush, starting from a sphere and gradually pulling each part and finding the anatomy. As for the clothes, I started with a rough base from Marvelous Designer and then adjusted it in ZBrush, using the Dam Standard and Standard brushes.

For the props, I created a block in ZBrush to give me direction, but the whole modeling and refinement process was done in Maya, mostly following the concept of box modeling, adding edges and extrusions and changing the flow of the mesh. Here, I used photos of industrial parts and old tools to inspire me.

Retopology & Unwrapping

I used Maya to take care of the topology and UVs. To facilitate the body topology process, I did the retopology on one of the heads and then projected it onto the other. The biggest challenge was soldering the two heads together on the body.

As for the fabrics, I used the attribute transfer process, which is very simple and efficient. There are several tutorials about it on YouTube. The process basically consists of using Marvelous Designer's 2D pattern and creating your topology on top of it.


For texture, I divided myself between ZBrush and Substance 3D Painter. I ended up using ZBrush itself to paint and texture the skin, but for my next projects, I'm studying Mari. The idea of painting the skin in ZBrush, I believe, is the same as in other software; we are layering information to create variations. I always start painting the skin by looking for the base colors of the skin, defining the yellowish, reddish, and blueish regions. After that, I'm bringing in the main color that I want to be predominant. Following that, with the help of some alphas, I'm adding more variations and breaking the tones even more.

I wanted to create skin that had traces of age, with dry areas and irritated areas, probably because of the unhealthy environment that the characters live in.

The cheek wound was made using Standard to dig and Dam Standard positive to pull the edges of the skin upwards. As it was a cut, the idea is to dig, but if it was already a scar, the ideal is to make the skin pop out.

To texturize all the props, I used Substance 3D Painter. For the fabrics, I used a Texture XYZ fabric map to create the bump and the base color. From there, I piled up dirt to support the character's history. It is very important to think about how time and environment act on each material when texturing; this helps to give more realism to your piece.

I used the same logic for the hard surfaces, trying to show how time was acting on each of the tools. It had to be clear that they were part of something old, dirty, and without much self-care. I decided not to use ZBrush to create deformations or surface details, so all surface detailing work was done directly in Substance 3D Painter.

I also created this Brazilian currency just to add an easter egg from my country. I basically used Photoshop to create a mask and then I put it in Substance 3D Painter to give relief to the flat surface of the disc.


For this project, I used Arnold to render. For the final image lighting, I worked with an HDRI with a super low intensity just to create the background and give a base light, a fill light in the front, a warm light in the lantern part, and a cool cut light from above. In this last scene, I also used aiAtmosphereVolume to make the scene a little denser. The post-production was very simple: just a few color adjustments and an extra glow to the lantern.

I also made this second image here, basically trying to find a mood from old photos, mixing several dirt maps and working with image saturation.

This work went very slowly, considering that I was working on some projects as a freelancer, juggling to balance parenting, work, and personal commitments. I started it at the beginning of last year and only just finished it now. I believe that if I were to do just this project and nothing else, I would be able to finish it in 4 or 5 months.

The biggest challenge was not to get discouraged watching time go by; it's super easy to get anxious when we're working on a project that drags on for so long. We're in a moment where everything seems so urgent that it seems wrong to let something take so long, but I am happy to have finished. Today, I look and already see so many things that I don't like, but the important thing is to move forward and try to improve with each project; finishing things is important. One piece of advice I would give to anyone just starting out or to myself when I started studying is: take a deep breath, don't underestimate the fundamentals, and believe in yourself.

I would also like to thank my friend Gustavo Groppo here, he was my mentor in the texturing process of this project.

Eduardo Porceli, Character Artist

Interview conducted by Theodore McKenzie

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