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Creating Stylized Nidalee from LoL in ZBrush, Substance & Blender

Alex García Sandoval returned to tell us about the production process behind stylized Nidalee from the League of Legends and explain the importance of studying anatomy.


My name is Alex García, I am a recent Junior 3D artist who studied at the online academy Odin 3D, I also do some concepts. I have been studying anatomy since I finished the cauldron, I like to make characters and props. I had some freelance jobs, but I would like to find a remote permanent job.

The Nidalee Project

I have always liked League of Legends and I saw Riot's cinematics like "Ruination or Awaken" and I fell in love so I wanted to give it a try. When I felt comfortable with anatomy I chose Nidalee because she has fewer clothes and thus I was able to practice more anatomy. Also because she has not appeared yet in any cinematic.

I have used the game's concept since the line of action of the character is very good, based on that, I used references from other Nidalee models and other models with faces similar to those of the main concept.

I like to access Marc Brunet's online reference, it's really quick to see some things. I have a 3D anatomical figurine on my desk too.


I recommend hitting with the Polish brush in the important areas for a slightly stylized finish, for example on the cheeks or on some muscles. 

You can give your character a bit of personality but subtly playing with the shapes, for example, Nidalee transforms into a feline and the nose tries to give it a bit of that shape subtly without it becoming obvious, the same in the eyes. 

I also gave the body shapes a bit of stylization, a little more square muscles to stylize it and as for the legs, I put a subtle curve like the legs of a beast. The stylization in this character style must be subtle, look for personality to the character and project it subtly.


Once I have the blocking done with the separate pieces so that I can work more comfortably, I take it to Blender and do the retopology. Then I project the mesh and in the areas where they were separated I smooth them with the Smooth brush, then I start to work more details. I can also duplicate the mesh and project again if I need any more visual changes.

For the final mesh game-ready model for cinematic, you can also SubDivide it once instead of using the lowest resolution and thus gain resolution.

The Pose

From the moment I saw the pose with its line of action next to the spear I fell in love. I have to admit that this pose was difficult because in the concept it works but when I passed it to 3D it seemed that her leg was broken. 

There are some things that work in 2D but then not in 3D and that's our job too. Adapt it to 3D. So I corrected some things to make the point of gravity work, such as the arm and the leg. 

Hair and Fur

First I did a blocking with DynaMesh in Zbrush, then with a Bezier, you can select a profile in the object, I highly recommend this trick, it is quite easy to make hair and you can adapt it however you want. Just create a Circular Bezier, warp it however you like, and set it to a Normal Bezier in Bevel> Object. 

After doing this process, I made some details with the Dam Standard brush in ZBrush. This mesh will be used later as guides for realistic hair since you already have the shape made and you only have to adapt the guide of the particle for this mesh. 

For the fur after making the high model, I simply used a ZRemesher and put particles and then comb them. For all hair, I used Blender's hair system, which is quite good and fluid. There are also addons like HairTG that can help you. 

For the hair shader, I used this one which gives the diffuse color with one color ramp, and with the other color ramp, I give a little variety of color to the hair from darker to lighter. 


When I wanted to start giving details to facial pores, I subdivided with Geometry HD twice. Then I apply a general noise and then with the HD geometry active on the face I begin to give details to the pores, you can also use XYZ alphas for this since the cheeks have different pores for example on the forehead or under the eyes. 

With the Multi-Map Exporter plugin, I can export the Normal Map, Diffuse, and Displacement. 

To paint the Diffuse, I was guided by this article, basically, it explains that in the areas where there is more blood the skin is redder while near the bones it is more yellow. The blue areas are due to deoxygenated blood. 

I also painted the Roughness Map in ZBrush, I export it as Diffuse since it is basically a black to white map. 

As for the props like the spear, I did the texturing in Substance Painter, I did the high model, then the retopology, and I took it to Substance Painter. Also, I exaggerated a bit the thickness of the spear and also of the clothes to give a little more stylization.


I rendered the final piece in Blender with Cycles X. The camera is a bit rotated as in the concept.

This is my light setup:

For the SSS I want to thank this simple tutorial. Before I used to bake it in 3Dcoat, but this time, I took it out with this tutorial.

As for the post-production, I just used Photoshop on render to give it a bit of sharpness and add magic and particles around Nidalee. 


The advice that I give as a student is that you study anatomy first, although it is a bit boring it will be worth it. Before I used to start making characters without knowing anatomy and it was very stressful for me to see that I could only make Alien faces! After studying the anatomy course of Marc Brunet and Nikolay Naydenov where they make a great summary, now I can better see the shapes and exaggerate them to stylize as well.

I still have a long way to go, anatomy is something that is almost infinite to study. In summary, my advice is to study anatomy before starting to make characters, it is better to understand the muscles than to copy them without understanding in my opinion.

Thanks to Dániel Oláh for giving me classes and making it possible for me to have learned so much knowledge in this project. 

I wish every one of you the best, my artist friends, let's keep striving!

Alex García Sandoval, Junior 3D Artist

Interview conducted by Arti Sergeev

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