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Character Artist Limkuk shared his general pipeline uncovering how he works on his amazing character and creatures from start to end. A must-read for anyone who wants to specialize in character art!
I study graphic design here in Mexico. I worked as a Graphic Designer only for a year, after that I focused myself full time on 3D art. I have only 3 years of experience as a Character and Creature Artist, so I don’t consider myself very experienced in this field. I also worked on a movie called Huevitos en fuga at HuevoCartoon, as a Modeler and Lead in the Look&Development department. Other short films I’ve worked on are Thistle One and The Wrong Rock at Artella, both are in production.
At the moment I am working for Emberlab Studios as a freelance Creature and Character Artist.
I take inspiration from many places: Artstation, Pinterest etc. Here are the artists who inspire me a lot: Dominic Qwek, Furio Tedeschi, Bobby Rebholz, Kurt Papstein, Pedro Conti, Rafael Grassetti. Their works are so kickass and inspire me to create new art every day!
First, I usually draw a rough sketch of what I have in my mind. This sketch can be ugly but it is definitely a necessary stage as it can show important aspects such as the silhouette, the primal forms, and the personality.
When I finish with the sketch, I move to ZBrush creating the sculpt and some quick topology.
After the model is ready, I export it to Substance Painter to obtain the PBR textures. Sometimes I create the textures in ZBrush with the Polypaint option.
When I have the final render with the phases ready I make the compositing and the color grading work in Photoshop.
And that’s it! That’s my pipeline for a 3D concept work.
First I create the blocking of the character which helps me to understand the scale and what I have in mind like the composition and so on.
After the blockout is ready I begin sculpting with DynaMesh. This tool is so crazy good because you can reconstruct your mesh any time you want. I usually use only 5 brushes for my entire sculpts:
- Standard – for the general forms
- Clay – for the general forms
- Clay Build Up – for the muscles definition
- Dam Standard – for the wrinkles and the muscles definition
- Hpolish – for hard surface (if the model needs it)
When I have my sculpt ready I use ZRemesher to create a quick topology (in case the model is only created for concept art). If the model is made for production, I use Maya to create the retopology work.
When the topology is ready, I begin detailing (pores wrinkles etc.) using some alphas and a global noise for the global skin detail. In this part, I recommend keeping the symmetry tool out: this part can be very important because any realistic model isn’t perfect and the sides slightly differ. This way you can turn off the symmetry option and add the eye wrinkles, mouth details, pores etc.
When I finish the High Detail in ZBrush, I bake the AO, the curvature, the normal and the displacement maps in ZBrush to import all of these to Substance Painter and begin with the texture work.
When the model is ready I like to create folders to organize all the steps of the paintwork starting with procedural colors. Since the skin isn’t perfect, this can help you to obtain more natural results. When you have your base color you can begin with the details of your texture such as scratches, dust, imperfections etc.
Another important thing is that I usually use UDIM to create textures: this can help you to obtain more resolution per object.
The last step is exporting all the textures and choosing a template for the render. I opt for Arnold 5 or create a Blender Cycles template.
When I begin a new piece I often have in mind what I’m looking for. If I need to refine the composition I use the blocking model to play with the composition. In my personal work, I really like to use Triangle Composition.
Also, I look for references, classical painting, fashion photography, and all of that helps me a lot to obtain colors, composition, and ambiance of the piece.
As I mentioned above, I use either Arnold 5 for Maya or Cycles for Blender. I really like to use a Rembrandt lighting set up, and three-point lights or one light setup. After that, I export all the render phases to compose in Photoshop.
You can learn more about Rembrandt lighting in the video by Jordan P. Anderson:
Advice for Beginners
I recommend that they keep practicing every day, hard and with passion. If you want to be a character artist, study both human and animal anatomy and pay attention to textures and materials – study them and create to gain experience.