Evan Gintsiak shared the details of the Deer Knight made with ZBrush, Blender, and Corona.
My name is Evan, I am a 3D character artist currently living and working in Tel Aviv. Before making moving to the tech industry around a year and a half ago, I worked in smaller studios here in Tel Aviv and contributed to plenty of local products. Now, I work on more technical 3D stuff. As for the characters, I mostly sculpt them for fun as personal projects and occasionally as a freelance side job if I have time.
I have started with 3D while studying at the university. I worked as an interpreter for a gaming company in my hometown, and after a few months, I was taken by the idea of getting into creating games myself. I decided to start with something that was easy for me to understand – the visual side of it, – downloaded Blender and started playing with it and following different tutorials on YouTube. The rest is history…
After some time, I moved to coding for a little bit but found myself going back to 3D quite soon.
How It Was Born
The Deer Knight character actually started as a smile sculpting exercise. It’s very hard to convey emotion in a still image, and I wanted to challenge myself.
It was only later when I decided to add horns and deer ears and create a full character. The suit came in very late in the process when I started playing with different poses using a body from a different sculpt of mine. All in all, she had quite many iterations.
I don’t have a particular approach for this kind of sculpts. Usually, I sculpt in symmetry to get the initial shape and proportions and pose the characters quite early in the process. After that, I just add and refine the shapes. I mostly use the most common ZBrush brushes such as move, dam_standard, and clay buildup, plus I also use the orb_cracks brush a lot.
I always try to keep low subdivision and divide only if necessary. Another thing I always do is working from references, usually random images found on Pinterest and Google.
For the ornaments, I used a fairly simple trick: I traced reference ornaments in Blender by simply extruding vertices, added thickness, and exported them into ZBrush. In ZBrush, I sculpted the details and lines and imported everything back into Blender. Then, I placed the ornaments where I wanted and used “simple deform” and “Lattice” modifiers to bend and position them in place.
The hair is actually made with a LOT of hair cards. I made a basic layout of the hair in ZBrush, imported it into Blender, manually created and aligned the UV, duplicated the cards several times, and positioned the layers by hand (Base Layer, Breakup layer, Transitional Layer).
The second and third break up layers and flyaway hairs were done using the “Hair Tool” Addon. I selected random edges, duplicated and separated them, and then twisted and generated cards from them. The twisting helps to create that messy look.
And the brows are just a texture with displacement.
Face & Body
For the face and body textures, I used photos of real people which I cleaned up a little bit in Photoshop and projected in ZBrush. All the other maps are derivatives from the diffuse texture created in Photoshop with adjustment layers. I use CoronaSkin which is fairly easy to set up: just plug in the maps with some minor adjustments.
The peachfuzz hair is quite simple to make as well: I created it using FiberMesh in ZBrush, groomed it, then exported into Blender, and smoothed some areas such as the nose and around the eyes. Finally, I applied a semi-transparent material to it, so basically, it’s just some geometry with a simple shader. I wanted the character to be a little bit hairier because she is partially a deer.
The lighting is very simple: one HDRI for global lighting and mood, a strong backlight, sun, and a fill light, that’s it. The camera composition is also simple, just the front view with some playing with perspective and angles, and of course,
my favorite face close-ups. The renders have almost no post-processing, I only added the background. I used Corona’s native post-processing: Tone mapping and LUT, and mostly added some blur, bloom, and sparkles. Corona is very easy to use and set up, and you can get nice results out of the box (in case all your maps are good enough). The raw render is very close to the final version and you need to do some really little tweaking.
It took me a few months to finish the project, but I didn’t work on it full time, not even every week. I had to find some time between this project, a character I did for 3D printing, my day job, and family, so Deer Knight wasn’t a priority. I would have worked on it more if I had the opportunity, although I am very happy with how it came out with the limited time I had.