In case you missed it
Learn more about stylized character art
Hello, my name is Dennis but my pseudonym is Durcot, and I am a self-taught 3D graphic designer and modeler. I live in the city of Cochabamba, Bolivia. In the past, I have done some brand design, character design and modeling for the advertising industry, plus I had the opportunity to share my knowledge in some talks and workshops.
Some time ago, I started taking online courses and creating my own characters. At first, all this was a hobby, but I then realized that I could improve, so I focused on learning to model full time.
I am currently working as an independent artist, modeling characters for my social networks and improving my portfolio which will hopefully lead me to be a part of a larger project.
Dragonfish Summoner: How It Started
Dragonfish Summoner came to life from collaboration with another artist Varguy: I saw his character design, loved it and got a desire to model it. I spoke to the artist to get his consent, and eventually, I modeled 3 of his characters which improved my modeling skills. I approached it as a real job and put every effort into modeling to achieve good results.
All three characters were a challenge for me because I had to adopt Varguy's style and represent it in 3D. But that's one of my goals - to be completely versatile.
As a side note, I should mention that every time I face a character with human anatomy, no matter how simple the character is, I work on the muscles that help me determine the pose and will be later stylized.
I take my time to model a solid foundation that I can work off of. Now, on to the rest of the process.
- Studying the Form (Photoshop)
The first thing I do is a study of the basic forms of the character because despite having a cartoonish style, it will anyway have some degree of complexity when translating into 3D.
- Modeling a base mesh (on a template) (ZBrush)
When the character is designed only from one angle, the modeling process gets complicated because I cannot see or measure the proportions of the character from different perspectives. Because of that, I work with several templates which helps me in studying the forms and establishing the volumes I must work with.
- Details (ZBrush)
- Retopology (Maya)
This step is very important since it determines how UVs will behave when working on the textures and the pose. I use Maya for retopology.
- Character pose (ZBrush)
I work on the character pose using the mask, movement and rotation tools in ZBrush.
- Hair process
The step that probably takes me the longest is hair. I tried several ways of doing it, but the results were not satisfying until I used C4D.
To model the clothes I use Marvelous Designer. The first thing I do is see how many pieces a garment has in order to organize the cuts in well. Then I create a base on which I make the cuts. At the end of the process, I usually give some physical properties to the fabric to make it more dynamic in the pose.
The shoes are made in ZBrush. Thanks to ZModeler it is easy to create a base for more geometric objects like these shoes. I recommend working with clean geometry because it is easier to adjust and correct small details this way.
As you can see, the mesh is basic, but it is enough since the textures will improve it. It is not necessary to make all the details in ZBrush, I personally prefer to add them with the textures in Painter Substance. The tools used to model the shoes are Move brush and ZModeler.
The textures were created in Substance Painter and exported to Cinema 4D. I use the coating and masking tools a lot to get a realistic result.
For the scales of the fish, I created a layer of height for the scales and another layer with the blur filter to soften the shapes. For the skin of the fish, I apply several layers of color with different softeners that exclusively affect the Dispersion. Each material adds a nuance to the skin of the fish and gives it a degree of realism. I learned this trick from the channel Character Artist Life.
Whenever I need to illuminate a character, I look for some traditional light schemes in the world of photography and study what kind of emotion those schemes transmit. However, in the end, I end up breaking those schemes.
I start by putting the main light, then I try putting 3 lights in the back and 1 fill light. When the characters are complex like this one, I look for ways to separate them from the background so that they have more presence in the scene.
Here you can see how the backlights influence the character:
After the first lighting situation is set, I usually let the image rest for 1 day and focus on other projects. This lets me look at the lighting from another perspective when I return to it. I usually find that I have to make some adjustments, change the intensity, etc. Sometimes, rotating a light even 10 degrees greatly affects the whole lighting.