Anda Deng talked about his workflow of making this amazing character and shared some tips on modeling and detailing.
Hi, I grew up in China, but living in the U.S. I have been working in the entertainment industry for many years and previously I was a Character Artist at Survios working on multiple VR games include “Westworld Awakening”, “The Walking Dead: Onslaught”, “Battlewake”, “Creed: Rise to Glory”.
My main goal for this project was to use the industry’s latest character modeling techniques plus my artistic skill sets to make the character as high quality as possible. From this project, I’m happy to say that the No.1 thing I have developed and improved was the aesthetic sense, i.e. what makes your art look good, or rather, what makes your art look bad. Learning to work and think as an artist is kinda like a loop where you have your criteria, then you get some feedback from the community (because everyone’s feedback matters), and eventually, you do some revision of your criteria. You repeat this same process over and over again to develop your aesthetic sense! For this article, I’m sharing with you the techniques I used for this project and the way I thought based on my understanding and knowledge of character art.
Gathering the Reference
The first thing I did was that I spent the time to look for concept art that I think would look good for 3D and also look for inspiration from references to support the concept. The personality pf the character is very important because it gives the character life! For this character, I wanted to give her an overall royal feeling. Even though she is the daughter of the king, she still likes fighting!
Here are some of the images that I gathered for the assets I wanted to redesign. Then, I did a basic block-out to decide the shapes and the positions I want everything to be. This was the early stage to make sure everything looks correct overall. That is to say, the character proportion, sizes and positions of all other assets need to look correct. One of my ways of measuring things is using my fingers to compare the sizes of all different assets.
Tips for Choosing a Good Character Concept:
(Well, definitely choose the one you like! However if you are struggling between a few concepts and don’t know which one to choose, here are my personal tips and hopefully, it helps you, too)
- Choose the one that has more different materials (metal, fabric, leather, wood, plastic, rubber, rock, marble, paper, jewelry, etc). Different materials have different roughness and specular values. In other words, it’s easier to visually read and tell the difference between different assets, when they are all put together as the outfits on the character’s body.
- Choose the one that has a stunning pose (especially for female characters) because poses reflect characters’ personalities. For example, if you look for some Marvel characters’ poses, you could more or less tell what kind of superpowers they have, right?
- Choose the one that has a good looking face. It’s even better than the face has some facial expression. When people look at your work, usually they will look at the face first, if the face doesn’t look good enough, no matter how good the outfits are, the quality would be greatly reduced.
- Choose the one that you will learn something from, or you just want to challenge yourself. Artists, always keep learning new stuff! Don’t give up!
One of the key elements of female anatomy is her feminine curvy body. Before I was posing the character, I looked for a lot of references from online clothing store as well as Instagram models. If I’m not quite clear about what I want, usually I would try to draw some skeleton lines for comparison and do the poses in Zbrush to see if there’s something work for my character.
I sculpted her in A pose, and then I used the “Transpose Master” (in ZB) for posing. The good thing about this tool is that I can always keep sculpting symmetrically by using the poseable symmetry mode (it only works, when the topology is symmetrical). Posing her took me the longest on the high-poly part of this project, because from one side one of the struggles I had was that I wasn’t quite sure, which angle I want the camera to face toward; from the other side the pose on the concept was not quite clear, so I tried many times to do some partial pose changes such as bending the knees or the head a little bit to find the most comfortable position.
The ornament on the Surface
Let’s take the glove, for example, and with most of the other stuff is all about using the same method. Just like drawing, you basically want to give light, mid and dark values to your object. Similarly, when texturing your 3D models, you need to create enough contrast onto the diffuse and roughness texture maps. There are a lot of ways to approach this. Here is my way:
Face Texturing for Female
(Male is similar but no make-ups)
The approach of making the eyes materials is actually not as hard as it seems to be. There are already a lot of eye models online and, usually, they come with a bunch of images. Here is how I made the eyes:
Eyes are very important to make the face look expressive. Lighting also plays a big part in shading the eyes. Try to rotate the eyes to different angels and see whether you like them or not. In my project, I pointed the eyes directly toward the camera and I found out she looks even more attractive by that.
Making hair is not easy, and it takes a lot of time and effort to adjust the hair guides. One thing I like to do is to assign different colors to the guides because in that way I can easily see and select the hair chunk I want to modify.
Clumping 1: This is the base layer that is used to separate the hair into multiple clumps
Clumping 2: Adds more clumps based on Clumping 1.
Cut 1: Breaks up the length of the hair and make it uneven.
Noise 1: Makes the hair a bit curvy or makes it less perfect and smooth
Noise 2: Adds flyaway and fuzzy hair
Make sure you give the hair enough CV Count, otherwise you won’t see the effect generated by the modifiers. Don’t forget to make the “transition” hair.
Lights Effects on the Hair
Here are my lights setup (plus a skydome light that’s not displayed in the image here). There are a key light which focuses toward the face, a headlight (the light on top of the head) to mainly cast a “butterfly” shadow on the face (it’s professionally called “butterfly light”), a fill light to lit up the areas that are too dark, and two rim lights to lit up the subjects outline.
Usually, I set the skydome light intensity very low to get the scene a bit of environmental lighting. Then, I test each light individually (in other words, turn off all other lights and only test one light at a time). Eventually, turn on all the lights to do some rendering for more further testing.
Anda Deng, 3D Artist
Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev.