Genc Buxheli: Creating Vikings’ Porunn
Genc Buxheli

Freelance character artist

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8 hours ago

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by Kai Marshall
24 hours ago

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Genc Buxheli: Creating Vikings' Porunn
18 August, 2016

Freelance character artist Genc Buxheli gave a talk on the production process behind his Porunn character. The artist discussed modeling, sculpting head, working with the materials and other details. 



I am a freelance Character Artist from Tirana, Albania. I first got introduced to 3D when I was about 10 years old. Even at that age, I dreamt about working on games and characters in general. At the time I was working on 3D commercials for TV but kept focusing on learning character art whenever I had the time to do so. There are no 3D Art schools in Tirana, so I had to learn by myself. I worked on a few small games for mobile, Playstation 3, Xbox360 and PC. I’m currently applying for full time positions at my favorite gaming companies.



Right after completing my Ramsay Bolton character, I was keen on keeping it going with another realistic character. My friend Kristian Llana, who is a concept artist showed me Vikings. I knew the series but never seen any episodes of it. I wanted to do something a little more complex than my last character, and Porunn had a very cool design in her clothes, hair and face. There were a lot of very high quality photos of her costume on the internet, so that helped a lot.




I think the workflow that I usually follow when modeling characters keeps me going without too many surprises and road blocks. So for this piece, everything went smoothly until the very end. I did learn a lot of new things while working on it, most of them are technical aspects that just became clearer.



It all started with a base mesh that I usually use when modeling characters. I kept watching all her face photos while sculpting the head. I then used the amazing Texturingxyz maps to get the pore’s details projected into the sculpt and it was all worth it. I wasn’t too keen on keeping the scar. I did model it for fun at first, because the character in the series did not have it yet and only got it a few seasons later.

But I like how it looked so decided to keep it. The most important part was to get it to look natural enough since it’s a very big scar that could make the character look too unrealistic.

Hair was modeled in parts in Zbrush and baked into poly planes. I used fibermesh to create different hair locks, then baked normals,occlusion and opacity mask in 3ds Max. Each hair plane was then placed manually over the head. Texturing was mostly done in Photoshop.



Clothes were first modeled in Marvelous Designer. I like this software to get the right look of the wrinkles formation at an early stage. It was then brought back to Zbrush and detailed. I wanted to keep the material details at a minimum and let texturing define the material types, so that I could have more control on the scale and definition of each material’s properties. For example, the leather jacket only has wrinkles, stitches and small defined interaction wrinkles. The actual leather pattern was all done in texture.


Substance Painter is a great software. It takes care of all the technical things while giving you total freedom on the creative process of texturing. I quickly laid out a basic material setup for each part of the model consisting of a group of layers that defined the pattern normal map, roughness and metalness. Then it was only a matter of adding small details like dirt, sweat, scratches and damages to make it look more realistic. The total process of texturing was very quick, I must say it took about 3-4 days to get a nearly finished look on all the textures.


This time, I decided to texture the head fully in Substance. It was more a test to see how far I could push it, and I must say that it was totally worth it. I had freedom to do anything I could imagine and see it directly exported to Marmoset for the final look.



Another great thing about Substance is how quickly you can export the final maps ready to be loaded in the game engine. While working with it, I had Marmoset open at all time, with the character loaded and shader’s already set up. At this point, exported maps from Substance would auto reload in Marmoset where I could see the final look of the character and decide where to attenuate or modify specific elements.


I used Max to rig and pose the character, then Marmoset to setup the materials and lighting. With this scene setup, I wanted to show how the character feels. She is a warrior and that scar has somehow changed her from the inside. I to reflect those feelings in the sadness of her eyes and expression.


Genc Buxheli, Freelance character artist

Interview conducted by Artyom Sergeev

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