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Making a Mysterious Gothic Character with ZBrush & Marvelous Designer

Sougato Majumder has shared another breakdown of the latest Decapitare project, explaining the character creation process in ZBrush and Marvelous Designer.

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Introduction

Hey again guys, I am Sougato, I am from Calcutta, India, but currently, I am staying in Pune for my job. I have been a 3D Artist for almost 8 years with modeling, sculpting, and texturing as my main areas of expertise.

Over the years, I have worked on a few of the most awesome projects such as my first AAA title Mortal Kombat X, one of my favorite and awesome projects Injustice 2, Overkill's The Walking Dead, Mortal Kombat XI, and Rider's Republic.

Artists whom I would really like to mention, from whom I have really learned a lot are mainly Scott Eaton, Alex Oliver, Rafael Grassetti, Alessandro Baldesseroni, etc. I followed their online tutorials, artworks, techniques, and breakdowns that they have provided. Also, I keep on surfing art all day in artstation, ZBrush Central and Pinterest, because it is so wonderful to look at so many awesome artists and their art style, techniques, and methods for creating amazing art.

Since my last interview with 80 Level, I had been very busy with my studio work, but with the very little time I got to gear up for my personal art I kept shuffling from concepts to concepts to begin with a new one, meanwhile also got affected by COVID and was almost bed-ridden and stayed in home isolation for almost a month, during which I came across Carter's concept of the Ghost Samurai in Instagram and decided to make it in 3D after I get up!

The Decapitare Project 

Now about the Decapitare, just after I had finished my Ghost Samurai, I was looking for something new to work upon. I remembered that I also had already started to work upon one of the concepts of Puppeteer Lee, so while working on it I came across a show called Grimm on Amazon Prime and wanted to make something related to that universe. Though the show is based on the present time, I wanted to create someone belonging from a different era, someone from the feudal ages, more archaic and gothic. It was then when I stumbled upon this concept in Pinterest:

The name Decapitare (Decapitator) was also mentioned in the show, and I kind of decided to take this concept and create the guy I had in my mind. I instantly started to collect references for my pre-production, with some design tweaks, I thought to improvise over this concept.

The funny thing is that after I had finished the character, I found out that the concept was created by MuYoung so, apparently, I had only this image to create him.

The main reason I liked this concept is because of the whole appearance and vibes it had. Also, I wanted to create some heavily armored guy who fights demons, monsters, and witches!!

Armor

Starting with the armor, I didn't want to differ much from the concept, except introduce the back armor. The rest I had kept almost the same as we see in the concept, like the armor plates, and other props, due to the fact that parts like the centerpiece and the pauldrons looked interesting and I really wanted to create them.

The method used for it is quite simple, I started by masking and extracting parts from the main body mesh, then I Polygrouped respective parts and then used Polish by Features to get clean shapes by turning on/off the white dot at the end. Polish by Features helps me a lot to work on hard-surface and refine my shapes more accurately, according to Polygroups. Then I combine respective SubTools and then DynaMesh the part and start to sculpt on it. The various brushes I had used here for sculpting the armor are mainly Michael Vicente's "Orb Brush pack' and a few default IMM Brushes which are present inside ZBrush. 

Similarly, all the other hard surfaces for this character were created following the same method. I tend to follow this method for almost all the parts that I create. Masking+Extracting then focussing more on blocking out the volumes and proportions, giving proper shape to the element, and then after I get satisfied with the shape I move on to detailing.

For the chains, the ones on the ground were used from the Beta Tester Brushes, and for the lantern, I had used the chain from an old unfinished project.

Fabrics and Boots

As for the fabrics, it was quite simple as not much fabric or cloth is visible on this character, the base of the ones that are present were simulated in Marvelous Designer and then sculpted and detailed in ZBrush.

The same process applied for the sleeves and the cape, though the sleeve part was masked and extracted from the hand and manually sculpted.

Basically, while sculpting clothes, I try to keep my attention on the volumes and proportion and how it is interacting with the folds, as the folds differ from place to place according to the tension at different places. I also keep close attention on the underlying anatomy of the character, and for using patterns and surface noise it is a good thing to unwrap the piece for applying them in the high poly stage.

The Boots were created using the same method, I masked and extracted then blocked out the shape, after that I gave them respective Polygroups and started to define the volume and shape of the boots, Marvelous Designer was not used for it, only ZBrush.

Axe

The axe is the most important attribute of this character, it defines the weight and the essence of the character, and I wanted to make it unique and heavy and it was really fun to create it. Initially, while I was searching for references mainly there were only Viking axes, but that was not putting the appeal of this character rightfully to the place, and suddenly I came across this concept:

And after I saw it, I instantly thought of creating something like this, but not just an exact copy. I used my own imagination to sculpt it out.

Painting

As for the painting, I recorded a small video on how I actually paint my characters, the props, and weapons:

Mainly, I use the Masking system inside ZBrush to Polypaint a lot, it is very effective. For materials, I have a huge set of materials downloaded from the Pixologic website, I play a lot with applying different materials and start to render them at a very early stage to understand which materials will I go with for the final renders. 

You can also use the StandardBrush with various alpha and with the Spray mode on a lower intensity you can paint different shades, if you go through the video provided you can get a thorough idea about it. Also, try to explore with different alphas and Spray and Color Spray modes to paint on any surface, though for painting the polycount should be a bit higher for smooth painting.

Rendering

Rendering and Lighting are some of the most important stages for any asset or character, it is what makes your asset or character stand out. And for that, you have to find the right mood of the character. For the Decapitare, I wanted some gothic dark environment. During this phase, it takes a lot of patience because you have to change the lighting setup a lot of times to capture the right mood.

And after that, with some extra effects with the Smoke brush and Levels and Curve adjustments, I acquire the desired result.

For Clay renders my process is the simplest as I decimate my entire model and take that directly into Maya, do a quick light setup, and use Arnold Renderer to render my character.

This time I didn't add any post effects for the Clay render.

So this is pretty much my workflow for creating characters. I hope this will be helpful. Thanks!

Sougato Majumder, Lead Character Artist 

Interview conducted by Arti Sergeev

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