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Ricardo Viana shared his process of simulating a wooden Fizz statuette in 3D using ZBrush, Substance Painter, and Unreal Engine.
I’m Ricardo Viana, 23 years old. I’m a graduating Animation student and a 3D artist from Brazil focusing on characters. I started my journey into digital art when I was 15 y.o., searching for cool stereoscopic 3D images. Accidentally, I found myself in a blog about Blender and since that day I didn’t stop to search for new info about CG and 3D stuff. So I can say that I’m a self-taught 3D artist.
In 2015, already in the University, I joined TDZ Games as to work on the project Eliosi’s Hunt where I was the only 3D artist involved. After this, I worked at Apoema VR, a project with a mixed reality from the game studio. In 2017, the project has ended and I started to work as a freelancer.
Start of the Project
I’m a huge fan of League of Legends. I’ve played it since 2014 and Fizz is my main champion in the game, so I always wanted to make fanart of it. I started working on it about 3 times, but none of those tries were real projects, just sketching and stuff.
In the middle of the past year, Riot Games announced the new champion Pyke and a few events involving Bilgewater, a region that Pyke and Fizz belong to. At that time I already felt more confident about my artwork and had some base meshes for Fizz from the past. I searched for Bilgewater and Fizz in the League of Legends database and found some great references. The fact that I was in a riverside city and always liked to look at the river, boats and ports also helped me to get into the right mindset for the project.
I published a post on ArtStation talking about this pre-production stage of the project, you can read more about the way some of the ideas appeared there.
The main idea was to make a wooden statuette related to Bilgewater legends. I wanted to achieve the most convincing design I could.
As I’ve said previously, I already had some Fizz base I could start from:
This is just an early dynameshed model, but all the design features are already there: the 4-fingers hands, the tentacles, that fin and so on. I had to work more with the proportions and the pose, and since my intention was to make a statuette, I didn’t worry a lot about topology. I zremeshed it while it was symmetrical and separated some polygroups.
As Fizz is my champion, I’m pretty familiar with his personality and movements, so I had a lot of fun trying the poses. Fizz is known as the most slippy character in the League, that’s why he’s called “the Tidal Trickster”. I tried to make it look like he’s escaping from a complete chaos that he has started.
This is the first version:
After this, I patiently spent some time working with smaller details in his expression and pose, such as the fingers, face expression, muscle tension and hair/tentacles movements. This changed the model completely:
Detailing the Wood
My intention was to make a texture-focused work, so I made the sculpture details in ZBrush based on how I wanted them to behave during baking. I sculpted only the biggest details defining the wood texture directions with big “vertical” stripes.
To achieve this effect I used DamStandard brush with high tablet pressure parameters (Size and ZIntensity).
Also, I’ve worked with the hPolish brush to make flat shapes.
Beyond the detailing, I was testing the ClayPolish tool in the Geometry tab to make the whole model look hard and make the edges convincing.
The wood was the biggest challenge in this project. In order to achieve a good result, it was extremely important to make sure that the bakes were working as perfect as they could.
After baking each part of the model I prepared the model separating each part by maskings to define the wooden fibers flow, the different color parts and the parts which were going to look “painted”, not just colorized.
To make the wood base I started by a Smart Material from Substance Share, the “Wood Beech Veined”, and worked from there changing some settings (mainly in the “Veins” mask UV and height parameters, the “Wood Fibers” Fill materials colors and UV).
After setting the base wood material, I created a Fill layer coloring the whole model in blue to get this old painted feeling, followed by another Fill layer using the Curvature Map as a mask to make the edges more evident (and rougher, too).
In the “Blue” layer there’s a trick in the way I worked on the masks and the height settings.
It’s basically a normal Fill layer with the blue color, but the point is in the layers in the mask: there’s a fill in the mask which is the Curvature Map and a Level layer to invert its values. This way, the valleys look lighter and peaks darker. For the bigger parts of the model which contact with other objects more, I added another Fill layer with Thickness Map.
In order to reduce the wood height a little, don’t forget to change the material Height blend mode to Normal instead of Linear Dodge (Add), so it doesn’t mix with the Wood Base material height and makes the illusion that it’s another surface.
These two tips are the most useful ones. Every time I want to make a new surface in the model I apply them. It is important to make the masks a little bit blurry so that the height can work better with the grays. You can use a grunge Fill layer as Multiply blend mode to make some variations in the mask.
For the pedestal, I used the same base wood material.
The point is always setting a good Fill layer material and work the mask variation. In the handles, for example, I made the masks with a paint layer with Multiply blend mode on top of the curvature map.
This time I added something special: a Dust layer. It’s pretty simple but makes a big difference when it comes to occlusion:
In the shaders part, there’s nothing really special: I replicated the shader workflow from Marmoset making a common Material with the textures as parameters, then creating material instances and just switching the textures.
Important note: the AO Roughness Metal textures should be set as Masks:
In this scene, I set every object and lamp as Movable in order not to worry about the lighting and go with maximum settings.
The only tip I have here is the light scheme. I used a common HDR texture in the Skylight and 4 lamps to simulate two lights:
If you look closely you will realize that one has a warmer color while the opposite is cooler. When they mix, the light turns almost white and makes a very interesting effect.
The spotlights are a little distant and the directional lights have different rotation values making the shadows not so flat. Each light has a different intensity as well.
As for the video, it was made with Sequencer and there’s nothing special in it, just some lights oscillation and camera moving.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me, I will be pleased to answer. I’m all open to new projects and opportunities. See you!
Ricardo Viana, 3D Artist
Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev
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