Making Ares From Marvel Comics in ZBrush & Substance Painter

Otávio Libório showed us the workflow behind the Ares – God of War project and recommended some books that will help any Character Artist with anatomy.

At first, I worked with some small companies on mobile games, then I spent 4 years at Sidia, helping to develop games and apps exclusive to Samsung.

At first, I worked with some small companies on mobile games, then I spent 4 years at Sidia, helping to develop games and apps exclusive to Samsung.

Ares – God of War project

I had an old character on my HD, it was a remnant of a project canceled about 2 years ago. I decided to revisit it and redo some things. In the middle of the process, I realized that he had this archetype very similar to that of Ares from Marvel Comics. "It will be Ares!" I decided.


I have a book by Ariel Olivetti called Anatomy of Superheroes, and I took a course on it with that same theme. I was inspired a lot by this concept of exaggerated anatomy. He has a huge torso and very thick arms. His legs are muscular, but they are stocky and his trapeze looks like that of a bull. He has very Herculean anatomy, a middle ground between a normal hero and a monster like the Hulk.

I tried to keep the uniform very faithful to that of the character in the comics, but of course, I took some liberties. I made a second choice of helmet and shield that were my ideas.


The helmet has a very Spartan look, but with modern details. Do you know this concept of weapons and clothing that you see in the Asgardians or the Amazons in the films like Thor and Wonder Woman? Well, I tried to do something like that. It resembles the old, but at the same time, it is modern.

I used ZBrush in 100% of the modeling.

Weapons and Shield

I start modeling with primitive shapes in ZBrush itself. I create the shapes, extruding outwards, inwards.

I start with cylinders, spheres, and cubes, without much secrecy. They are the beginning of everything. If you pay attention to the axe and the spear, most of them are cylinders with extrusion details. The shield was started with a piece of a sphere, in short, the idea is to block with basic geometric shapes and then add details.

Retopology and Unwrapping

My focus on this project was to make a character for collectibles. In this area, retopology and UV opening are not very essential. I wanted to make textures in Substance Painter and render in Arnold, but without wasting time with retopology and UV.

The ZBrush helped a lot, it has a great automatic retopology tool, and a great unwrapping tool, it helped a lot because I didn't have to worry about correct and accurate loops.


My workflow went as follows:

  1. Part modeling.
  2. Automatic retopology.
  3. Unwrapping.
  4. Recovering details.
  5. Make Decimate and leave it marked “Keep UV”

After organizing all the parts, I took everything to Substance Painter. The decimated piece will serve as a basis for texturing and as a basis for bake. As the pieces are decimated, they usually get a little heavy. So I don't take the entire character to Substance Painter. This project I separate into more than 10 pieces for this stage.

Rendering and Lighting

The basics of photography, 3 points of light. One to fill. Key light and Backlight. This setting resolves any render. I added some small key lights where the render was too dark, as in the legs for example. And a second blue fill light on the right helped to contrast the orange Backlight.

I used Arnold because I wanted to make it look more realistic, I wanted to make it look like a real collectible.

Advice for Beginners

I would recommend anyone to read and enjoy comics. This will give you a good and important visual baggage. Study anatomy and gesturing. Buy books about it. I will suggest some that help and inspire me a lot:

There are many others but these are going to be a great start to studying for those who are going to start now. Follow artists who work in this area, many are on YouTube sharing tutorials and tricks. This has helped me a lot.

Otávio Libório, Senior 3D Artist

Interview conducted by Theodore Nikitin

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