Franco Carlesimo gave a little talk about the way he works on 3D Character models made in ZBrush and rendered in V-Ray.
Hi! I am from Mar del Plata, a coastal city in the province of Buenos Aires, Argentina. At the moment, I mostly do modeling for 3d printing. I also study anatomy, produce my own designs of creatures, draw stuff for fun and practice.
I used to work on commercials for Adidas, Game of Thrones, DirecTV, etc., so I’ve got quite a long history when speaking of my past projects. Nowadays, I mostly focus on modeling comic-style characters and personal creatures and characters.
Interest in Sculpting
Sculptures have always been in my family because my mother used to do sculpting and created 1 to 1 bust of humanlike characters. I guess, my interest in sculpting comes from there. I wasn’t allowed in her shop though because there were dangerous tools and big chunks of clay that could fall on me. Instead, I watched a little show called Movie Magic where I could see the process of making some of my favorite creatures like an alien and a predator or the creatures from Jurassic Park.
When I finished high school the only Art school available in my city didn’t have 3D courses, so I went for illustration, and let me tell you, I am really bad at illustration. In a few years, however, I was introduced to ZBrush and fell in love with it. It blew my mind. After learning to model, I was eager to give the characters life, so I started studying other software solutions and stumbled upon 3ds Max. It was a true passion, but you always come back to your first true love. So yeah, now I am just doing modeling and loving every minute of it! I still use 3ds Max to do the renders, but the flame is gone (unless you have FumeFX).
I love comic books, they are our modern myths. And what I intend to do every time is to do a sculpt of one of the characters and try to capture the essence of it, the full story in just one moment. My goal is if you just have a glimpse of it, you know what his/her/its deal is. A lot depends on the viewer, however, and his/her perspective.
The way I usually work is starting in an A-pose, a relaxed standing pose with the arms a little spread. For the anatomy, I first make a general low-poly human body trying to match the proportions. Once I have that, I gather all the images of the character I have, check the anatomy references and start masking and extracting parts. Basically, I’m doing all the sculpting stuff that you can see in many awesome tutorials out there.
I’d recommend studying anatomy and movement. Don’t rely on the classic anatomy books only, look for animation tutorials, go to the beach, try to look at human bodies, how they move, how the bones move under the flesh. I don’t mean it in a creepy way. It might be hard, but the dark sunglasses should help.
Accessories & Clothes
All the details and accessories are done inside ZBrush, mostly using masking and extraction, then ZRemesher, some polygroup and finally the Zmodeler brush. For some other props, I just use the classic box modeling techniques starting from a cube and using the Zmodeler.
For drapery and cloth that is not tight like skin, I use Marvelous Designer, mostly because I haven’t learned to sculpt it properly yet. Later on, I import the cloth from MD and sculpt small wrinkles with the standard brush, some alphas, and the Orb brush pack. Then, for the texturing, I use the noise maker and apply it to the layer in order to control it in case I need to have more or less depth.
Texturing, Lighting & Shaders
For texturing, I just do polypaint, as simple as that. Then I use the UV master and extract the texture to take them to 3ds Max. For the renders, I currently use V-Ray. What I like about it is that I can take individual passes for different light sources, diffuse map, specular, reflections, etc. and compose the images later on using After Effects. I use AE mostly because of my background in motion animation and VFX (yes, I did that too, had to pay the bills). It’s easy to set up the color gradients and apply the same to all of the renders there. I can’t share any methods here – I just go for what feels right to me, and I never leave the shadows 100% black.
For the lighting setups, I usually go for a 3-light set: a Key light and 2 main backlights to work as rim lights. Sometimes, I like to do something more dramatic and put an overhead light with sharp shadows.
As for the shaders, I also try to keep everything simple иге distinguished. Skin is usually a V-Ray SubSurface scatter material, and the rest is V-Ray materials with adjusted reflection (IOR).
Thank you for reading! It was a pleasure to share my process with you. And remember kids, don’t do drugs, keep reaching for the stars, to infinity and beyond, live your dreams, never say never, Santa is real, and elephants never forget.