Mortal Kombat X Mileena Reimagined in ZBrush & Substance 3D Painter

Akbar Onisty Wijaya told us about the Mileena project, discussing the texturing process and sharing some tips for artists. 


Hi! I'm Akbar Onisty Wijaya. For the last 3 years, I have been a 3D character artist. When I first watched a movie about giant robots fighting kaiju directed by Guillermo del Toro, it was the first trigger that made me want to join the 3D industry. I started in college, where I found many people who inspired me in the animation and game fields.

The Mileena Project

I started the Mileena project because I really love to make creature models, but on the other hand, I also wanted to learn human face detailing. Then, I found an amazing Mileena concept art by Justin Murray for Mortal Kombat X. So I got what I wanted and decided to describe it in 3D.


I use ZBrush, Maya, and Substance 3D Painter. For this project, I set up the workflow so it could work with Arnold PBR later.

I started gathering references for the face and found Rinko Kikuchi, an actress who played Mako Mori in Pacific Rim. I think she has a great face to be captured in the concept.


For texturing, I hand-made everything because Mileena is the first semi-realistic human model I had done. So I thought it would be a great exercise to do manually. As you know, we can understand a little bit about how layering from the bottom to the top of the skin works. And this kind of technique's going to help make organic stuff that doesn't exist.

The first thing I do is make a Subdermal folder, which is a bloody layer underneath the skin. Then, I created a Dermis folder that contains skin color, sun damage, skin variations, lips, etc.

For me, the most tricky part of painting skin manually is to get a variety of subtle differences in color, shape, and value and also a mix of soft edges and sharpness to make it look believable.


For the hair, I started by sculpting hair meshes in ZBrush and then remeshing them for the placeholder. It would help decide the flow of the hair and save time. Then I recreated it using XGen in Maya. Since I tilted her head, following the direction of gravity is the key to making the hair flow believable.


I used Arnold for rendering and Studio Tomoco's HDRI for atmospheric light and created supporting light until I was happy with the result.

Overall, the Mileena project took me over a month to complete in between my other work; the most challenging part was the XGen hair stage.

It took me time trying to find the natural shape and believable flow I was happy with.

Tips for Artists

I'm a beginner character artist myself, I only have three years of experience in the industry, but if there is any advice I want to share, it is to be consistent and constantly challenge yourself so that your artwork tomorrow will be better than before. Surround yourself with AAA references, it will affect and motivate you to achieve higher quality. It's not when but how.

Akbar Onisty Wijaya, 3D Character Artist

Interview conducted by Theodore McKenzie

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