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Sculpting a Stylized Girl in ZBrush

Zuzana Bubenová did a short breakdown of her lovely 3D character sculpt Essy made in ZBrush. Original concept by Svetlana Tigai.

Zuzana Bubenová did a short breakdown of her lovely 3D character sculpt Essy made in ZBrush. Original concept by Svetlana Tigai.


Hi! My name is Zuzana Bubenová. I am a 3D Artist from Slovakia. I have been living in Finland for the past 7 years. I studied Media Engineering but midway through the studies I realized I could be making those cool things that I adored in my favorite games and I began to self-study. Currently, I work at Ministry of Games, a Helsinki based mobile game studio where I make characters, buildings, and props.


I started the Essy project in a way that was a bit uncommon for me. Normally, I would do plenty of preparation work. This time, I just started from a sudden burst of excitement over the beautiful concept made by Svetlana Tigai. I was not thinking too much about the process, which let me get things done quicker than usual. At first, I wasn’t sure if I was going to make anything of it, but sculpting with this relaxed mindset and not overthinking led to good things.

The tricky part about an artwork like this is to capture the same vibe. It was challenging because I went with a slightly more stylized and chunky sculpting style. By not following the concept’s stylization level fully, I risked not being able to capture the same expression.

I try to absorb as much as possible from everything I do. I don’t use base meshes at this point, so I just utilized primitives for the general blockout. Shane Olson has a handy IMM brush for that. I think it is worth mentioning that during the initial phase the model will not look nice. A lot of aspiring artists can get discouraged at this stage and while it may be obvious, I think this is the stage where the work needs the most patience and deep analysis of the anatomy. I really like to take my time during this phase and do very thoughtful sculpting. If something doesn’t look right, I gather more references for that specific area and keep fixing it until it does.  


I wanted the hair to be really clean and stylized. With the hair, I focused on three things. Firstly, the overall silhouette. With a proper observation, I could more or less fully rely on the concept. The second thing was to figure out the flow of the hair pieces. For that, I tried to break down the hair from the concept and I imagined lines around the main parts of the hair. Those would be a starting point for me.

As shown in the image, I first got a very rough sketch to figure out what might work and where I would place the individual hair pieces. I approach this very recklessly and exaggerate a lot to help me visualize when I come in with the real sculpt. Each piece of hair needs to be placed mindfully and serve its purpose. That is the best way to ensure it will look clean as a whole. Lastly, I focused on making sure that the hair is well-polished. The hair is made of spheres using clay build up and dam standard, while hpolish and orb cracks brushes helped with the polishing. 

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Since this was meant to be a quick project, I decided not to do the whole texturing pipeline and instead went with a lighter approach using just polypaint. Most of my texturing experience comes from handpainted style, so I approached it with the same rules in mind but abandoning the painterly feel to it. Some of the lighting information was painted in the polypaint.


It is a basic render with the SkinShade4 material. A copy of that material with the wax modifier on was used for the face and small amount for the hair. I did a ZBrush BPR with custom settings for the shadows. The Photoshop compositing included main pass, shadow pass, and a depth pass (shown on the image above). The lights are the default, as I had a very specific lighting to follow from the concept and I made sure to polypaint the model in the way to support that. Depth pass was used for lens blur. Lastly, I did some final touch-ups to enhance the image.

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Thanks for reading! If you have additional questions about the project, feel free to message me.

Zuzana Bubenová, 3D Artist at Ministry of Games

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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Comments 1

  • Bruno

    Awesome work!



    ·5 years ago·

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