Professional Services
Order outsourcing

Sculpting an Elf Scout in ZBrush

Arnon Lau briefly talked about the process of sculpting and skin texturing for the project Safehold Elite based on one of the cards from Magic: The Gathering.


Hello! My name is Arnon Lau and I’m from Vancouver, Canada. I studied 3D Animation at Capilano University and currently, I work as a 3D character artist at Roarty Digital. When I first got introduced to digital sculpting at school I realized this was the path I wanted to pursue. During my time of studies, I was fortunate enough to have an instructor who always stressed the importance of anatomy and had me put a lot of focus on studying sculptures like Bernini's works and anatomy courses. It's still something I have a lot to learn about but I do believe it's very important to have a good understanding of form and structure to create a character. I have around 2 years of experience now as a 3D artist and I'm very excited to continue my journey.

1 of 4

Safehold Elite: Goals

When I started this character, my goals were to explore style and speed up my process of creating a final piece. I went a bit over a month but I was happy with the result and what helped me a lot was having a strong idea of what I wanted the final image to be like. To me, the concept depicted her as an elite warrior with an affinity for nature and I did renders between each step to keep this idea as the core. Here are some references I used:


For personal projects, I like to start with a sphere and treat the process as a study each time. I find it easier for me to sculpt this way and build up all the forms, especially for faces. After getting this base body done I move onto blocking out the pieces and then going through each one and spending the time on sculpting it. Here are pretty much all the brushes used for this project:

I used a combo of ZRemesher/ZModeler to craft all my accessories. I start with a blocked out mesh and then mask out the shape I want from it. I use ZRemesher/ZModeler to clean up the topology and then extrude and crease edges. After this, I look for references for the object and spend some time sculpting. I always try to keep in mind how the object would be created and where I should place details. It is a very simple approach but I have found it to be the most flexible in creating any sort of accessory. I used this approach for pretty much everything seen on this character. One of the benefits is that I end up with a mesh that will pretty much be ready for UV/texturing.

After getting a basic sculpt done I then moved the character into the pose I had in mind. For this step, I used Transpose Master to get a couple of poses while trying to find the best one. This is something I am not confident in, so having this tool allowed for very quick iteration and checking to make sure silhouettes are good.  When I bring it as far as I can with that, I continue on with the sculpting until I am satisfied with the result.


My approach to the skin for this piece was to test out the materials in Substance. The result was very quick and allowed me to skip out on having to go through a longer baking process but it was also more generic without tweaking. After the process of layering skin pore details, I then hand-painted the skin color. I would highly recommend people to look at Saurabh Jethani’s tutorial on this, he shows a very helpful approach to hand-painting skin. I generally start with a base color, then build up red, yellow, and blue zones. I didn’t clean it up so it's a bit messy but here is a look at my layer system:

And the final result:

Final Thoughts

The biggest challenge was trying to balance the focus of the final image and having it still represent the character I had in mind. For this project, I found that adding an environment really helped give the character more life. I still have a ton to improve on and I'm looking forward to the next project!

Arnon Lau, 3D Character Artist

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

Keep reading

You may find this article interesting

Join discussion

Comments 0

    You might also like

    We need your consent

    We use cookies on this website to make your browsing experience better. By using the site you agree to our use of cookies.Learn more