Sculpting Intricate Characters with Maya & ZBrush
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Sculpting Intricate Characters with Maya & ZBrush
19 March, 2018
Character Art

A character artist Taissia Abdoullina talked about the way she built her Helion Blyss character with the help of Maya and ZBrush. 

My name is Taissia Abdoullina, I am a character artist from France, currently living in Canada. I have been working in video games for around 8 years and recently also stepped into the VFX industry. I have worked on a certain number of Assassin’s Creed titles among others.

Concept & Sculpting

It started with a very old character design on mine, I have been randomly iterating on it over the years, playing with different variations of the same archetype. I always wanted to give it a go in 3D but it didn’t feel ready. Finally, I was able to draw a sort of final version of the concept, making up my mind about what the character should look like in a more precise manner so that it would be a good base to start a 3D model from. Once the concept was done I have decided to simply stick to it as close as possible while working on the model. That isn’t something I would usually do when it comes to my own designs – it is very hard not to keep tweaking and changing things, experimenting with different shapes or pushing it in a more realistic or more stylized direction; there is always something I want to change or improve. So I had to show a lot of restraint here to avoid that.

I’d generally start with getting the body and face sculpt done. That is what in my opinion gives life to a character, and the rest is just bonus. This model is basically all legs, so getting the body shapes right was extremely important. I’ve spent some extra time on anatomy in order to have a generic stylized base body I could use for future projects as well. I then worked on the haircut, probably the biggest challenge of this project, and only then came the rest. I’ve made a rough sculpt of the outfit to define the proportions and folds structure, then split it into different parts along the seams and refined them separately, adding layers and complexity to it.

I used Maya to create some of the small elements I needed for the costume – buckles, buttons, belts, shoulder pads, as well as the base shape for the shoes, and brought them progressively in Zbrush as I was getting the corresponding parts of the costume done. I didn’t really plan it out, I switched from one software to another when I intuitively felt like it would be easier for me to get to the point or when I wanted to experiment with some tools I haven’t been using before.

I used Insert Mesh Brushes for a lot of small elements: buckles, tassels, ropes and straps. Some of the metallic inserts I made just like the rest of the costume, using the mask-and-extract, zremesher and panel loops functions.

I also used CurveTubes brush for the hair, creating the whole hairstyle with very low-poly shapes first, and then sculpting each individual hair lock separately.

I didn’t really mean to spend time on texturing so it’s just very basic polypaint done in ZbrushI’ve only painted the skin and eyes and applied flat colors to the rest of the character. 

I feel like just painting the face even in a very simple manner adds quite a bit of life into the character – and it’s a lot of fun.

 It would be nice to go further into the texturing process and paint the whole character with the same brush strokes as on the concept. Get the the plastic-ish iridescent looks of the white fabric, the cold teal highlights on the black leather, the warm richness of the golden parts in the shadows.

So far I’ve been exploring different lighting setups in order to make even just the plain textureless model look a little more illustrative and I’d like to keep pushing this further on.

Taissia Abdoullina, Character Artist.

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