Ema Klucovska talked about the production of her fantasy creature Planet Explorer made during Christophe Desse’s class Texturing and Shading 2 at Gnomon.
Hello, my name is Ema Klucovska. I am from Slovakia, a little country located in Central Europe. Since I was two years old, I have always loved drawing monsters and creatures with sharp bloody teeth. Because of my horrible creations, doctors even suggested my parents a visit to a psychologist. In the end, my parents received an answer that I was extremely talented and that the doctor had never seen such a great drawing at that age. Later, this monstrous passion made me choose the path of a character artist.
While in high school, the only art education I had was from a former Disney animator. He helped me sharpen my traditional art background while I would watch Gnomon Workshop tutorials to learn 3D. At the end of high school, I knew that I wanted to go to Gnomon to learn 3D Animation, meet industry professionals and eventually work in the United States.
Planet Explorer was my final piece for Christophe Desse’s Texturing and Shading II class. I was excited for this class because we would be learning Substance Painter and Redshift, both of which I had never used before. He really focused on quick iteration and efficient workflows, which both Substance Painter and Redshift excel at. Throughout the class, Christophe really helped guide us and taught us his secrets.
When I am sculpting a creature, I always think of what the creature is made of. When you have an idea of what the final creature will look like, it informs you of how you need to sculpt the character. If it’s a translucent tentacle, you would sculpt it smoother than how you would sculpt a bony horn. Sculpting with the textures in mind is a really easy way to improve a sculpt. Try to understand how Substance Painter interacts with you sculpt, as microdetails can sometimes get lost or be too emphasized when you use procedural masks and height maps.
When approaching the skin, I start off in ZBrush and make sure I have a detailed high poly model. Most of the detail from the textures come from the High Poly Bake. Those details can get you 50% of the way there with the skin textures. A helpful tip my friend Colin Key gave me is to use grunge as a base to offset your primary colors. This gave me a lot of color variation without having to go through and paint different greens onto the model. From there, I went through and painted different colors on the character to give some more variation. For this part, I just explored different shapes until something stuck.
Once I got all the main colors set up, I went through and manually painted over the entire chicken. What really helps is to use light and dark values to help emphasize the details of the model and “fake” the lighting. Doing some Hue variations around the face also helps a lot.
For the translucent parts of the skin, I grabbed the baked thickness maps from substance painter as a base and painted away the map where the bones would be. From there, I made the tentacles completely translucent in the map, so they would look like goo.
Once in Redshift, it’s really just a game of playing around with the subsurface sliders until it looks nice. I can never really tell what any of them do, it seems like they always do something different every time.
Because of how powerful Redshift is, I never ran into any huge issue with setting up the shaders or lighting. Everything was so fast that you could almost see what your lighting and material changes were doing in real time!
One of the best parts of Christophe’s class was his way of using lights in a scene. For each render, I had around 5 different lights each with their own colors. In most of the scenes, I would put a red light on the chicken’s face that only affected the diffuse lighting. When you play with how the lights affect specular, reflections, diffuse and shadows you’re able to paint with the light and give some extra life to the character.
When I was doing the dead chicken, I wanted the tentacles to feel like they were super gooey in the shot, so I stuck a bright light directly behind the chicken. This helped rim light the character which gave the tentacles a unique look and created a god ray of sorts like heaven that was shining on the dead Mr. Chicken.