SpeedSculpts: User Guide
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Latest comments
by Tomasz Wikliński
2 hours ago

Great stuff. And many thanks for those tuts by Jason! They helped me a lot.

Those animations look amazing!! Great job!

Very cool review of the making of Spellbreak. Would be even more cool to see some videos inside UE4 showing how they do a few very specific things unique to them.

SpeedSculpts: User Guide
14 March, 2019
Character Art
Interview

Alisa Seliverstova prepared a great guide for CG artists who would like to practice speed sculpting and talked about the way it helps to develop skills.

Introduction

Hi everyone! My name is Alisa, I am 24. I like to identify myself as a 3D artist. The first time the crazy idea like that came to me 4 years ago, when I got acquainted with ZBrush, my first 3D application. Since then I have learned a lot of things and now I create 3D models for games (high poly and low poly). But the understanding of the subject of this article came to me way back in the school days.

Let’s get started, step by step.

This Cruel Maths

Dealing with mathematics sometimes was hard for me in high school. But year by year, I started to notice one funny thing: new problems remained hard and even scary, while the problems of the previous years became feasible. After graduation, I sighed with relief, but later the destiny led me to the Faculty of Mechanics and Mathematics. And here we go again…

The maths classes began from the very first day, but this time maths was split into many subjects which existence I had been unaware of. During the first exams, I felt how much I miss the tests we had in school. What could be easier? I had four more years of studying ahead… But in the final year, I smiled at the memories of the first days. Probably, if I had applied for a Master’s degree the situation would have repeated again. It did repeat but in another sphere. Fortunately, by that time I got interested in the world of 3D.

Why the Brain Won’t Exert Itself

Let’s say you practice something and you are doing your best but still find yourself unhappy with the result. You want to learn faster and be more productive. Don’t blame yourself, it is how our brain works. Today people don’t need to struggle for their survival any more: they don’t think how to keep warm in winter, how to escape from an animal, where to find the food. Life has become much calmer. If you are a common man, your brain has already got used to it. The brain works to keep your activity at the necessary level, it supports basic human needs, maintains safety, helps to do what you usually do for a living. The brain won’t be very productive for no special reason. So, what do we do if the brain is sleeping?

Stress & Crisis

Generally speaking, if the brain is sleeping, we need to wake it up.

Nothing works here better than stress (working under pressure) or crisis (the situation that requires re-evaluation of the actions or behavioral pattern). Remember my story about maths? Let’s analyze it:

  • I was given a hard task.
  • The brain was working with some performance rate which was not enough to solve the task.
  • I was given a very hard task.
  • The brain started working more actively. It still was not able to find the solution for a very hard task, but the performance was already enough to solve the hard task. What I also got was the higher speed, new problem-solution approaches, alternative ideas, more tests, activation of the hidden information reserves. Everything that was sorely lacking before.

These observations made me think that stress and crisis disclosure our alternate supply sources and abilities. History knows many cases when people survived under extreme conditions due to this ability. A good example will be the story of Aron Lee Ralston, an alpinist who spent 5 days and 7 hours in a canyon with his right hand stuck under a boulder. He had to amputate his hand himself to escape from the stone slavery and to cover many miles under the strong sun, seeking aid.

Of course, we can’t prepare for all possible emergencies in every area of life. But if we study outside the comfort zone we can achieve the best possible result in routine tasks at work.

SpeedSculpt and Other Speed Challenge Tasks

Being a 3D sculptor, from now, I’ll talk about studies called SpeedSculpts. This approach could also be applied to the modeling, drawing and other activities.

What is a SpeedSculpt? It is a stressful situation when an artist is given a task to create and render a high poly model within a short time, much shorter than he would have for the same task at work.

What can be sped up during the SpeedSculpt?

  • finding interesting ideas and solutions
  • creation of the concepts
  • creation of the neat sculpts
  • following the given concept/photo/theme
  • visualization (rendering, post-processing).

What can be improved during the SpeedSculpt?

  • measuring by eye, visual experience
  • diligence, endurance
  • knowledge of the interface
  • intuitive choice of the pipeline for the given task, etc.

Time. The time for the SpeedSculpt must be limited according to the things you are going to speed up.

For example:

  • If you want to find the interesting forms and proportions for the characters, give yourself 30 minutes for one sculpt.
  • If you want to create interesting concepts, try to do it within 1-2 hours.
  • If you want to do clever blocking, get down to the concept having 2-4 hours and try to follow proportions and forms of the concept precisely.
  • If you want to finish sculpts quickly, do it within 4-6 hours.
  • Are your projects closer to artworks than to studies? Add here visualization and complete it within 6-8 hours.

Choosing the timing, don’t forget to take into account what you are going to do, your individual traits and the current skill.

Frequency. Train regularly, don’t put it off and don’t practice too often. The most important thing is to find a balance between mental activity and the right pace of development, leading to the desired result.

Adequate tasks

To benefit from our studies, we should critically evaluate our current skills and raise the bar to a higher level.

It DOESN’T work like this:

Now I know the base principles of physics. My aim is to build the Hadron Collider and discover a new type of quarks within a year. For sure, it is highly unlikely that I can really do it, but at least I’ll get a Ph.D. in Physics.

It DOES work like this:

Now I can’t cook at all. I have a chocolate cake recipe and I am going to make a tasty dessert for supper. I failed to cook it on the first attempt, but I learned how to make biscuit dough and that the red bowl contains salt instead of sugar.

Let’s suppose that now you can sculpt a portrait within 4 working days. You want to do it within 2 days. Give yourself 1 working day for the SpeedSculpt and try to make the sculpt as close to the photo as possible.

But this challenge is not about sculpting the portrait against the clock. The main idea is to put yourself into the tough conditions to develop the eye and speed. It doesn’t mean that you have to finish the models. Don’t get upset about making one more portrait without perfect results. It is a study. Do it as-is and send the result to the archive. Next time you’ll do it better.

Organize SpeedSculpts 4-6 times per month. Devote the rest of the available time to other types of training like diligent sculpting of the details from the photo references. Do it regularly, practice makes perfect. However, if you aren’t able to sculpt a life-like portrait and not good at head anatomy, the portraying won’t give any results. Instead, you’ll be repeating the mistakes. Lower the bar from “portraying” to the “anatomically correct head”. Do you best and don’t forget that what you are doing is studying. Alternate the SpeedSculpts with studying anatomy by books or video tutorials.

Visible & Invisible Advantages

Doing SpeedSculpts regularly, you will definitely…

  • Boost your speed. At work, in usual conditions, you’ll do routine things faster. It means that you’ll be able to raise your hourly rate or save time for other projects\tasks\rest.
  • Learn the interface. You’ll have to prepare a custom layout (that you were too lazy to do before) to save the time during the SpeedSculpts.
  • Find new approaches to optimization of the old pipelines to save time in the future.
  • Face new problems. It will motivate you to look for the solutions. So, later you’ll have a bunch of solutions for each problem.
  • Know your strengths and weaknesses. In the future, it will help you to estimate the terms of the potential offers, your possibilities and how much time you will need.
  • Learn how to plan.
  • Learn how to find the right references quickly.
  • Learn every inch of the pipeline of the creation of some types of models.
  • Get the skill to leave the projects unfinished without doubts. Very few SpeedSculpts will be finished. Most of them will be sent to the archive. Many will be dropped at the beginning. All of these factors will prepare you that in the future you’ll accumulate a big collection of unfinished artworks, and that is fine. Keep it in mind and you’ll learn to stop easily if the project goes in the wrong direction.
  • Stop being ashamed of your skills and artworks, if you’ll be regularly uploading the artworks on social media and art forums. What is more, you’ll probably get feedback from more experienced colleagues.
  • Attract the attention of potential commissioners.
  • Participate in art challenges, compete for prizes, make new friends.
  • Level-up. It will build up your self-confidence.
  • Spend time nicely and profitably. You’ll have less time for getting in troubles.

Disadvantages of Inappropriate Use

Improper use of any good tool brings more harm than profit. SpeedSculpts are not an exception.

  • If you aren’t right about your current level and set unrealistic goals, there is a risk that you’ll get no results and give up on 3D.
  • Wrong interpretation of the results will give the wrong impression of your skills. For example, if you are good at quick modeling of characters, it doesn’t mean that you’ll have the same speed with vehicles.
  • If you focus on SpeedSculpts, without any long-term projects, you’ll become too lazy to do something that takes more than one day. You’ll be inspired at the beginning, but the very next day you’ll drop it. Just because you got used to leaving projects unfinished.
  • If you do SpeedSculpts too often, you’ll get a habit to do things carelessly, without focusing on detalization where it is necessary. For example, you will jump to the advanced stages without paying enough attention to the blocking. While the blocking is a very important stage, it is a base which you’ll barely be able to change later.
  • If you do only SpeedSculpts, you’ll never reach the level people are ready to pay for.

Some Heads Up

  1. Bring water and snacks to your workplace. It is highly likely that the SpeedSculpt will catch all your attention and you’ll forget to eat!
  2. Movies and TV series on the second screen are good when you do some routine. During SpeedSculpts, play your favorite music instead, it will help you to focus on the process.
  3. Let your family know that you’ll be busy and don’t want to get distracted.
  4. The best time for SpeedSculpts is when you feel good and don’t want to sleep. The race can drag on for hours.
  5. Choose the concept quickly and decisively. Otherwise, this stage will take a longer time and you’ll lose the desire to get down to work. Create a special folder to save all the concepts you have found.
  6. Collect photo references and other concepts with interesting elements. Trust me, it is important. Those who sculpt from their head have already seen a lot of references. They keep in mind a big collection of visual images (it is called a visual experience).
  7. Analyze the concept before the start and develop a plan. If one of the stages will probably take too much time – change it.
  8. Somewhere in the middle of the process, you’ll have a strong desire to delete the project. It is extremely important to pull yourself together and continue. After a while, you’ll get a second wind and you’ll finish the artwork.
  9. Be sure to save the results of the SpeedSculpts. Even if you don’t like them or had left the project unfinished. Save the project files or at least take screenshots from different angles. Mark the files with the dates or name the folders by years. In the future, it will help you to analyze the progress.
  10. When possible, record a video. If you get the sufficient result, make a short version of the video and attach to the artwork. Everyone loves making-ofs!
  11. Hold mini-challenges with friends. It is much funnier if you are not alone!

My Experience with SpeedSculpts

I have been participating in SpeedSculpts since I started to learn sculpting. I took part in different mini-challenges. Sometimes I even won them! I love it so much that I can spend 5-8 hours seating in front of the computer. Usually, after such races, I sleep like a log. Mostly, I take part in speed sculpting of character busts. My next aim is to sculpt full characters within 6-8 hours. I hope I’ll reach this level soon. For the recent years, I hold SpeedSculpts in our community CG Allies. Sometimes I have to resist the desire to participate – it could take all day when I don’t have too much spare time.

Here are some examples of my SpeedSculpts:

SpeedSculpts and SpeedPaints of my colleagues:

My contacts:

Good luck with your studies! Thank you for your attention!

Alisa Seliverstova, 3D Artist (Text & Design)

Denis Vasiliev, 2D Artist (Illustrations)

Ornament Brushes/Alphas Vol.1 by Jonas Ronnegard is an Ornament alpha/brush set for ZBrush, Substance Painter, Quixel DDO, NDO and more. There are 55 brushes and height/alpha maps, all 2048×2048 16bit in Tiff, Jpeg, PSD, Photoshop ABR brushes, as well as ZBrush Brushes.

Check the full description

Contact Jonas Ronnegard

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