Tips on Character Creation in Zbrush
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Latest comments
by jenny
4 hours ago

That is really a great thing for us all.

by Jeff
7 hours ago

I just based my landscape material on this. I just wish I could exactly figure out what is going on with normals, ao and displacement here.

by Christopher Buller
9 hours ago

That was extremely helpful! Thank you!

Tips on Character Creation in Zbrush
13 December, 2017
Character Art
Character Art

Aney Sieko did a wonderful overview of one of his character hommage from World of Warcraft. Check out his Artstation for more amazing work.


My name is Andrew. I’m a 3d-artist currently living and working in Saint-Petersburg. I was born in Obninsk, a small Russian city 140km away from Moscow. At the age of fifteen, I fell in love with computer graphics, and this romance lasts until now.

My professional experience now is about 10 years of work on several projects. I used to work on such projects as Allods online, Heroes of Dragon Age Mobile, Agents of Mayhem, Rainbow 6 and some other games I can’t name due to NDA. , also I had a year and a half of experience working in movie industry as a 3d-generalist (3d, vfx, compose).

Stylized Character

I always loved Blizzard style – cartoony hand painted textures. One day I finally decided to make a character from WOW universe and, of course, it had to be a woman.

First I created a rough concept of what I want. I went pretty far from my initial plan, though. I’ve tried a couple of variants from a typical blood elf to some kind of a night elf. I had to re-make the armour and try a couple of colour sets before I came to my final Blood Elf Hunter sculpt. For sure, I used Tyson Murphy’s and Paul Richard’s work as inspiration, as well as some other artists in my collection.

My final sculpt looks very different comparing to my first sketch. During the process I made a fast BPR render of the sculpt, then I went to SAI Paint Tool and made an overpaint of my work. Then I went back to Zbrush and again. Usually I take a 4-5 of such iterations as I’m trying to create something new and sometimes I’m not sure what exactly I’m looking for.

Below are some pretty simple example of what I mean. (one of my stages)

It takes a lot of time but I like result that I get.  Sometimes I put on hold my work and continue working after a month in order to relax from doing the same sculpt. Usually I have around 7-8 unfinished models at one time.

As many other artists I usually start my sculpt from sculpting the head. I like to set the proper emotion from the very beginning. In ZBrush I have very common head/body template for male and female.

Sculpting a face is the easiest and the most interesting part for me. Nothing special – just ClayBuildUp, TrimDinamic brushes as base. Using MAHcut brushes (especially MAHcut A) makes my shapes more sharp and nice looking. I can smooth all whatever I want at the end. For me brushes like this are ideal for cartoon style form.

Orb Brushes pack used for final detail.

Basic set of tools for whole process:

About the hair – there are a lot of tutorials and it’s difficult to add something new to the topic. I used the CurveTubeBrush and spent around 2-3 days on it.

Zbrush is an ideal software for concepting your ideas. Dynamesh makes this process even more easy. Just use the InsertMeshSphere and start moving everything without any doubts. ClipBrush or TrimBrush also will help you to establish a proper silhouette. Use simple black material with no reflection to check your forms.
That is how it’s looking in the beginning.

Once you are happy with your result you can start polishing the parts. The polishing process and gathering the sculpt altogether is a hardest time in every work. Often it takes me 90% of all time I spent on the sculpt including  polypainting. I always get too many subtools and it’s quite annoying to find the right one in the list.

It’s sad ZBrush has no folders or groups for sorting out the subtools. I found an indie plugin in internet for these but unfortunately couldn’t install it.

As I said, I mainly use TrimBrush and ClipBrush for creating a clean forms. It’s a simple and short process.

Example from head:

When everything is ok with my  geometry – I start polypainting.
My goal here was to create a well looking model right inside Zbrush. Minimum post process used, just a still BPR.

For those who wants more Photoshop post-processing – I can advise to look through this tutorial or watch Furio Tadeshi works. This guy is rendering rough sculpt in Keyshot and finishing his epic stuff in Photoshop.

Therefore I had no UV and wanted to create a really fast art. Paint process took me around 3-4 hours total. I already knew all my colours from 2d concept (I did several iterations on modelling stage) and it was easy enough. For the best previewing of my colors I used slightly modified material Zbro_Material.
This is still image with flat colors. Closeup.

As you can see this is simple polypaint per subtool, nothing very special.

I also spent some time setting BPR render. I found out that the best way of work is to set a very smooth shadows (preferences below). Render scene contain only one default light and total ‘Ambient’, in the ‘Light’ menu, set up to 28.

In Photoshop you can add some sharpen if needed and that’s it!

Aney Sieko, 3D Generalist.

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev.


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