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Viviane Herzog showed how she modeled, textured and rendered her amazing Diver Girl project.
Hey, 80.lv! I’m Viviane Herzog and I’m from Strasbourg, the largest Alsatian city in France. As a young girl, I was obsessed with video games but never imagined pursuing a career in 3D art. There were hardly any schools in France dedicated to 3D art at this time and most people didn’t view 3D art as a serious profession. After graduating from high school, I spent five years studying chemistry in college and loved everything about it; however, I hated working in a laboratory! This is when I came to the realization that life is too short and I’d much rather make a living by pursuing my passion.
So I left everything I had and moved to Southern France where a new and promising 3D art school had recently opened. When I finished at that school, I received such an amazing job opportunity that I left France for Montreal to work as a 3D character artist!
My work at Behaviour was consuming most of my life for a two year period and I really missed working on personal projects. I also hoped to challenge myself in a new manner and wanted to explore fresh concepts and practices, which in our field usually requires diving into a personal project.
I’m mostly a texture artist and love doing old school, digital-painted characters, mixing both illustration and 3D together. This is my main job at Behaviour and I love it; but, I also wanted to explore more physically based rendering (PBR) processes and see what I could squeeze from Substance Painter. Although I had used it in the past, I never truly explored this software’s true potential until working on this character.
I usually do portraits for personal projects because they don’t require too much time, meaning I know I’ll able to finish them. Moreover, with portraits, I’m able to sharpen my focus by zeroing in on a small piece that I can polish later in fun ways.
For Diver Girl, I wanted the face and features to be very stylized, but I also needed some different materials to play with in Substance—this inspired me to design the diving suit with its metal, fabric, glass, and other non-organic materials.
Most of the modeling was done in ZBrush. The hard surface modeling—my biggest challenge—was only a small piece of the production puzzle. I’m more into organic materials and when I attempt mechanical pieces my work quickly becomes a mess. Therefore, I started sketching the suit in ZBrush until I knew where I wanted it to go, and then I went into Maya to do a clean, high-resolution retopology of it. Lastly, I added details to it back in ZBrush.
Her hair was another challenge because I wanted it clean and stylized. In order to do this, I went for modeled hair over card alphas. I played with a bunch of custom brushes and merged them with DynaMesh to get a clean and defined bunch of hair strands on the head.
After completing the sculpture, I went for a standard retopology + unwrap in Maya and 3ds Max. I often work with both softwares to capitalize upon each one’s strengths.
I only used Substance Painter for my character. I tried to mix a few generators with painting to control every little detail. The face is mostly painted and I played with different layers, blending modes, colors and brushes to achieve this look.
When I texture a face I typically start by selecting the base color. Then, I add some red at the tip of the nose, the tips of the ears and elsewhere to help with subsurface scattering (SSS). After that, I add a bit of blue at the corners of the eyes and some light brown at the nose bridge and the forehead to establish a tan. I also play with the AO to provide the skin with some contrast and shadows.
Next comes the detail work, which involves the freckles, makeup and moles. I didn’t add skin pores to this character—I just faked them with a roughness map—because I didn’t want the texture to become too realistic.
Hard surface elements
Not only is it a matter of materials and shape, but it’s also about making sure every piece has an appropriate amount of reflection and brightness. We all want our metallic pieces to look shinier and sharper than the organic ones, especially at the edges where the paint has chipped away and light reflects the strongest. Having shiny hard edges makes the mechanical object’s shape and look feel hard and tough compared to the softness of a face. SSS skin shaders also assist with the translucency and scatter parameters.
The glass part of the suit was pretty simple to do—there’s nothing fancy about it! I added some scratches on the height map that converted to the normal map and set up a transparent and glossy material in Marmoset. I used the same kind of material for the eyes.
After that, I checked the light and environment reflections by rotating and placing them until I was satisfied with the result.
I used a simple three-point light setup, which included a key light, fill lights and a backlight.
The white key light is the main source for the scene, and the pink lights fill in the shadow created by the key light. I used an extra one specifically for the fish as I really wanted them to be bright and translucent. The green backlight separates the model from the background.
I added two more lights to the scene—one on the bottom and one on the top—to provide the scene with deep sea lighting and to account for caustics created by the surface of the water.
For example, the final light source + reflections visibles on the glass were given by the sky light and the environment map.
I took me approximately two weeks to create Diver Girl. Discovering the right balance between realistic and stylized content in the scene proved challenging and I ended up dedicating much of my time to design and color choice.
Using Substance Painter was another difficult component of this project because I had forgotten many of the ins and outs of the software. It wasn’t terribly difficult relearning Substance, but I did make several mistakes at the beginning that cost me valuable time. Fortunately, by the time I completed the project, I was having plenty of fun playing with the software and testing different techniques.
Thanks 80.lv for reading about my project! It was a challenging task but one that taught me a lot about my craft. Hope you enjoyed reading about it and learned something new!