Ziya Göncü: Creating Ultra-realistic Characters
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by Ketki Jadhav
10 hours ago

I really like how you've articulated your entire process. This was a very enriching read. A Well deserved feature!

Great article! Thanks for the awesome read.

Wow, this is so cool! Nice job!

Ziya Göncü: Creating Ultra-realistic Characters
1 August, 2016

Character artist Ziya Göncü from Istanbul, Turkey is a true master of ultra-realistic art. He talked about the importance of observation and research, and gave some hints on achieving the extreme level of quality.



Hi, I am Ziya Göncü from Istanbul, Turkey and I work as a Character Artist. I studied Computer Technology and Programming in Selcuk University.
I have been working in this industry since 2009 and have worked for various studios/companies, both local and abroad for cinematic projects and movies/series.


The Essence 

For me it is a story. Of course I am not saying other parts or technical side isn’t important but character should be able to make you feel that feeling, which make you want to look at the character again and again. And for this kind of feeling you need to integrate story with other little parts. It can be stance of character, how she/he looks, even little bit of posing can give soul to your character.




Body Creation

Before creating the body, first thing I do is research about character’s muscular structure.Even though I know technical side of what I research, I repeat this step before every new project, personal or commercial, because every time you see new things and I think this is plus for knowledge. After my research is done, I start the sculpting part.

Generally I sculpt body as a whole one mesh and I don’t use standard base mesh if I am not in a hurry with tight deadlines.For personal work sometimes I am preparing full animation ready, sometimes I only clean specific parts, which I need and leave the rest.




I spend most of my time with head part, because for me face is the most important thing of all. I use lots of real references for props, lighting, mood, ambiance etc.. before/while sculpting and especially for rendering. If it is a personal work I break the symmetry as fast as possible after I clean topo and open UVs.




This way I can get rid of that dull and artificial feel as soon as possible. For sculpting I try to keep progress amount of all parts (ear,lips,nose etc…) as same as possible like any other object I sculpt. This way I don’t lose myself on one specific area.For me there isn’t only one important thing then it comes to face. For example, you can make great skin or you can create amazing eyes, which can look so real, but the area you gave less love and time will draw attention from the very beginning. And that can break all the mood and realism.

Every little part on the face should be compatible with each other, at least that is what I am trying to do while working.




After I am done with all the modeling stuff, I do lots of research on the materials before jumping to texturing/rendering part.

Depending on a situation of a material (damaged, torn,wet etc..) I search for suitable textures. Sometimes I find that online and edit, sometimes I use my own photos, which I take with my cam, but
generally I paint textures by hand. I always pay attention to not faking displacement/bump map effects with diffuse map. If you do this, it will bring down realism too much.



I always do multiple tests on different environments when it comes to rendering part, because it is really important that material’s response is correct with different angles/lights.

Observation helps a lot to find best possible results. If you are doing realistic stuff, there isn’t any better reference than nature itself.



Realistic Skin

Trying to achieve realistic skin look is probably one of the most challenging parts of all. It’s something like never-ending progress for me but you need to stop at one point and move on. It’s the beauty of CGI.

I think the key here is to understand the skin itself. How it reacts in different situations, how many layers it has or what are the characteristics of these layers, etc… Rather than copying colors and SSS from one single picture, understanding the logic helps a lot to imitate skin in any 3D software.

I have been using Maya/Arnold for the last few years and it’s really a great combination. Skin can be really time consuming and tricky. Because of this I prepared a few custom shader setups for possible scenarios (old, mid-age,young etc…) to speed up the progress. For the general pipeline, if model is ready, I start render/texture tests. Most of the time I use Mari/Ps comb to prepare all kind of textures (disp, diffuse, specular etc..) and for fine displacement maps I generally use scans. Of course you can do it by hand too, but if you are doing realistic stuff it’s important to imitate things the way the look real life. And scans are really helpful to reach that quality and realism.



Generally I use Zbrush to create non-organic things too if it’s not hard-surface. For clothes, if it is not too complex, I prefer doing it by hand in Zbrush. I like to stay old school for these kind of things, but sometimes I use Marvelous Designer too. It’s an unavoidable reality, which will give you better and more realistic results compared to doing everything by hand in most of the cases. But as I’ve said I try to be old school as much possible. For production, I create model in Zbrush or Marvelous Designer, then clean the topo and open UVs. After that I start setting up fine surface details.

If you have good displacement/bump details (which are most important things for me to bring up that realism for any object) then it becomes much more easier with that surface data for other following steps like diffuse, gloss, spec etc…




Actually it was the same steps like with any other tasks I do. I did lots of research about wolf fur. Directions, length differences between different areas, overlaps, breaking points etc..


Most challenging part was that this fur won’t be on real wolf, it was a pelt. So there must have been folds especially for this kind of big wolf (nearly twice bigger than the orc). So It should look
like folded especially with Orc’s back of neck area. I also cut half of pelt – otherwise It would creep on the ground. I also did lots of tests with nCloth for better fold results.

скачанные файлы
When I was happy with the mesh, I started doing the fur part. I used two separate Yeti grooms, one for the head and one for the back of the pelt. After this point It was all about tons of tests and edit/fixes.
Actually I am not done with this project yet, but I am planning to finish it when I have some free time.

Ziya Göncü, Character/Creature Modeler – Concept Artist

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