Zoé: Creating Post-apocalyptic Character
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Zoé: Creating Post-apocalyptic Character
31 August, 2016

Arthur Gatineau, a junior 3D artist from France talked about the creation of his Zoé character heavily inspired by Naughty Dog’s iconic character. The artist discussed major production steps and building the right post-apocalyptic mood.




Hi everyone, my name is Arthur Gatineau, I’m a junior 3D artist based in France. I attended a school in late 2013 where I was studying 3d, 2d, web design, programming. It was a very generalist school without too much ambitions, focused on quantity instead of quality, and the instructors were teaching old techniques instead of current softwares… I was missing 75% of the course, staying home working on personal stuff. I decided to quit since I was loosing my time and a lot of money. During the last month at school (July 2015), I’ve been contacted by Unit Image, a VFX / Cinematic studio based in Paris for a small contract of 2 months. So a Ubisoft cinematic was my very first experience in the industry, pretty cool! I learned a ton production­-wise and met a lot of cool guys that taught me a lot of new tricks and techniques. So after that I went back home and worked on new personal projects, learning new softwares, new renderers, etc.. At this point I had only “cinematic resolution” characters and I wanted to break into the game industry, so I started to learn the stuff needed to make a real time character. That’s where I’m at now and I ’m currently applying to studios!


I started this project in June 2016 but I began to gather references when Naughty Dog released the art dump of Uncharted 4 on Zbrush Central. The idea was to make a piece that would challenge myself on the game pipeline. I love post-apocalyptic moods in general so that’s really motivating if you’re working on something you like, it makes the work more enjoyable!


I modeled this character in 3D Studio Max and ZBrush. To be honest the real challenge was figuring out what cloth to model or what colors to apply. I’m not used to design characters or anything since I’m more used to following a given concept art. So that was definitely the trickiest part. Fortunately, I asked friends for feedbacks and advice along the way helped me a lot!



The head has been sculpted in ZBrush from a base mesh. I did a lot of photo gathering on Pinterest but my main game character references were: Cassie Drake from Uncharted 4, Ellie from The Last of Us, and Zoey from Beyond Two Souls.


For the hair, I used a brush called IMM_Hair_JNasconeAr, which you can easily find on Polycount.
To tweak the cards, you can either use the Move brush or the Move Topological brush, depending if you want to move a card in particular or the all haircut.

Once happy with the haircut, I unwrapped the cards in 3ds Max.

To make the texture, I created a plane in Zbrush and drew curves with the curve brush on it, one by one. I polypainted the hair strands in white and the background in black and baked the vertex color information in xNormal to get my alpha map. I handpainted the diffuse in Photoshop.



I used Marvelous Designer and ZBrush to create the clothing. The mesh from Marvelous is never the final one, at least for me. It’s a solid base mesh you can send to ZBrush to continue to work. Usually there are unappealing folds that you want to clean. Then, I sculpted smaller details like memory folds or wear and tear.



Substance Painter was my main texturing software for this project with Photoshop . What I love about Substance Painter is that I don’t have to explode my mesh anymore to bake multiple pieces. All you have to do is to name your low poly with _low in the end and your high poly with the _high suffix and tell Substance to match by mesh name.

The way I work with the textures/materials is the same whereas I’m doing a cinematic or a game project.

Layer after layer you develop the look of the asset, add smaller details like dust, small imperfections etc to make it looks believable.

You also have to think about the backstory. When the spectator sees the asset, he has to imagine the background of the model, if it’s old, if it was left a long time outside exposed to the sun etc.

It will help a lot if you put the character in a post apocalyptic environment for example, everything will be consistent and credible.



After posing the character with transpose master in ZBrush, I created different atmospheres in Marmoset Toolbag 2 to show what the shaders hold in multiple lighting scenarios.


My next goal now is to make a UE4 scene to show where she used to live and show more backstory, so stay tuned!

If you have any questions, reach me by mail.

Arthur Gatineau, 3D Artist

Interview conducted by Artyom Sergeev

If you want to submit your work and your article to 80.lv, please send it over here (editor[at]80.lv). We’ll contact you right away.


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DingusMathias AxelssonAdminArthurGtn Recent comment authors

I didn’t mean any disrespect about what I wrote before. What I meant, was that the sheer technical ability of the artist is not enough to convey the feeling. As you guys have already mentioned, you could draw inspiration from Hollywood movies and games, but unfortunately, they still just convey a “fantasy”, as opposed to something that’ real. My suggestion, despite that it sounds somewhat sick, is try to find some footage (be it images, videos, etc.) of people, who live in war-torn countries, to whom this fantasy “post-apocalypse” is the reality. You could also draw some inspiration from people… Read more »

Mathias Axelsson
Mathias Axelsson

Admin: I see your point. I’ve read The Road, and I loved it. Seen all Mad Max movies and played the Fallout games. Personally, I prefer the more realistic look of the characters in The Road (movie), The Last of Us, The Walking Dead, than that of their counter parts in Mad Max or Fallout. To me, what makes these charachters appealing, is that they are ordinary people, forced to adapt to a post apolcalyptic world. I prefer it if their gear is not too advanced. Looks like they just grabbed what they could use and kept going in the… Read more »


Mathias Axelsson: I believe these kinds of characters have a more rugged look, more worn out, have some kind of local postapoc attributes – like maybe scars, some caps, you know. I belive Mad Max, Fallout are great places to look for inspiration. Plus we have The Road – a beautiful book that looks at this idea from a different angel.


Hipsters are postapocalyptic. that’s the trick!

Mathias Axelsson
Mathias Axelsson

*say. What would you say:/

Mathias Axelsson
Mathias Axelsson

Dingus: What would you day is missing, and why? I am planning to make a post-a character myself, so it would be nice to have some idea of what the concept means to different people.


Hey Dingus, I’m currently building an entire environment around her to tell her story. Thanks for your feedback though !


From the technical standpoint, it looks good, but I seriously don’t know what’s so “post-apocalyptic” about this character – she looks like your regular hipster. Many artists seem to fall into that trap: take your regular person, and make him/her slightly dirtier. It doesn’t look real. There is more to the post-apocalyptic look than just a few specks of dirt and tattered clothes.