This tutorial will take you through the process of creating Rajak The Gentle Giant. I will explain you my techniques, tell you about the challenges and give you my best tips and tricks to create a successful image. Furthermore, we’ll have a brief look at how to quickly create good looking fur using Peregrine Yeti and I’ll show the importance of post and presentation. I hope you’ll find this tutorial useful, and hopefully you will be able to use it to enhance your own work.
Finding the right concept
This was the very first time I decided to do a project where I wouldn’t design my own concept from scratch. The reason for this was to give myself the challenge of translating another artist’s thoughts into 3D without having the initial ideas and sketches associated with the concept. I stumbled across a beautiful drawing by Brandon Tyler Cebenka, and I just knew that it was the one. Everything from the shape language to the color scheme had an appeal that I rarely see in art these days, so I took it upon myself to try and bring it to life in 3D space.
"The Concept of Rajak by Brandon Tyler Cebenka"
I am currently taking an internship at Media Molecule in the UK as part of my education. The plan is then to return to Denmark in January, graduate and become a real adult human being (yikes!).
Blocking out in ZBrush
Next, I started blocking out the creature in ZBrush. Using the help of image planes and ZSpheres I create my basic silhouette. I make sure to continuously check my proportions in comparison to the concept, both with and without perspective turned on. Once I have obtained a decent basic shape, I start adding anatomy and bony landmarks. Anatomy should always be considered, as it will help you add the feeling of weight and believability to your model. In this case, I added some extra definition to the muscles of the upper body to support the weight of the heavy arms. However, as I knew I would add fur on top of the mesh later in the process, I made sure not to make the sculpt too bulky as you have to consider the extra volume the fur will add to the silhouette.
"My process in ZBrush"
Once I’m satisfied with the sculpture in ZBrush, I export it into Maya and start retopologizing using Quad Draw. In this case however, I was working towards a tight deadline, and since the model wasn’t going to be rigged or animated, I did the majority of the topology using ZRemesher and tweaked it in a few places in Maya. Once the UV’s were done I was ready to begin texturing. I always start out by blocking in the basic colours, then adding subtle gradients. I’ll then move on to adding details such as tattoos, scars and freckles. Lastly, I will add a subtle layer of photo textures on top to give some variety; in general, I like to keep my workflow during texturing very clean and simple.
"The textures from beginning till finish. Halfway through this process, I like to pose my model. This time I used Transpose Master in ZBrush."
Creating the fur
The fur was created using Peregrine Yeti. I started by applying a scatter node to my mesh, essentially distributing hairs randomly across the model. I then plug in a grow node defining the overall length of my fur. Once this is done, you usually want to add a groom node making it possible to manually define direction, clumping, length etc. However, because of the deadline, I decided to do all the fur procedurally and later refine the edges in PhotoShop. I painted a map in ZBrush that I used to define my length and applied a mixture of randomizers and direction nodes to get the fur to look the way I wanted it to.
"Pro tip: If you’re interested in learning Yeti, you should make a search for “Yeti Tutorial by Bjørn Blaabjerg Sørensen” who has made 11 in depth tutorials on everything you need to know about the software."
"Here you can see how the fur was set up in Yeti’s node editor as well as the setup for the material."
Rendering and compositing
In order to see how the fur was looking, I had to do a couple of test renders. I set up my lights using FlippedNormals lighting setup and rendered using VRay for Maya. The biggest struggle was balancing the work hours between rendering, tweaking the fur and polishing the image in PhotoShop. Due to time pressure, I ended up doing a larger portion of the work in PhotoShop than I’d normally advertise. However, the power of doing post work on your final render should never be underestimated. I like to use a selection of render elements such as normals, reflection, diffuse and mattes to help me enhance the final picture.
"The final image with and without compositing. This clearly shows how important it is to work with your image in post."
The final image
When you see the final image with and without compositing, you see how big of a difference it can make for your work. For the fur, I went in with the smudge tool and blurred the edges of the hair strands for a softer more natural look. I added longer, thinner strands to the shoulders and lower arms using a normal hard brush and pushed away the belly using a soft brush and a dark green color. I darkened the background significantly to make the character stand out and finally added a subtle layer of grain to pull it all together.
"The Final Result."