Work In Progress / 22 February 2019

(WIP) Neuna the Witch #1


Hey there! In this line of blog entries, I'm going to be going through my learning process for ZBrushCore and Substance Painter. I'm not very familiar with writing blog posts, so this may not be the most extensive or informative thing you have ever seen. This is more of a way to show the workflow I like to go through and to keep myself productive. So far this journey has been wonderful and exciting, albeit a bit intimidating considering the new softwares and wacky UI design of ZBrush. I look forward to keeping these blogs updated and I hope you do too!

First steps

So I looked at my witch Marie a few months back and thought to myself, "I should make a more serious version of her to teach myself ZBrush and Substance!" At first, the design was almost exactly the same and over the course of thinking about how I could bring out more detail, I thought more and more about a totally different setting and theme of the game she would be a part of. 

Eventually I came up with a darker, more somber tone for her design which included simpler shapes and silhouettes. One problem I had with Marie was that when she was on her 2D gameplay path, it was slightly difficult to tell exactly which direction she was facing. From this point, I decided to do away with the poofy dress skirt and over-sized hat in favor of a waist piece with dangling straps and a fin-like hat. To help the waist piece fit in with the outfit, I gave her a scarf that also extends far out behind her. I would like to have these dangling straps, her hair, and parts of her hat to have spring bone physics in-engine so they react to her movements appropriately. 

After a little bit of experimentation, I settled on this design which includes equipment attachments that provide different gameplay properties. I won't be creating them in this project, but the idea is that this combat medic has many different forms of protection to choose from and all forms must be able to sit well on top of the base model. Because of this decision, I did not want to over-complicate the underlying outfit.

Once the character design was in place, it was time to give ZBrush a whirl! I had fiddled around with some spheres in the past, making goofy faces or just doodling with different brush types. Nothing was really intentional. So this isn't exactly my first time ever opening ZBrush, but it definitely is the first real sculpt I've worked on. To help me get started, I drew up some T-pose drawings to lay out in the canvas and followed this video by Edrice Waliyar on Youtube. You can also find their artstation here:

Hopping into ZBrush for the base mesh

The concept of starting the model out like this came across as really natural to me as opposed to ZSpheres. The idea is to start out a base mesh using spheres that are deformed to mimic muscles and shapes. It's just like piling clay onto a real life figure! Once all the blobs are in place, you merge them together with dynamesh and smooth things out, adding detail here and there. Here's what Neuna looked like before I merged everything together for presentation.

I did end up making one pretty harsh mistake in the process of dynameshing where I set the resolution to 128 to keep it simple. However, this caused her fingers to weld together like frog webbing. I learned that resolution actually affects objects and faces in close proximity to each other, not just how dense the polygon count was. In order to fix this problem, I added some boolean shapes in between the fingers and bumped up the dynamesh resolution. Thankfully that fixed it but it's definitely something I need to keep in mind for the future. This is what that mess looked like...

After merging, I went into smoothing the body out and adding details like earring holes, ear canals, facial features, and eyebrows. This screenshot is taken from the final stage of the sculpt but the form stayed roughly the same the whole time, so it's not much different from after the merging process. I also painted her face to help her look less like a robot that's all one color. It's not perfect but I didn't intend on keeping the color here since I'll be doing that later in Substance.

Creating hair

Sculpting hair is a pretty tricky thing for me because I originally wanted to use some hair brushes I found online that let you pull and scale them into place rather than sculpt the shapes individually. I tried that method and it didn't quite come out the way I wanted. The Core suite also can't use these fancy hair brushes (Or I haven't found one...) so instead, I made one hair clump and made a backup subtool of it. I then duplicated and shaped the model into each strand using the "Deformer Soft" modifier. It probably wasn't designed for this purpose but it's what I had to work with and the results turned out okay in my opinion. Here's the basic layout.

I then went into each strand and sculpted some shape to make it sharper and less like mud. In the end, I also brought the hair lower and made it a bit wider to help fill out the form. It sticks out further than normal to accommodate the space taken up by the scarf to avoid clipping. There are also seams on her body to indicate the bodysuit she wears underneath.

Starting on clothes

This part was strange to figure out because ZModeler does not exist in the Core suite and I didn't want to immediately fall back on polygon modeling in 3DS Max. For no reason whatsoever, I decided to start with the boots. My first idea was to do what I already knew and create a cylinder around her leg and form it around her the best I could. As you can see from the screenshot, doing this all at once looked awful and I lost the form of the body. I didn't even want to try to work with this foundation, I knew there had to be a better method. Haha

I eventually found and got into fiddling with the Extract function. This proved to be a much better start. The cuffs of the boots and gloves would still be a cylinder that was dynameshed and booleaned to get the correct shape. Once I got the boot's base in there, I extracted from the boot to get the outer layer that would have laces running through it. I meticulously placed toruses for lace holes and used ZSpheres to create the lace. While this was a fun tactic and I think it turned out well, it was quite tedious. Even more disappointing is that the laces had hard edges where each ZSphere was. I wouldn't realize I would have to completely redo the laces until I brought it into 3DS Max later so it wasn't exactly necessary to do laces in here. Ya live and learn I guess.

I decided to do the same process for the gloves so they would have a similar look. Yeah, I know, it doesn't make as much sense because how would she tie the laces on her gloves? With witch magic of course! (At least that's the excuse I'm giving it. Form over function here!)

The shirt also went through the same painful procedure as the boots but it came out pretty nice. Unfortunately I fell back to 3DS Max for the feather, waist piece, and scarf because I had too many problems figuring out how to get those shapes just how I wanted them in ZBrush. I also thought the belt buckle in the concept drawing felt pretty lazy and uninteresting, so I looked up all kinds of belts on Google images until I found a pretty hook buckle that I felt would fit right in to her design. Here's what everything looked like in Max before I imported them into ZBrush and sculpted detail onto them.

Screenshots and Renders

There was a lot of minor trial and error between all this but I don't have that progress documented, nor do I want to go into every little detail. Now the high poly sculpt is complete. Have some renders!

Up Next

The next blog post will be about retopology (Which I'm almost finished with as of writing this) and hopefully texturing. After that, I'll make one about rigging her! It's going to be a little while so stay tuned. =]