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Making of Turtago the Turtle
  • May 6, 2021
  • 10 minutes

Making of Turtago the Turtle

Step 1: Base Mesh

Creating the base mesh using Zspheres

It is really important to study the concept art and try to understand the visual language used as well as all the forms and shapes that make up the image. 


I try to understand how those forms translate into their simplest shape- box, ball, tube, etc.. Once I have a clear understanding of the drawing and all of it's parts I move into Zbrush. For an artist, one of the most frightening things, imho, is a blank canvas! That is why I love using Zspheres to quickly build up the base mesh. It is so much fun to play with the forms as you can really quickly get from nothing to something.

Once I am happy with the Zspheres i generate the mesh using adaptive skin. Keep the resolution of the generated mesh to a minimum, without losing form. Low poly meshes are much easier to manipulate and change in a big way, and that is what we need at this point.

For easier management I split the mesh into logical Subtools. Now it's time to tackle each of those segments!


Step 2: Head Modeling

Taking the base mesh as far as it can go to establish basic form, retopo and adding details

Zsphere topology is never great, but it is good enough for me to start establishing the basic form of the head. This stage is all about hitting those big landmarks. Look at the silhouette, main shapes, don't get lost in the detail and small moves.

When I get the basic shape I always do retopology. I do this so i don't have to fight with the edges to get the desired shape. I prefer using Modo for this stage as it has great retopo tools. The only thing I look in retopo is edge flow- getting edges where the surface changes form. This allows me to get the shape exactly the way i want it, and i can be precise easily. Also, you can do this while maintaining that, for this stage, all important low poly count which, again, makes it so much easier to change the shape in a big way.

Once i am happy with the major shapes I start adding smaller forms and details, building the form in Zbrush one subdivision at a time. It is very important not to rush this process. Stay in Subdiv level 2 for as long as you can. Once you are happy with what you got add one more subdiv level and do the same. This way you are always in control of your sculpt and you can address issues at their beggining.


Step 3: Hand Modeling

Tackling the hands! Using masks, learning how to save them, making sure hard parts of the skin are clearly different than soft parts.

Same process as with the head. I get the basic shape and then do the retopo and start refining the shape as I increase the subdivs.

Important thing to look out for is the surface itself. Use the details to show how one surface differentiates from another- Is it hard, is it soft, does it fold? Make this clear and your sculpt will look great.

I use basic brushes most of the time- Standard brush is great for softer skin, Trim dynamic is great for harder parts. There are so many tools and options in Zbrush and that's what makes it great. I constantly discover new ways to do things more quickly, easily and artist friendly. Having said that, often the most simple and basic tool will do the job just fine.

Saving masking that you make is a great option! It allows you to quickly draw out areas that you want to isolate and work on separately and than with a click of a button come back to that setup. I found it very useful in this project because play between soft and hard surfaces was so important in this sculpt!


Step 4: Shell Modeling

Taking full advantage of retopo and clean edge flow, defining shapes and surface changes. Using polypaint to help with the design

This is a prefect example of a place where i really took advantage of retopology, defining all the shapes clearly using well thought of edge loops. The shell is all about those transitions between surfaces and shapes and i really wanted to be able to creat that precisely with a maximum amount of control. Combining this with Crease PG option in Zbrush and I very quickly get a nice, clean model, easily defining sharp and soft edges. Crease PG is such a great option and a life saver when you need to make a sharp edge- using polygroups you can now define sharp and soft edges with a click of a button!

A great way to design parts of the character is to simply draw the design directly onto the model using polypaint. This method allows you to quickly change the design and see how it looks right on the model. I Then use the drawing as a guide when building up that design in geometry. I Find this way of doing things to be fun, quick and gives you a great way to design on your model. I discovered this method while looking at Daniel Bystedt's sci-fi character workshop a couple of years back- i highly recommend it! https://www.uartsy.com/course/sci-fi-character-workshop


Step 5: Legs Modeling

Getting the character of the shape in the lowest subdivision is the most important thing

Getting the character of the shape in the lowest subdivision is the most important thing. If you get this right then everything else folds into place much easier. That is true for all the parts and here as well. Once that knee and the bend of the leg was there the rest was easy.

I am using masking to draw out the pattern which I build up with clay buildup and refine with trim dynamic and dam standard.

It's always nice to have a play of hard and soft surfaces, making the leg interesting with those opposites.


Step 6: Surface Detailing

Giving life to skin, adding the final layer that supports the story of our character

This last step is where we additionally define surfaces of our model and also give it more life. What is his skin like- smooth, scaly, rough? Some parts will be more rough some more smooth, others with more folding.. All of these things tell a story and "sell" our character to the viewer. They speak of the way his body moves, where he lives, how old is he and so on.  They also break up the surface and make it more interesting to the eye.

Now we also see the use of saving masks- click of a button and presto! I could now easily use one set of alphas and brushes for the hard parts of the skin and another for the softer parts of the skin.


Step 7: Clay render

Getting the best possible render of your model, making sure all your hard work shines through!

For rendering i turn to Lightwave3D. I find that the best solutions are often the most simple one's. That was definitely the case here as I used the basic 3 point light setup to light the model. I often use bluish light for the fill light and I tend to go with a bit warmer, yellowish light for the main light. Surface setup is also really simple. I gave it enough specular shine so that all the little details of the model really pop out. This is now where we really see all that effort from Step 6 shine through.

Most of the materials in real world have reflection on incidence angle (fresnel), so i've added a gradient on reflection to get that extra bit of realism.

When doing the compositing i add a bit of atmosphere and subtle variation to the render to make it more interesting. Small tweaks to brightness/contrast and color balance really go a long way!



Step 8: Poly Paint

Taking our model from clay to skin!

I love using Zbrush for painting color maps! I watched a tutorial a long time ago on this subject and the method explained there showed a great way to go about creating great color maps quickly and intuitively. It's the same method i explain here. On the technical side, I use Standar brush set on stroke mode Spray, coupled with alpha Alpha07. To get a finer stroke i go to Stroke in the main upper menus and adjust Scale and Color. This gives you a great variance in the color making it look real and organic quickly, because there is no single color surface in the real world. On the artistic side, you want to build up your surface gradually. Start with a general base color over the whole surface and then start adding variance and color changes according to the part of the surface you are focusing on. If the skin is thicker in that particular part add a bit darker colors, if it's more thin go towards the red spectrum, etc.


Step 9: Final image

It's all about surface, atmosphere and light! Getting the best eye candy render we can that gives our model justice and pushes the story we want to tell further!

Agan, as with the clay render, i turn to Lightwave3D, using the same 3 point light setup that worked so well for us already! We want to keep all the detailing visible but also to have a nice contrast between light and shadow to accent the volumes of our model and add to the atmosphere. When rendering i find it best to make separate surfaces for Color, SSS, specular and reflection. This way i can have full control over the final result and tweak all of those surface aspects individually. I also change the lighting values and position's for those renders if i want something to pop more.

When doing the compositing i add a bit of atmosphere and subtle variation to the render to make it more interesting. Tweaks to brightness/contrast and color balance really go a long way! Rendering a "clown" pass is super useful because it allows you to select different parts of the model and different surfaces really quickly so you can tweak them individually. Don't over do it in compositing and always take a break so you can have a fresh view.



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