In Art Spotlight, we invite Sketchfab artists to talk about one of their designs.
Hey there ! My name is Alexandre Collonge and I’m working as a 3D teacher in Aries Lyon, a school specialising in 3D design, animation and motion design in France.
I’m mostly interested in character design, digital sculpting, modeling, shading, lighting and rigging, aiming to bring life to personal projects or to create my own version of an already existing universe.
All of my models and artworks are made for my own pleasure, to improve my skills and share it with anyone who would like it, but I also use these for my 3D courses, to explain my workflow and techniques to my students.
Cartoon is the way to go
Okay, enough about me ! Recently, I wanted to go back to what I was doing in my earlier days: Cartoon characters. That’s why I started working on the “Fruit Collector”, a clear reminder of a famous Nintendo game.
First things first, the base art inspiration comes from an amazing lady dear to my heart, Annick Dammekens (you can find more of her work here). This is the artwork she created and I used as my main source of inspiration:
I thought the character was really original and the overall feeling was “fun” so i said “Hey, I’ll try to make it in 3D, it could be fun!”. Really, I’m pretty sure I said that.
I’m late ! I’m late !
One of the most important things here is to use the best software for the best situation: To be honest, since I’m a teacher, I don’t have that much time to work on personal stuff, so I have to be fast and efficient.
Like most 3D artists, I start directly in Zbrush, which allows me to get nice shapes quickly, and I don’t have to bother about topology or anything.
Most of the time, I’ll be using Zbrush for organic and more detail-demanding objects. On the other hand, I’ll be using Maya for assets, objects, cloth simulations, etc … Keep in mind that I’m using the software I’m comfortable with, which is the most important part about any workflow. It will allow you to work faster.
When working with Maya and Zbrush, I’m trying to anticipate what I’ll need to do later (retopology or not, Uv’s, projections, baking, etc …) so I try to work a lot with “Polygroups”.
As an example, below you can see the fruits separated in different polygroups (the base mesh is from Maya so no retopology will be done later on):
I kept only one fruit of each and added informations and painting until I was satisfied, Then I unwrapped the UV’s of those fruits before duplicating them on my final posing file. This way each fruit shares the same UV map, but I can place as many as I want on my character with no textures degradation.
Dynamesh and Extraction
About the main character: I’ll usually start with a simple polysphere or Zsphere, and turn it into Dynamesh, so I don’t have to bother about topology.
I’ll pull out the neck and keep going like this until I get most of the body, arms and legs.
After that I usually use the “extract” function on my base shape to create clothing by using masks. I will also split the body into parts to work more efficiently and prepare the retopology phase.
I’ll keep going through this kind of workflow until I get good shapes and adjusted proportions for every object.
Details, painting and topology
At this stage, I’ll switch to the “advanced sculpting phase” where I’ll work on details, folds, hair, etc .. .
Most of the time, I use the “Dam standard brush” with various sizes and Z intensities to obtain nice cavities and peaks. I really like this brush because it can be used at every stage of sculpting to define shapes or to get details.
I’ll also use various Polish brushes, some special brushes I created or downloaded, and also trim brushes depending of the situations, as well as custom alphas.
As I said, I don’t have that much time to work on my free time, so Retopology is mostly a “no-go” for me, being too time consuming. Since I don’t want this model to be animated, I used the Zremesh function of zbrush, with the help of color paint and Zremesher guides, I got what I wanted and was able to unwrap UV’s to get “OK” maps.
Keep in mind that Zremesh’s most common default is it’s inability to create clean loops where you really need them. It will often give you spiral shapes, which doesn’t help with UV unwrapping.
Texture map combination
When painting cartoon characters on Zbrush, I try to keep it simple and get something subtle. Also, I’m using a technique based on world space normal maps and displacement maps combined with the base color in Photoshop to obtain pre-lighted textures that will give me a lot better base for the advanced painting phase.
The substance of painting
Now is the time to send everything into Substance painter to work on advanced shaders and textures effects.
What I really like about Substance painter is all possibilities based on procedurals maps and masks: it gives you a lot of freedom and creativity to obtain the aspect you’re looking for. The other good point is the similarity with Photoshop, making it a really simple software to learn.
I also love painting roughness and metalness information on a mesh, it gives me the opportunity to create very realistic materials.
In Substance I’ll start by using the color map created earlier as a base layer, and I’ll start adding details, lighting information, faking SSS, etc …
At first, it doesn’t look like much and the aspect is really “muddy“, so using mostly “fill layers” and masking, I’ll create details, opacity and material information on my character.
I prefer working with fill layers for a very simple reason: it doesn’t “lock” the information: a fill layer can be changed whenever you want, so if you’re not satisfied by the roughness or height of the layer, you just have to change de value on the fill.
So how do I get details and accurate painting with a fill layer? Well, I just create a mask and draw on it.
This workflow gives you a lot of room to change almost everything whenever you want and allows you to work efficiently with the Mask generators, curvatures or Thickness to create fake SSS, darkening, etc …
Rendering and real-time
Now that everything is completed, I have two options: Rendering and Realtime. To be honest, I usually use both 🙂
For rendering, I’m using two engine: The first is IRay inside of Substance painter 2, really simple to understand and it will give you really good results. I really like the “in built” post process options, which allows you to skip some post compositing.
The second one is Pixar’s Renderman, for all the possibilities, and the powerful lighting and rendering options as well as a fast set-up, even if taking the maps from Substance to Renderman needs some tweaking.
And as for realtime visualisation, I haven’t found anything better than Sketchfab: It’s simple, lightweight, works on smartphones and gives you a lot of possibilities in lighting and post process options. You can check my model on Sketchfab below:
I was really impressed by Sketchfab the first time I used it: as a teacher, it’s one of the tools I recommend to my students, as it is the perfect way to create an interactive portfolio.
Also, the Staff is always on the lookout for new models and is clearly involved in the promotion of new artists and I thank them for this! I would also thank everyone who supported or showed interest in this artwork!
If you’re interested in more of my work, you can check my Sketchfab portfolio, my personal website, Artstation portfolio and you can also follow me on my Facebook page. You can also check the website of the Art school where I work, Aries graphic and motion design, we have openings for foreign students and/or exchange !
Phew, I think I covered everything! ?