Art Spotlight: SculptJanuary Punk

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Background

Hello there! My name is Kasita or I sometimes go by Anya. I’m turning 29 this year and am currently in the midst of a career change in my life. I currently work in marketing but have always aspired to be a 3D artist. I learned 3D Modeling back in 2012 so that I could create content for the virtual world of Secondlife, but this interest has grown exponentially over the years and in 2018 I decided to take that aspiration a lot more seriously to see if I could make a career out of this. As I was looking into different platforms for showcasing 3D work, I found my way to Sketchfab and also SculptJanuary! The idea of having to finish 31 pieces throughout January seemed like a good exercise to kickstart this brand new year.

I’m currently still working through the remaining themes I haven’t completed but with this Artist Spotlight I wanted to talk about a piece that changed what SculptJanuary was to me.

Originally I joined SculptJanuary with the intention of completing a 2hr-5hr model a day and ultimately finish all 31 and give myself a pat on the back. On Day 13 with the theme ‘Punk’ I found myself struggling, because what I liked about ‘Punk’ were the sci-fi subgenres of Steampunk, Cyberpunk, Dieselpunk etc. But I couldn’t quite figure out how to approach the ideas I had in mind modeling-wise. I went back and forth thinking about whether I should just do something familiar and call it a day, or actually research and figure out different techniques to fulfill the image I had in mind. Ultimately, I decided to go with the latter.

Through the process of creating this piece, I worked with multiple techniques I would otherwise have avoided, and I found that looking outside of my comfort zone was what really pushed me further. I started to approach SculptJanuary as a way to be inspired by the themes that were given to us, and tried to push myself by tackling different techniques I had never used before. Finishing the 31 themes became more a personal goal for myself that no longer had a deadline. This way of approaching it allowed me to experiment a lot more and also learn at an expedited rate.

I was also able to tell better stories with my model and fully integrate Sketchfab’s ability to maneuver around the model as a part of my ideation.

Either way, SculptJanuary has honestly not only pushed my own modeling skills and 3D Art, it’s exposed me to a community of warm and talented modelers who I’m honored to share the platform with. I look forward to another year of that and just wanted to say thank you to the organizers and Sketchfab for hosting it!

Workflow

Going to the piece at hand… I looked into hard surface modeling in Zbrush and found live booleans interesting to experiment with. So I knew I wanted to integrate that into the design and that was what led me to think of a Cyborg where I could boolean out pieces of its head to showcase what was inside. That was pretty much my starting point. Zbrush has always been my 3D Modeling program of choice because of the flexibility it gives in allowing me to conceptualize and model at the exact same time.

Creating a Character

Knowing it’d be a character, I started with a head. This involves starting from a base Zbrush Sphere and then moving, cutting and sculpting that to create the planes of the face.

Working with subtools is incredibly useful for lids and eyes that don’t necessarily differ too much in position from person to person; I can easily move the facial features around without affecting those areas. The pupils of the eyes are also good to establish earlier on just to create a landmark for the face.

I like to create a standard looking head before moving features around to really establish a character. I find this process helps me establish the facial anatomy much better. During this process, I never knew where this design was going to go, but once a character’s face jumped out at me, that was when the story of her began to unfold as I created. The face became a lot younger than I initially planned and I thought it’d be interesting to do a childlike cyborg that was malfunctioning. This decision impacted the rest of the design quite significantly.

Creating the Hair

On to the hair of the character, which is yet another personality trait to establish for the piece. I knew I wanted her to have a mohawk of some sort to give a nice nod to the theme as well as space on the sides of her head for the mechanical parts. When I was looking into female mohawks, I found a shaven ponytail look which was very interesting and I thought it would work well for this character since it isn’t as harsh as a mohawk. The hair was created predominantly using Marthin Agusta Simny’s Hair Clump & Detail IMM brushes available on gumroad.

I first established the shapes using Dynamesh which allows me to create forms without worrying about topology. At this point, there’s no need to get really detailed, it’s more about indicating to myself where the hair needs to flow.

I replaced these forms using the IMM Mag Hair Clump brush. The key here is to follow the flow of the original established shape and also to ensure no bald spots are showing where they shouldn’t be. This brush has each strip of polygon loop grouped into its own polygroup to help with the next step. But I personally just auto group everything so that each strand is an individual polygroup. This allows me to move the strands easily by ensuring ‘Mask by Polygroups’ is turned on high, or use the Move Topological brush which does the same thing.

The next part was to create the smaller strands of hair. To do so efficiently with the Mag Hair brushes, the image below shows an example of this process. When those strands were generated, it was a matter of grouping these separately into their own polygroup, and slowly moving it into shape.

Live Booleans

As Live Booleans became one of the main techniques I wanted to experiment with, it played a huge role in the design of this character. Live Booleans is a new Zbrush 4r8 feature which allows addition or subtraction of multiple subtools across one another.

This is like a boolean operation in any other modelling software, but in other softwares, you tend to need to apply the boolean operation before continuing the rest of your model. This limits the amount of changes you can do during a concepting stage. But with Zbrush’s live booleans, you’re able to preview the boolean operation in real time even if you don’t intend to apply it. This allows you to make continuous changes to your model on the fly without affecting the topology of any of the subtools.

The image below will explain this process in greater detail.

With live booleans, I could see the inside of the Model’s head and was able to add a little holographic brain for her. That gave the cyborg narrative a more complete feel. I’d love to revisit this concept some day to model actual mechanical parts within it, but this was enough for a concept piece.

The reason why Live Booleans became so crucial in concepting is because once the boolean operation is applied, the topology is going to be very dense and that makes it difficult to make any further changes. With this, I’m able to repose the model, even change the face or panel designs as I needed to and all of these changes were being updated on the fly.

Polypainting Skin

Painting and texturing is another process I absolutely love doing. I think the addition of color completes a story and fully fleshes out a character – literally. Working in Zbrush gives me the ability to polypaint and texture my models right within the program itself so I never need to leave to another program and this makes the workflow go so much quicker for concepting.

The final boolean model doesn’t retain UVs as well, and I was worried the polypaint information would not transfer over to Sketchfab. However, the Zbrush to Sketchfab exporter plugin worked seamlessly with polypainting and it automatically transferred my polypaint information.

There are various ways to add texture to your models, you can use spotlight to project actual textures or polypaint which is my preferred process. The image below is a technique I use to polypaint all my skin textures and I find it works really well with Sketchfab’s subsurface scattering material options.

Final Render

I ultimately brought this model over to Keyshot for rendering and then composited the image in Photoshop. When presenting concept art, it’s always nice to have some form of compositing done to your image, because this additional presentation step is what ties up the storyline and gives the viewer a glimpse to the idea you had in mind.

But ultimately looking back at this piece, I much prefer the stylized look that the Sketchfab model has. That’s another reason why Sketchfab has become so much fun to integrate into my workflow; I can give a totally different look to my models and experiment with different options.

Sketchfab

Exporting the model into Sketchfab requires a very simple click of a button with the Zbrush to Sketchfab exporter plugin. You can use the auto map creations for subtools without any UV maps, and even the auto decimator that the exporter has. However for me personally, on most occasions, I like to create the maps manually and also decimate the model manually for more control.

Even though this model only really had polypainting done on the organic parts, I was able to use the vast options of material configuration in Sketchfab to create multiple material appearances. Obviously you’d have more control doing this yourself in an external program, but the Sketchfab material choices are honestly very powerful for a quick presentation.

And that’s the final model up here on Sketchfab! Sketchfab has been incredibly crucial in the entire process of not only this piece but also my recent work in general. The reason why I was always interested in 3D art was the ability to create pieces which allowed viewers to interact with them versus just look at them as 2D images. That was what drew me to creating in Secondlife and learning 3D in the first place, because there you have the ability to push your 3D creations to others in real time and give them the opportunity to react to them. I’ve always found it difficult to do the same in any other platform.

But with Sketchfab, it really related to why I found creating 3D art so enjoyable. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to operate Sketchfab seamlessly on my mobile phone and show random family and friends who had no idea what 3D entails, and have them be able to smoothly interact with my creations. Using Sketchfab has really made me push myself in the recent works I do, whereby I try to complete full scenes telling a story.

Since Sketchfab has integrated into my workflow so seamlessly, I’m truly honoured to be asked to write this Artist Spotlight. Thank you for the opportunity to allow me to showcase my work and process to the community. If you’re interested in seeing the rest of my SculptJanuary pieces, recorded processes of them or the other works I do, feel free to follow me in the links below:

SketchfabArtstation / Youtube / Facebook / Instagram

About the author

Kasita Dw (Anya)

Aspiring 3D Artist


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