In Art Spotlight, we invite Sketchfab artists to talk about one of their designs.
Hi! It’s Angel, also known as Sinnart. I’m a young character artist in love with nature, anatomy and creatures of all kind. I’ve been into art for as long as I can remember. I spent my whole childhood creating monsters and weird heroes with crazy eyes. Until the last years, I’ve been a self-taught artist. I always loved drawing and sculpting, so after High School I thought would be nice to start a grade in Fine Arts. Then I realized that what I really loved wasn’t art itself (which I already like), but the idea of creating something close to “live”. That’s when I met 3D and, thanks to what my great mentors taught me, decide to become a character artist.
After leaving my first job in video games, I’ve been working and collaborating in many projects, working from merchandising to animations, and of course in video games, testing my first dive into VR.
For the last few months I’ve been working on my portfolio, and Skeech is one of my dearest personal projects.
Rework and Inspiration
I made the first version of Skeech about 5 months ago. I’ve been playing video games my whole life. I’m a huge fan of titles like Zelda, Borderlands or Dark Souls. What I probably enjoy the most when I play is to know or fight against all those monsters and creatures that in the end make you think you are part of the story that the game is telling you. That’s something that becomes sometimes even more important in a MMO, because almost everything you do here is meeting new creatures and environments.
As a character artist, your duty is to make believable creatures that fit into a common environment, and I think that’s something that games like Wildstar do really well.
I decided to revisit my old version of Skeech because I really love how funny and weird, and at the same time annoying they are. Someone once told me: “Filthy Skeech! You can’t kill enough of them”. I think that describes exactly who they are and why I decided to give him another chance.
I used these concepts, from Iron Sky and a random potion holder, as an inspiration to make the assets. I have many collections saved in Pinterest; I often like to watch what other artist do and want to have a gallery built from works that inspire me, and Pinterest, as much as Sketchfab in terms of 3D art, is a website that allow me to do that.
My main software for sculpting and modeling are ZBrush and 3Ds Max, but in this case I only used ZBrush.
Indeed, it wasn’t that hard to make a rework of the highpoly model, because I had the first version as a base mesh. So after making a few adjustments, I went down in subdivisions and with symmetry off, started working again on him.
I used ClayBuildup (my main brush) to define the general shapes, and then started using DamStandard to draw some scars along the skin.
I think many would disagree with me, but I don’t like to use the Smooth brush, I think it’s a great tool to clean surfaces, but indeed what you do using it is destroying your work. I prefer to “smooth” the surface using ClayBuildup itself from different angles, or even TrimDinamic in a pretty low intensity.
Something that I love to use when working in stone or bones, is ClayPolish. It’s a useful tool that allow you to tweak the surface of an object just like the Pinch brush does, but in a uniform way. When I work with rocks or teeth I first try to make some gaps in the surface (Trim+Dam), use ClayPolish in around 20 units, and when I get a good result, I use to Dynamesh it to get a cleaner topology.
One of the most relevant facts about high poly sculpting is that you don’t have to work so much in something you won’t notice from a distance. And I think that the most important thing about making a good looking character, is to avoid going too much into detail if the general piece does not demand it.
Retopology and UVMapping
Retopology and UVMapping are always the most challenging parts of any project. The reason, overall, is that it can be a really slow process, and that you have to take important decisions before going through.
Those decisions are about how heavy will your character be, or which is gonna be its purpose.
A common misunderstood thing about topology is to avoid using triangles. It might be indeed quite annoying to deal with triangles in animation, but I think it may help you save some time, as long as it remains hidden and it’s not close to any joint or deformable area.
Testing and Final Adjustments
After finishing the retopology, I like to make a basic rigging (something quick) to see how it works. Then I split the UVs and make a baking test, again something quick and easy. I do that to make sure everything is alright and prevent to break my workflow.
I use Substance Painter to make this first bake, and paint over the surface to mark any artifacts in the normal map. When I get a consistent normal map, I redo the UVs and go ahead.
I use to add an 8px padding in the UVs. This time I used two UV sets (assets + body) following the PBR workflow, with metalness and specular.
I got a good result working with the skin using only the specular map, so I thought wouldn’t be necessary to use the metalness in the body set.
In total, I made around 10 texture maps (Diffuse, Roughness, Metalness, Normal and Emissive), and AO and Thickness just to get more information in the Diffuse.
Pose and Texturing
Before Texturing, I use to pose the character. That’s not entirely necessary, but I think it’s something that encourages me to finish it and to get a better result.
There are many ways to pose a character. From using ZSpheres in ZBrush, to rig it in Maya or just move some vertices. I only recommend the last one as an addition or if you are working with a very low poly model.
For a character artist, learning to rig and even animate a character is quite important, it helps you to understand which movements your character may do and why you have to make the loops flow in a certain way.
I’ve been lately working harder in texturing. It has always been a field where I thought I wasn’t good enough, because I never had a real interest in learning about it. Now I do, maybe because I finally understood how much can improve an appealing model with a good texturing.
I mostly use Substance Painter for texturing (and baking, but for that I may also use Xnormal), but in this case I wanted to paint everything using just Photoshop.
When it gets to deal with 3D, there is something that may drive you mad: UV seams. If you paint a 3D model with a 2D software as Photoshop, you have to work carefully and rely on maps from the baking process to get a good result. Learn to use Curves, Masks, Saturation, Levels and Filters, and always work while checking the final result in another software.
As an artist, I spend almost all my time working and learning new ways to optimize my workflow and to improve my skills and sharpen my judgment. Sketchfab is a user-friendly platform that allow me to show my work quickly and efficiently, with a huge community and technical support. I think about it like a social network for 3D artists, where you can share your knowledge and at the same time get feedback, feeling surrounded by many amazing artists.
Thanks for your time, and I hope you liked it!