Art Spotlight: Tengu Frame Zero

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In Art Spotlight, we invite Sketchfab artists to talk about one of their designs.

Hello everyone. My name is Gibran Machaen, I’m a digital sculptor and modeler from Guadalajara, Mexico. I graduated from college a few years ago and I usually work in different projects at a time, because of reasons (I just find it hard to stay on one at a time). I have specialized in 3D printing and right now I work as a freelance sculptor.

Today I have the opportunity to present one of my latest and most beloved projects and share some tips with you.


The First Steps

This project is born as a collaboration between me and my mate Heriberto Valle (who provided the concept, check out his ArtStation). We started Republik as a series of miniatures for printing as our own portfolio and first professional project for our 3D sculpt company: Märchen. We are working the whole Republik campaign in partnership with Hysterical Games.

This was my first approach to Tengu and at first all I taught was: Oh my god… now what?

As usual, I divided the whole drawing into pieces, this helps me know how much time it will take me to sculpt the whole piece and how to aboard every single detail. As soon as I have this done, I make a mental list of the parts that I’ll work with polygon modeling or direct sculpting.


I always think before shot, putting the finished piece first. In order to achieve the best outcome I need to understand the needs of the desired product because a real-time model has different characteristics than a sculpture for visualization (and this to a printed one), therefore each one has its own development approaches.

In this case, Tengu Frame Zero is a sculpture for printing, so I always have to keep in mind that my lowest Subdivision level (or low poly base) doesn’t need to be perfect because I won’t use it for animation or even UVs. The importance in this level lies on silhouette and posing purposes; although, for it to be easier to sculpt on, the mesh has to be composed of squares which need to be as even as possible.


Quick Tips:

#1: Start from a base, it doesn’t need to be perfect nor anatomically exact because at the end you’re going to re-sculpt everything anyway. Believe me, it saves lots of time.

#2: Always maintain the low subdivision levels, especially if you’ll need to re-pose later. Low poly bases are useful to make quick changes on the overall silhouette and, at least in ZBrush, these allow the software to work a lot faster.

After dividing the whole concept into little pieces I just decide whether I want to start with polygon modeling or sculpting directly. It depends in the kind of detail I want to give it and the time I have to spend on the sculpture.


I modeled the Katana starting from a little piece of a tileable pattern, then I duplicated it and combined it with the original, added some extractions for the body of the sword and played with lattices.


In my workflow I almost always use creases for control purposes over my topology. When aiming for hard edge modeling, I try to keep the use of support edge loops at the minimum, because inside my sculpt software the lowest subdivision level always gets cracked after adding subdivisions, not to mention that the polygon count raises crazily fast. At the end, the method you use is as good as you feel comfortable with it.

In the case of the turbines, I used a method inside Maya to create instances of one piece in order to modify all the instances together. This method is actually pretty easy: just select a mesh, move its pivot outside of it (just a little bit) and go to Edit > Duplicate Special > Options (the little square at the right).


A window will appear and there you’ll choose your instances options. Like this:


I choose:

  • Geometry: Instance
  • Group under: Parent
  • Rotate every 90 degrees over Y axis (every square represents an axis being the first one X, the second one Y and so on).
  • And 3 copies.

The result is pretty fun to play with.



I really enjoy to do polygon modeling and get a result as final as I can only manipulating the geometry in order to pre advance sculpt. This method could be time consuming but the results are worth the effort.


I always mount the individual pieces on the anatomic base so I can visualize the final result as an overall.

Once in ZBrush I add details to every piece using different brushes and alphas such as these:

Alphas, brushes, curves and strokes are the key to bring out the potential of every model.

There’s a debate about ZBrush versus other modeling alternatives, but the truth is there’s not a battle at all, they are all tools for us, and the only way to truly take advantage of the potential of every software is to effectively combine one with another.

In my case, I just can’t imagine my workflow working a hundred percent inside ZBrush, because I truly enjoy working in others platforms such as Maya for polygon modeling or retopology. Combining this with Pixologic’s child using the power of GoZ makes everything smooth and simple.


After repeating this process I got something like this. Finally the time to pose Tengu had come.

The plugin I always use for this is Transpose Master. As a sculptor I find this plugin to be incredibly useful, dynamic, and precise. As long as you maintain a low division level of topology, Transpose Master works like butter and even gives you the chance to create a rig inside ZBrush in order to pose easily.

While posing, I don’t always work on everything at the same time, it depends on every scenario. Tengu is composed of 82 different subtools, which means a lot of information to work with altogether, so I started with the body and the objects next to it, then I added the other subtools as the base pose became stronger.


As you can see, the final pose was going to be really different. Who would know?


Once I got the perfect shot, I added the final details to the clothing, thinking in the wrinkles that the stress points create as well as the detail on the hair and the eyelashes.


After posing, I started to dynamesh the whole sculpture (basically combining meshes) thinking of what object had to be merged with which others before the final cuts.


The next step consists in using Booleans on the dynameshed parts on one another to create the final meshes with their key joints so the final customer can rearm the figure and paint it. The key joints look like those in the image. Here’s a link to my key joints lettered brush.


Then I decimated the parts to reduce the polycount to a printable level and this is how the final Tengu looks like after I cut all the pieces. Right now it’s being printed by our friends in Hysterical Games.

Here is the final piece:

Final Insights

There’s No Right or Wrong, Only Work

In words of the great Salvador Ramirez Madriz: If you don’t know where to start, start, it will come naturally afterwards.

Something I always try to communicate is that if you sculpt (draw, paint, play, add any subject) something and don’t achieve the desired result immediately, it will still teach you something– how not to do it and that’s maybe the most powerful thing to know. 

Every single challenge that I got through came to me after a few “wrong ways” and a night of sleep.

It’s OK to Feel Fear

As well as a blank sheet could be perceived as a threat, a sphere of digital clay could be too.

Some points of my own creative process always make me feel as I don’t know how to keep going (my Achilles heel is posing once I have over a hundred subtools, drama added) but as I continue working my own expertise always overcomes; my guts tell me what’s next. It’s like a pushing-guessing equation where the mere action is the key to construct yourself.

Keep creating. No matter the weather or the holiday, innovate and change your surroundings, that’s how we all level up.

My Main Goals

  • Do it as it is the last piece I’d ever do.
  • Avoid as many problems as I can for my partners: riggers, animators, or 3D printer engineers.

The best advice for every artist out there is to show your work. It doesn’t make sense to create great pieces and keep them in the computer or in the garage. The only way to make a living out of this is if everybody can see what you are good at. Upload as much stuff as you can and keep in touch with the people who follow you, as well as send emails to the companies you would like to work with, you never know who will answer.

I’ve found Sketchfab to be an incredible tool to showcase my portfolio and let everyone appreciate the detail that I put in my sculpts. It really works as a virtual showcase. There is nothing as easy as this out there.

Thanks to the Sketchfab team for creating these tools for us (the artists), that let us show our talent to the entire globe, and thanks for giving me this space to share a little of me. Keep changing the world.

-Piedro Machaen

Links to my pages:


Facebook fan page

Marchen’s page

Republik’s facebook page


Thanks, Piedro!

About the author

Seori Sachs

Community Person!

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