Art Spotlight: Triceratortoise

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Hello Everyone!

My name is Csaba, I live in Hungary and I’m a Character Artist for games. I’ve been fortunate enough to work for several game platforms and on some cool projects like Witcher 1, Anno 1404, Silent Hill – Shattered Memories, Zen Pinball and Castlestorm to name a few. From a technical standpoint I do both Next Generation game art, Sculpting and Hard Surface Modelling but I also love the Hand Painted Texturing direction as well. I do modelling, texturing and rigging most of the times and I’ve got a bit of a traditional art background.

I’m huge fan of professional 3d forums and places like Sketchfab, where I get to know people in the industry and see some cool work from everyone! I am not always that active to comment, but I love lurking around and getting inspiration from others creations 🙂

I’d like to talk a bit about my work titled: “Triceratortoise” and I hope you can pick up some cool tricks or just get inspired by it!

Backstory for the Triceratortoise

I have had this idea for a while now to create a set of skulls of various extinct imaginary animals. The basic idea was in this universe we the Human race already colonized foreign galaxies and discovered new worlds. In the path of our “footsteps” of course we also polluted and destroyed many worlds that had led to the extinction of many species. I don’t wanna paint this world to be a cruel and sad future, but as always there can be tons of unforeseen consequences when people interfere with alien life forms or alien worlds. So I thought this would be a cool story to tell through a series of works that are also fun to make.

That would be the idea behind it. In the future I hope to do some more cool creatures with some more specific backstories behind them as well and about what exactly had led to their extinction 🙂

Planning and tools

Doing personal projects is always fun, but try to challenge yourself when doing them! With each one you should have a goal that makes you step out of your comfort zone a little, so you can improve yourself. For this project I wanted to learn to do hand painted textures in 3dCoat. That was my goal, so I used this idea above as a backstory. Since the topic is basically bones, I only need to paint one material. And that gives me the chance to make this project a quick and simple one, so I can first concentrate on learning the basics of the new software that was my main goal here, instead of getting too stressed by various technical issues like at a complicated character with lots of animatable parts and overlapping elements…

Keeping it nice and simple but organic and not just something that has a very simple shape, so it still challenges me a bit.

Software used:

  • Zbrush
  • 3ds Max
  • 3dCoat
  • Photoshop


Zbrush is a great choice to sketch in 3d with it’s powerful tool called Dynamesh, you don’t really need to worry about topology or polygon count. Basically you can model freely and while pressing Ctrl + clicking in the background it will dynamically divide up your model based on your settings. So for example if you stretch out part of your model, it won’t have enough subdivision to be able to work with so you just press Ctrl + click in the background and there you have it, pretty comfortable 🙂

You can find Dynamesh in the “Tool” menu/palette under “Geometry” rollout if you have a Polymesh selected (you can only use it on a polymesh model, so if you wanna use it on a ZB Sphere, just press “Make Polymesh3d” also in the Tool menu). I usually don’t set Dynamesh to a very high value, so it doesn’t get to slow to work with, but too low numbers are kinda clunky to work with too.

At this point I only wanted to do some sort of creature with 4 eyes instead of 2, but I worked without any reference. Sketching in 3dhas the advantage of being able to develop your design on the fly and if you like a direction, you can quickly think it further or suddenly change your whole design with a quick swoop. Always try NOT to care about details (like wrinkles, cracks etc) if you are after some cool silhouette and base form.

After a few minutes I got stuck with the idea of the horn + fangs and the kind of beak-thingy at the mouth. Because I was ok with the general look, I used it as a base to think the whole design a bit further by thinking on what does it remind me. It kinda looked like half a Triceratops and half some sort of Tortoise so I looked up some references to help me out.

So I changed a few things here and there where I felt it was a bit off. Widened the back-skull, and the frontal skull as well to make it feel more massive, and decided it would be cool to actually have 3 horns instead of the one 🙂 And call it Ticeratortoise (how “original”.. I know 😛 ).

Since I needed a low poly model only to try out 3dCoat and as quickly as possible, I didn’t wanna spend any more time on the sketching or too much time to spend on retopo. And I didn’t need a super low poly model either so I used Zremesher to get the quickest result possible. Zremesher alone is a really powerful tool, but with the Zremesher Brush I was able to get the perfect result I needed in a matter of minutes.

Then I jumped into 3ds max and tweaked my model a slightly bit. For example with the already good topology it was much easier to model a hole under the jaw to have that “horseshoe” shape then it would have been in ZBrush when I was sketching.


UVW Unwrapped the model in 3ds max, nothing fancy, just making sure that everything is perfectly symmetrical on the uv so when I’m painting main forms into the textures (like teeth) I can easily copy and mirror those so there’s no need to paint them twice 🙂

I also try to avoid rotating UV islands in random degrees, and this way it’s easier to paint and locate things while manipulating your texture in Photoshop.

For a model like this I usually use Quick Planar Map to define my UV islands and then relax those, or for models with higher polycount and/or if I want more control I use Peel Mode.
And of course if my model is symmetrical like in this case, I delete half of my geometry, unwrap it while considering that I would need to place the other half of the model into the UV space therefore leaving space for the other half and straightening the very middle part of the model if there’s any (in this case the top of the skull).

Once done, I apply Symmetry modifier to the model and select the Flipped UVW and move it in it’s place.

At every stage of your work, always think ahead and try to make your work more easy for later, instead of making it harder with some poor technical decision, of course that’s not always possible but if not then learn from your mistakes 🙂 Instead of committing the same mistakes over and over again.

Painting process:

I don’t wanna talk too much about the painting process, since it is recorded from 0 to the end, check out the link above 🙂

The whole texture is fully painted, no baking occurred. I find this way of painting very fun, it kinda makes your brain think, but of course there’s nothing wrong with some pre-baking, and often times that makes your work faster too.

In a few words the painting went like this:

  • 1st Applying some darker AO for the deeper holes (like eye sockets and nose-hole etc.)
  • then getting the main shape of the skull right (no detailing at this point) considering that the light comes from above and from the sides of the skull (normally you would “lit” a face from the front or from the angle it looks best because this skull is longish it looks more characteristic from the side therefore I lit it from the sides)
  • after that, detailing pass, you can still add bigger forms here and go crazy with the details if you want to but follow your original point of lights so it won’t look off!

I have waited so long for being able to present my 3d works in the way they should be and Sketchfab did it best for the first time for me. It’s really important to have a platform like this so artists can get more recognition and are able to show their works in better ways then it was possible in the past. I’m impressed of how fast it has been growing and developing and really looking forward for the new features in the future. Always happy to see innovative things that move this 3d profession further 🙂

Thanks for reading!

Triceratortoise Skull
by Csaba Baity (tsabszy)
on Sketchfab

Thanks Csaba!

You can see more of Csaba’s work here on Sketchfab, on his personal portfolio and on his Facebook page.

– Bart


About the author

Bart Veldhuizen

Head of Community at Sketchfab. 3D Scanning enthusiast and Blenderhead. Running BlenderNation in my spare time.

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