In Art Spotlight, we invite Sketchfab artists to talk about one of their designs.
My name is Ray Thuc Le, and I’m a 3D Artist currently located in Vancouver, Canada. I have recently completed an one-year program in Game Art at Think Tank Training Centre and currently working as a 3D character artist. I’m here to talk about the process of making the Viking character from concept to finish.
Viking was the second character of my graduation demo reel 2015, under the mentorship of Pierre Bourgeot, lead character artist at United Front Games, Vancouver, Canada.
I wanted to make a character based on other people’s concepts. Since “character artist” doesn’t mean you have the right to create characters with your own design unless the project is personal or you’re a concept artist. So I think If I want to work in the industry as a character artist, the first thing I have to learn is how to make a character from a concept.
I prefer a realistic, but slightly stylized and exaggerated style. I ended up with the amazing painting “Viking” by Leo Lasfargue:
This painting has three vikings, and I picked the middle guy because he has a lot of different materials such as metal, hair/fur, skin, wood, leather, fabric, etc. It was very challenging but you can’t survive in this competitive industry unless your work is top notch, so this character was a perfect one for me to learn new things.
I always start blocking out the whole character with very low poly meshes in Maya until I’m happy with the proportion and silhouette of the character and also get a good base to use for sculpting the hi-poly.
Once I’m happy with the base mesh, I then send the low-poly mesh into Zbrush for sculpting. Because the base mesh has a very clean topology, I can just subdivide the model a few times and start sculpting.
Since this is a game character, it’s impossible to use the hi-poly in game engine. So I have to make a game mesh (or low-poly) from the hi-poly. The good thing about spending time to model a clean base mesh at the beginning saves me a lot time at this stage. Now I can just go back level 1 of my hi-poly and use it as a base to retopologize.
Baking and Texturing
I used xNormal to bake out most of the maps: Normal Maps, Ambient Occlusion, Curvature, Cavity, and color ID. Once all the basic maps are ready, it was time for texturing, my favorite part of the whole process!
I used Substance Painter to do the texture. Painter is a new software for PBR texturing workflow. Its non-destructive workflow allows me to switch between resolutions of textures without re-painting. I’m tend to work on 2k resolution which helps a lot with performance while working, then changing to 4k resolution when exporting the final textures.
If you would like to know how did I make his hair, check out my hair tutorial here.
I used Marmoset Toolbag 2 to render out high resolution pictures. It’s the best app on the market at the moment to quickly preview your models in real time. They also have Marmoset Viewer which allow you to export your Marmoset Toolbag scene and share it on Artstation or your website. However, I think Sketchfab is better than Marmoset Viewer in the way to publish interactive 3D contents.. First, Sketchfab is free and very simple web based application so you don’t have to buy or install anything, their 3D viewer is embeddable anywhere online easily such as Facebook, Youtube, Artstation, and so on. Sketchfab has no problem to handle high-res models, and also support PBR spec/gloss, rough/metal workflows, animations, and VR. So awesome isn’t it?
I hope this making of is helpful and gives you an idea of how to make a next-gen game character from start to finish. A big thanks to Sketchfab for giving me the opportunity to share my work to the community.