Week 14: Textures, Skinning and Poses

The final week of the project. Its been an incredible experience and I’ve enjoyed it immensely. However even though it was the final week it was no less busy and hard work.

Texturing was done using a combination of Substance Painter and Photoshop. Substance Designer was originally planned to help build some of the textures but due to how well the sculpt detail had baked I deemed it unnecessary for this model.

Base colours were added to the mesh very basically at first with the colours being picked directly from the concept art. I then blended the colours before working on the roughness values across the body before finally adding the emissive elements. The texture maps were exported with the albedo being adjusted in Photoshop to clean up some small areas.

With the bone structure in place from the previous week I began on the skinning. Starting with the main body mesh. This was very challenging due to my lack of experience but I learnt a lot from this in how to create a skinned mesh that looks and deforms naturally. I will continue to develop my skinning with future projects to make sure I improve but also to get the most out of the meshes I create. Despite the challenge it has been very rewarding to be able to manipulate my model in this way to create dynamic poses.

Below are beauty shots of the three different final poses rendered in Marmoset Toolbag. Overall despite a few nit-picks and personal criticisms I am overjoyed with the final result of this project. It has been a labor of love that turned out far better than I expected this time 12 weeks ago but it has been such a rewarding and useful learning experience.

Week 13: Retopology and Unwrapping

Retopology was the major task this week. Making sure the poly count was low while remaining good for baking proved an honest challenge. Despite the numerous crashes in Topogun on the computers accessible, it was fortunate that only the main body required this software. All other elements were exported as low poly assets in Zbrush and altered in 3DS Max.

This above is the final low poly mesh and poly count. Having considered comparable assets in games today my poly count is relatively low. Given a longer time frame I believe that the mesh could be more consistent however my primary focus is to ensure the mesh will bake the sculpt well.

Because of it need five unwraps, three for the body alone the bake took some time to get right to make the most of the sculpts surface detail. I am absolutely overjoyed with the results of the bake and now confident that this bake will provide the base for what will hopefully be my best work. It is certainly been a difficult but massively enjoyable experience so far.

While I now work on the texture, I will also be rigging it to make sure the poses I give for final renders look natural with what will I have tried to make an animation friendly mesh. The bone structure has been started in 3DS Max. and will be continued this week.

The next week will be the final week before hand in but while the last blog of the hand in I will do a final blog to show the products final polish before ExpoTees.

Week 12: Final Sculpting

I realized before starting to add the detail to the rest of the body the alphas I had made previously would not be enough to get a realistic amount of variation to the body so I set out to create a few more to get a better blend.

The first would be used for the scales along the ridges on the back that will glow like the ribcage and the second would be for harder scaley skin. The results of which proved quite effective.

I also used this alpha for the underside the neck as a blend between skin and scales. To make this work properly I went in with the Damstandard brush to give it more depth.

I applied the rest of the alphas before working on the last major sculpting part which was finishing the metatarsal scales. These scales are common on bird feet and on the dinosaurs I have used for reference so including them seems highly appropriate. I added them initially last week in the same way the scales on the neck and head were done by masking then using the Formsoft brush. It was a long process to get them to look correct and less like an insect carapace. This was done using the Hpolish and move tools to get the overlap effect.

And with those finished and a soft noise added to the scales the main high poly sculpt is completed. Next will be the retopology and UV unwrap in order to bake the core details from this sculpt down to the low poly mesh.

I am very happy with how the sculpt has developed and its been a very rewarding experience. I am very much looking forward to more sculpting in the future but before that line of thinking its time to work on the final mesh and product of this project.

Easter Break Roundup: Detail Sculpting

It has been a fairly relaxing Easter break taking some time away from university to spend with friends and family. The second half however has been spent catching up on the sculpting phase.

A good bulk was spent on the scales. As the bulk of the creatures texture will stem from more of a Leatherback turtle I want the dinosaur like look to show through towards the front of the creature. These scales were easy to produce and very effective but considerably time consuming as each one was masked as a batch then brought forward with the formsoft brush.

While I am very happy with the effect of the scales they are much more prominent and defined when using the ZBrush BPR rendering.

Doing these renders during this process helped visualize and figure out how to make the scales consistent. I also wanted to make sure the larger ridges on the top of the skull looked a lot harder and rougher much like crocodiles.

I then added alphas and scales to the rest of the body, Though there is still a considerable amount to do I believe the hardest parts are past. From this it will be blending and adding the scales down the neck and sorting the scales down the feet then adding the detail to the rest of the body by including wrinkles and surface texture.

Week 9: Tertiary Sculpting

I have mixed feelings about this week. On one hand I am very happy with the work I have done so far but due to having to return home for Easter early I could not get nearly as much done as I would hope.

Again focusing on the head I have no started adding the base scales and have finished adding them to the indentations on the head. In these indentations the scales are quite uniform and as a result have been mirrored on both sides of the head. They however will be the only parts that will be that way as no one or thing is symmetrical.

From this angle the scales are already making a considerable difference to the aesthetic and am eager to continue with the surface detail as soon as I return.

Another thing I noticed this week is when on polygroups view, on the highest subdivision, it gave quite a nice basis for retopology. Not perfect by any means but something useful that I shouldn’t ignore moving forward.

This will be my last blog until the end of the 3 week Easter/ spring break. There I will do an Easter roundup blog, highlighting all progress before moving onto the last weeks of my university experience.  The progress will be extensive and will lead nicely into the next phases of the pipeline.

Week 8: Sculpting Fixes and Texture Studies

I was curious before fixing the secondary forms of the sculpt to begin looking into surface texture I intended to apply during the tertiary sculpting phase.

I focused on two areas that will be most prominent in regards to texture. Leatherback skin as well as scales. For the study, I used scales from a giant tortoise. Both bases were from images I took myself.

These images were used to build new alphas in Zbrush which were made from a 3D plane and the planes height information.

It took longer than I had hoped to produce the texture studies but I did manage to get a good amount done on the sculpt. It is much easier to show in the comparison above with the first image being the sculpts progress at the end of last week. The most drastic change is the legs. After detailed feedback and more research I shrank the fibula, which brought the metatarsals forward. This certainly helped the first glance look but I was still not satisfied so I increased the size of the feet.

Among other things I altered the leaves and changed those on the arms positioning to something more natural. I added emphasis on the ribs as they will glow like the previous concept art shows.

The last thing this week was to work more on the head and get it ready for tertiary sculpting. I added the nose indentation and began adding the basic eyelids. The eyelids will change as the tertiary sculpting progresses to make sure the area is a proper focal point for the rendering.

Next week I will be doing the final sculpting pass adding the skin detail to the model from the head to the tail.

Week 7: Sculpting Forms and Progress Review

This week saw the the development of the key forms with the sculpt and improving the anatomical accuracy. While there is still a constant need to improve its accuracy This week was mainly getting prepared for another Zremesh.

I placed all the teeth in the jaws as well as included the horns to the bottom jaws and top of the head. The membrane between the jaws was included as a separate element to begin with so I could judge the the size and shape before dynameshing. Making the body, horns and membrane into one mesh. But that will come later.

Despite the main focus of this week on the head of the sculpt I included the spine membranes as well. By adding these it means all elements of the creature are now in Zbrush. This is a big step in the creation of the high poly.

Due to last weeks weather the progress review for the project has been pushed back a week meaning the rest of this week was used to build my presentation and collect and reference everything I used so far to help produce the work I have.

Next week will be beginning the work on tertiary sculpting and studying the texture I intend to use for different parts of the body.

Week 6: Primary Sculpting and Difficult Weather

Another awkward week due to very poor weather closing the university computer labs. This has left progress lacking but by no means  insignificant. The labs were closed for just over half the week due to the major snow leaving most roads with limited access and making it very hard to travel. Despite this, work is now in full swing in Zbrush.

With all the elements implemented into Zbrush I scaled and added them to the basic body. When this was complete I grouped them together as well as add a few elements like the eyes and tongue.

I then isolated the body and grouped it by poly-groups. The poly-groups allowed me to manipulate it part by part to make sure each part is correct without splitting the mesh apart. My primary focus first is on the head area as this is a major feature that requires the most physical change to the mesh.

Defining the skull was the best way to make sure the head was correct. Dinosaurs, much like birds, Do not have much musculature around their heads besides the bottom jaw so the skull is easy to see defined through the skin.

With the head defined and the tongue in place I can now begin placing the teeth and horns before Dynamesh. The Dynamesh will merge all the 3D parts I merge into a single subtool I can then remesh again with Zbrush before moving onto secondary and tertiary detail that will be the major sculpting passes.

Next week will be completely in Zbrush carrying on with the sculpting passes. My favourite part of the pipeline.

Week 5: Final Concepts and Mesh Construction

This week was difficult. I was on the back foot due to illness but I think, by the end of the week, managed to build back a good amount of very useful work.

I started by finishing my concept art with a top view and final colour scheme that I am very happy with. The main focus on the second page of colour theory was to figure out a more realistic colour variation and patterning. With this ultimately culminated in combining several ideas merging into the scheme I have chosen.

I feel producing these pieces have helped to massively determine how I produce the sculpt and final product. overall.

With the 2D artwork finished I moved ahead with the mesh that had been in 3DS Max the previous week. Having tweaking it since then I took it into Zbrush for a basic pass to build up the forms and Zremesh once again to give a better topology flow and to do a basic pass for the overall shapes.

When this was done I transferred it back into 3DS Max to build the basic spines, teeth and leaves on the back of the creature. Some minor alterations were done to the main body as well. Mainly proportions and work on the head.



Week 4: Base mesh work and Colour

This week has been a subject of two key parts. the first was finishing the design of the creature with the concept skin pass and the other has been building on the zspheres from the previous week.

With the skin finished I moved on to the colour theory of it. This is not necessarily for sculpting but gives a great idea of how I will want it to look when the sculpt is rendered.

This has, as of yet, to be narrowed down but I am very confident in the design now that I have seen it with colour. I personally, at this time, am leaning towards to the darker shades for this creature.

Moving on from the 2D work I took the zsphere basic mesh into 3DS Max to rework the topolgy to better suit it for sculpting and to add elements that I felt are necessary additions that cannot be added in Zbrush.

I was not happy with how the leg and the back of the body was shaping up so I culled it and added another leg that was a lot lower in polygons and cleaner for sculpting. using the concept and the dimensions I also scaled it to its correct dimensions.

The arm was another area I put the work into as this was something very different to how the zpsheres had it. I kept it low so its easy to manipulate and change later on in Zbrush and also Lower in polys though there is still a lot that can be changed.

The next stage will be adding some other elements then taking it back into Zbrush for its first sculpting pass with some more retopology.