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 Post subject: Planning & creating character art - A help thread
PostPosted: Tue Apr 27, 2010 8:43 am 
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(Dunno if this thread is in the right category)

Planning & creating character art

I thought I could set up this official thread to help you that are interested in character art to start creating them, or you guys that have already started but need some advice as how to go on. It's vital to plan your workflow when you're creating characters, it's not that necessary to plan your character down to the exact detail because changes always happens, but you want a general idea of what you're going for.

So the meaning of this thread is to help and get you guys started, I myself has put character art to the side right now since I want to learn more about environment art, but I'll gladly share my knowledge that I've collected so far. As I said, most of the time the problem lies within workflow.

Workflow is a pretty general word though, and it exists on several levels. Workflow for a project down to the workflow of a software and under that workflow of a certain task. This thread will start off trying to help plan your project and then try to answer the general inquiries that you might have about certain tasks involving character art.

So I thought that I could go through what I know so far, let's start from the beginning.

1. Inspiration/Reference/Concept Art
Image
When you start out it's wise to know what you're going for or get a general idea what you're going for. I tend to go out and check all the usual websites for inspiration before I start. I create a new folder in my 3d projects/character and name it "inspiration". Then I scour the web I go to:

1. Deviantart (A lot of good concept art is being uploaded here, 2d as well as CG/3d game art)
2. game-artist.net (a community for game artists, you can find a lot of good stuff here)
3. Polycount ( great community, very even between environment and character art)
4. Gameartisans.org (another game-artist community though it feels like the focus is on characters)
5. Google (sometimes I just google random stuff to look for inspiration)

2. Plan your workflow
To plan your workflow you need to know your options, if you don't know how to go about things there is a bigger chance that stuff won't be as good as you wanted them to be or take longer. The most important questions to ask yourself: Is my character going to mostly hard-surface (gears of war, halo) or organic? Will the character have much clothing? etc These questions defines your workflow.

Zbrush/Mudbox is a very important tool for next-gen character artists and it's a great tool for concept-sculpting as well. So to be a good character artists you need to know your way around these sculpting software and after that it's just practice practice practice.

There are two ways (that I use) to go about creating character art.

1. Creating the low-poly basemesh of your char with correct topology, then sculpt it.
2. Creating an all-quad basemesh (very general) and then sculpt it to detail and retopologize to get the perfect low-poly mesh ready to be in-game.

I often use nr 2, why? Because using Zbrush as the main software allows me to free myself from the technical barriers of the usual 3d modeling software and directly focus on the creative side of creating character art. You can dive right in and start producing work, being a good digital sculpter will certainly help when creating character art.

Example of workflow for my latest portfolio work Steampunk Killer:
http://www.3d-for-games.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=4257

1. Gather inspiration, I knew I wanted a cartoony/stylish male.
2. Create a all-quad base mesh of a male and take into Zbrush.
3. Try to sculpt an anatomically correct model of a man (I always start this way, just good practice)
4. Changing the proportions to look more cartoony
5. Detailing the characters, defining eyes, hands, mouth, etc (only after proportions and shape is finished)
5. Detailing the character with cartoony hard-edges in face and on body.
6. Started creating simple clothing for the character in 3d Studio Max, I used simple poly planes since most of the time it's easier to sculpt. I mostly use Edge Extrude to creating clothing fast, poly by poly. (I'll go through why later)
7. import the clothing to Zbrush (it's good to already have a basemesh body in then the clothes have something to "hang" on)
8. Sculpt the clothing and finish all the detail on the char.
9. Retopologize every piece of clothing and the body using Zbrush or the software of your choosing.
10. Make sure that the high-poly fits the low-poly model (I usually export a mid-res model to see if the low-poly fits well)
11. Unwrap the model
12. I baked the normal maps first, then assembled the model for an AO-pass.
13. Started texturing.

This was my workflow, and it went well I'd say but there is one thing that I could've done better and that is to plan my characters clothing (color, pattern) before unwrapping the model. Problems showed when I wanted to use a striped pattern on the character, they went from the bottom of the jacket up to the arms, and then hit a seam since the arms were unwrapped to be their own part, all the way up the shoulder. Making the striped pattern too hard to follow through. So I say again plan your texture before unwrapping, to place your seams at the best possible place.

General tips about character art workflow
1. Separating head from body
Depending on what kind of character you creating you might want to separate the head from the body. When I work on creatures I like to work with a full base mesh with the head attached, when I work with a humanoid character however I like to separate the head from the body. (though only when I know that you'll never see the character without clothes). Why? Because retopologizing the head and the body in one go when you're using workflow nr 2, is a daunting task indeed and very tiring. Plus if you already have a good basemesh head with a "good" topology you can use it instead. In the sculpting process. However for RPGs you might want to keep the head attached to the body, there are always guys/girls out there who like running around naked.

2. Know your software, this is really important and something that is hard to cover for me. I'm just a beginner in a sense that I don't have any paid real professional experience. However the easiest way to go about this is to ask people here on the forum, how to go about a certain task before trying, you might end up re-doing a lot of work in the end.

The anatomy of a basemesh
Image

From what I've learned a basemesh is a mesh that acts as a base for your model, be it detailed or simple that's up to you. Generally speaking basemeshes are simple all-quad models with the polygon faces evenly divided over the whole mesh. Why do you ask? Mainly because quads often subdivides better than tris or n-gons and the reason why you want to have evenly spaced quads is because when you take your model into a sculpting software and then subdivide your model the detail becomes more even over the whole model. Places where there usually are more polygons like characters faces allows for more detail in that area when subdivided.

Creating a basemesh
Yeah generally you create your basemesh inside your 3d-modeling software, I create my basemeshes with 3ds Max. When I first started out I created all my basemeshes by boxmodeling, by creating a box and by inserting edge loops and extruding polys defining my character. That is a workflow that I have left now with more experience, the method I use now is simpler but more controlled. Right now when creating basemeshes I use simple edge extruding starting off from a simple one-sided poly, it allows me to quickly grasp the general shape of the object I want to model and it's easier for me to control edgeflow and topology at the same time.



Working in Zbrush
Since it would take far too long to write a big tutorial how to work in Zbrush I'm going to recommend some great books and sites where you can find this information for yourself.

Books
Image

Zbrush Character Creation - Advanced Digital Sculpting by Scott Spencer

I actually own this book and I must say that it's great, I've read it through and I still have it up whenever I work in Zbrush for some quick tips. Scott Spencer goes through traditional sculpting to digital sculpting, how to sculpt in Zbrush, how you design a character bust, detailing, texture painting, how to use Zspheres, how to work the retopology tool, transpose tool etc. The book also comes with a DVD containing Zbrush trial software, chapter files and some other stuff. Really great book, and it really helped me when I first started out sculpting in Zbrush.

Zbrush Digital Sculpting - Human Anatomy by Scott Spencer

I haven't actually had a chance to read this one yet, but I've heard that it's really good. I leave this spot open for a quick-review if someone is up for the task.

Websites
I would recommend checking out pixologics own site.

Pixologic
They have a lot of interesting stuff going on there, I would check out the education Zclassroom page, and I would also take a look inside their forum for some great artwork and a lot of other beginners starting out showing their progress.

X. Follow up
Okay it's hard for me to go through everything out of the top of my head, so let's start talking about it and give advice to each other on how to start working on characters. Ask questions on how to work certain stuff in Zbrush etc etc. I'll try to answer to the best of my ability to help you guys.

I'll update the main post with new information as we go. Like detailing my workflow for folds/wrinkles in Zbrush, how I go about detailing the character etc etc. I would also be happy to help you guys plan your workflow for your characters. Just post a question asking how I would go about things and I will answer. :)

Happy character creation! :D (you guys better teach me about environment art!)

X. Links to good reads
http://www.pixologic.com/interview/mass-effect2/1/
http://www.pixologic.com/interview/ArmyOfTwo40thDay/1/

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Last edited by Cyphris on Fri Jun 18, 2010 11:18 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Planning & creating character art - A help thread
PostPosted: Wed Apr 28, 2010 10:26 pm 
Joined: Wed Feb 18, 2009 9:43 pm
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Nice work, thanks for posting - I've sticked it. I think this is a better place than Tips & Tricks.


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 Post subject: Re: Planning & creating character art - A help thread
PostPosted: Wed Apr 28, 2010 11:08 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jun 30, 2009 11:37 pm
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Location: Sweden
Not a problem mate, I'll keep updating it with info when I got the time. Hopefully it'll grow into a really big help thread going through lots of stuff.

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 Post subject: Re: Planning & creating character art - A help thread
PostPosted: Thu Apr 29, 2010 8:10 pm 
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nice insight to your workflow i do want to do another character now that i'm doing things on my own time and not on the uni timeframe so i guess i'll get a basemesh done soon and get that into zbrush

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 Post subject: Re: Planning & creating character art - A help thread
PostPosted: Fri Apr 30, 2010 8:16 am 
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Location: Sweden
stocko2k wrote:
nice insight to your workflow i do want to do another character now that i'm doing things on my own time and not on the uni timeframe so i guess i'll get a basemesh done soon and get that into zbrush


Great, be sure to plan your workflow for your next one :) I'll help you if you need it. :)

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 Post subject: Re: Planning & creating character art - A help thread
PostPosted: Fri Apr 30, 2010 11:04 pm 
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Great post, thanks

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 Post subject: Re: Planning & creating character art - A help thread
PostPosted: Thu May 27, 2010 4:33 pm 
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Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2010 5:43 pm
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Location: St Helens
just started a new character thought id go with wolverine as theres more than enough reference online for him, heres the base mesh in max having a few issues with the hair (not sure of the best way to go starting it).
Image

got some tris that i really cant find ways to resolve into quads.
Image
Image
Image
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 Post subject: Re: Planning & creating character art - A help thread
PostPosted: Thu May 27, 2010 11:13 pm 
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I wonder if this belongs here.

http://www.pixologic.com/interview/mass-effect2/1/

http://www.pixologic.com/interview/ArmyOfTwo40thDay/1/

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 Post subject: Re: Planning & creating character art - A help thread
PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 9:16 pm 
Joined: Mon Feb 22, 2010 8:20 pm
Posts: 10
This book by Francis Tsai is pretty cool. It's like ahuge book of brainstorming character ideas. Well worth a look.

Image


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 Post subject: Re: Planning & creating character art - A help thread
PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 9:36 pm 
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Really good, not a character artist but was a wicked read, nice presentation too. You should do an environment version!

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