Start scrolling down for a quick overview of the process.

Additional Renders

Some extra render from iRay within Substance Painter 2 and Keyshot Pro

Low Poly Base Mesh

This is the mesh I got from ZRemesher. I created some loose guidelines around the face, tweaked some settings (like “keep polygroups”) and increased polygon density around the face area.

ZBrush Detailed Sculpture

Detailing this guy was quite fun. I created yet another “Double Action Brush” for wrinkles and skin details, but for the most part I followed a simple workflow: blocking the main shapes I started with a ZSpheres armature, then I sketched some volumes in. To start defining more the creature, I used Dynamesh (in a very low res). After getting a cleaner topology from ZRemesher, I used the move elastic brush in the low subdivision levels and subdividing the model as I needed more polygons to describe smaller details.

Not all of the high frequency details were sculpted in ZBrush. Instead, I added pores and other small scratches directly in the normal map using Substance Painter 2.

Go to the Brushes page for more Double Action Brushes.

Baking in Substance Painter

This is the result of baking all my maps in Substance Painter.

From ZBrush, I exported a T-Pose version (to be able to paint with symmetry) of the low res model, as well as the high res in FBX format. This creature is composed of 5 subtools, so just by naming them right (using “low” and “high” in the suffix), I only had to bake once to get the maps for all my meshes.

Texturing In Substance Painter

Now, thanks to Substance Painter, texturing is one part of the creation process that I really enjoy. I originally started with some flesh and “shark” grey colours, but it was a bit boring. So I experimented with layers blending modes and lot of masking options before choosing the green-blue palette for this project.


In Marmoset Toolbag 2

Lately, I’ve been using Marmoset quite a bit to explore lighting and rendering options. I found it incredibly easy to set up and to test a wide variety of lighting scenarios.

The first thing I usually do, is to configure some basic settings for the scene in general. For instance: The strength and spread of the Ambient Occlusion, enabling Local Reflections and High-Res Shadows. The values in the AO sliders might change later when I add the texture maps and the actual AO map.


Setting Up Shaders in Marmoset

Before I start playing with lights and environments, I plug in all the maps except the albedo / diffuse. The transition between Substance Painter and Marmoset is very simple. There are only a few settings to keep in mind for each map and you can get nearly the same look using the PBR workflow.

The main difference, is that when working with translucent materials in marmoset, I change the Diffusion to be Skin. This way, I can use the thickness maps to create a subsurface scattering effect.


Shaders and Texture maps ready

After setting up the shaders for all the meshes, I add the Albedo map.  Most of the time, if I’m happy with how the material looks before adding the colour, the albedo will just enhance the model by adding colour.

This is the Model with no custom lights (just HDRI lighting), All textures maps and materials ready.


Real Time Lighting

With all the materials and textures ready, I start cycling through my library of HDR images to get a good environment as the base of my scene. Once I find something I like, I start to add different types of lights, even fog, to create a more dramatic lighting for the character.

I also play around with the camera settings and post-effects to tweak saturation, curves, blur effect and sharpening.


Keyshot Render

I used this project to tried a few things, one of them was to take the maps exported from Substance Painter, and plug them into Keyshot Pro, using the Material Graph. The idea was to use the PBR workflow to get similar results to what I got from Substance Painter but with the Keyshot’s rendering power.

This is the Keyshot render, but I also produced a depth mask and a clown pass for compositing purposes.


Photoshop Composition

Finally, I brought the Keyshot renders into Photoshop, painted a few layers and added some particles to create the dark and noise underwater scene that gives more context to this creature.