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Concept Art MasterClass #2: Costume & Asset Creation in ZBrush


Gnomon Instructor and Senior Concept Artist Kyle Brown shares a groundbreaking workflow

Kyle Brown, a veteran of the CG world, Kyle has worked within the field since 2015 and has had his hand in a number of projects throughout the film and television industry. He also currently is an instructor at the Gnomon School of Visual Effects where he is able to share his expertise with others.

This Master Class comes in 7 parts, each carries its own tutorial video to guide you through the entire process of how Kyle incorporates Character Creator, Photoshop, ZBrush and other tools to create a character concept. You can find links to the other 6 tutorials below.

Part #2: Costume & Asset Creation in ZBrush

We start back in Character Creator 3 with the same base I used on the sketches. This is another benefit as it will provide the same underlying structure for my 3D blockout that I used for the sketches, so there really shouldn’t be an issue making sure elements line up and proportion properly.

CC3 has an incredibly easy GoZ bridge, click and use the corresponding options to quickly send your 3D character over to ZBrush as a workable Ztool. 

You can choose to send over your avatar from Character Creator 3 to ZBrush in A-Pose, T Pose, or Current Pose. The current pose is a fantastic addition that will be instrumental in my 3D character designs that aren’t rendered directly in CC3 going forward.

The process described in this workflow revolves around the following workflow. CC3 has so many great pieces of wardrobe, costume, and accessories, both out of the box and available for purchase. This however is a new design and requires new costume elements created from scratch. It starts with the A-posed base mesh and masking out the outline of the new garment. Using the extract option under the subtool pallet, you can start to layer low res subtools one after the other to create a character’s clothing.

Once I have the extraction, I use the fantastic tools inside of the Zmodeler brush inside of ZBrush to make cleaner surface adjustments and modeling changes. This is the most methodical part of the process, more poly-modeling than digital sculpting, but I find it easier to be a little bit more patient at this point upfront to get better-looking results, then to try and polish up rough-looking surfaces later. Zmodeler keeps me in one program, a huge help in a concept design pipeline. 

Once the mesh is blocked out, we can slice the mesh and assign polygroups. By using Brush > Auto Masking > Mask by Polygroups, you can move these sections independently and get cool clean shapes on your costume.

At the time of the recording of this tutorial, those of us with ZBrush were given the serendipitous release of ZBrush 2021 and with it, the inclusion of their brand new and amazing Dynamics feature. For quick accurate folds I will take geometry into programs like Marvelous Designer to get quick results, and though it will still be a necessary part of my workflow, the new Dynamics features in ZBrush will be an incredible and “How did I live without this” feature going forward, especially as it relates to generating clothing for Character Creator 3. I used more masking and Dynamics mixed with the inflate function to get a jumpsuit/ leather effect on my character’s pants.

My goal with a costume is to get the biggest forms or elements blocked in first, never jumping into tertiary details before everything is in place, meaning I don’t want to use alphas or other sculpture details to make things like nuts and bolts before I can get a clean read of the costume as a whole. The last thing I block out during this initial phase of the ZBrush portion is to get the cool techy backpack. I plan on rendering her out from a front-on angle and probably won’t see much of the backpack, but it is large enough that it will wrap around the torso and affect the silhouette, so I make sure to get it in there.

This wraps up part I of the ZBrush portion, the following Chapter will jump into refining the elements already established as well as really getting into what makes this ZBrush to Character Creator 3 so awesome.

Here is where the sculpt is at.

Follow the other 6 tutorials in this series:

Part #1: Getting Started and Sketches

Part #3: Refining and Adding Details in ZBrush

Part #4: Generating Textures and Importing into Character Creator 3

Part #5: Lighting and Posing a Character in Character Creator 3

Part #6: Costume Variation and Texture Modification

Part #7: Comping Renders, Paint, and Finish

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