Concept Art MasterClass #4: Generating Textures and Importing into Character Creator 3

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 the concept art. You can find links to the other 6 tutorials below.

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

Character Creator 3 can handle quite a bit, but as it is designed to get a character ready for real time engines, it is important to optimize geometry for those engines. This whole process is for concept, so as mentioned before, I am trying to keep the pipeline as simple as possible, so I will tackle the following in ZBrush.

Utilizing the Zplugin > UV master we can apply quick UVs to our subdivided or decimated meshes. In the attached example I work on the Thigh plates that are subdivided. The mesh is too dense to take over the CC3 so I opt to clone the mesh at its lowest subdivision level and Unwrap it using the UV Master plugin. After that, I can clone that UV from that unwrapped subtool and apply it back to the original mesh with subdivisions. 

Now that there are UVs on the mesh, I can capture both the color information as well as the high res detail information. As I was sculpting up the costume, I painted up the wardrobe and graphic elements. This is just polypaint, or vertex color information so it must be converted to a color or albedo map.

On that same subtool, I need to capture the high-resolution detail that can be baked out and exported to be used inside of Character Creator. By switching to subdivision level 1, I navigate over to the Normal Map menu in the tool palette and with the below options selected, click Create NormalMap. This should capture the detail from each subdivision that will make these thigh plates look much cleaner in CC3.

You can also Decimate a mesh utilizing Decimation Master in the Zplugin dropdown menu with the option to preserve the existing UV coordinates of your mesh while reducing the vertex counts.

Now that everything is optimized for Character Creator 3, we can utilize the GoZ function and relink our character that started it all as well as importing each new part of the costume. I select Cloth for elements of the costume that I want to conform to the body of my character and Accessory for the elements that shouldn’t conform or remain rigid on my character.

Once everything is in place within Character Creator 3 and make sure each element is parented to the right part of the underlying avatar.  Below you can see the rig of our character after the relinking from ZBrush.

Before tweaking the textures further I want to make sure that everything is linked correctly as I experiment with some poses. Any distortions will let me know where the skin weights of certain pieces aren’t working or the parenting may be incorrect. The final pose isn’t anything too extreme but I wanted to get a feeling for what she would look like in action. As you can see below, accessories like the backpack are shifting and separating from the rest of the character.

Using the Traditional materials or PBR in the modify menu we can get some nice material reads in tandem with our color maps we imported. From the beginning I envisioned the skirt as a futuristic plastic-esque material so I lowered the transparency and played with the specularity. 

On my next project I would like to experiment with textures crafted in Substance Painter which can easily be imported and assigned in CC3.

When I started on this project I wanted to include an element in the design that would take advantage of CC3’s new SkinGen tools, an incredible layering system that allows you to stack different effects one on top of the other to get incredible results. I hinted earlier in the tutorial that I wanted to include this new workflow addition to generate cyberpunk cutlines on our cyborg.

I jump back over to ZBrush and sculpt the cut lines into the face of our cyborg and once completed, I generate a new normal map of those cuts and export them to CC3.

And here is that Normal map imported back into CC3’s SkinGen.

Following is an example of another customization option of SkinGen, the ability to cake warpaint onto your character. Here you can see how you can manipulate the included maps with sliders to get hundreds of custom looks or, if you want even more control you can export a UV reference map and the opacity map directing the effect to your editor of choice, mine being Photoshop where I edit the paint and re-import them to CC3 trying out the proposed idea of war paint on my Cyborg.

Follow the other 6 tutorials in this series:

Part #1: Getting Started and Sketches

Part #2: Costume & Asset Creation in ZBrush

Part #3: Refining and Adding Details in ZBrush

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

Concept Art MasterClass #3: Refining and Adding Details 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 the concept art. You can find links to the other 6 tutorials below.

Part #3: Refining and Adding Details in ZBrush

The fun part! Well it’s all fun, but this is where the piece starts to come together in sculpt. I blocked out some interesting greeble pieces for the shoulder pauldrons that I convert to insert meshes and apply them to single sided planes as Nanomesh. I do this so these pieces are instances and not committed geometry yet, and this gives me the option to switch them out on the fly or switch them for another conceptual iteration.

The next part of the costume I focus on is the quilted skirt piece. Another bit of costume that I can tackle right inside of ZBrush now thanks to Dynamics. This will give some nice gravity and initial folds that will look good in tandem with the poses inside of Character Creator 3. It starts as simple geometry cut out and shrunk to the surface so it feels like it is actually draping off of my character.

Once the skirt is in place and looks the way I want it to, making sure it drapes appropriately and making sure that the size and cuts of the fold mimic the appropriate fabric I’m going for.

Then as everything is in place, I’ve sculpted in some additional folds that didn’t have in the dynamics simulation. I generate a quick UV using the Zplugin> UV Master (Something we will revisit in the texture section) and morph UV in the tool palette, a relatively new addition being the ability to sculpt on the morphed UV.

As mentioned earlier, everything is blocked out and what will be seen from the proposed camera angle is what get’s priority. I did decide to detail out the backpack a little bit more because I’m not sure if more of it will be visible if I change up the pose.  With the power of CC3, this is now an accessory that I utilize in the future with other characters.

At this point I am nearing the end of the block out and detailing of our Cyberpunk Cyborg. I’m always trying to strike a balance between simplicity and over-complicated detailing, giving me the freedom to paint into the final renders, giving me more control.

I pull up my initial sketch and reference constantly throughout the process to make sure that I am matching what was approved.

After checking my design against the sketch, I finished tightening up a few remaining details, including filling out the red graphics on the breastplate and abdominal pads. I utilize the fantastic Spotlight Projection under the Texture tab. It gives me a little bit more control than dragging out an alpha, here I can apply a texture from the camera. I found an interesting ‘techy’ texture that feels almost fabric like while still maintaining the cyber punk qualities. 

Follow the other 6 tutorials in this series:

Part #1: Getting Started and Sketches

Part #2: Costume & Asset Creation 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

%d bloggers like this: