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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 character 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 character 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 our cyberpunk character. 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 it 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 cyberpunk character 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

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