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

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