José Tijerín is a digital illustrator, 3D sculptor, and creator of video games such as “Dear Althea” available on Steam. His content pack “We’re Besties” and “We’re Homies” are currently for sale in the Reallusion content store.
Hi, I’m José Tijerín, a digital illustrator, 3D sculptor, and videogame developer. You can check out my latest game, “From the Streets to the Script: A Carabanchel Story,” available on Steam. In this article, I will share my method for creating cartoonish wrinkles. >> Download hi-res anatomical textures used in this video
Creating cartoonish wrinkles for 3D characters is a breakthrough that helps bring them to life — and Character Creator’s (CC) Dynamic Wrinkle system enhances this process for both cartoon and realistic characters. Before we begin, read my article ‘Disney 2D Animation Style Remade with Character Creator 4’ (Part1. Part 2) for essential concepts in creating a solid 3D base model that looks professional without technical issues.
To add dynamic wrinkles, ensure your character is based on the CC base topology. Activate the dynamic wrinkles and select an empty layer in the “Texture Settings” section. Clicking “Individualize” generates a texture combining the base and wrinkle textures. Customizing wrinkles is a simple, fast, and visual process that involves replacing images.
Generating Realistic Wrinkles from AI Tools
Creating hyper-realistic dynamic wrinkles can be challenging if drawn by hand. Fortunately, Reallusion provides professional dynamic wrinkle packages — and now enhanced by AI. By capturing the front face of our character and leveraging AI image generation, we can achieve fabulous results.
Left: Original wrinkle in Character Creator .Right: AI-enhanced wrinkle.
Simply download and edit the desired image (using an image editor, like Clip Studio) to cut out the wrinkle area and paste it into our character’s base texture. We can convert the texture to a normal texture using specialized software, then replace the image in the dynamic wrinkles menu of CC. This straightforward process yields custom-tailored results.
CC provides sculpting tools for adding wrinkles directly onto the facial model. With brushes, we can precisely add wrinkles, adjust intensity and softness, and combine them with dynamic wrinkles for unique outcomes.
It’s crucial to remember that facial wrinkles go beyond expressing emotions, they can also convey moods like optimism and anxiety. By experimenting with various wrinkle-expression combinations, we can create expressive and captivating characters.
Simulating Dynamic Wrinkles for 4 Major Character Types
In this video, we will explore four different types of expression wrinkles for cartoon characters, transitioning from 3D to 2D. The four types include unlit 3D, 3D classic, cel shading, and anime styles.
Style 1 : Cartoon Unlit
Let’s create a 3D cartoon style without lights using brushstrokes to add details, resembling a painted look commonly seen in video games. First, create a “model sheets” schematic to define unique wrinkles and expressions for each character, ensuring uniqueness. Export the custom character from CC and import it into a texture creation program like Substance Painter.
In Substance Painter (SP), apply the base texture to the character’s face and paint the wrinkles while considering the lighting. This method is preferable for painting wrinkles directly on the texture, as mesh deformation can make it challenging to predict their appearance when the rest of the face is deformed.
After customizing the wrinkles in SP, load the image into the texture set in CC and activate the Dynamic Wrinkle system. Adjusting the speed at which the wrinkle texture appears with facial deformation enables pronounced and clear expressions for cartoon characters. Utilize CC’s facial profile editing system to fine-tune wrinkle details.
Style 2 : Classic 3D Cartoon
Since cartoon wrinkles have distinct hard lines resembling strokes, it’s important to convey skin elasticity while avoiding excessively large grooves. Reallusion’s “Wrinkle Essentials” package offers high-quality textures for realistic wrinkle and crease visuals. This package is valuable not only for realistic characters but also provides diverse facial wrinkle variations that enhance the unique features of cartoon characters.
For customizing wrinkles, extract the dynamic wrinkle textures and modify them in an image editor. This ensures a professional finish tailored to our character, as we’ve previously discussed with Reallusion’s offerings.
Style 3 : Cel-shaded look
To achieve dynamic facial expressions, lines are commonly used to simulate wrinkles and enhance specific facial cues. However, it’s important to avoid excessive lines that overwhelm the face. Manga provides a good example, where lines on the forehead emphasize anger alongside wrinkles on the nose.
For this style, begin by applying the desired cartoon effect provided by CC. Then, take the diffuse textures from different sets of dynamic wrinkles and draw expression lines on top of them. Drawing inspiration from comic and manga techniques can help create impactful facial expressions.
Style 4 : Anime
In manga, “manpu” symbols are used to express characters’ feelings in a clear and comical manner. These symbols, like sweat drops, striped lines on the face, or anger-induced swollen veins, can be incorporated by modeling the characters’ unused teeth and transforming them into symbols. The intriguing part is that these teeth deformations can be added as custom facial expressions in CC.
By utilizing morphs or facial deformations, lines can be added to enhance existing expressions. This technique enables the adjustment of wrinkle intensity and other facial elements like blushing. When combined with the dynamic wrinkle system, this approach is amplified.
Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed this article. For more information, feel free to check out the related video.
Peter Haynes is a filmmaker based in Auckland, New Zealand. Last year, he and his team were the recipients of an Epic Games film‐making grant, which gave them the budget to create a fully animated short film called “Cheng Beng”, featuring a captivating story with set dressing and characters infused with classic Chinese culture. There are a couple of unique aspects in the making of this film. Firstly, despite his ample experience in live action filmmaking, Peter had limited experience in the realm of 3D animation. Secondly, the film had a tight deadline imposed by the small budget provided by the fund, necessitating quick turnaround times for the shots. The following content is presented in his own words.
Why choose Reallusion tools?
I highly value Reallusion’s software, particularly Character Creator (CC) and iClone. These tools have been indispensable in our production process. The streamlined and intuitive approach of building our actors using Character Creator allowed me to have our entire cast prepared within just a few days, a task that would have been previously impossible given my limited 3D skills.
Quick Start with Character Creator’s Content Ecosystem
With a total of five characters in the story, it was impractical to create each one from scratch. This was particularly challenging as we aimed to incorporate cultural elements and specific designs, making it difficult to find ready-made CG resources that fit the bill. In particular, during the character-building process, we had a specific vision for our little girl to wear a cheongsam. To our surprise, the Reallusion Content Store offered an extensive selection from various artists, allowing us to find one that suited our needs perfectly. With just a few adjustments in Photoshop to enhance the colors, the dress seamlessly applied to the character with minimal editing required.
Unreal Groom System vs iClone’s Card-Based Hair
To give my little girl character hair in CC, I initially attempted to create separate groom hair for her in Unreal Engine. While grooms can offer visually stunning and dynamically simulated hair, they can be resource-intensive and occasionally yield unpredictable lighting results. I may also have gotten carried away with hair physics, as I had just discovered their exciting capabilities.
However, if I were to approach the process again, I would consider leveraging CC hair cards to a greater extent. These hair cards can yield similar results while significantly reducing the processor load. Interestingly, all of the characters with short hair in this film utilized hair cards from Smart Hair Systems, and they performed exceptionally well. I have also recently experimented with the new hair builder pack, and I am delighted with the outcomes it has produced.
Finally, the CC Auto Setup Plugin allowed me to import these characters into Unreal with all their textures and costumes intact, the realistic shader look is ready for close-ups.
Creating Authentic Character Animations
In this short film, extensive dialogue and character interactions play a significant role. The animation requirements to support the storyline were daunting, but the following is his account of how he and his team managed to accomplish it within 90 days.
Animating Dialogs in Multiple Languages
But as brilliant as CC was, the real lifesaver for this dialogue‐heavy short film was the AccuLips feature in iClone. Not only did our film have a lot of dialogue, but it was also spoken in four separate languages, and the AccuLips tool worked brilliantly for all of them.
Because of the way it works, non‐Chinese speakers could simply type in what the words phonetically sounded like, and the results speak for themselves. Once again, the Reallusionsoftware made the impossible possible.
Additional lip sync animation tweaks can be made by the intuitive user interface.
There is a bunch of stuff that I would do differently on this film now, due to both Reallusioncoming out with cool new features that weren’t available at the time, or me simply not knowing about a feature and only discovering it afterwards. The coolest of the cool new features is the Dynamic Wrinkle pack, which adds so much more subtle expression to characters than was available before.
Handling Challenging Cases – Walking hand in hand
An example of me only discovering a solution to a problem after the film was finished was this shot of our characters holding hands while walking. I spent ages keyframing pretty much every hand position in Unreal, and I still wasn’t happy with the finished product. Only afterwards did I discover the reach target tool. This allowed me to lock one character’s hand onto another and made that entire sequence a breeze. This, combined with the look at features that I also discovered later, are invaluable tools for streamlining and enriching the animation process, and I will certainly be making more use of them moving forward.
As a person who fully admits to being stronger creatively than technically, I’ve found theReallusion software packages really suit my way of working. They are simple to get your head around, intuitive in the way they work, and most importantly, fun. I look forward to using them again with all their newest features for our next short film.
Michael Pavlovich earned a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Animation from RSAD in 2005. Initially, he contributed to the development of environment and character art for popular video games such as Madden and NCAA Football. Later, he relocated to Austin to join Daybreak Games, where he worked on the creation of art assets for DC Universe Online.
Presently, Michael holds the position of Director of Character, Weapon, and Vehicle Art at Certain Affinity. His expertise lies in implementing iterative pipelines for Certain Affinity artists helping develop renowned video game franchises, including Halo, Call of Duty, and DOOM. To stay updated on his latest tutorial projects, you can visit Michael’s YouTube or ArtStation page.
PART 1 : Using Character Creator with ZBrush Pose Tools Plugin to Create & Organize Poses
ZBrush has been known for its powerful asset creation capabilities, but posing complex high-poly characters has always been a challenge. However, with the introduction of GoZ and the Pose Tools plugin, rigging, animating, and storing poses can now be accomplished in just minutes. The easy-to-use, single-button interface simplifies the process of applying poses to ZBrush characters, opening up a world of possibilities for making your creations come alive. By integrating Character Creator (CC) into their pipelines, artists can further harness the capabilities of this plugin and unlock new possibilities for introducing fresh poses.
To begin, it is essential to have all the necessary components installed.
Follow these steps:
Open the Reallusion Hub and ensure you have the latest version of CC installed.
Next, click on the “Product Home” button for ZBrush Pose Tools. This action will redirect you to a Reallusion download/install page.
On the Reallusion Download & Install page, click the Free Download Button for ZBrush Pose Tools.
After downloading, unzip the files.
Locate and copy the “Data” folder and “PoseTools.zsc” files.
Paste them into the “ZStartup\ZPlugs64” folder, or wherever you have ZBrush installed.
By following these steps, you will have successfully installed ZBrush Pose Tools for CC.
Demo Soldier Setup
Let’s work with the demo soldier character as it is accessible to everyone. Our goal is to cover both rigid binding (accessories or objects bound to a single joint) and soft binding (objects bound to multiple joints in a hierarchy).
Follow these steps:
Separate the “kneeGuard” subtool into right and left subtools. This division will allow us to bind these as accessories inside CC later on.
Ensure that each subtool has a unique and meaningful name. This will facilitate easy selection from a list and minimize errors that may arise from identical names or special characters that could cause issues.
By following these steps, we can effectively work with the demo soldier character, organizing subtools and preparing them for binding as accessories in CC.
To facilitate easy access, dock the Pose Tools ZPlugin on the left side of your screen. You can either select a preset or manually enter a size in centimeters or feet. Ensure that the main body of your character subtool is selected, and then click the “Resize” button. This will ensure that your character is scaled to real-world units. This is not only beneficial for compatibility with CC but also for any application that requires your asset to be accurately scaled to a specific unit of measure.
Click the “GoZ All” button in ZBrush to launch CC (if it is not already open) and initiate the rigging process by sending over the lowest subdivision versions of your asset.
If you need to configure GoZ, click the “R” button next to it. Additionally, you can access more options by going to “Preferences > GoZ”.
AccuRIG – Skeleton Creation
Within CC, click the “Update” button in the GoZ dialog box. This action will import all your subtools as grouped props. To initiate the rigging process, click the AccuRIG button located in the Modify panel. Upon entering AccuRIG mode, you will notice that your model automatically adjusts to position its feet on the ground plane.
To focus on the body, hide all objects except for the body itself. With the “Selected Meshes” option enabled, create guides by clicking the corresponding button. Utilize the placement diagrams to accurately position the guides. Once you have positioned the guides, press the “Generate Skeleton” button.
This step will convert the guides into joints and provide additional guides for the fingers. To position the finger guides, follow the same process as you did for the body guides. You can conveniently navigate to the hand area by clicking the frame buttons, which will swiftly move your camera accordingly.
AccuRig – Bind Skin
Now, make your objects visible again, but this time only select the parts of your character that should deform along with the skeleton. Leave any objects that shouldn’t bend during animation unselected, such as hats, armor, glasses, and similar items. Proceed to click the Bind Skin button.
This action will bind the selected bendable parts to the skeleton, grouping them together. The non-bendable objects will be placed in a separate group above as accessories. To ensure everything is working properly, you can click the “Check Animation” button to test your asset before exiting the AccuRIG mode. Once you are satisfied with the results, click the AccuRIG button again to exit AccuRIG mode.
Relink Your ZBrush File
It’s important to remember that when we entered AccuRIG mode, our character was automatically positioned to stand on the ground plane. Therefore, we need to update our ZBrush model to match this alignment. To do so, select the topmost group object for your character and click the GoZ button located at the top of the interface. In the dialogue box, ensure that “Relink” is automatically chosen for all your objects. Additionally, select “Current Pose” and then click the “GoZ” button. This action will send the vertex positions of your newly bound objects from CC back to ZBrush, updating the character’s location accordingly.
You will also notice that the subdivision history for your subtools in ZBrush remains intact, preserving any high-resolution details you have sculpted. It is recommended to save both your Character Creator and your ZBrush file. You can do this by navigating to “File > Save As” in both applications.
Adding Poses and Animations to Your Character
Back in CC, go to the “Content” tab and include an animation for your character. Explore the timeline to locate the ideal pose, and utilize the “Edit Pose” button in the “Modify > Motion Pose” tab to make precise adjustments. You can also drag a pose onto your character or select an animation from the “Motion” menu in the “Animation Playback” section.
Sending Poses Back to ZBrush
Once you have chosen a pose you like, go to the “Plugins > ZBrush Pose Link” menu. There, you will find options for sending the T/A poses to ZBrush, as well as the option to send the current character pose. Select the option to send your current pose back to ZBrush, which will save the pose data as a layer for each subtool.
Moreover, it will organize the pose into a conveniently selectable button. You can rename a pose by selecting it, and you can easily switch between poses using these buttons.
In subsequent articles, we will explore the remaining features of the Pose Tools plugin. However, what we have covered so far should encompass the majority of what you will need.
PART 2 : Posing a Custom ZBrush Character in CC with custom & library accessories
Now that we are familiar with the fundamental procedure, let’s discuss how you can bring your custom accessories into CC for posing, as well as how to import pre-existing assets from the CC library back into ZBrush. If you’re interested in creating a character of this nature, I have a 12-part series available on ArtStation Learning that you can follow along with. It provides detailed guidance and instructions for the entire process.
Polycount & ZRemesh
One important consideration is the polygon count when sending your model to CC. While you can create highly detailed models with millions of polygons in ZBrush, attempting to pose such a dense mesh would be extremely challenging. Instead, you can utilize ZRemesher and Project functions in ZBrush to generate a lower-density subdivision mesh that can be easily rigged and animated. By projecting your details onto higher-density subdivisions, you can preserve the intricate details without sacrificing performance. The step-by-step process for achieving this is thoroughly explained in the accompanying video.
Transferring Polypaint to Textures
One drawback of transferring a low-resolution mesh is that the quality of your polypaint may appear blurry without the high-resolution vertices to support it. However, this issue can be addressed by transferring the polypaint data (vertex color) from the high- to low-poly geometry. By doing this, your character will maintain its visual appeal during animation in CC. If you don’t mind animating with only the low-poly geometry, you can skip this step as it doesn’t affect functionality but rather just enhances the visuals.
The process for transferring the model is similar to the previous setup. Just resize your character using the Pose Tools plugin (be sure to select your body mesh during resizing), and then send it to CC using GoZ. You will observe that the subtools with transferred polypaint as textures will appear as intended. However, objects without textures may lose their color. To address this, you have two options.
First, you can change the geometry display from “Normal” to “Smooth” to visualize the vertex color (polypaint) transferred from ZBrush. Alternatively, you can navigate to the “Modify > Material” tab and select a diffuse color for that specific object to restore its original color.
AccuRIG & Animation
Once again, the process is identical to the one demonstrated with the soldier. Begin by selecting all the objects that will undergo deformation and click on “Bind Skin” in AccuRIG. Make sure to choose “Selected Meshes” to bind only the selected objects.
Objects that should remain rigid, such as glasses, headphones, and the Walkman, should be left unselected. After binding the skin, you can exit AccuRIG and proceed to apply animations or poses to your character without any issues.
In ZBrush, append any custom accessories that you wish to pose your character with. Afterward, use the “GoZ All” function to send the entire scene back to CC. The newly appended subtools will automatically be added as accessories. Select them and adjust their pivot points to ensure they align properly with the character’s interaction, such as placing them in the character’s right hand in this case.
Remember to modify the “Attach to” section to the appropriate bone for your character, such as “CC_Base_R_Hand”. Once the accessory positions are adjusted, use the “GoZ” button within CC to relay the updated positions of the accessories back to ZBrush.
Adding CC Accessories
In the “Content” tab of CC, locate the “Accessory” section. From there, you can either drag and drop the desired accessories onto your character or obtain accessories from the Reallusion Content Store. By default, accessories are assigned to joints based on the best guess. For instance, sunglasses and hats are typically attached to the “CC_Base_Head” joint. However, you have the freedom to update the pivot, reposition the objects, and modify their attachments as per your requirements.
Once you have made the necessary adjustments, ensure that all objects in your scene are visible and selected. Then, use the GoZ feature in CC to transfer the updated scene, including the new accessories, back to ZBrush. This way, your ZBrush scene will be seamlessly updated with the newly added accessories.
Posing & Visibility Sets
Similar to the previous article, you can create multiple poses in CC and then send them back to ZBrush for convenient storage and access. To accomplish this, use the option “Send Current Pose to ZBrush Pose Tools” located in the “Plugins > ZBrush Pose Link” menu. This will store your poses and make them easily accessible within ZBrush. Additionally, for each pose, you can assign a “Subtool Visibility Set”, enabling you to show or hide specific subtools associated with that pose.
PART 3 : CC Cloth Simulation, Weight Paint, & ZBrush Cloth Sculpting
In addition to binding objects to a skeleton, we can enhance the CC by incorporating cloth simulation. This means that as our character animates, cloth objects will move and behave realistically, flowing naturally with their movements. If you’re intrigued by the idea of designing such dynamic characters, I invite you to join a series of livestreams where I demonstrate the entire creation process.
UVs for Cloth Objects
The initial steps for setting up your character will remain the same as demonstrated in the previous tutorial (naming your subtools, ensuring lower subdivisions for GoZ transfer, etc.). However, for the objects intended to be simulated in CC, it’s important to have UVs in place for generating a weight map later on. To expedite the UV creation process, we will employ the UV Master plugin in ZBrush.
Once you have rigged and bound your character, you may encounter a few problematic areas. In our case, the cloth around the character’s neck may exhibit unnatural bending when the head moves, and the cloth cloak might appear as if it’s stuck to the limbs. To address both of these issues, follow these steps:
Select the problematic cloth objects and navigate to the “Modify” panel.
Click on the “Skin Weights” button.
For the neck cloth, use the paint operation to ensure that it stays connected to the “CC_Base_Spine02” bone.
As for the cloak, employ the Selection mode and perform a “Quick Replace” operation on all vertices associated with the cloth. Assign them to the “Spine02” bone.
By executing these steps, you should be able to rectify the bending of the neck cloth and ensure that the cloak follows the movements of the “Spine02” bone without appearing stuck to the character’s limbs.
To create the illusion of the cloth coming in contact with the character’s body without incurring the performance cost of using the body geometry itself, we can employ collision shapes. By pressing the “Collision Shape” button, we can add shapes to specific areas of the body where the cloak will interact, such as the chest, shoulders, and arms.
To activate physics for the selected character group, follow these steps:
With the top character group selected, navigate to the “Modify” section.
Click on the “Physics” tab within the “Modify” section.
Check the box labeled “Activate Physics” to enable physics simulations for the character.
Once you activate physics, CC will prompt you to assign a weight map to the materials. In this case, we want to associate the weight map with the “Cloth Cloak” material. However, since we don’t have an image for the weight map yet, we can create one using ZBrush. Here’s how:
Return to ZBrush and polypaint the desired areas of the character where the cloth will be bound, in this case, “Spine02”. This will serve as our weight map.
Transfer the polypaint information to a texture, similar to how we did it with the socks earlier.
Export the texture as our weight map.
Finally, in CC, we can plug the exported weight map into the material assigned to the cloth. The black parts of the weight map will be bound to the “Spine02” object, while the white parts will move freely like cloth, colliding with the collision shapes as the character animates.
Rigid Body, Soft Cloth, & Animation
To achieve the desired effect, follow these steps:
Enable the Rigid Body and Soft Cloth simulation options. You can find them at the top of your menu or by checking the respective boxes in the “Edit > Project Settings” menu.
Additionally, consider turning on the “Bake Animation” option while you’re in the settings menu. This allows you to scrub the timeline smoothly after the cloth simulation is completed.
Now, proceed to add an animation from the “Content” tab. Choose the desired animation that you want to apply to the cloth.
Finally, click the “Play” button in the animation player to start the playback.
Tip: To ensure the cloth reacts appropriately throughout each frame of the animation, change the playback setting from “Realtime” to “ByFrame”.
This will provide a frame-by-frame playback, allowing the cloth to respond accurately.
Pose Tools and Editing
As always, follow these steps to utilize the Pose Tools in ZBrush using the “Plugins > ZBrush Pose Link > Send Active Pose” option. This will transmit all the available pose options to ZBrush. After completing this step, click the “Edit Current Pose” button within the ZBrush Pose Tools plugin. This action will activate the REC button for each layer in the pose, enabling you to make sculptural modifications to any subtool.
Once you have finished editing, click the “Save Current Record” button. You can then proceed to edit your next pose or import a new pose from CC into ZBrush Pose Tools.
PART 4 : Pose Tools ZBrush Plugin: Layer & Pose Management with CC
We’ve discussed using CC to create poses, but what about utilizing ZBrush for posing? Have you ever used ZBrush to pose before, perhaps using layers, but now you want to convert them into Pose Tools poses? The process is straightforward.
Here’s what you need to do:
Open ZBrush and navigate to “ZPlugin > Transpose Master”.
Make the desired pose changes using masking and gizmo/transpose lines.
With the Layer activated, press the “TPose | SubT” button. This action will send your Transpose Master changes back to your subtools, storing each change as a generic layer.
By following these steps, you can seamlessly transition your ZBrush layers into Pose Tools poses, making it super easy to work with your desired poses.
Dynamic Cloth Simulation in ZBrush
Notice how we opted not to sculpt our cloak using Transpose Master. Instead, we can achieve the desired effect by following these steps: First, click on “Edit Current Pose” to position the cloth over the character. Then, utilize ZBrush’s dynamic cloth functionality to simulate the cloak over the body.
This feature allows you to apply cloth simulation to your sculpting brushes. For more details and guidance on ZBrush’s dynamic cloth functionality, including using cloth simulation with sculpting brushes, refer to the What’s New – ZBrush 2021 playlist.
Delete vs Remove
If you have a pose selected in the Pose Tools plugin, there are two options to remove it:
Press the “Remove” button: This will remove the pose from the Pose Tools library while keeping the edited layers in the subtools intact.
Use the “Delete” button: This option deletes the layers from the subtools, effectively removing the pose data from both the subtools and the Pose Tools plugin.
You also have the ability to create new layers for each individual subtool. These layers can be modified independently, allowing you to make specific changes such as applying a weave surface noise. The great thing is that these layers can be toggled on and off for the other posed meshes as well, providing flexibility and control over the modifications across multiple meshes.
Posing your ZBrush creations in CC is not only easy but also faster, with results that are easily organized using the Pose Tools pose library. With minimal preparation, your creations can achieve more, faster, and with higher quality compared to traditional manual methods. While we’re only beginning to explore the potential of Character Creator in enhancing character pipelines, this is undoubtedly a promising start!
Reallusion is hosting its annual 2D competition Animation At Work from now until August 13th, 2023. Participants are encouraged to utilize Cartoon Animator 5’s realtime character creation and 2D motion capture technology to create entries in categories including Business & Commercial, Comic & Art, and Educational Animation. The total prize pool is over USD 15,000 for worldwide contestants, with multiple sponsored prizes from XP-Pen, Magix, and Affinity.
6 categories, 12 winning spots, and MORE!
The contest invites participants to animate reallife projects for business promotions, educational training materials, animated comics, YouTube videos, and more.
Business & Commercial: Create an animated video commercial to promote a reallife or fictional concept, product, or service.
Comic & Art: We invite graphic art designers who possess the ability to transform original static drawings, illustrative art, or comic images into captivating animations.
Education: Utilize animated videos for educational purposes, including storytelling, kids’ songs, or instructional videos.
Best Use of CTA: If you are using Cartoon Animator 5 to compete, try to incorporate secondary animations such as Spring Dynamics and Free Form Deformation.
Best Animated Mascot: Promote your brand with your own unique character and demonstrate its animations using Cartoon Animator!
Vertical Shorts: Create a mobile friendly vertical 2D short and upload it to YouTube, Instagram, or TikTok. Video length must be 15 seconds above.
The best chance for aspiring artists to enter the contest
Reallusion welcomes worldwide 2D artists to leverage a 2 month free software and free educational resources to participate in this event.
Free trial: Don’t have Cartoon Animator to compete? No worries! You can always trial use it for 30 days first from our FREE Trial Page.
Free webinars: Hosted by Reallusion’s certified trainers Mark Diaz and GarryPye. This webpage is a place where you can back up your Cartoon Animator knowledge before diving into contest entry production. Mark is the founder of 2D Animation 101 and a TED Talk speaker. Whereas Garry is Reallusion’s Community Manager for CTA and a CTA veteran. They will guide you on how to get started with Cartoon Animator and master the key skills for the contest.
About the Animation at Work Contest: register today! The Reallusion Animation At Work Contest is an event that invites EVERYONE to use their imagination to animate real-life projects like business promotions, educational training materials, how-to videos, animated comics, YouTube news videos, and more. Would-be participants can freely enter any of the four categories to compete with the 2D animation community.
About Cartoon Animator: Cartoon Animator is a 2D animation software designed for both abilities of entry and productivity. You can turn images into animated characters, control characters with your expressions, generate lip-sync animation from audio, accomplish 3D parallax scenes, produce 2D visual effects, access content resources, and wield a comprehensive Photoshop pipeline to rapidly customize characters and create content.
The “2022 Animation At Work” contest was a runaway success that consisted of 30 winning submissions, with more creativity and skill in a single contest than we have ever witnessed. Winners not only walked away with big prizes but also got the chance to be featured on the web page and become featured developers on Reallusion content stores.
Matt Belshaw is a British self-taught game developer and digital artist.
’Ello Mate! I’m Matt Belshaw, in this second of a two-part tutorial we’ll Import our character into Unity, use the Auto-import tool to process our clothing, animations, wrinkles and physics and then use the animator and cinemachine to start our cut-scene. (See PART 1)
Thanks to the work of Victor Soupday it’s now easier than ever to use realistic humans and animations created in CC4 and iClone 8 within Unity projects. Because Unity is well optimized and very customizable, being able to leverage the powerful Reallusion tools in synergy with Unity is a huge leap forward in being able to create stunning and diverse games and visuals without needing years of training or a vast budget. If you followed along with the previous tutorial, you have everything you need to follow along with this one. If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to download the Auto Setup addon >> Download Here.
Creating our Project
With Unity hub open, create a new project and ensure that you select 3D (HDRP) as your core type. Set your project name and folder and then click on the Create project button. After a few moments the Unity editor will open.
Installing the Auto-import tool
Click in the Window>Package Manager menu item and the package manager interface will open.
Click on the + dropdown menu in the top left corner and select Add Package from Disk and in the file selector menu, open your downloaded auto-import tool files which your downloaded earlier.
Note that nothing will change in your editor initially. Once you’ve installed the package, you need to save your project and restart the unity editor.
Once it’s been restarted you will see a new Reallusion menu option available on the top bar of the Unity Editor.
Importing our Character
Before we import our character let’s create a separate folder in which to store them. In the Project pane, right click on the assets folder and create>folder and name your new directory.
If you want to keep all your characters in separate folders, you can of course create sub-folders.
It’s time to go back to wherever you saved the exported character files from the previous tutorial.
Copy all the contents from your original export into your Newly created sub-folder within your Unity Project. You should have 4 items to copy, the .json, .fbx, a textures folder and a .fbm folder.
After a few moments your files will be added to your Unity Project.
Now the files are within our project, click in the new Reallusion menu item and select Import Characters
This will open the Unity auto-import window as shown below.
There are many options here but so long as we select the right options in our initial import, we shouldn’t need to use any of the extra functions. For the purposes of this tutorial, we’ll use the following options in our drop-down menus
High Quality Materials
Two Pass Hair
Bake Custom Shaders
Bake Separate Prefab
Once you have these selected, Hit the Build Materials button. This will take a minute or so, and when it’s completed Unity will automatically open the file location of the new prefab with the Project browser.
We’re now ready to start animating!
Sorting our animations
In the previous tutorial, we applied all our animations to the iClone timeline in a sequence. We now need to unpack that sequence back into separate animations.
Drag your prefab into the scene and you’ll see that it looks identical to the way it did in Character Creator.
Now navigate back to the original character file which you imported into Unity (as opposed to the prefab)
Within this folder you will see a new icon
This icon represents the animation controller for our new character but just to make sure it’s assigned correctly, drag the animation controller onto the character in the scene window.
Now if we double click on the animation controller, the Animator window will open, showing us the current assigned behaviours for our character when the scene starts.
In the Project pane, select the character file and note that the Inspector window changes. At the top there should be four options, Model, Rig, Animation and Materials. Select Animation.
In the upper half of the Inspector, we can now see our current Clips. There should be one 0_T-pose clip and a *_TempMotion Clip.
As you select each clip note that the preview window at the bottom of the tab reflects the starting frame for that clip.
With the TempMotion clip selected, you can preview the sequence of animations that the character currently has.
Depending on how many animations you added, you will need to repeat the following process for each one.
In the Clips section, select the “+” icon to create a new empty clip and assign it a name that will allow you to recognise which animation it contains.
Now using either the time sliders or entering the frame numbers in the Start and End boxes isolate a single animation from the entire frame sequence.
Don’t forget to check Loop Time if your animation loops.
Note that each Clip you create, adds a new animation to the Character within the Project Pane.
Applying the Animations
Once you have separated out all of the animations, now it’s time to add them to the animation controller.
Reopen the Animator screen by double-clicking the animation controller within the Project Pane.
One of your clips might have been automatically added, but drag the remainder of the new clip files into the animator window.
You can now delete the TempMotion box from this window. It should be the orange box connected to the green Entry box by an arrow.
The green Entry box represents the moment that the character enters the scene.
We can now plot the animations we want to be played from this point onward by right clicking the Entry box and adding a transition to our first animation, you’ll see an arrow line connecting to the animation, now right click that first animation and create a transition to the next and so on until we have a daisy-chain representing our animation sequence.
For this demonstration I’ve kept it simple with just one animation, but there is nothing to prevent your from stringing together as many as you want. Just remember that if one of the animations has “Loop time” checked, it will continue to loop and not move on to the next animation in the sequence.
Moving the Camera
To animate our camera, we’re going to use the Cinemachine package. Re-open the Package manager from the Window menu.
Make sure that the Packages: Unity Registry option is selected from the second drop-down menu.
In the search bar start typing Cinemachine and once You’ve located it, download and import the package to your project.
Save your project and re-start the editor to make sure all new options are available.
We’re going to use Cinemachine Virtual cameras to tell our scene camera where to be at any given time.
In order to do this we need to add a timeline to our project.
In the Project Hierarchy, right click and add a new Empty Game object and name it “Timeline” or something similar which will tell you what the object is for.
Next we need to open the Timeline window which is located in the top menu under Window>Sequencing.
With our “Timeline” Game object selected in the project Hierarchy, click on the Create button within the timeline window.
You’ll now see that the Timeline window looks a little more like what you would imagine an animation timeline to look like.
Now we’ll create a camera which will be used for our animation, by right-clicking within the Hierarchy tab and Create>Camera
Now it’s time to put our camera in the initial position. Navigate to the position that you want your first camera position. Basically line-up the shot as if the scene window were going to be what the viewer sees.
Making sure that you have the new Camera selected within the Hierarchy tab, press CTRL + Shift + F to align that camera with your viewport.
With the Camera still selected, right-click in the Hierarchy pane once more and select Cinemachine>Virtual Camera
This will add a virtual camera at the exact same position as our Camera. We can now move our scene camera and the Virtual Camera will remain in place as a marker.
You can learn more about using Cinemachine to create more exciting shots, as it’s a powerful cinematic tool. For this demonstration I’ll keep it simple with static shots.
Continue lining up shots, using CTRL+Shift+F to move the Camera and then adding a Virtual camera at that position until you are happy that you have enough camera angles to work with.
Putting it together
The last piece of the puzzle is to move the virtual cameras onto our timeline and deciding how long we will remain at each shot and in what order we want to change between them. Make sure the timeline window is open and visible.
Drag your first Virtual Camera into the Timeline window and choose between the two options. For this demo we will create a simple Control Track
You will now see that your virtual camera has been added to the timeline and we can now see at which frame we move to this camera position and for how long. You can change these properties by moving the box along the timeline and dragging the edge of the camera’s timeline box to adjust the duration.
From here it’s a simple matter of dragging all your virtual cameras into this control track and deciding what order you want to play the shots in and for how long.
If you place two adjacent camera boxes touching in the timeline, the camera will do a short sweep from one shot to the next.
If you leave a small gap, the Camera will Jump to the next shot instantly instead.
By pressing the Play button in the Timeline window, you will see the Camera move from each assigned position. This is a good way of checking your sequence but the characters within the scene will not animate.
Now to preview our animation all we need to do is hit the main “Play” button in the Unity interface.
At which point our Game window will play our animations and camera movements in their entirety.
From this point it’s a case of tweaking your camera positions, moving your characters and props to make better shots, and applying your post processing volumes to get the desired look and effects. Experiment with different settings until you get something awesome and don’t forget to tag #Reallusion when you upload your projects so that we can see your amazing creations!
Matt Belshaw is a British self-taught game developer and digital artist.
As a recreational workaholic, when he isn’t in the Gym or creating tutorial content for his popular YouTube channel – Game Developer Training, Matt will be working his full-time job as a teacher or creating content for his own video games
In this two part Unity tutorial series, Matt walks us through how he creates a full-rigged and animatable digital human for use in Unity’s High Definition Render Pipeline (HDRP) using Reallusion’s Character Creator, Auto Setup for Unity script, and iClone animation tools.
’Ello Mate! I’m Matt Belshaw, in this first of a two part tutorial we’ll create a character using Character Creator 4, add animations using iClone 8 and save our project ready for importing into Unity using the HD Render Pipeline extension.
Thanks to the work of Victor Soupday it’s now easier than ever to use realistic humans and animations created in Character Creator 4 and iClone 8 within Unity projects.
Many people want to harness the power of Character Creator, iClone and their many fantastic addons, but don’t have the time or desire to learn an entirely new game engine, which puts those people who have always preferred Unity to Unreal Engine at a disadvantage, until now. Using Victor’s Auto Setup addon, it’s now incredibly easy to get your favourite characters out of iClone, including all animations and use them in Unity.
Before we start working on the Unity side of things though, let’s build ourselves a character that we can use.
In order to follow this first part of the tutorial you don’t need to download any special tools, although I do recommend downloading the Auto Setup addon Download Here.
Also, since we’re downloading stuff, let’s browse the Reallusion Content Store for any skin, hair, clothing and mocap assets that we might want to use now that we can work in Unity.
Creating the Base Character
First things first. We need to create the base character which we’ll then customize. Inside Character Creator, with an empty scene, open the Modify window and click on the load neutral base button.
After a few moments our character will appear (undies added for safety). This androgynous character can now be customized to whatever shape we want using the extensive morphs available in Character creator 4.
Whilst still in the Modify window, note at the top a selection of sub-menus.
We’re going to click on the third icon from the left which looks like a square being squished by two arrows.
Ensuring you have the character selected and not one of the items of clothing that you’ve already added for modesty, you will see all the morphs that are currently available to apply to the character.
There are some morphs which apply to the whole body, some which apply to single body parts, all of which use a slider allowing you to apply these morphs to any degree.
Any character presets you own will also be available from this menu. This is your opportunity to get creative and design your character. Don’t expect to create the perfect specimen quickly, these things take time and a lot of fine tuning. Take your time and create the character of your dreams before moving on to the next step.
Applying a new skin
To apply a new skin to our character it’s as simple as double clicking on something!
Open the Content window and with our character still selected, browse to the “Skin” sub-menu.
From here, it’s just a case of browsing to the skin or skin-pack that you want to use and double-clicking on it to apply your choice to your new character.
If you’re happy with the way your realistic human looks, then you’re good to move on, but if you want to tweak the skin colour a bit, then it’s time to re-open the “Modify” window and select the materials sub-menu.
Within this tab we can select all the Digital_Human Skin materials using Shift-Click
Just below this within the materials tab, there will be a section called “Shader Settings”. Open it up and more options will be visible.
Open up the accordion tab for Skin Colour and check the “Activate Skin Colour” box.
Open up the Colour Adjustment tab and Check the “Activate” box
You can now customize the colour of your character using the three colour sliders within this sub-menu.
Once You’re happy with your colour, click on the Bake Skin Colour to Diffuse Map Button. This will make your changes permanent.
Add Clothing and Hair
Using the Content Menu, browse through your library, ensuring your character is still selected in the scene and double click on whatever clothing and hair you wish to add to your character.
Remember that there is no right or wrong thing to do here, what clothing and hair you choose to add is entirely down to your personal preferences. Once your new friend is sporting a nifty new hairdo and sharply dressed, move on to the next step.
Adding Wrinkles (good ones of course).
Back in the “Modify” window with our character selected, select the Expression Wrinkles sub-menu. (The icon that looks like a head with a vent on the side.)
Check the Activate Expression Wrinkles Box
iClone will now apply a default expression facial profile to our character.
Check the “Check with Expressions” box and double click on any of the facial areas to apply an extreme expression which shows the wrinkles in action, allowing you to tweak the strength, redness etc.
Once you’ve wrinkled / unwrinkled your character the desired amount, export your character as an iAvatar to save your progress and then move on to the next step.
Exporting to iClone
Now it’s time to open iClone. This isn’t mandatory as it should open automatically.
Once iClone is open, click on the “Send to iClone” button
iClone will start importing your character.
Once this has been completed, you can close Character Creator.
Adding our animations
Before we start, I highly recommend having a text document open and ready for you to record the start and end frame numbers for each of our animations, since once we import the character into Unity, we will have to manually chop up the animation into individual parts again.
Make sure the timeline window is open and visible.
Browse through your content library and add any animations that you want the character to be able to use. It’s not completely vital to get them all at this point but it does avoid unnecessary messing about later if you can get all the animations you need in the first place.
As you double-click on an animation you will see it being added to the timeline
Note down the animation start and end frame numbers and of course what the animation is. You can press the play button to see how your character looks doing each animation. This is often a good idea as it can identify any potential clipping that might occur or animations that just don’t suit.
Once you have all the animations that you wish to export added to the timeline, it’s time to move onto the final step!
Exporting our character for Unity
Click the menu option at File > Export > Export FBX…
In the dialogue box that appears, ensure that you choose the Unity 3D Preset. Set your frames per second to Project(60) and make sure that you check the “All” option in the Export Range. Adjust your max Texture size if you wish and then check the “Delete Unused Morphs” and “Delete Hidden Face” checkboxes.
Hit Export and save your character in an empty folder whose location you will be able to find later.
That’s it, you’ve completed this tutorial. In the next stage we’ll import the character into unity using the Auto Setup tool, break the animations up and apply them to our character.
Robert is an independent filmmaker as well as an experienced editor and post-production manager who has a passion for not only the creative process but for all things technical.
He has written and directed three feature films. His first film, “After the Flood,” shot in 35mm film, was awarded the Grand Prize for Best Director at the 2002 Rhode Island International Film Festival. “White of Winter,” Robert’s second feature was an official selection to the 2003 Sundance Film Festival, and his third film, “Godspeed” – co-written with Cory Knauf – was awarded the Special Jury Award for Exceptional Artistic Achievement at the 2009 CineVegas Film Festival. The film was subsequently invited to screen at such festivals as the Austin Film Festival, also in competition, and the prestigious Stockholm International Film Festival. “Godspeed” was also awarded The Golden Ring for Best Film at the 2010 Ravenna Nightmare Film Festival in Italy.
Robert’s background also includes producing and editing high profile music videos for such artists as Keith Urban and he has also directed three music videos for singer-songwriter George Adrian. His latest project is entitled “Wicked Flower,” a short film to be made entirely using Unreal Engine, motion capture, and other 3D animation software such as Reallusion’s Character Creator and iClone.
“In addition to how good scenes could look in Unreal, the ease of creating great looking characters, including adding wardrobe and animating them, using Character Creator and iClone, made the whole process possible for someone like me without prior experience or training. The ease of adding, adjusting, and tweaking Character Creator characters in Unreal was also crucial to making the workflow and pipeline one that was both fluid and possible for essentially a beginner into this world.”
Robert Saitzyk – Independent filmmaker, Editor, Post-Production Manager
Spruce Up Game Characters with ZBrush Pose Tools & Character Creator
After winning the first prize in the student division of the Korea 3D Character Creator (CC) contest, Go Eun Kim has been diligently honing her 3D modeling skills. She is now exploring unconventional tools to enhance her real-time animation pipeline. In this interview, Kim discusses her innovative use of ZBrush Pose Tools & Pose Link in conjunction with Character Creator 4 (CC4) to enhance the poses of her cherished game characters, specifically Dragon Sorceress Zyra.
She also delves into leveraging the rich assortment of shaders offered by Auto Setup for Unreal Engine and offers valuable insights on seamlessly integrating various 3D tools, including 3ds Max and CC AccuRIG (an auto-rigging tool). Her expertise enables her to transform static ZBrush sculptures into dynamic, lifelike game characters.
Go Eun Kim
Hello, my name is Go Eun Kim, a college student majoring in computer engineering, and I am from South Korea. In 2021, I started studying character modeling through a graphics academy. At first, I studied using 3ds Max and gradually studied how to model characters using programs such as ZBrush, Substance painter, and Unreal Engine. And by participating in a contest held in Korea, I could learn how to easily implement high-quality characters using Character Creator.
Learning various programs was not an easy process, but visible results are satisfying and fun to me. Also, I was able to concentrate on studying 3D modeling with passion because I always get excited when I imagine people playing future game characters that I have made.
For this project, I decided to deviate from creating a typical human character and instead explore a different character archetype, such as an elf or monster. During my reference search, I came across the concept art of Dragon Sorceress Zyra from League of Legends. I found it particularly fitting for this project’s character concept, envisioning a formidable humanoid boss monster in an RPG game. You can follow my tutorial below to achieve similar results:
Part I. CHARACTER CREATION
Step 1) Character Concept
Use Character Creator 4 to change the appearance of basic characters and create purple-colored skin and pointed ears to match the character concept.
To bring this concept to life, utilized the capabilities of Character Creator 4 to modify the appearance of the base characters, by introducing distinctive features like purple-colored skin and pointed ears to align with the envisioned character concept.
Step 2) Sculpting Characters, 3D Assets, Textures with 3ds Max, Substance Painter and ZBrush
After exporting the model from Character Creator, proceed to work on it in ZBrush. For example, to infuse a dragon-like essence, I meticulously sculpt scales onto the character’s skin.
Following that, I created a dragon ornament in ZBrush to embellish Zyra’s design.
Employ 3ds Max and ZBrush to design and create the accessories and clothing for yourcharacter. Generate both low-polygon and high-polygon versions of these elements and proceed to bake the normal map.
With the freshly baked normal map, proceed to work in Substance Painter. Here, you’ll need to apply the map to the model and meticulously craft a texture map, bringing the clothes and whatever prop, like my dragon, to their final completion.
You can also utilize the face and body texture maps provided by Character Creator 4 to further customize the character’s appearance. By making adjustments to the skin details and applying dragon-like textures and makeup in Photoshop and Substance Painter, I was able to achieve a distinct dragon skin aesthetic.
To achieve a suitable hairstyle for the character, employ hair cards in 3ds Max. These hair cards enable you to meticulously craft a hairstyle that complements the overall character design.
Additionally, you can utilize ZBrush’s FiberMesh to generate a hair texture, which is then applied to the hair cards, resulting in a realistic and visually appealing hairdo.
Part II. ZBRUSH POSE TOOLS
Q: Hi Go Eun, first of all, thank you for sharing your amazing idea of creating Zyra with her Dragon. Posing characters in ZBrush can be quite challenging. Could you please elaborate on how you utilized CC AccuRIG and ZBrush Pose Tools plugins to create multiple poses for your character?
To begin, you need to send the character in either a T-pose or an A-pose state from Character Creator to ZBrush using the “ZBrush Pose Link” feature. Once in ZBrush, you can record the character’s pose by selecting “Record New Pose” in the “ZBrush Pose Tools” plug-in and saving the pose.
Creating additional poses follows a similar process. First, generate a new pose for the character in Character Creator. You can use an existing pose provided by Character Creator or create a new one by directly manipulating the bones through the “Edit Pose” function.
After creating the new pose in Character Creator, select “Record New Pose” in ZBrush and then click “Send Current Pose to ZBrush Pose Tools” in Character Creator to transfer the new pose. Remember to save the pose by selecting “Save New Record”. By repeating this process, you can switch between the T-pose and multiple poses as needed, storing them as “pose1”, “pose2”, and so on.
This method allows for the creation of various poses, providing flexibility and versatility to bring the character to life in different positions.
Q: In comparison to your previous method of posing characters in ZBrush or other 3D tools, what are the advantages of utilizing the AccuRIG+Posing workflow with Character Creator?
The benefits are manifold. With this workflow, you can effortlessly change poses within a single project, eliminating the need to create a new project for each pose. The “Edit Posture” feature in Character Creator enables swift pose adjustments that can be seamlessly sent back to ZBrush. Moreover, by utilizing layers, you have the ability to modify the mesh for each pose independently, without altering the mesh in the original T-pose. This grants greater control, allowing for the expression of distinct clothing folds and details.
Q: What are your thoughts on the overall experience of using the ZBrush Pose Tool plugin in terms of time and results?
Initially, setting and using a pose required exporting and importing it into other programs. Any modifications also involved going through the same process. However, ZBrush Pose Tools has simplified the workflow by establishing a seamless connection between CC and ZBrush with just one click. This not only saves time but also allows for quick adjustments. Additionally, leveraging the layer on/off feature enables the addition of intricate details by sculpting each mesh differently when capturing a screenshot.
Part III. ANIMATE WITH UNREAL AUTO SETUP
Step 3) Animation Process
To enhance the natural and lively feel of the dragon animation, incorporate the spring effect function in Character Creator 4 after integrating the bone structure in 3ds Max.
To transfer facial expressions and eye movements from 3ds Max, export them as an OBJ file. Then, utilize the iClone morph creator to update and refine the morphs. This allows for seamless integration of the facial expressions and eye movements into iClone, enhancing the realism and expressiveness of the characters.
Once you have updated the morphs using the iClone morph creator, employ the morph animator to seamlessly incorporate a range of facial expressions and eye movements into the specific sections of your desired animation.
Afterwards, export the animation and bring it into Unreal Engine 5 (UE5). Apply all the texture maps generated in step 2 to the material node in UE5.
Step 4) Lighting Setup
The CC4-to-UE5 AutoSetup provides a variety of shaders. By applying the skin shader, you can adjust the details of the skin using micro normals. The Eye Shader allows you to freely modify the color, reflective light, and more. The Eye Occlusion shader creates a realistic appearance for the eyes.
Once you have applied the materials to the character as described, proceed to select a background in the Unreal Engine that complements the character’s mood.
Enhance animation with lighting effects and camera movements for dynamic visuals. Capture a screenshot and record the video to complete the process.
Part IV. Conclusion
With the aforementioned steps completed, my “Dragon Sorceress Zyra” character is finished. I thoroughly enjoyed designing and adorning characters according to my desired concept. Undoubtedly, Character Creator 4 greatly facilitates this process, making it both easy and efficient. Thank you for following my workflow and tutorial.
After experimenting with the realistic sets, I’ve decided to apply the stylized wrinkle presets included in the “Wrinkle Essentials” package.
Keep in mind that you can only apply one wrinkle preset at a time, meaning one preset will overwrite the other; but you can manipulate and combine maps from multiple sets.
Using Wrinkle Settings
Once your wrinkle preset is loaded, you can play around with various settings in the wrinkle panel under Modify.
You can adjust the overall influence of the set, and below that you can select parts of the face and apply strength settings to the active part. The strength settings are divided up by map effect. Normal maps provide much of the detail, while ambient occlusion and redness are significant components, especially for more realistic characters. There’s also the speed of the wrinkle effect, which I do not have much experience in using.
Adjusting the strength for part of the character’s face can be important for a character with, say, a large forehead but a small mouth, or other combinations of exaggeration.
Part Two: Advanced
In this part of the Demo, I’ll show you a method for combining wrinkle map effects with a custom expression.
Where to Find More Info
Without getting into the exact mechanics of this system, which I’d not be fully accurate in describing, I will say that the expression sliders are linked to the data, which triggers the wrinkle effects.
If you want a more in-depth overview of the relationship between the sliders, wrinkle data and textures, I highly recommend going to the Reallusion webpage linked here. There it kind of goes under the hood of the technology and its features. I’d especially point to this breakdown.
These texture maps are the final textures, which generate the wrinkle effects. Below this is the tier of textures I previously mentioned.
Which Map Normal to Edit
It can be a tad confusing, especially if you don’t know what all these textures do. That said, the final texture map is a combination of maps. For example, the character’s normal map, and the normal map, would blend together, like this.
However, you don’t want to edit the result, but the wrinkle part of this equation — which would be this map here:
Using Wrinkles with Custom Expressions
By default, custom expressions are not linked to the data which triggers wrinkles. Even if you were to use sliders with wrinkles and combine them into a new custom slider, the wrinkle data would be lost. There are ways to use wrinkle data with a custom slider, however. I will go over one such method.
Dial in your expression components or utilize one of the presets in the facial editor. These presets are linked to the expression components which trigger wrinkles. Once your expression is dialed in, save it as an expression asset.
Open the facial profile editor. Your expressions will be reset while in this editor for better editing. However, you can apply the expression preset you just created. This will dial in the various sliders which comprise your expression. Send your character to a sculpting application, preferably ZBrush.
Alternatively, you can use the mesh editor, which can perform basic mesh sculpting functions.
As you edit your expression, note that the final expression should be a fix, enhancement or exaggeration of the original expression , as it will use the same wrinkle data.
While still in the facial profile editor, your character should now have the combined expression dials and the sculpted data. Now reset the expression sliders, leaving only the sculpted data.
Bake the remaining changes, the sculpting data, as a custom expression.
Bringing it Altogether
You can apply both your expression preset and the custom slider you just created. This combined data can now be saved as another expression preset, which will trigger the wrinkle data.
This final expression is now a combination of many partial expression sliders, and one custom slider. Each of these can be adjusted independently.
Keep in mind that unless another character has a custom expression of the same name, only part of this data will apply to other characters.
Choosing the Right Wrinkles
Now to apply a wrinkle set. I will start by experimenting with some of the realistic sets. While the realistic sets are great, it is not the style I am looking for. The stylized sets have some chiseled wrinkle effects, which suit this character better.
The “Groove” set is almost perfect, so I will export the maps and tweak them slightly in Krita, a free painting application.
Editing Wrinkles in Krita
What I am going to do is add a bit more emphasis to certain areas. I will do this by painting in displacement detail, then converting it to normal map detail with a filter Layer.
Krita is a great tool for 3D artists as it has been developed with texture artists in mind. There is a filter layer called “Height to Normal Map”. Add this layer below the original normal map, and then set the original normal map’s blending mode to “Overlay”. This will combine the two normal maps. A third paint layer will allow you to add height. However, to add negative height, you will need a gray layer below the paint layer. So, I will add a fill layer with gray selected.
The gray layer allows the “Height to Normal Map” filter to read black as a negative value.
I’m now painting on the paint layer with white, and occasionally some black. Black basically allows you to add deep cuts to your normal maps.
The original normal maps in this case are mostly cuts into depth, rather than elevation. As this expression is a boxer being struck in the face, I figured some height would add more emphasis. You can use tools and brushes like smudge and erase to soften and remove detail. The Layer above it calculates the changes, so you don’t have to worry about the technical aspects of painting a normal map. Since there are three normal maps to edit, you get to practice this procedure three times:
Create a gray fill layer.
Add a paint layer for displacements.
Add a filter layer with “Height Map to Normal Map” selected.
And drag your original normal map to the top, with blend mode set to overlay.
I’d also like to point out that you can use ZBrush, 3D-Coat, Blender or other applications to create and edit wrinkle maps. This is probably the best 2D method, but 3D sculpting and texture painting applications have significant advantages. Just remember that you do not have to start from scratch. Use the presets as both a guide and foundation for any changes you make.
Similarly, when crafting a custom expression, you can use the facial presets as a starting point, especially the components of those presets are linked to wrinkle data. Back in Character Creator, you can load the wrinkle maps from the folder containing the changes you were just working on.
Depending on your changes, the effects may be subtle or extreme. It takes a while to get the right look. The changes I implemented are not too extreme, but there is a noticeable difference compared to the originals.
Before and After
I hope these tools and tips will provide you with a foundation for altering or even creating your own wrinkle map set. Thanks for reading!