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How a Blizzard Artist Approaches Stylized Character Creation

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About the Artist:

My name is Rakan Khamash, I’m a 3D Generalist artist based in LA, California.
I started my 3D journey back in 2006 and have been riding that wave since then!
Worked with a bunch of companies with different styles (Animations, Cartoon, Advertising, 3D printing)
Currently living the dream after joining the best company on earth, BLIZZARD!

I have always loved creating tutorials and breakdown/making of materials and posting them online to share my knowledge and help other artists, so I was extremely happy to create this quick breakdown for stylized station featuring my latest character “Pawblo escopaW “ 

… puntastic name??  I know right 😉 

So everything starts with a Concept, created by other artists or my own. Or mixing cool concepts with my own twist.

I usually like to go on Artstation & Pinterest to browse for hours, then I create a folder and save all the cool concepts that I found cool, interesting, dope !  


Seeing this concept by Rodolfo Oliveira Rodo‎, I just HAD to recreate it in 3D… I knew sculpting and modeling this is going to be a good fun practice.
This image shows the concept and how I see it and break it down to parts, and what I think about the parts and at the same time figure out what parts will be sculpted or textured or painted over. 

Blocking Out

The main tools I use almost in every project are:
Maya / Zbrush / Substance Painter / 3D Coat / Photoshop / Redshift / Marmoset Toolbag.

I start by blocking out the main shapes for the model and trying to get a good read for the silhouette without caring much about the details.

I really try to spend as much here as I can, this stage makes it easy to move to the other stages without having to edit the model often.

I try to match the concept, depth, pose, weight.

 That been said, sometimes going from 2D to 3D can introduce some margin of errors or stuff you will have to figure out as you go on with modeling and matching scale or pose.

So take your time and keep it simple/low poly.
Lower polys to work with = Faster edits (Ask Elon Musk,he knows 😉 #cybertruck )  and you can let go of things that’s not working or completely redo them in some cases. 

Splitting your model into parts helps with uving and retopo later on, and much easier to organize.

For Sculpting I use the basic brushes 95% of the time (Standard-Clay-ClayBuildup-DemStand-Inflate-Trim-Pinch)

Retopology and UVs

Now that I’m happy with my High-res model, I export it to Maya and Retopo using the Quad Draw tool from the Modeling Toolkit tab.

For the UV maps I split my model into 2 parts, each will have a separate UV map and shading group,
EX; (Cat_1 , Cat_2) Basically has a texture map for each part.
I decided to have two (4K) maps for each part, that should give me some nice resolution to work with.
You can divide your model into many parts and have multiple shading groups/texture sets.

I also Group and name my parts accordingly so I can export to Substance Painter.

Baking and Texturing

Import the low poly model and then bake the maps, this will help you with texturing using smart materials.

–Cool tricks part—

One trick I do to get a stylized look is to use the Curvature + Ambient on top of the layers stack.
I set the AO to Color dodge and the Curvature to Multiply  and play with the values and add a Blur filter to smooth things a little “ again it all comes down to the look you are looking to achieve”.

Using filters like Blur and warp you can make it even more stylized, Also Generators like “metal edge wear” to drive the mask for the layers.

I like to add some small details to break surfaces or make it more interesting,
simply create a new layer and only check the Height and adjust its value in the slider.
Then, just give it a black mask and paint using a White color, this way you can adjust the “bevel/height” by moving the slider for the entire details layer.
If I need higher or lower values in specific areas I just duplicate that Detail layer and adjust the value and draw in the areas I want to add more details.
Additionally, you can stack layers on top of each other with different values to avoid having a flat look.

It’s always nice to have something breaking up your surface..
for nonreflective surfaces you can change the color value using “Hue/saturation”
for reflective surfaces like the gold part, you can edit the reflection value and the roughness.

I do the same for the other parts and export all the maps and setup some lights in Maya , then using Redshift engine I render the final color output and some passes like AO and ID, take it all to Photoshop and do some comp and color correction and paint overs.

And because sometimes its just… cooler, I flipped the image and ended up liking it more than the original version.

One last thing, when you pose and render the character, It’s important to keep in mind the rules of third / grid / golden ratio and other compositing techniques.
It all adds up to your final image and makes it more appealing. 

I hope you find this article helpful
feel free to contact me if you have any questions or feedback on my Artstation

Also I have a bunch of free tutorials and short breakdowns there for you guys 😉
Stay awesome & keep grinding.
Peace !

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