How to Create a Stylized Character Using Zbrush and Substance Painter – Spyro Fanart

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Katja Weimer stops by Stylized Station to show how she created her Rockspitter fanart from the Spyro franchise.

In this article, you’ll learn how Katja uses a mix of PBR and Handpainting in Substance Painter to achieve a unique look, and speed up your stylized workflow. Enjoy!

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About the Artist:

Hey everyone! 

My name is Katja Weimer, I’m a 26 year old 3D game artist based in Germany. Since I started playing the old Spyro-games in my childhood, I’ve had a huge passion for stylized games, which might be one of the reasons why I now focus on creating stylized and mostly hand-painted game-ready assets and also characters.

You can find my work on:

Artstation: https://www.artstation.com/xstriga

Sketchfab: https://sketchfab.com/Striga

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/_striga_/?hl=de

Twitter: https://twitter.com/XStriga

References

Since I’m such a big fan of the old Spyro games and also the new Reignited Trilogy, I decided I had to do some fanart of it. 

One of my favourite creatures is the ‘Rockspitter’. A cute but also quite mean little creature that randomly picks up rocks and throws them at the player.

I used the concept of Oleg Yurkov, who made the original concept art for the ‘Reignited Trilogy’.

You can find his amazing work here: https://www.artstation.com/oritey

When I saw his new version of the Rockspitter, I instantly fell in love with the way he illustrated this character and his personality, which made me want to recreate the creature in 3D. I planned to get as close to the original concept as possible and also make him game-ready.

Modeling in Zbrush

I started with blocking out the character in Zbrush.

For that purpose I always use Shane Olson’s IMM Brushes. You can get them too! He offers them on his 3DCharacterWorkshop-website for free: https://www.3dcharacterworkshop.com/

He’s a great character artist and a presenter for Pixologic: https://www.artstation.com/shaneolson. I learned a lot from him.

For the blocking, I used Shane Olsons lowpoly primitive objects and meshed them around using dynamic subdivisions, until I found the right proportions and forms. I find this to be a nice workflow for the start, because the meshes stay in a quite low poly, non-destructive state. One can always change the proportions and forms easily. Once I was happy with it, I merged and dynameshed the whole character and started adding details to it.

To achieve the highpoly stylized look that I wanted, I used a variety of brushes. Here you can see most of them and where they are used. Btw, Michael Vicentes’ “ORB Brush Pack” is a must for stylized sculpting! He shared them for free:  https://gumroad.com/l/nOkHw. Also, check out his work at ArtStation! https://www.artstation.com/orb

 

Once I finished the highpoly version of my model, I took it to Blender and did the retopology step by step. Honestly not the most fun part of the project, but we all know: is has to be done.

I also use Blender for the UV unwrapping part. I decided to unwrap every side on its own. This takes more UV space, but therefore I can paint each side individually so it looks slightly different to the other.

Stylized Texturing in Substance Painter

For the texturing process, I used Substance Painter. 

Before I even started hand-painting, I used my highpoly model to bake a normal and a curvature map. 

Used within the generator ‘Mask Editor’ the curvature map is a fast way to add highlights to the edges, which really adds up to the handpainted look! 

With some tweaking of the ‘global balance’, ‘global contrast’, ‘global blur’ and also inside the ‘Curvature’-tab, the cavities can be turned dark, the edges can become light and even some mid-tones can be generated without a single brush stroke.

Afterwards I hand-painted more details, color variations and some special highlights and shadows. 

I always use my reference picture for this, just to stay as close as possible to the original and not go overboard.

Rigging and Animation

This part of the project was also completely done in Blender 2.79. 

But with the new Blender 2.8, both rigging and animation become so much faster and easier. I highly suggest looking into it for Blender is the most intuitive and fastest 3D Program I’ve worked with so far: https://www.blender.org/

I personally consider an animation much better for presentation than some renders or a simple turntable. 

Especially in this case, the character just comes alive, starts to breathe and the viewer starts to better feel the character’s personality. 

For the future, I’m planning to make these animations even more intense and flexible! Also I recommend uploading the finished and animated model to https://sketchfab.com/

The sketchfab viewer gives the opportunity to freely look at the model from any desired angle and distance.

You can also see the finished animation of my ‘Rockspitter’ on my Sketchfab site and also on ArtStation:

https://sketchfab.com/3d-models/rockspitter-d5f4cab3207b4056a6dd0d31f8e26d5b

https://www.artstation.com/xstriga

Rendering & Presentation

For rendering I use Marmoset Toolbag. It’s a powerful program which can be learned in just a few days. On their website, you can find many great tutorials: https://marmoset.co/toolbag/learn/

For the lighting I just used a slightly orange light on the left and a rather blue light on the right side to make the overall look of the model a bit more interesting. I also added some highlights above the horns, the forehead, and of course above the stone, which is supposed to be the object of interest. 

I made several renderings and also one that fits the view of the concept art as close as possible.

As you can see, in the end I couldn’t resist doing one last rendering with the weirdest ‘camera field of view’ ever and a pink background. Because, you know – never stop having fun when you’re working, right? That’s the most important tip I can give to you. Because there’s nothing worse than being bored or even anxious about the work you’re doing. 

Stay positive and have fun! We are 3D artists – we have the most awesome job ever!

I hope this little breakdown and insight into my working process of the ‘The Rockspitter’ was helpful for you. 

Thanks to Stylizedstation for the opportunity to write this article. I think it’s important to share some knowledge because other people’s articles and tutorials also had a huge impact on me! 

Feel free to reach out to me if you have further questions, I’m always happy to share any knowledge. Let’s connect over social media!

Artstation: https://www.artstation.com/xstriga

Sketchfab: https://sketchfab.com/Striga

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/_striga_/?hl=de

Twitter: https://twitter.com/XStriga

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