Detailing Next-gen Characters in ZBrush

Learn a production workflow and time-saving techniques for creating high-resolution geometry for use in games, methods of sculpting, generating and applying maps, and adding character enhancements for appeal.Software required: ZBrush 3.1, Maya 2008.
Course info
Level
Intermediate
Updated
Mar 17, 2008
Duration
5h 20m
Table of contents
Introduction and Project Overview
Detailing Next-gen Characters in ZBrush
Description
Course info
Level
Intermediate
Updated
Mar 17, 2008
Duration
5h 20m
Description

Learn a production workflow and time-saving techniques for creating high-resolution geometry for use in games, methods of sculpting, generating and applying maps, and adding character enhancements for appeal. Contains over 5 hours of project-based training for artists learning the creative processes of modeling and sculpting characters for next-generation games. Popular highlights include: Character Refinement; Adding Appeal for Enhancement; Additive Sculpting Techniques; Subtractive Sculpting Techniques; UV Tools and Techniques; Creating Usable UV Layouts; Strategically Combining UV Shells; Preparing Geometry for Sculpting; Exporting Geometry from Maya; Importing Geometry to ZBrush; Appending Subtools; Morph Targets; Subdividing Geometry; Sculpting Organic Shapes; Masks and Deformation for Detail; Adding Flexibility with 3D layers; Stencils to Add Details; Creating Custom Alphas; Hard Surface Detailing; Integrating Geometry with Detail; Combining Brushes and Strokes; Adding Texture with Alphas; Exporting Normal Maps; Using ZMapper to Create Normal Maps; and Applying Normal Maps in Maya. Software required: ZBrush 3.1, Maya 2008.

About the author
About the author

Justin thrives as a lead modeling author at Pluralsight. Growing up, Justin found a deep interest for the computer graphics industry after watching movies like Jurassic Park, Toy Story and The Abyss. His ambition would lead him to work at Sony Imageworks in Los Angeles on movies like Monster House and Surf's Up. Justin has also had numerous articles, tutorials and images published in 3D World and 3D Artist.

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Section Introduction Transcripts
Section Introduction Transcripts

Introduction and Project Overview
Hi, and welcome to Detailing Next Gen Characters with Zbrush presented by Digital Tutors. My name is Justin and I'll be your instructor as we go through the process of sculpting high resolution detail on our 3D model with a workflow used in many game studios to achieve higher levels of realism. Now in the past, common challenges facing a modeler working on game assets were the levels of detail and polygon restrictions. With the onset of ZBrush and the wide use of normal maps in games, artists are now able to push their creative boundaries and technically achieve higher levels of detail without having to add more resolution to the model. We're going to start this training by working with the character we built in Modeling Next Gen Characters in Maya and evaluating the areas to which we can add more detail. We'll refine the organic shapes of our character, add definition and musculature, and apply more detail and distortion to the hard surface shapes like the armor. Before we start sculpting, we'll create a UV layout for our model so the normal maps can be applied correctly. We'll spend some time looking at several ways we can better prepare the pieces of geometry to be sculpted. Once we have our geometry imported into ZBrush, we can begin the sculpting process. We'll look at some ways to sculpt organic shapes like the head and the abdomen. We'll also explore some of the methods for adding detail to hard surface pieces like the armor. Once we have all of our detail sculpted in ZBrush, we'll export that detail as normal maps which we can then apply to our low resolution geometry in Maya. Let's get started by taking a look at our goal as far as sculpting of our game character. We'll also go into a bit more detail regarding our workflow and the role of our UV layout. All right, so if I jump into Maya, this is the character that we ended up with at the end of Volume One of this series, Modeling Next Gen Characters in Maya. So basically, you have a few different options. We're going to provide this model to you at the beginning of this training, so you can just open up the start. ma file, and you'll have this model ready to go and you can follow along. You could also, if you did the previous training title, you could just use the model that you ended up with as well. Hopefully you maybe customize it a little bit or it could be a little bit different. Also you could just use a completely different character if you have another character in mind that you've maybe already built. Feel free to use your own character as well. But this is the guy that I'm going to be using. And if I turn on a wireframe, you can see the geometry that's been built there. I've just got some of the normal smoothed. But this is going to be what we're working with. So let's talk a little bit about what we want to sculpt into this guy. So we've got, you can see not a lot of detail going on here, just the bare minimum. There's really nothing on here. This is just got a few little indentions and bumps here, kind of define the main shapes, but we want to add a lot more detail. And so as I mentioned in the intro, to do that we want to sculpt that detail in and then produce a normal map to reapply onto this geometry right here. So what we're going to do is go into ZBrush and sculpt these pieces. So if I jump into ZBrush just to show you, this is sort of what we're going for, and like I said earlier, you can customize this as much as you want. This is going to be a great opportunity for you to come in here and use some of these techniques to really make it your own. This is what I'm going to be shooting for, but as we go through the different techniques for creating these panels and some of these sculpting things in here, you can feel free to make those your own and really just do some experimenting and playing around and getting something that really looks good to you. But this is really what we're going for as far as the amount of detail that we want to have in our normal map. So we'll go through the process of sculpting this guy up, and then taking these normal maps back out into Maya. Now talking a little bit about workflow issues, doing this kind of adding our sculptural detail to this low res model and then bringing it back in, there are several different workflows that you can use. One of the things that you're going to find is, a lot of the geometry in here that is going to be okay for using in a game and maybe it's low res enough and the silhouette is good and everything, but it might not be ideal for sculpting. The geometry that we want when we take a piece of geometry into ZBrush to sculpt, we're going to want to have nice, square quads as much as possible. You can see that this geometry in here is going to create issues, for instance, right up here when it smooths out, because in ZBrush what we're doing is basically subdividing the geometry again and again and again until you have up to millions of polygons to be able to sculpt. But no matter how many polygons you have to sculpt, if you have some strange geometry in here it's going to come through in your mesh and it's going to make it difficult for you to come in and sculpt sharp lines in there. And also, the fact that we don't have any edges along here, some of these hard edges, is going to make it more of a challenge when we begin to sculpt him, because some of these things will smooth out when we don't want it to as far as some of these sharp edges. So one of the ways that people do this is to build a low res test cage, I guess, or a model. Then they'll maybe take that in and sculpt their high res model, bring that back out, and then they'll sculpt the model, their final in-game model over that, matching that up. So that's one way to go about it, and that way you can make everything nice and square in your original model and then at the end you can come in and build that model over that. One of the bad things about that is you have to build it twice, but the advantages, there are definitely advantages there as well. So what we're going to do is try to take our game model, the geometry that we've already built, and we'll say that this is the model that we want to use. So we'll try to modify some of these pieces to be able to actually use the pieces themselves as a base for our sculpting rather than building it over again. But there are lots of different workflows out there, and you're going to eventually find something that works for you. Another thing that I should mention is, any kind of a game character is going to have to go into a game engine, and there are going to be specs for that particular game and for that particular engine that are going to be individualized, they're going to be different all across the board. So there's really no one-size-fits-all solution, but hopefully you get some tips and tricks that can help you just get the general idea down, and then you can adjust that to fit your individual needs depending on what you're building for. One other thing that I wanted to talk about real quick is the normal mapping procedure. So a lot of times, people will go ahead and sculpt their meshes in whatever software program they have. Then they'll maybe bring it into Maya or Max and do the normal mapping there. There are also third party plugins that will do the normal mapping for you. What we're going to do is take our meshes into ZBrush, sculpt them up, and then just export normal maps from Zbrush and apply them here within Maya. So again, doing the normal mapping, there are multiple ways to do that as well. Note on UV layout. All right, so UV layout is not really necessary to begin sculpting in ZBrush. You can take your model in and begin sculpting. You can actually, if you want to change the UV layout after you've already sculpted, you can bring that in and update the UV layout. You can have ZBrush produce UVs for you. What we're going to do is do UV layout first so that we can have a little bit more control over what things are grouped together and how our UVs are laid out. Also, because we're going to be texturing this guy at a later date, so we just want to have a little bit more control over the UVs. We do need the UVs when we export the normal maps. So we'll lay out the UVs, and maybe you're familiar with UV mapping. If so, you could probably skip ahead a few lessons. We're not going to cover every single piece. I think we're going to just have maybe five or six, and we'll look at how we can group some of the pieces together in our UV layouts. All right, so I think that's going to be it. Let's go ahead and, in the next lesson, look at what we can do if we want to change any of the shape of any of the pieces on our model here. So make any changes like that before we actually get into the UV layout. So let's go ahead and look at that next.