Cool 3D art: Victor Hugo’s self-portrait
Victor Hugo reveals how he created a cartoon self-portrait full of character
Artist Victor Hugo
Title Self Portrait
Software 3ds Max, ZBrush, V-Ray, Photoshop
“I’m a 3D illustrator working for TechnoImage, an advertising CGI studio in Brazil. I mainly produce 3D illustrations for advertising, making all the running processes: modelling, texturing, rendering and post-production. I also work as a freelance 3D character developer, producing 3D characters based on clients’ concepts, and developing characters from sketches to 3D animation-ready models.
“One of the most important things that I’ve learned over my seven years of experience in the 3D industry is that everyone has something to learn, and everyone has something to teach. This simple sentence works like a mantra for me. It helps me to be more professional and respectful with my teammates, to have more appreciation for teamwork, and never to put my ego before other people’s opinions.
“It took me about a month to create this self-portrait, working two or three hours a day. The most notable aspect of the image is the curly hair, which isn’t a common thing to see out there.”
Stage 1: Create the character, environment and props
01 Create the concept and ZBrush sketch
My first step when creating a character is finding a good 2D reference. 2D sketches are always more loose when regarding design. In this case, my 2D concept was made by my friend Saulo Brito. Having the concept in hand, I used ZBrush’s DynaMesh tool to achieve a good 3D version of it without worrying about technical stuff such as topology, UVs and so on.
02 Retopology and props
With my 3D sketch ready, I imported it into 3ds Max to start the retopology process. I like to do the retopology in 3ds Max because it has some great retopology tools, and you can also use other tools such as cut, symmetry, connect and TurboSmooth while retopologising. The PlayStation Portable (PSP) and the bag were modelled using box modelling. Adding these kinds of props helps to give personality to the character.
03 Create the pose
For posing I used CAT – an awesome auto-rigging tool for 3ds Max that works great if you don’t need too complex a pose. I placed my character in the pose I wanted and then made some tweaks to fix minor skinning bugs and errors.
04 Model the Subway
Modelling the subway was easy and complex at the same time. It’s forbidden to take pictures inside the subway trains here in Brazil, so I used Google to find as many references as I could, and also tried to memorise the bigger details every time I got on a train. I modelled almost an entire carriage – doing this meant I could just simulate the carriage lights’ positions.
Stage 2: Add textures, shading and hair
05 Export back to ZBrush
After modelling and preparing the UVs, the next step is to import the model back into ZBrush and work on details such as cloth folds, skin pores and the cheek scars. Adding those details is really important if you want to achieve a ‘realistic cartoon’ look.
06 Export the maps
Once all the detailing is ready, it’s time to export the maps. I usually export the Normal map, Displace map and Cavity map. The Cavity map is useful for a base texture, and for when you need to push up more volume in your diffuse texture. It also works great when creating a specular/ glossiness map for skin.
07 Texture the face
All my textures are created in Photoshop. I start my diffuse texture with a Cavity map and a base colour. I always try to add some dirty maps (grunge maps or a random concrete image) to all my textures – it helps to remove the ‘brand new’ effect and creates some good colour variations.
08 Add the Shading
For the rendering I used V-Ray. Two of my favourite improvements in the latest versions of V-Ray are its two shaders: VrayFastSSS2 and VrayHairMtl. VrayFastSSS2 is a good, simple to set up shader, and is also pretty fast. Keep in mind that you need to respect the world scale, and SSS works fine. For the clothes and train I used VRayMaterial – most of the textures in the carriage are procedural maps.
09 Form the hair
Creating curly hair was one of the most challenging parts of this scene. I had already had some practice creating hair with 3ds Max and V-Ray, but always with long renders and limited quality. If you apply VrayHairMtl in your 3ds Max Hair and Fur object, you get a really slow render. The trick is to use Ornatrix. The shader works much better this way – and I mean three to five times faster. It makes a real difference, and it also has a curly option!
Stage 3: Composition, lighting and post-production
10 Compose the scene
Since my character is standing up and his silhouette is completely vertical, I decided to use a portrait format for my scene. I always try to create three different planes in a scene – foreground (the rail), middle (the character) and background (the carriage). Creating these three planes helps you to add depth to your illustration – depth-of-field blur also helps in this respect.
Setting up the scene lighting was one of the easiest parts of it. Modelling the entire carriage helped me a lot with the lighting process, because when I put the lights where they would be on the subway (two rails of lights on the ceiling) it worked just like a real carriage. All the bounces reacted in the same way as they would on a real train. To give a more appealing look to my character, I also added an area light pointed at him.
12 Render it out
The render took about five hours – it was quite slow because of the brushed metal door behind the character. I used the default Low preset on V-Ray Irradiance, and the default Light Cache values as well. I also rendered a reflection pass, a ZDepth pass and a lot of render masks. The hair was rendered with the whole scene.
13 Composite in Photoshop
Most of my post-production on this scene was colour correction adjustments. I also added some dirt to the window glass and a little depth-of-field blur. The reflection pass helped me to control the amount of reflection on the windows.
on Tuesday, September 25th, 2012 at 3:14 pm under Artwork, Features, Showcase.
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Tags: 3ds Max, DynaMesh, Photoshop, V-Ray, ZBrush