Boys and Girls

This time I tried to make some generic male and female bodies. Although, lots of super well defined muscles and big, tight boobs aren’t that generic at all! But these kinds of shapes are in great demand these days. Actually, only a few of us look like that and even fewer look like that by nature and because of a daily workout I think. The images here are screenshots straight out of ZBrush.

For this model I imported my standard basemesh and started creating a bunch of polygroups for the head, limbs, fingers and toes. The mesh I use for sculpting is really nothing worth mentioning. Actually it’s a pretty bad 🙂 But that doesn’t matter because I use the new QRemesher feature as soon as I’m happy with the overall look of my midres sculpture and project the details back to the new mesh. I use the QremesherGuides – brush to define a basic edge flow. That works already very well in ZBrush 4.4. To fix areas where QRemesher had problems, I bring the lowres geometry to 3ds max and fix them there. For quick and dirty UV unwrapping I use UVMaster as a push button solution.

For textures I usually take some photo references and roughly project them to the mesh. Then I use custom brushes and hand-paint remaining spots directly in ZBrush. In case I already retopologized the model and unwrapped the basemesh, I transfer the polypaint to a 4k texture map and do some tweaks in Photoshop. I also make adjustments on the sculpture during texturing. Sometimes it’s necessary to slightly change the shape of the face to achieve the right expression for instance. Not everything that works as a pure sculpture will work as a textured version too.

When you do stuff like that, be aware that some shape gets lost due to texturing. Your model looks kind of flat at the end. To prevent your figure from loosing details, it’s necessary to boost forms slightly while sculpting and make them a little bit stronger and more defined as they normally are. Compare the textured version with the naked sculpture and you will understand what I’m talking about.

I worked on quite a few human characters during my endeavor as a digital modeler. Of course most of the time the figures don’t have to be naked; they have some clothes on, or armor, or whatever. Sometimes you just need to create the head. Everything else gets hidden by accessories. Nevertheless, a subjacent body can play a role on diverse requirements. It helps you to get proportions right. You can easily tell if the head is too big or if arms and legs have the wrong length and how everything fits together. Based on that structure, you can build cloths and armor. If needed, a rough sculpted body works well for cloth simulation, too.

In case clients leave me free to use my own basemesh, I use the same basemesh for male and female characters all the time. Sometimes it’s important to work with the basemesh the client provides because it’s already rigged by their animation department or they have a special UV layout or mesh flow that they need to keep intact. If not, I start pushing and pulling vertices around to get the proportions right. Sometimes I also add additional edge loops here and there, especially when I already pose the figure at the beginning and not work with symmetry on.

I also keep an eye on a closed mesh surfaces. I don’t create an open edge ring around the eyes or mouth for a pure sculpting job. I sculpt everything out of on solid piece of geometry. I think this method has some great benefits: In case the model gets printed (3d printing) later on, it’s already a watertight surface and you don’t have to mess around with different mesh shells. When sculpting the head and face, the eyes are already a part of the mesh and evolve with the rest of the face; no need to create eyeballs as separate objects. Changing position and size becomes easier and more intuitive. When the model will be used in a digital environment, I leave mouth and eyes open during retopologizing, create nice edge loops around them and add eyeballs and tongue as separate objects. Same goes for hair. I pull the hair straight out of the top of the head and remove it again later on when it gets replaced by some simulated “real” hair during rendering.

If you work on asymmetrical sculptures, I think it’s best to pose them right at the beginning instead of starting in T-pose and bend the limbs into place as you proceed sculpting. A squeezed or stretched body is never symmetrical by any means. I’m still surprised what strange forms the human body can take when in movement. It’s a fact, that the bony structure stays rigid but everything else, fat tissue, muscles and tendons create beautiful shapes. Be aware of that these shapes are always rounded. A cavity gets created by round forms lying next to each other and has a “V” type shape instead of being some sort of a bump or a hole.

Full Body concept sketches

These two models are quick concept sculptures. I left hands and feet unfinished and focused more on the gesture of the entire body. Also the faces are sculpted pretty fast and if I would zoom in, you would see how bumpy and low detailed they are. The finished look results from the interplay between light and shade that creates form. I pretty much use the standard brushes that come with ZBrush all the time, with one exception: a modified flatten brush with some depth on and a square alpha. This little guy helps me polishing the surface on higher resolution levels.

If you do concept sculpture like this, try to work fast and move on from one area to the next without getting lost into details. Always try to understand and perceive the body in its entity. Focus on gesture first. That works best on your lowest subdivision level. Therefore I prefer starting with a low res mesh instead of using dynamesh. It forces you to deal with just the rough form by moving a bunch of vertices around and gives you more control when it comes to build working proportions. As soon as you start subdividing you mesh, take a close look at the outlines of your model. Trace the outlines with your eye while you rotate the sculpture. The less irregular and erratic they are the better. Try to achieve a smooth flow and some sort of logical rhythm. If a line pulls out on one side, its counterpart has to flow in on the other side. By doing that, surfaces between landmarks start to develop and all you have to do is smoothing them out at the end.