Drake's 3D Character Workflow
References and Concepting
Before I start working on anything I always look for references. It’s helpful to have a guide! Once I’ve collected my references, I like to start drawing concepts. It's a great warm up before the modeling process. It gives me time to plan how I am going to approach each part of the character's model as I draw it.
Getting Started - Creating a Base Mesh
Now that you know what you want to create you could go one of two ways. Create a base mesh in Maya, or create Base Mesh in Zbrush using ZSpheres. It really depends on your preference. I do prefer creating my Base Mesh in Maya since it's faster and to scale.
When I am creating a Base Mesh in Maya, I am not worrying about UVs or poly-count just yet. I am more focused on getting the shape that I want with a clean edge flow with evenly distributed quads. If your model's topology is uneven, triangulated, or has n-gons then you will run into stretching or pinching in those areas once you've started sculpting. You can easily fix this by using the Zremesher tool in Zbrush but at a cost of quality.
ZSphere Example (WIP)
I find planning ahead early on can help save me a lot of time in the long run. So I try to think about all the pieces that my character is going to need. Pieces like armor, clothing, and accessories, and I make them separate subtools in Zbrush. This helps me prevent my textures from bleeding during the texture baking process. When faces are too close together the bake rays bounce off each other, and causes an undesired effect. This combined with ID maps ins Substance Painter help a great deal. However sometimes a little clean up in Photoshop is unavoidable.
When I am working on a hard surface model like armor or a weapon, I add a few extra edge loops to the edge of my model. This helps retain it's shape after I’ve smoothed it during the sculpting process.
Digital Sculpting in Zbrush
Sculpting in Zbrush could quite possibly be my favorite part of the whole process. Typically I start with 1 or 2 subdivisions, using broad strokes to sculpt out the form. Then I’ll move on to the finer details after adding a few more subdivision levels.
I also stopped using polypaint for the most part. Instead I'll create an ID map by filling each subtool with one color and bake them. It's a must for using substance painter which is where I do most of my texturing.
There are a few different programs that you could could use for retopology, but in my own opinion 3DCoat is the easiest by far. Although it does have it’s drawbacks that you should be aware of. The first being if your model has combined parts, like a breastplate over a chest 3D-Coat may get confused and not know which surface to snap to. It will most likely pick the one you don't want and being the surface underneath the breastplate. To combat this, I create a copy of my high poly model in Zbrush and use Dynamesh at around 800 Resolution. This retains most of the detail but occludes most of the overlapping geometry and prevents 3DCoat from getting confused.
It will most likely pick the surface underneath the breastplate in stead of the breastplate. To combat this, I create a copy of my high poly model in Zbrush and use Dynamesh at around 800 Resolution. Then I export it out as a new file just for the retopology stage and not for texture baking. This retains most of the detail but occludes most of the overlapping geometry and prevents 3DCoat from getting confused.
Alright you've completed your retopology and your are now ready to start UV mapping your character. With the tools we have now this process is very easy. Let's continue to use 3D Coat for this process. Open your character retopology scene in 3D Coat and if you look you'll notice a UV section under the Edit Geometry tools on the left hand side. These are the tools you'll be using to cut seems into your models UVs. Learn what each does and find the most optimal way to cut your UVs. Then use the unwrap tool to see if any additional seams are needed. The unwrap tool will do the rest. You'll find the Unwrap button underneath the UV tools from earlier. Once you're happy with your UV layout you can now export your low poly model.
Okay you have completed retopology but before you move on to the next step let's import our mesh into Maya and do a little clean up. The first thing you want to do is apply a new materiel to your mesh and give it a proper name. This will help you during the texture baking process. Since all of the baked texture maps will be using the material's name in its auto naming convention. It will save you a little time later. Also now is the time to do any last minute adjustments to your UVs if need be. Lastly let's make sure we have properly given our mesh a proper name as well. Okay also make sure that you don't move are re-scale your mesh since it will need to be aligned with your High Poly model. Now export your new Low Poly mesh from Maya by either saving over the old one or saving it as a new file. Okay, now you are ready for Texture Baking!
Texturing in Substance Painter 2
Once you are happy with how your Low Poly model you are ready to start Texturing Baking. For this we will use Substance Painter. Open Substance Painter and start a new project. You'll see a New project window appear. Click Select next to the Mesh category and select your Low Poly model. Once you've done that you will see it in your perspective window. Now to bake your textures you need to look to the TextureSet Settings window. In there you will see a Bake Textures button. Select it and you'll see a Baking window appear. There you will need to select a High Definition Mesh (your combined Zbrush model) and adjust the ID under the Additional maps category. Click on ID and under ID baker parameters change the Color Source from Material to Vertex Color. This will ensure that your poly paint is baked into the Color ID channel. Now click Bake textures on the bottom.