By João Victor Ferreira
Character modeler João Victor Ferreira takes us through the ZBrush and 3ds Max workflow for his nerdy kid stylized character, Nelson…
Hi there! My name is João Victor Ferreira, I am a character modeler from Brazil. I did this image as a personal project, the goal was to show Nelson, a little nerd boy that wants to be the first to answer the teacher´s question being the only one in the class.
Step 1: Modeling
When I decided to model Nelson, my goal was to make a cute character, so I knew that I had to work not only on the shape but on the expression too. I modeled Nelson in ZBrush. First I did the volume then I adjusted the proportions, and finally added the details. When the model was ready, I exported to 3ds Max. I also modeled the hair because I wanted to have an overview of the hair and to use some guides based on the hair loops to apply the Ornatrix system.
Step 2: Retopology
I started to model Nelson from a basemesh, so I saved a bit of time because I did not have to do all the retopology, just some adjustments like some new edgeloops and cuts. In this image you can see the edge loops of the mesh. I used 3ds Max for make this small adjustments.
Step 3: Rigging
I was not planning to animate this character, so I did the rigging just for posing. I made an IK/FK blending system for the arms, a hybrid spine that has FK and IK systems allowing the character bending, a simple traditional reverse foot and simple controls with blendshapes for the facial.
Step 4: The classroom
The classroom was made quickly because there are many repetitive objects. I also put some Easter eggs like the name of my wife and some works made previously. I tried not to do much detail in the classroom, while keeping the same level of details for Nelson.
Step 5: Shading/Maps
I used the V-Ray renderer to make the shading of this image. I painted the maps in ZBrush, like the diffuse for the skin, and painted the maps for the clothes in Photoshop. I also used ZBrush to extract the details like small wrinkles on the lips and nails as normal maps and displacement maps.
Step 6: Look dev
I did the look development for Nelson using V-Ray, so I put a dome light with an HDRI map inside, and a backlight to check the light behavior on the skin. After creating the lighting, I started to set the shading. I used VrayFastSSS2 for the skin and VRayMtl for the clothes. For the skin shading, I liked the falloff map in the SSS Color channel, setting the second map brighter with the output function, it gave a soft appearance.
Image to illustrate step
Step 7: Scene lighting
For the scene lighting, I used many V-Ray Planes on the ceiling to fill the environment. In addition, for the main light I used V-Ray Sun and then a Sky. I put the V-Ray Sun a little bit down to make an almost sunset appearance. I positioned the Sun so as to illuminate one side of Nelson´s face, generating a contrast of shadow/light on the character.
Step 8: Composition
Text (50 -100 words)
I tried to create a harmonic composition using symmetry for the tables. I left more space in the rows that are at the center for keeping the character´s silhouette alive. Also, for this reason I put some posters in the background positioned where they are. I placed the camera at this height to make a pyramidal shape showed in blue, using the vanishing point of the tables and the top of the character´s head. I also divided the image into 3 parts, using it to divide the wall in white and green color.
Step 9: Post-production
I did the post-production in Photoshop. For this task, I rendered some render passes like direct light, world normal map, ambient occlusion, volume light and specular. With the normal map pass, I selected the 3 channels for RGB separately, and put the masks inside curves, allowing the control of light based on the world co-ordinate. I did the same for the ambient occlusion pass, selecting by the channels, and putting inside a curve and then inverting the mask.