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Zeno Pelgrims Sketchbook

It's been a while since I've posted anything on here! Been crazy busy.

Some previous wip's that I never finished:

Sculpt I did for my fellow university classmates about my sculpting workflow / thoughts etc.



A character design I did for a university summer project. Had to drop out since it overlapped with my internship at MPC - good practice though.


Some scripting work:

Fractal generator with Python in Maya:



Waterdrop generator with Python in Maya - it's a freebie!:



A project I started for the THU competition, at some point I realised that something wasn't working with it composition or design wise - so I lost interest.




Which brings us to the two projects I'm currently working on.

Kid/Dragon project:

Original concept that I sketched:


Dragon head:


Dragon body:


Kiddo head:


..Which then became this:


Current wip of the scene, might have to redesign the dragon.. The fisheye lens plus the long neck makes the head massive in the frame. It's not ideal. The project is on hold at the moment because of the group project (see next), so I have some time to figure it out. Think I might make him sit on his bum or something.


University group project - still early days!

First concept sculpt for the main character:


After some design changes, in a lookdev environment to see how the shapes hold up. Still loads of work to do on this guy, but also don't want to overcomplicate things since I will have to work with an unexperienced rigger.



  • Grusti
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    Grusti polycounter lvl 9
    I like your style! keep going!
  • zeno
    Some early skin tests for the group project. Just diffuse, no spec/zdisp/sss maps yet. Time to roughen him up!


  • zeno
    Quick update on Theodore - diffuse/zdisp only. Still loads of maps to be painted, zdisps to be sculpted and hair guides to be placed! Feel like I need to scale down the head a bit as well.

  • zeno
    Managed to place all the hair guides manually without going completely insane. Win!




  • zeno
    First proper hair test - have to redo some parts though.

  • zeno
    Some other angles:

  • Lucas Annunziata
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    Lucas Annunziata polycounter lvl 13
    The hair rendering on this looks really nice, although I preferred the larger, sculpted forms that you had prior to these shots. It also looks like you've got some clipping issues to sort out where the straps and shirt are clipping into the body mesh.
  • zeno
    The hair rendering on this looks really nice, although I preferred the larger, sculpted forms that you had prior to these shots. It also looks like you've got some clipping issues to sort out where the straps and shirt are clipping into the body mesh.

    Hey Lucas - I feel like I will get these larger, sculpted forms back when I properly light my scenes. Right now it's all in a lookdev environment with the most neutral light possible. I'm aware of the clipping - it's such an easy fix that I put it off fixing :)
  • zeno

    Blocked out the main forms of my character for my character design assignment at university.
  • zeno
    Did the head today.


    Also did a quick render to see how the shapes hold up outside zbrush and without it's fancy matcaps

  • zeno
    Painted some textures today for a prop for the running group project here at uni. Had a lot of fun doing this. Obviously still very WIP!

  • zeno
    First render test for this prop. Still need to do the lights/bulbs, the paper bit and need to sculpt a zdisp map for the fabric hose.

    Feedback is more than welcome! :)

  • zeno
    Did a clay render of the pirate sculpt. Will do a breakdown of how I combined multiple textures to a displacement map soon.

  • zeno

    Woohoow! Finished our second year group project recently. ..Which means time for some breakdowns!


    I sculpted the character in Zbrush and retopologized it in 3DCoat. I prefer 3DCoat over every other piece of retopo software I’ve tried. It’s simple and does what it needs to do. No bullshit about not being able to select points, etc. It just works.


    The skin of the character is completely hand painted in Mari (no photos involved). It’s all about layering up the skin, starting with your base colours and adding colour variations and skin details as you go. Just like you wouldn’t start to sculpt on your 5th subdivision level in ZBrush, you shouldn’t go too quickly whilst texturing.


    The rest of the character texturing was straightforward as there were no insanely complicated techniques used. All the displacement maps on the character were sculpted and extracted as 32bit EXRs.

    A cool little thing I did was using the displacement map of the vest, and piping that in as a mask for the paint layer on the vest. By doing this the paint didn’t go into the ridges and I didn’t have to mask this out myself.

    Because I sculpted the stitches, I also wrote out a colour map for just the stitches from Zbrush. This was super handy so i didn’t have to re-paint them again in Mari. Small thing, but spares you a lot of work.


    For the hoover and especially the ship I wanted to find a way to speed up the process since so many parts needed to be painted. I did this by making three base layers (rust, primer and coloured paint) and procedurally masking between them based on different variables like the angles between the normals or the ambient occlusion. This allowed me to procedurally create wear and tear on places where it would naturally appear, like the edges of objects. This provided me with a good base and I painted on top of this to break it all up.


    From the color maps I extracted several complimentary maps like specular maps, displacement maps, dirt maps, etc.


    The grooming of the hair was done by sculpting the big forms of the hair, making those objects live and drawing paintfx strokes on top of them. These strokes were then converted into curves to pipe into the hair system as guide curves. Although labour intensive, it allowed for an insane amount of control and art direction. Maya’s nHair was used, although I would have preferred to use Yeti.

    I recorded a little video explaining the process.



    Lighting was one of the areas I enjoyed doing most. The base setup was fairly simple. It consisted of a physical sun and sky system, together with a separate sky dome that was used for the glossy rays only. I tweaked the angle of this on a shot per shot basis and added extra fill and spec lights in where needed to break up the image.


    Hopefully this was kind of useful in one way or another! :)
  • JamesMeader
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    JamesMeader polycounter lvl 9
    Really nice breakdown, and animation too, really top quality stuff.
    Keep it up.
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