Reallusion Character Design - AdventDestiny [Geoffrey J. Smith]

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AdventDestiny polycounter lvl 2
Hello, my name is Geoffrey J. Smith, and I'm a new member of polycount! I'm honestly very new to 3d modeling and animation [honestly any for of animation for that matter], and I've decided to participate in this challenge mainly for the opportunity to actually complete and animate a full character, something I've neglected to do for a while, despite having the resources to do it.

My planned project will be a short animation, probably 5 minutes, give or take a minute or two, and will feature a female humanoid I call a Siren, based off a design I did for the Tumblr 30 Day Monster Girl Challenge; pardon the less than spectacular sketch, my artistic skills are still in-development!

The plan is to create a scene told from the perspective of a handheld camcorder, of a man who's lost in the woods, coming across a mysterious pond that is home to a exotic yet alluring being, which proves to be as dangerous as she is beautiful.

Primarily I plan to create an original character model in ZBrush, with the hope of getting trial access of iClone and Character Creator to speed up development [if not I still have Unreal Engine 4, DAZ 3D, and Blender as alternatives], and I may use Substance Painter and Designer too.

I plan on posting this on the Reallusion forums, so anybody participating on both should probably expect some identical posts between the two forums [aside from the different responses on the two sites]. I'm totally open to suggestions and critiques, and honestly I look forward to any advice that can be offered. I'm so new to this I'm going to have to do some serious learning to get something done in two and a half months!

In the end, I'm not going at this expecting to win, or even be a top design, I'm participating for the sake of sharing my creativity and improving my skills for the future... but it'd be real great if I could win a couple thousand dollars with my monstrous beauty here!

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  • AdventDestiny
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    AdventDestiny polycounter lvl 2
    So I've begun work on conceptual development for the character; since I haven't gotten access of the Character Creator and iClone 6 trial for this challenge, I began work with an initial model in ZBrush.

    [Again, pardon my rather sketchy quality, I was aiming to get the design done quick!] Began with a sketch front and side views, not perfectly symmetrical, but I'm pretty good at keeping track of shapes in ZBrush, even without reference.

    Then I split this into two [roughly] equal sized pics, and used them as reference to build a ZSphere skeleton. I'm a big fan of the works of the late Ray Harryhausen, and tried designing the rig so as to resemble that of one he'd use in his stop motion models. Because of the asymmetry of the drawings, the armature doesn't fit perfectly, which is ultimately alright for me, as like I said, I'm pretty good at eyeballing the proper proportions with or without reference.

    Next, I used Adaptive Skin to create a sculptable mesh, which is where I began filling in the general rough mass that I want for the final character. I primarily used a combination of Clay, Clay Buildup, Move Elastic, Smooth, and Trim Adaptive brushes, occasionally masking and transposing to enlarge or reposition parts like the head and arms. Throughout this process I had Dynamesh set on, allowing me to intelligently remesh the entire model with a click and drag of the mouse, a process used to easily form the desired shape, but has to be discontinued once one has settled on the final core shape [which I haven't yet].

    [Wonky Head! (;]

    Including the 2D sketch at the top, it took me about 2 hours to get to this point, got to remember to time myself when doing these things!

    Now some parting thoughts before I post this; I consider this my Plan C for the contest. Plan A is, once I have access to it hopefully, to use Character Creator to make a model with the relative proportions I'm going for with this character, then move it into ZBrush to modify it and apply a new texture map. Plan B is to do the same with a DAZ 3D model, which I plan on experimenting with tomorrow.
  • AdventDestiny
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    AdventDestiny polycounter lvl 2
    Began some experimentation with sculpting her face; it's important to me that she has a nice balance between inhuman but still beautiful... it may sound crude, but if you can image sleeping with her, that's probably a step in the right direction. I took a unmodified female head from Mixamo's Fuse [the older version downloaded from Steam], took it into ZBrush and did some light sculpting using Standard, Clay Buildup, Trim Dynamic, and Move Elastic brushes.


    Now this is just a test, trying to take the forms of the original sketch and seeing how they look in 3D. Right now, I'm not happy with the proportions of her face, I'm envisioning something much more petite and lightweight. Also the eyes are too small, and though I don't wont them to be cartoony, or even totally inhuman, they should be more unusual... also have to think whether or not she will have eyelashes, no eyelashes, or some sort of scale as eyelashes. Looking at it now, it feels a little too much like an alien, with nothing indicating she's supposed to be essentially a sexy evolved fish/reptile creature.
  • AdventDestiny
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    AdventDestiny polycounter lvl 2
    I've started doing some more in-depth development of my siren character. For this character, I want to push the biological plausibility of the design as far as possible, though I also have to accept that at my current skill level I will probably have to portray her in a stylized manner, preferably more akin to a 'stylized reality'. Already I realize that in order to keep her attractive, I need to keep her face and body very human, and try and incorporate inhuman qualities until I reach the point where she looks too weird to be appealing.

    For the siren, her design will be inspired mostly by exotic and colorful fish, amphibians, and reptiles. I gathered some reference picks on Pinterest, and found that the most appealing and unique creatures are these exotic fish, I believe there called Japanese Fighting Fish, [can't really remember the name, but I know that the males engage in violent duels where they try and chew each other's fins off]. I also want to incorporate bird and cat like attributes to her personality and mannerisms.

  • douglassoares
    Here in Brazil they are called beta fish. Beautiful colors!
  • Rampa
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    Rampa polycounter lvl 2
    It is a good idea to keep her pretty, I think. Being that I am also doing a sea-nymph of sorts, my conclusions were the same.

    I'm looking forward to seeing what comes next. I am certainly learning some things I didn't know how to do before.

    :)
  • Lobos
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    Lobos null
    keep her pretty but deadly, the beta fish are very territorial, un learning new stuff about sculpting
  • AdventDestiny
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    AdventDestiny polycounter lvl 2
    Take two of my siren design, this time using a customized Fuse model. I did my best to match the ideal proportions I have in mind for my character.

    Original Model:



    Customized Model:


    I then moved the mesh into ZBrush, where today I focused on sculpting on the face, trying to increase the inhuman features that I began in the Fuse model [all I really did was stretch the back of the skull out a little].

    Before:



    After:


    This time I'm much happier with the features in this model. I did my best to channel my inner Face Off artist when doing this, focusing on trying to simply apply more digital clay on the features already there, to give her the feel of a real person in prosthetic make-up. I think I still need to work on the transition between the nose and cheek regions, but aside from that, the only thing I really feel needs to be improved is her eyes, which I want a little bigger. I have to figure out what to do with those flat lashes though, they're some sort of remnant from importing the mesh from Fuse as an OBJ. file.
  • AdventDestiny
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    AdventDestiny polycounter lvl 2
    I tried doing some sketches for the siren, but I just wasn't feeling inspired, so I switched to working in ZBrush, and continued to sculpt on the second model I imported from Fuse, but resculpting the eyes were really bugging me [those damned primitive eyelashes!] So I decided to make a third model, starting completely from scratch using a preset Dynamesh sphere, then switching a multiple subdivision levels once I was happy with the core shape. Throughout the process I worked using the Standard, Clay Brush, Move Elastic, Move Topological, Crease [a custom brush available from badking.com], and Inflate in reverse, with a little masking to help stretch the neck out.

    I have to say, right now I'm pretty happy with this, mind you this is just an experimental sketch, a testament to ZBrush's amazing ability to allow an artist to quickly envision a concept where a two dimensional drawing just won't cut it. I may consider taking a preset model body, then graft this head onto it, if I decide to fully complete this design. Hopefully tomorrow I'll be feeling a bit more inspired.
  • AdventDestiny
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    AdventDestiny polycounter lvl 2
    No drawings or sketches today, but lots of references! I began thinking on the various non-human details I wanted to incorporate into the Siren's appearance and personality, creating a massive list of creatures that I streamlined into 14 different creatures, not including the central human template.

    Piranha: The first thing I went straight for were the sharp teeth, so eerily arranged in a human like manner in their jaw. While looking on Pinterest for reference images, I came across a picture of the skeleton, and found they have this real cool looking head fin that's normally concealed under the skin, which to me looks like the perfect template for the head fin I wanted to include on her head.


    Rainbow Boa: I was planning on using snake like scales [very liberally] for the skin texture, and then I came across this snake, which has an incredible iridescence that gives it a rainbow sheen, and I new I had to at least try and incorporate that into her design!


    Bengal Tiger: For both the general hunting technique, attacking by leaping and grasping with powerful claws, and also the stripe pattern, which to me strongly indicates a predatory nature, the colors will be more diverse and brighter than a tiger's.


    Gray Wolf: I chose the gray wolf more for the pack mentality and hierarchy that a group of sirens would use [yes, there are more than one sirens, though how many may appear in my planned project is up to debate], but I also found this cool image that has such an intelligent yet wild look that I'd love to capture in the siren's visage.


    Stoat: A strange choice, but worst case scenario, if I can't make my siren sexy, at the very least I hope to make her cute, and the stoat is probably the most adorable predator you'll ever see. In fact I've seen them around the farm where I live, for a while there I was worried for the safety of the chickens after learning stoats frequently attack animals several times their size.


    Leopard Seal: One of the fiercest and most deadly seals on Earth, they are also one of the coolest, with a sleek design and a head that looks like a mix between a dog and a dinosaur! They also have one Hell of a bite, thanks to their strong jaws and three pronged teeth, the former between the main element referenced along with the generally sleekness for swimming.


    Poison Dart Frog: Obviously I want the siren to be something that is beautiful but dangerous, and in nature bright colors are almost universally associated with toxic danger. The poison dart frog is practically the symbol of this principle, and I wanted to try and capture the contrasting color, and blend them with the striped and spotted patterns from the Bengal tiger and leopard seal.


    Black Mamba: The fastest and nearly most venomous snakes in the world, the main attribute I wanted to capture is the unusual color of the mouth. While I'm not planning on the inside of her mouth being black, I am planning on a color different from red that would stand out against whatever colors her body ends up. [Interesting how seemingly unassuming and docile the black mamba looks like when its mouth is closed, isn't it?]


    Great White Shark: What on Earth could I take from something so massive as a great white shark? Well, turns out they have very unique talent that would help give my siren a extra level of intimidation, in the form of a jaw capable of partially distending outside of the skull, giving the shark greater reach for the jaw, allowing it to take an even bigger bite out of its prey. I really wanted to do something that would allow my siren to look beautiful one moment, than horrifying the next, without having to resort to morphing her face, but rather having a natural physical trait that seamlessly chances the appearance when needed.


    Crested Newt: I was looking around for a creature besides a fish with a form of a fin on its back, and I then remembered the crested newt, a salamander with a spectacular ridge along its back that, while not exactly what I'm looking for, is a good enough template to start off with. Other elements of the newt's appearance will probably be used, after all it is an amphibian, which is essentially what the siren is, just more built for living in salt water.


    Siamese Fighting Fish: I already posted some images of this fish [found the name for them finally!], and now the elements I plan on focusing on is the colorful and flowing fins, for the sirens "hair" and fins. The siren is hairless, but she has flowing hair formed from a modified set of fins or fibers, not sure exactly how to pull them off yet. The fins on the back, head, and arms will be stiffer and retractable.


    Domestic Cat: Always there was going to be a feline element, mostly intended in her mannerisms and the fact that she likes to play with her intended victims before actually getting to the killing them part. I also decided that the eyes of a cat are perfect to reflect the dual nature of the playful beauty and lurking predator.


    Dromaeosaurs [raptors]: Probably the trickiest to include, after all its an animal that's been extinct for millions of years. Ultimately I decided I needed a bipedal predator to reference for the actual stance and primary movements of the siren, since I realized that modeling her movements off of any other animal exclusively wouldn't work, the anatomy just wouldn't permit it. This first pick in particular is what I consider the way she moves, especially once all pretense is abandoned and she's stalking her prey. I also plan to incorporate movements and vocalizations of birds, obviously because they're the only real living analog for a dinosaur, plus the whole siren myth always associated the sirens with birds, so I need to reference that somewhere in her design [I also like the idea that the fins on her arms resemble the feathers we always see on velociraptors these days in art].


    All in all, I without a doubt have plenty of inspiration now for the final design of the siren, I just need to get off my ass and actually do it! Still, I'm very excited to see what she will finally look like when I'm done.
  • AdventDestiny
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    AdventDestiny polycounter lvl 2
    Took the better part of a couple days, but managed to put together a front and side profile for my siren, I've also updated my list of animal references, which I've labeled in this drawing... somewhat clumsily, I admit!

    For the most part I stuck to the original design I did for the 30 Day Monster Girl Challenge [twice], but modified somewhat to humanize her some more. I purposely left one side of her head bald to illustrate her skull structure, while making the hair on the side of her hair see through. I settled on giving her a petite physique, but not so slim to appear emaciated.

    1. Stonefish: The structure of the fins on her head and back, as well as the venomous spines concealed within them.
    2. Siamese Fighting Fish: The flowing fins that make up her "hair".
    3. Stoat: The large round eyes that gives a distinctly adorable appearance.
    4. Leopard Seal: The nostrils, which can be closed when underwater. Also her general swimming technique.
    5. Piranha: Her teeth, plus the general aggression.
    6. Great White Shark: The ability to partially project her jaws outside of her skull. Also influenced the contrasting light front and darker back.
    7. Gray Wolf: Mostly for the pack mentality of the siren species in general.
    8. Bengal Tiger: A combination of the retractable claws on her hands and the general stripe pattern [somewhat exaggerated].
    9. Poison Dart Frog: The bright colors of that warn of toxic danger.
    10. Crested Newt: The general build of the head and back fins, though its more based on a fish's fin. These fins can be retracted.
    11. Chameleon: The colors on the fins themselves, which change color based on her mood and intent.
    12. Rainbow Boa: The general scale patterns, as well as the amazing iridescence of the scales.
    13. Black Mamba: The colored inside of the mouth, and its speed.
    14. Exotic Birds: The sounds they make, beautiful and diverse.
    15. Domestic Cat: Partly for the eyes that can shift from rounded to a slit, but mostly for the general mannerisms of a predator that likes to play with its prey.
    16. Dromeosaurus [Raptor]: For the foot structure and the general movement patterns while hunting or chasing their prey.

    Assuming that I finally get a hold of the special trial for Reallusion's iClone 6 and Character Creator this week, I can begin creating a custom human morph modeled off of this, than start sculpting it in ZBrush to enhance the features. I'll probably have to do some additional research on how to do the more exotic features, mainly the flexibility of the fins and her ability to stretch her mouth open wider as her jaws pop out of her skull, may have to use Blender for that, and pray their educational resources can get me started quickly.
  • AdventDestiny
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    AdventDestiny polycounter lvl 2
    So finally I've gotten access to the special trials of iClone 6 Pro and Character Creator! It certainly seems like an interesting interface, though the character creator doesn't seem to be as in-depth as I hoped. I quickly put together a new female model as a template, trying to keep her proportions equal to those of the reference sketch.

    I tried to match the structure of her face as much to the drawing as I could, but there are limits. I'll end up taking the mesh into ZBrush, which I've been practicing at for a while. I'll also create a new texture for her, though the real challenge will be the inclusion of the hair and fin membranes, the only real analog for clothing she'll have [she lives in the water, so it doesn't make sense to have her wearing something that would slow her down in the water]. Thanks to some advice I got from ZBrushCentral, I now know how to divide the model into multiple subtools, allowing me to sculpt and texture different pieces of anatomy... no more accursed lashes in my way!
  • AdventDestiny
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    AdventDestiny polycounter lvl 2
    I was originally planning on starting a new topic for discussion of design and story development for my entry in this contest, but decided that it would be better to maintain that discussion here, as a potential learning resource for the other competitors [I just hope it get's enough attention here].

    My plan is to create a short film animation, which I'm currently calling Daughters of Pandora: The Beginning [the idea has come from a story concept I've long hoped to turn into some kind of film or game, and I intend this contest entry to be a sort of promotion for the concept], a very simple tale on how the desire for the sensual and beautiful can lead to disaster, if overindulged.

    There are several details that I want to animate into my siren character beyond general movement;

    I want her to have four fins, two on her forearms, one on her head, and one along her back. The back and head fins need to fold back completely, like a fan, so as to not be readily apparent when not in use. I plan to have the head and back fins fan out violently when the siren enters 'attack mode', with the fins vibrating the way the Spitter Dilophosaurus's frill did in Jurassic Park.

    I want the finger nails on her hands to be retractable, like a cat's. I also want something similar for her teeth, which are always sharp, but I want them to become longer when closing in for the kill.

    Her mouth needs to partially gape wider than usual, with her jaws actually poking their way out of mouth, the way a Great White or Goblin Shark's jaw can.

    Her eyes also need to be able to shift, her pupils changing from a soft oval to a cat like slit, while her iris changes color, to indicate a change from a passive to aggressive state.

    This is a list of the programs I have access to, and plan on using to put this whole project together;

    ZBrush: To modify the appearance of the CC model, to give her a more subtle inhuman appearance. I also suspect that I will have to sculpt the four fins on her from scratch.

    iClone 6 Pro and Character Creator [Trial]: Obviously as I mentioned to provide a human template to build off of, and to actually animate the final model. I don't think I'll be able to animate the fins with iClone however.

    Blender: Haven't used it much, but then again haven't really used iClone either. Blender I mainly expect to use for the elements of animation I can't achieve in iClone, specifically the movements of her fins, her retractable claws/fangs, her expanding mouth, and the shifting eyes.

    Unreal Engine 4: For the actual environment, since I'm honestly not sure any available environments from iClone will work for me. What I'm looking to do is a simple island beach, with a small rocky cove where most of the action will take place. What I ultimately want is a high quality environment that can be rendered in real time.

    I may also try and use Substance Painter and/or Substance Designer to focus on designing the texture and colors of the siren [I may consider trying to use multiple sirens if I can, in which case Substance Painter could be very handy at quickly creating and modifying copies of the same UV map, so that I can reuse the same siren model, but with different colors and patters].

    While I do some research on all these programs, feel free to post any advice and suggestions on what you think may help to put this concept together. I plan on writing a short outline of the story I want to animate soon, which I'd also appreciate any creative feedback on. I also hope that this topic may potentially provide some insight into the process of creating a full concept, from beginning to end, and that it will help others bring their own ideas to life in the future!
  • AdventDestiny
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    AdventDestiny polycounter lvl 2
    I wanted to experiment a little more with Character Creator, see just how far I could take a base model and try and make it conform to the design of my character. After I created a second model in CC, I ended up playing with all the texture and UV options in the advanced editor, and this is the result:

    Pretty good, although sadly it's really not much different from other programs like Fuse [though I admit the eye controls are quite effective, it allowed me to quickly experiment with a more subtly inhuman eye that I've been planning for her]. Right now I'm going to try and find out whether or not I can find a way to preserve this texture map in ZBrush, specifically after I've resculpted the mesh. If I can fit the old texture around the new model, it could save me a lot of time in regards to creating a new skin for her.
  • 3levan
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    3levan vertex
    Oh wow, how did you create those awesome eyes? Just editing the diffuse?
  • AdventDestiny
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    AdventDestiny polycounter lvl 2
    3levan said:
    Oh wow, how did you create those awesome eyes? Just editing the diffuse?

    Basically, yeah. I played with the width and height of the iris and pupil, trying to create the illusion that her iris made up the whole of her eyes, like with most animals. Sadly I won't be able to use this when I take the model into ZBrush, but at least this gave me an idea of the final design I'm looking for!
  • 3levan
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    3levan vertex
    3levan said:
    Oh wow, how did you create those awesome eyes? Just editing the diffuse?

    Basically, yeah. I played with the width and height of the iris and pupil, trying to create the illusion that her iris made up the whole of her eyes, like with most animals. Sadly I won't be able to use this when I take the model into ZBrush, but at least this gave me an idea of the final design I'm looking for!
    How come you cant take it into zbrush?
  • AdventDestiny
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    AdventDestiny polycounter lvl 2
    It's not that I can't, it's just that my plans involve resclupting the base mesh to look closer to the drawings I've posted here, a process that I've been told will not let me reshape the existing UVs. Though come to think about it, the eyes probably won't be heavily altered, so maybe I can find a way to preserve those textures. Thanks for the idea!
  • 3levan
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    3levan vertex
    I cant image the eyeball UV changing too drastically right? I've only been using zbrush a short while so im interested in your process. I still just use it in a very basic way... i wouldnt know where to begin building your character!

  • AdventDestiny
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    AdventDestiny polycounter lvl 2
    Honestly, I'm also very new at ZBrush, at lot of what I'm doing is trial and error. There's so much potential to ZBrush, you just got to know what you need for the situation, otherwise you can quickly get lost trying to discover everything it can do!
  • AdventDestiny
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    AdventDestiny polycounter lvl 2
    So here are some new updates on my contest entry;

    I decided to quickly redesign my Siren, scrapping the head fin and instead focusing on giving her the ability to open her mouth impossibly wide, thanks to a slit along the cheeks. My goal for the character is essentially to create a predator capable of disguising itself as an alluring woman, and more importantly without resorting to fantastical morphing that I've seen used in movies and games in the past. Everything that makes her terrifying is there when she's beautiful, and vice versa, you just need to look real close to see it, which will likely be the last thing you do!

    Honestly I really like the head profile design, it was something I did really quickly that turned out great. I love how the entire silhouette changes, turning something that could pass for human into something more like a velociraptor, just by the opening of the mouth and extension of both the jaws and teeth. I decided to try and experiment and design a digital maquette, something to see whether or not the current design will work in three dimensions. I also want to try something new and replicate the pose in the top drawing, something I've never done before in ZBrush! This is the ZSphere rig I will begin with, after which I will use an Adaptive Skin to create a mesh that I can use to sculpt more mass and detail over the 'skeleton'.

  • 3levan
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    3levan vertex
    Great new design for the mouth. utterly horrifying  : P
  • AdventDestiny
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    AdventDestiny polycounter lvl 2
    3levan said:
    Great new design for the mouth. utterly horrifying  : P

    Thanks!
  • AdventDestiny
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    AdventDestiny polycounter lvl 2
    [First off I'd like to say that I really goofed up with my previous post of the maquette pick; I said I had planned on using a Zsphere armature to quickly put together a reference model, but I made some mistakes that made it unusable, which I would like to illustrate so that others don't make the same mistake! 1. When actually designing the Zsphere armature, make sure you use the adaptive skin and sculpt all the details BEFORE trying to pose the rig, otherwise symmetry sculpting will be impossible! 2. Make sure when you're actually posing the limbs to hold the shift key, or the limbs will be stretched or shortened differently, making the different parts uneven... unless that's what you want them to be, of course!]

    I noticed that some of the competitors have been creating mood boards to illustrate their references, so I decided to do the same [saves a lot of space in the posts too]! I decided to start off from scratch with this project, which includes gathering a more refined set of reference that's a combination of female faces and body types, along with some animal and monster pics to present details that will all be combined in the final character design. This was all put together in Manga Studios 5, and I have to say I'm impressed at how easy it was to actually put it together: [I censored the nude pics, please tell me if they need to be censored more and I'll go back and cover them up some more]

    As I've mentioned before, Sirens are essentially a species of ambush predators that has adapted itself to prey on humans, specifically men, presenting themselves as alluring, nubile, and seemingly delicate women. The list of animals I was using for reference has been stripped down quite a bit, leaving just the Black Mamba [for the prominent mouth color, and possibly the jaw slit along the cheeks], the Domestic Cat [the eyes], the Piranha [the teeth], the Goblin Shark [the jaws], the Rainbow Boa [skin iridescence], the Siamese Fighting Fish [for the 'hair fins'], the Poison Dart Frog [basic colors], the Dromaeosaurus [general build and structure of feet], in addition to the stripe patterns of a Tiger and both the fins and poison injectors of a Stonefish [neither of which are represented here, sorry!]

    At this point I'm going to make a new model in Character Creator, but this time I won't try and exaggerate the proportions to try and match the final design. Rather, I want to take an approach similar to Face Off, where instead the focus is taking a normal person's face and changing it into something monstrous through prosthetic makeup. Obviously in this case it'll be digital clay from ZBrush, but I do hope to ultimately capture the feel of an actual person's appearance beneath the inhuman attributes. It's also about time I started work on the actual story, since I plan on trying to make a short animated film as my main entry for the contest [I also plan on doing a turnaround animation, allowing close examination of her features as they are animated, which will be my Plan B incase my first one proves too ambitious]. Before I go, here's a new sketch I did yesterday, which was designed by referencing some of the images in the above mood board. Enjoy!

  • AdventDestiny
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    AdventDestiny polycounter lvl 2
    After some issues with Character Creator, still not sure how it got messed up in the first place, I managed to create a new and hopefully final template model that I will use to create the Siren. I decided that instead of trying to match the final appearance as closely as possible, I would focus on making her more or less match the proportions of the model references from my mood board. I ignored modifying the nose and ears, because those are the features that I intend on altering in ZBrush. This is the end result:

    Now there are some features that I couldn't match in Character Creator, like the longer, thinner midriff, which will require some tweeking, along with the creation of an entirely new texture map. Right now, I'm still trying to figure out how to take this mesh and give it the mouth I have planned. So far the best option to achieve creating a narrow slit along the cheeks is to use ZModeler, a ZBrush feature that allows direct modification and manipulation of the polygons themselves. I know it's the way to go, just a bit difficult manipulating the face in that state, considering the level of detail. I've tried reducing the polygon count [figuring that I simply subdivide the details back up when finishing the model], but this is the result:

    Not sure what's going on here... why is the nose twisting so asymmetrically? Anyways, this requires some further experimentation.
  • phrontistes
    Not sure what's going on here... why is the nose twisting so asymmetrically? Anyways, this requires some further experimentation.
    Looks to me like you just need to enable symmetry to fix the nose. Assuming your model is oriented with Y up and X horizontal, just press X before running the Zremesher. To fix the lip and other details being eaten by the remeshing process, you might consider increasing your target polygon count (the number there by the slider is the target in thousands), increasing the adaptive slider, or both. You'll have to reproject the detail from the original sculpted mesh to the new retopologized one too. Make sure to make a copy of the original mesh before running the Zremesher if you want to save your previous detail. This tutorial should get you going with how to do all that.



    I'm entering the contest too, btw. Your work is coming along very well. Good luck to you.

  • 3levan
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    3levan vertex
    I love reading your updates, you outline what youre doing in a really helpful way and are honest about the problems youre having. 

    I find doing anything with polys in ZBrush a bit of a nightmare, could you not make the slit easier in maya or blender or something?
  • AdventDestiny
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    AdventDestiny polycounter lvl 2
    "phrontistes": I was pretty sure I had symmetry on, and it seemed like it would always do the same thing, no matter what setting I used in ZRemesher. Hopefully the video you linked will help, thanks and good luck!

    "3levan": Unfortunately I don't have Maya [way too expensive for my budget], and I've used Blender even less than ZBrush, which isn't saying much, but honestly I prefer the ZBrush interface to Blender, which to me just has too much going on to keep track of. If I could get specific instruction on what to do in Blender to achieve the desired effect, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

    Thanks for the appreciation, it's really something that helps encourage me to push on! I really feel that if nothing else, if I can't win any of the various rewards, at least I can learn some valuable creative lessons, and pass it on to others in a similar situation as myself.
  • 3levan
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    3levan vertex

    "3levan": Unfortunately I don't have Maya [way too expensive for my budget], and I've used Blender even less than ZBrush, which isn't saying much, but honestly I prefer the ZBrush interface to Blender, which to me just has too much going on to keep track of. If I could get specific instruction on what to do in Blender to achieve the desired effect, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

    If you like you can send me the file and I'll do it for you? Its the sort of thing i find myself hopping into maya to do because zbrush can be so fussy :expressionless:
  • AdventDestiny
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    AdventDestiny polycounter lvl 2
    I might take you up on that offer, but I'll see what I can do on my own first. I certainly don't want to take time away from your own project.

    I did a new sketch that I then colored in Manga Studios 5:

    [Before anyone mentions it, yes I know she looks like Mystique, which was not my intention when doing this!]
    This is mainly a conceptual sketch to get an idea of what the Siren could look like when fully colored. I've done very few digital enhancements of my drawings, but this is one my favorite and most complex ones yet. A lot of experimentation in using Multiply layers and the opacity of various brushes, which honestly I still haven't discovered a set that work well for me. It took quite a while to do this, probably two or three hours, not counting the original drawing. Hopefully in the future I can improve on this.
  • 3levan
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    3levan vertex
    Because of your bodyshape and texture i didnt think she looked like mystique until i read your comment.. and I watched apocalypse just a few hours ago :P

    The fins are cool though, maybe you can add some to her legs? fish usually have smaller fins along their belly, you could put these down her thighs instead? Theyre such cool details it would be a shame to not add a little more.

    I think it would only take a few minutes, it would be really simple in maya. Throw me a pm if youd like me to add the cuts :) Im mostly relying on zbrush for everything as I prefer it too but theres a few walls I've hit with it. I cant even figure out how to texture the base body from CC in zbrush because it only seems to support one texture per tool? the UV's overlap... i dont really understand : P

  • AdventDestiny
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    AdventDestiny polycounter lvl 2
    You know what, I like that idea too, I was honestly wondering whether or not to add more fins to the design! I'll do some more sketches for the new additions to the design, along with some more experimentation on the hair and jaw, and when I'm ready I'll take you up on your offer; might take a couple days, so don't sit there waiting for my PM, keep working on your great character while I do some tuning on mine!
  • AdventDestiny
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    AdventDestiny polycounter lvl 2
    Thanks to some suggestions from 3levan, I decided to add a new set of fins to the Siren, and also to make a slight redesign for them as well.

    The new fins are attached to her feet, which I originally avoided because I was worried any sort of fins on the feet would hamper mobility on the land [I'm envisioning her as an agile ambush predator, so putting any flippers on her feet would not work], but after looking at the latest design's partially folded arm fins got me thinking; what if she can fold her fins completely flat against her body? Have them fold so tight that they only appear as a narrow stem-like member along the arms and back, that way they wouldn't get in the way when she's moving around on land, but can be popped open to aid in swimming, and with the bright colors could also be used as part of a threat display, or to be part of a jumpscare moment when she reveals her true nature.

    With this new direction, I found that now there was no reason not to add fins to her legs, because they can simply fold out of the way when not in use, so I added them to her lower legs and feet, giving her something to provide more maneuverability when in the water. I'd also like to add, that already this contest has lead to new improvements in my art process. For a while, I've only been using an HB pencil to make my drawings, then scanning it into the computer, which resulted in poor quality. But recently I started tracing over the HB with a 6B pencil, which is much softer and darker, not good for sketching, but it worked perfectly to highlight my drawing. Now I don't have to play around with the contrast as much anymore!

    PS: I'm sorry 3levan, I tried to design some fins on her thighs and hips, but nothing looked right, it'd just mess with the silhouette or look weird. I'd try and experiment it with more, but I'm kind of running out of time, so I'll have to save that for after the contest.
  • 3levan
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    3levan vertex
    What about very small ones running along here? They could actually be very flat to her thigh, almost wrapped around to conform to the body. So you get a nice streak of color and detail without affecting your silhouette? Also made the spines blue as an after thought to help blend the design. but uhh yeah... feel free to ignore i just wanted to give it a try. I really like this character :)

  • Philsip
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    Philsip vertex
    I agree. I think somewhat subtler fins on the limbs would be cool. 

    But as always, follow your muse.
  • AdventDestiny
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    AdventDestiny polycounter lvl 2
    Actually I think 3levan is spot on with the new fins; they look better than the ones I did, and honestly it'd be nice to have something less complex to animate! By the way, great enhancement of my original design!

    I'm currently downloading a series of video tutorials done by this really skilled ZBrush, a full breakdown of creating a game ready creature, which I hope will help give me the jumpstart needed to finish modeling a great character. I'll post my thoughts and, if I decide it's legitimately worth the $40 price tag, I'll post a link to were it can be purchased. It may cost money, but not having to spend time searching for solutions across the internet while trying to get a project done in time is truly invaluable. I'll also post some new sketches and what I hope will be a final design brief that will guide me in what I can and can not do in the time I have remaining.
  • 3levan
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    3levan vertex
    Actually I think 3levan is spot on with the new fins; they look better than the ones I did, and honestly it'd be nice to have something less complex to animate! By the way, great enhancement of my original design!

    I'm currently downloading a series of video tutorials done by this really skilled ZBrush, a full breakdown of creating a game ready creature, which I hope will help give me the jumpstart needed to finish modeling a great character. I'll post my thoughts and, if I decide it's legitimately worth the $40 price tag, I'll post a link to were it can be purchased. It may cost money, but not having to spend time searching for solutions across the internet while trying to get a project done in time is truly invaluable. I'll also post some new sketches and what I hope will be a final design brief that will guide me in what I can and can not do in the time I have remaining.
    I've bought a few gumroad tutorials on skin rendering because sometimes I just cant find what im looking for :/
    Let me know if your tutorials any good.. im really interested in creature stuff myself as thats what i want to do next
  • AdventDestiny
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    AdventDestiny polycounter lvl 2
    So I'm back, with some new insights and plans. I've had a chance to watch some of the videos I purchased from one Michael Pavlovich, and I have to say that they are worth the money, if you don't have the time to hunt down the information for free.

    You see, the whole series of over a hundred videos that make up his Creature Production series essentially walks you through the entire process of creating a game ready monster [which would probably translate to pretty much any other character, barring things like clothing]. The first part, which can be purchased separately for $20, goes through blocking out a shape, refining it into a high-poly mesh, and polypainting. Then we move to the second part [also $20], which focuses on retopology, baking the UV for export, then creation of the texture maps, and finally ending with rendering, all in all totally approximately 16 hours, plus two hours of bonus tutorials on model posing in ZBrush, if you buy the whole $40 package.

    Since I don't want to turn this topic into a discussion of tutorials, I'll quickly some it up by my experience of it so far, as I haven't watched it all; there are some videos in the second part of the series that may not be of use for some of you, as it goes into other programs like Maya and Substance Painter. Fortunately he usually provides alternative methods within ZBrush to work with texturing and retoplogy. Also, I feel that ultimately the only way to get anything out of this is to watch ALL the videos in order, otherwise you risk missing tips on ZBrush function that could prove very vital for a quick and efficient workflow. I think it's worth the money, especially if you're in a hurry to learn what you need to make a full and complete product, but it's still going to take time to get what you need from the series. Easily a 9 out of 10!

    Now, back to my work. Upon analyzing some of the videos, and attempting to use the techniques I watched on the Character Creator model, I discovered that it may not be possible to work the way I want with the pre-made model; basically, I don't have the control over it I need, which means I may have to create a new model from scratch. While it would be a time drain, it would give me far more control, and watching the Pavlovich series while working should speed the process up. I try and see if I can use ZRemesher to alter the topology of the CC model, maybe that would give me the control I need without having to start from scratch, but if that doesn't work then I'll begin making a new model. I'm also going to re-evaluate my mood board and reference, expand it to try and capture more details and personality in the appearance.

    I'm also got a set plan for how to animate the project. I'll start in ZBrush, then once done modeling I'll probably move it into Substance Painter and Designer for textures, then move it into Blender to rig it for animation, before finally taking it into Unreal Engine 4 for animation in Sequencer. Before I go, here are some new sketches for the Siren; the first is just another take on the jaw design, while the second is an early exploration into having her "hair fins" lift up when aggressive, a very obvious nod to the Spitter from the original Jurassic Park, which has sort of been an inspiration for the entire concept since the beginning! I'm also leaving a YouTube link that is a preview for the Creature Production video series. Clicking play will provide an option to go to the YouTube page at the lower right corner of the video, where you'll find the link to Gumroad. Good night!




  • 3levan
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    3levan vertex
    How come you cant use CC as a base? You could just dynamesh it and at least then you have something to work from even if you dont keep things like the UV map. Your character is still very humanoid after all. Or do you plan on using zspheres? Im not sure that would be faster, youd learn a lot following the tutorial but in the spirit of the competition you would get the same results faster just building something in CC right?

    As an aside, I love trying to do as much as i can in zbrush but one thing that is not worth doing is retopology. Zremesher is sort of good depending on what you need it for but i would suggest never using the zsphere retopo method if any tutorials ever suggest it. its the wooooorst.

    Tutorial looks awesome, im particularily interested in detailing.. I'll have to purchase this when i have money : D Good find
  • AdventDestiny
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    AdventDestiny polycounter lvl 2
    Unfortunately the reason I can't use it is because Dynamesh and ZRemesher doesn't seem to work with the CC model, though at least I discovered why before the ZRemesher was warping the model's face; I need to make sure that Symmetry is set on in the Transform menu! But I've tried some of the techniques from the videos, but even though I follow those steps exactly, it doesn't work out the way it does in the videos, probably because I didn't build the model up over time. I need exact control over the mesh, and I can't do that for whatever reasons with the imported models. I've also tried raising the resolution of the Dynamesh settings, but honestly I'm afraid my computer currently isn't capable of handling the graphical requirements. It's not sub-par, but it isn't a high-end graphics computer either.

    Besides, I think that I might be better off make an original model, at this point I don't know whether or not I'm going for a stylized vs realistic design, plus I might have to build up the anatomy for the jaw. I still actually don't know what I need to get the wide opening jaw gag to work from a modeling to animation standpoint. Am I supposed to create her with her mouth completely open, then rig it and close it?
  • 3levan
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    3levan vertex
    Might it just be that the model is hollow and not a solid  for dynamesh? I deleted the eyelashes, closed all holes in the mesh and dynamesh worked fine for me. My computer sucks too but if you increase the max poly per mesh in prefrences, run dynamesh (i generally leave my computer and come back cos if i touch it it always crashes :open_mouth:) then youd be suprised what it can do. I've done this, modelled the high poly then reprojected it back onto the low poly to keep the UV's.. the only thing thats a pain is the eyelashes and stuff inside the mouth which i put into its own subtool and then merge before export.

    Hope this helps, might be worth a try! Lots of diffrent workflows with zbrush but zremesher is all but useless sometimes. dont forget decimation master too! its awesome
  • AdventDestiny
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    AdventDestiny polycounter lvl 2
    I actually think by default all ZBrush models are "hollow", at least that's been the impression I've gotten when sculpting, which makes sense, no point wasting memory on polygon information that wouldn't be visible or relevant.

    I know that there's a trick in ZBrush that allows for sculpting of really high-poly models without crashing the system; you divide the model into subtools, because, as Pixologic itself has stated, it'd be very unlikely a computer could handle a 40 million polygon model, but it could easily handle 8 subtools made up of 5 million polygons each, at least that's how I remember it. The problem for me is I can't divide the mesh into seamless parts, they just have these huge gaps with ragged edges. The only solution I know for it is ironically the very reason I need to divide the mesh into parts to begin with, because the one model ends up too high in the polycount to work with in detail!

    I might look into the reprojection thing, thanks for the suggestion 3levan!
  • AdventDestiny
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    AdventDestiny polycounter lvl 2
    Fortunately I've begun work on the final [without a doubt this time!] model for the contest. I watched all the Blockout videos in the Michael Pavlovich series, which helped a lot in guiding me constructing a new sculpt from scratch. Obviously this is far from complete, but already I'm very happy about how this piece came together, it certainly was the quickest and easiest humanoid model I've created by hand so far!


    The torso began as a simple sphere, which I than began sculpting on while using Dynamesh. After creating the basic shape of the head and neck, I decided to try out a technique from the videos that demonstrated the use of the Insert Mesh, in this case I inserted several new spheres and a cylinder, and combined them to form the torso... I actually did more with that than Pavlovich did in his demonstration! With Dynamesh, it really is very easy to just take a couple of random models and fuse them into entirely new shapes!

    Then I inserted two ZSpheres, which I used to create the arms and legs by applying an Adaptive Skin to each set before deleting the ZSpheres and replacing them with the Adaptive Skins. The thing that I'm the most happy with is just how well the fingers turned out, I mean look at them! Probably the second or third time I've ever tried to make ZSphere fingers, and even with a low resolution they look like actual functional fingers! Hopefully I won't ruin them when I finalize the details of the sculpt. As for the toes, well they're not as impressive, but still they aren't half bad for a noob!
  • AdventDestiny
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    AdventDestiny polycounter lvl 2
    Sorry for the absence, been meaning to post more updates, but kept getting distracted. It really is an uphill battle, fighting against the part of yourself that doesn't want to move forward for whatever reasons, fear, a need to be perfect, etc.

    I've been refining the model, using another technique from the Pavlovich videos that let me fine tune the silhouette, which I referenced from an actress with a physical build very similar to the one I want for my character.
    Before
    After
    I admit, I'm actually glad I decided not to use a CC model, doing it this way gives me far more control over the style of the model, and it really didn't take long to create this model. I've since moved on to some additional modeling, nothing final, still exploring with creating a form that is both attractive but different from a human.
    [Accidental Baboon Butt!]
    I've also been working on her bio, what kind of character she is. I knew from the start that I was working on a monster character, something that would be at home in a monster movie or survival horror game, so like any memorable monster I wanted to make her a metaphor for something. Going the usual sex = death, femme fatale route felt too clichéd, so I eventually settled on the idea of the Siren representing our fear of being consumed by our inner desires and fantasies, specifically those of a sexual nature.

    The Siren is a member of a species of primal fish that evolved specifically to hunt humans. They exude a sort of intoxicating pheromone, essentially shutting down the fight or flight response center of the victim's brain, leaving them in a drunken topor. Basically, you're fully conscious and aware, but unable to resist as she and her sisters begin eating you alive. Crazy Messed up I know, though I feel that this also serves as a reflection for the fear of loss of freedom or control, something that I imagine men in particular are not accustomed to having to deal with.

    At this point in the contest, I feel my only chance at winning any sort of reward is through my creativity and character development, I've already had to scrap my hope for creating a full short film, though I should hopefully be able to do a short character animation. I also need to start planning a script for that animation, I figure that the essential quality of her character is a decidedly cat-like personality; seemingly curious, in an almost uncomfortably sensual way, but really she's just playing with her food! Now if I can figure out how to do this in a tasteful manner...
  • AdventDestiny
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    AdventDestiny polycounter lvl 2
    Did some more work on the mesh, starting with the feet, which were always a problem from the beginning. I originally created a set of toes during the ZSphere phase of the model creation, but discovered that the toes were too small, and the feet were too long; you see, she's digigrade, meaning she stands on her toes, so obviously she wouldn't have a prominent foot lying flat along the ground. I smoothed out the whole area, then went to work using the Dam_Standard brush to cut into the surface, before using Snakehook to pull out the toes.

    They look unfinished [which they are], but in this current state it actually captures the feel of webbing between her toes, perfect for an amphibious character!

    After that I continued to tweak the main mesh, while also sculpting preliminary features on the face, getting a better idea of what kind of face would work with large, anime style eyes; whether the model is meant to be realistic or stylized, I imagine her eyes would be bigger than normal.

    Still not there yet though, though I do have some anime references I'd like to work in. I'm also currently working on a finalized design for her fins. I decided to adopt the fin arrangement that 3levan added to my original color sketch, though I think I'm going to change her fin colors to something more sea green, and purple eyes mixed with green, just feels more complimentary to the main blue color scheme.
  • AdventDestiny
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    AdventDestiny polycounter lvl 2
    This is my latest update of the Siren character mesh, further fine tuning of the proportions, including realigning the shoulders and legs, and lowering the curve of her back.

    Honestly though, there's just something I feel doesn't look right, it doesn't feel like the character as she is in my head, my imagination I mean. I don't know why, maybe its just not fully detailed, or maybe there's something wrong with the proportions, I don't know?

    Anybody else here see something that doesn't work, don't be afraid to be honest, I really want to be 100% satisfied with the form before moving into high-poly detailing and texturing of this model.
  • VinceDN
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    VinceDN vertex
    Hey Advent,

    3D is a little wonky on this aspect as there are only limited ways to 'skip' UV, materials, texture, lighting and final rendering and see how your current choices affect the final model. The best this I've come up with is overpainting posed versions or blockouts to try and see how the final elements will line up. Try making some poses with Transpose and Pose Master I think it's called, will maybe give you fresh eyes on how do push forward
  • AdventDestiny
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    AdventDestiny polycounter lvl 2
    To VinceDN, thanks for the suggestion, I didn't actually get to use it before figuring out what was the problem, but I'm sure it'll come in handy in the near future!

    I decided to import some reference anatomy pics from a CG modeling book I own, which proved very helpful, as it allowed me to determine what was off anatomically speaking, and after some trial and error [which ultimately resulted in the destruction of my beautifully crafted fingers :'(  ], I managed to work the model to roughly correspond with the build of the reference.

    Now it's not a perfect match, but that was the point, the Siren's proportions are different, ultimately very thin, but not so thin that too many bones would be showing. Now I just need to study some other references of models with slimmer builds to get it right. At this point I'm planning on splitting the model into individual pieces [Head and neck, torso, arms, and legs], so that I can begin working in higher levels of detail in specific areas.
  • AdventDestiny
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    AdventDestiny polycounter lvl 2
    I've finally gotten started on the "hair" for my character. Technically its not hair, but a pair of fins that flow along the sides of her head like hair, and can be raised like a frill when aggressive or alarmed [if I can figure out how to rig and animate it!]

    Working on the hairline may prove tricky, but all in all it looks pretty good. I created the hair in ZBrush by creating a Mask in the general shape of the "hair", then in the Subtool menu used Extract to create a new subtool from the mask. Took a bit of tinkering with the scaling to find a balance between thick enough to sculpt with, but not so thick as to look like an afro!
  • AdventDestiny
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    AdventDestiny polycounter lvl 2
    Did some more work, various tweaks and modifications. I decided that she needed a longer neck and smaller head, so I used Transpose Master to make a full change of both the body and hair mesh. I also pushed in the shoulders, always felt the upper torso was too wide. As you will notice, I've refined the fins on her head, establishing the... whatever those supporting branches are, they give the hair tension when outstretched, like the finger bones of a bat's wings.

    I also decided to begin the process of adding the fins, starting with some simple webbing between the fingers and under the arms. A happy accident pictured on the far right provided the template for some webbing going down from the arm pits to the ribs, although with hindsight I may have tried inserting a mesh instead, probably will fix this later.

    I used an inserted Circle Mesh and aligned it between her fingers to create the webbing. Piece of advice, inserting a Circle Mesh lacks a backside, meaning if you look at it from the wrong direction, it'll disappear. You'll have to use a Geometry option called Close Gaps to fill it, then you'll have to go into the Brush menu, go into Auto Masking, then turn on Backface Auto Mask, which basically prevents the mesh from indenting in one side when sculpting on the other... otherwise trying to use anything but the Inflate Brush will effectively turn a paper thin mesh inside out!

    I used Dynamesh to fuse the modified Circle Mesh into the fingers, and after a couple fixes they look great! I also tweaked her feet a bit, trying to give her two prominent toes like a raptor, minus the sickle toe, while the others are more humanoid.
  • AdventDestiny
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    AdventDestiny polycounter lvl 2
    I've begun preparing for more finalized modeling, starting by splitting the body into multiple pieces so that I can sculpt higher levels of detail without straining my computer. I also managed to find a sneaky use of that last Character Creator model I was going to use as a template. I had split that model into multiple subtools, and I managed to import the jaws, teeth, and tongue, so that way I don't have to make a new set from scratch! So technically, my entry does use a Character Creator model, or rather some pieces of it.

    I also took the liberty of changing the material properties, because I've heard other ZBrush artists say that the default matcap red material isn't as effective for creative sculpting. So I changed it to a gray clay material, and I have to say I agree, it looks better, makes it a little easier to see subtle surface details that'll be needed for the higher poly sculpting phase.



    I plan on more closely studying anatomy references to get much finer details, and will also begin work on creating the fins and modifying the jaw so that it more comfortably fits into the mouth. Hopefully I can get this all done in time to get started with polypainting and texture baking, then  animation... you know unfortunately I'm getting the feeling I'm not going to get it done in time, not that it'd make much of a difference, I've already seen at least half a dozen other artists whose work are much more worthy of the grand prizes than mine. Regardless, I'll carry on to the very end if I have to!
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