HELP with 3D Character Art

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lukegallowaysmith polycounter lvl 2
Hey guys, may I ask a quick question?

I'm pushing a creature through the full pipeline to force myself to learn things I've been avoiding, such as re-topology, UV's for a full body etc. And I've found I've come across more questions about the smaller things. If creating a 3D character optimised for Video Games, how would you deal with things like the teeth, eyes, and nails? Would you create them separately, retopo them separately, texture them separately then just connect them up to the rest of the finalised model, attach and then rig/skin it? I'm pushing it through some really basic animations too, so I have a very basic understanding of the next stage in the pipeline.

Any advice for hair would be incredible too. I'm still a beginner.

I'd appreciate any help/advice.

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  • Brian "Panda" Choi
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    Brian "Panda" Choi polycount lvl 666
    Create them separately, and then union boolean them into the final low poly mesh and dealing with whatever UV fixing you'd need to do.

    As in sculpt, bake, and texture it separately, and then union them at the last possible moment before you rig it.
  • Biomag
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    Biomag interpolator
    A couple of things will depend on the project and pipeline, but here a few ideas that might help:

    Eyes:
    As long as you are not doing super low poly make keep them as separate geometry that can be skinned and rotated to work like eyes do. You can combine them with the character mesh, but you shouldn't weld/merge vertices. Typically you get a kit for eyes that is shared among characters and are already positioned for the rig. Textures are also standardized, except for color. Now with creatures that might vary if they don't fit a re-used rig through out the project.

    Mouth:
    With characters you will have kits that are shared between different models to optimize texture use. You might just combine it with the character before handing it of to the rigger. With creatures you will have them as part of the low poly mesh. What you do during the high poly stage its up to you and Brian's advice makes a lot of sense, but as he points out, once you get to the low poly you will probably merge them with the creature mesh.

    Nails:
    Simple character nails I don't even bother doing them separately. I don't want additional subtools in my scenes when not necessary.  Low poly definitely merged. If you are doing some bigger claws, you might treat them the same way as teeth.
  • lukegallowaysmith
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    lukegallowaysmith polycounter lvl 2
    Create them separately, and then union boolean them into the final low poly mesh and dealing with whatever UV fixing you'd need to do.

    As in sculpt, bake, and texture it separately, and then union them at the last possible moment before you rig it.
    By Union Booleon, what do you mean? Attach? Merge? I'm using Maya at the moment. 

    I want to train myself to create realistic high res game characters. So would I just sculpt in the nails as a separate thing but attach them in Maya before re-topology and just bake in the details? 


  • lukegallowaysmith
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    lukegallowaysmith polycounter lvl 2
    Biomag said:
    A couple of things will depend on the project and pipeline, but here a few ideas that might help:

    Eyes:
    As long as you are not doing super low poly make keep them as separate geometry that can be skinned and rotated to work like eyes do. You can combine them with the character mesh, but you shouldn't weld/merge vertices. Typically you get a kit for eyes that is shared among characters and are already positioned for the rig. Textures are also standardized, except for color. Now with creatures that might vary if they don't fit a re-used rig through out the project.

    Mouth:
    With characters you will have kits that are shared between different models to optimize texture use. You might just combine it with the character before handing it of to the rigger. With creatures you will have them as part of the low poly mesh. What you do during the high poly stage its up to you and Brian's advice makes a lot of sense, but as he points out, once you get to the low poly you will probably merge them with the creature mesh.

    Nails:
    Simple character nails I don't even bother doing them separately. I don't want additional subtools in my scenes when not necessary.  Low poly definitely merged. If you are doing some bigger claws, you might treat them the same way as teeth.
    So, I'll be finishing off my creature character, and he has claws and nasty teeth, so would you recommend creating and texturing them separately, and then just attaching them to the character at the end? 

    I understand the project and character also affects the pipeline, so if it was a minor character you'd probably just do it all as one thing, but for now, I want to create the best creature I can, to learn the most I can, so I can improve more, etc. 

    Sorry if these questions seem naive, I'm just overthinking everything because I don't have much experience with the overall pipeline. 
  • Biomag
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    Biomag interpolator
    You will only texture once the low poly is done, so they should be attached to the low poly mesh. Then baked and finally textured.

    These questions are not naive ;) The thing is there is a lot to consider when it comes optimizing meshes/textures. For portfolio purposes most of it isn't exactly crucial, since its pointless to hardcore optimize something that has no real limitation, while every game/engine has its own bottlenecks that need consideration. Still a thoughtful and clean approach is appreciated. So you don't have to squeeze everything together into a 256x256 texture, but you shouldn't be using a 4k for the teeth only.

    We can give you a bit better advice if you post your creature and where you are going to render it in the end :)

  • lukegallowaysmith
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    lukegallowaysmith polycounter lvl 2
    Biomag said:
    You will only texture once the low poly is done, so they should be attached to the low poly mesh. Then baked and finally textured.

    These questions are not naive ;) The thing is there is a lot to consider when it comes optimizing meshes/textures. For portfolio purposes most of it isn't exactly crucial, since its pointless to hardcore optimize something that has no real limitation, while every game/engine has its own bottlenecks that need consideration. Still a thoughtful and clean approach is appreciated. So you don't have to squeeze everything together into a 256x256 texture, but you shouldn't be using a 4k for the teeth only.

    We can give you a bit better advice if you post your creature and where you are going to render it in the end :)

    Sweet thanks. Yeah there's alot of questions going through my head, so it's necessary to push this project to the end, to put alot of these questions to bed. I'll post my creature below. There are thousands of issues with it I'm aware of now, the fundamental design of the creature is flawed so I've tried my best to improve it, and I'm going to push it through to the end so I can learn and do better next time. If you can point anything that immediately screams issues at you, please do. Criticism is more than welcome.  
  • lukegallowaysmith
  • lukegallowaysmith
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    lukegallowaysmith polycounter lvl 2
    I'll be using Maya to Retopo/UV, Substance Painter to tackle textures, and Marmoset to render. 
  • Biomag
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    Biomag interpolator
    So I would go with a separate material and UV set for the eyes. If the eyes are not different, a single one will be enough and all can share the texture. You can go with Peter Zoppis tutorial if you need help for realistic eyes - https://gumroad.com/zippzopp#

    All the claws, teeth can go with the skin on the same texture. No real reason to separate it, EXECEPT if you want to use a detail normal map for the skin in Marmorset, but that's something I wouldn't suggest for this character. If you want to test detail normal maps, just create a second material without the detail normal map and for that case have the teeth & claws as separate objects. But honestly for this project it would be an overkill, since the character itself isn't that detailed that it would need to go beyond what you get out of Substance Painter.


    For the creature itself its a very stylized design, but you said you want to go towards realism? With these proportions its going to be tough. Just be careful that you don't get too much towards a 'goofy' look. Maybe checking with how Star Wars Rancors have been depicted? You might find other concepts with realistic designs of such bigger heads that look dangerous/scary.
    The other thing that comes to mind is anatomy. Right now the shapes look random, but actually muscles are where they are to make movement possible. If you want it to look realistic you should try to find references that help you define them. Try to find animal legs that help you with the leg muscles. For arms and torso look at humans or gorillas or something else that you can come up with. For the multiple arms you can check with other designs, for example Goro from Mortal Combat -> https://www.artstation.com/artwork/2qoqa
    Try to use only images from real humans or animals as reference, only picking up CG and drawings to see how other artists solved unrealisitc designs (like the multiple arms).

    I hope this helps. It might make sense to create a separate thread for the c&c :)
  • MujtabaYousuf
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    MujtabaYousuf polycounter lvl 2
    I'll be using Maya to Retopo/UV, Substance Painter to tackle textures, and Marmoset to render. 
    I would not recommend going to lowpoly and texturing at this stage. Your model need a lot of refining and work. If you want to learn the pipeline for texturing. Leave your current model now, dont delete it, you can comeback to it later.  Go with some models you found online. It can be creature or human. Then retopo it, uv , bake, texture. When you get a solid grasp of how the whole pipeline works, you can then come back to your creature. 

  • lukegallowaysmith
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    lukegallowaysmith polycounter lvl 2
    Biomag said:
    So I would go with a separate material and UV set for the eyes. If the eyes are not different, a single one will be enough and all can share the texture. You can go with Peter Zoppis tutorial if you need help for realistic eyes - https://gumroad.com/zippzopp#

    All the claws, teeth can go with the skin on the same texture. No real reason to separate it, EXECEPT if you want to use a detail normal map for the skin in Marmorset, but that's something I wouldn't suggest for this character. If you want to test detail normal maps, just create a second material without the detail normal map and for that case have the teeth & claws as separate objects. But honestly for this project it would be an overkill, since the character itself isn't that detailed that it would need to go beyond what you get out of Substance Painter.


    For the creature itself its a very stylized design, but you said you want to go towards realism? With these proportions its going to be tough. Just be careful that you don't get too much towards a 'goofy' look. Maybe checking with how Star Wars Rancors have been depicted? You might find other concepts with realistic designs of such bigger heads that look dangerous/scary.
    The other thing that comes to mind is anatomy. Right now the shapes look random, but actually muscles are where they are to make movement possible. If you want it to look realistic you should try to find references that help you define them. Try to find animal legs that help you with the leg muscles. For arms and torso look at humans or gorillas or something else that you can come up with. For the multiple arms you can check with other designs, for example Goro from Mortal Combat -> https://www.artstation.com/artwork/2qoqa
    Try to use only images from real humans or animals as reference, only picking up CG and drawings to see how other artists solved unrealisitc designs (like the multiple arms).

    I hope this helps. It might make sense to create a separate thread for the c&c :)
    Thanks buddy, this helps alot. I'm not finished with the model, still working out the shapes before the detail. I need to take a step back and work on my anatomy knowledge, and in future I need a proper concept from point A. Until then I'm just wanting to push this through to the very last stage and learn from everything, and do it all much better next time. Thank you for your help, and your critique. My Artstation is https://www.artstation.com/ljpgs
    The old version of this character is on there. I feel as if in the process of trying to improve it, I've worsened the model, but there were plenty of issues with the design on that version too. So both iterations seem to be flawed in their own way. I would appreciate it if you gave me your thoughts on that too.
  • lukegallowaysmith
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    lukegallowaysmith polycounter lvl 2
    I'll be using Maya to Retopo/UV, Substance Painter to tackle textures, and Marmoset to render. 
    I would not recommend going to lowpoly and texturing at this stage. Your model need a lot of refining and work. If you want to learn the pipeline for texturing. Leave your current model now, dont delete it, you can comeback to it later.  Go with some models you found online. It can be creature or human. Then retopo it, uv , bake, texture. When you get a solid grasp of how the whole pipeline works, you can then come back to your creature. 

    This is a good shout. Thanks for your honesty. 
  • Biomag
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    Biomag interpolator
    I think the issues are similar and the result of a 'messy' anatomy. Here the big thing:
    First decide if you want to be a A) character modeler or B) concept artist for characters.

    This decision is crucial at the beginning as learning both at the same time is too much. 

    If you are going for A) then pick up a AAA concept done for a game or from some professional who has done a some fan art for a game. It should have as much defined as possible, leaving as little design work up to you. Your job is to convert 2d into 3d  in that case and not designing creatures. Follow the concept and polish to get as close as possible to it. If there is a game related to it, use it as additional library for references how they solve things.

    If you are going for B) forget about texturing and anything advanced. Pick up anatomy, learn it, master it. Find out how you work/learn faster - is 2D the better way for you or 3D? Painting is often preferred as it is less technical and you can focus on the drawing, but if you are like me, your brain might prefer working in 3D and comprehends things better when working with volumes. Keep in mind concept art is not about details, its about rendering ideas fast. So its something completely different than a modeler job. You will be spending much more time designing, but that require extremely strong art fundamentals.

    Neither direction is easy, as your competition will be doing the same thing day in day out all day long. That's why it doesn't make sense to try to accomplish both at the same time. In either case the fundamentals of each branch are extremely important and they might have a lot in common, but modelers need more technical knowledge, while concept artist need stronger design / art fundamental skills.
  • lukegallowaysmith
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    lukegallowaysmith polycounter lvl 2
    Biomag said:
    I think the issues are similar and the result of a 'messy' anatomy. Here the big thing:
    First decide if you want to be a A) character modeler or B) concept artist for characters.

    This decision is crucial at the beginning as learning both at the same time is too much. 

    If you are going for A) then pick up a AAA concept done for a game or from some professional who has done a some fan art for a game. It should have as much defined as possible, leaving as little design work up to you. Your job is to convert 2d into 3d  in that case and not designing creatures. Follow the concept and polish to get as close as possible to it. If there is a game related to it, use it as additional library for references how they solve things.

    If you are going for B) forget about texturing and anything advanced. Pick up anatomy, learn it, master it. Find out how you work/learn faster - is 2D the better way for you or 3D? Painting is often preferred as it is less technical and you can focus on the drawing, but if you are like me, your brain might prefer working in 3D and comprehends things better when working with volumes. Keep in mind concept art is not about details, its about rendering ideas fast. So its something completely different than a modeler job. You will be spending much more time designing, but that require extremely strong art fundamentals.

    Neither direction is easy, as your competition will be doing the same thing day in day out all day long. That's why it doesn't make sense to try to accomplish both at the same time. In either case the fundamentals of each branch are extremely important and they might have a lot in common, but modelers need more technical knowledge, while concept artist need stronger design / art fundamental skills.
    I 100% want to be a Character Modeller rather than working in Concept. 

    Thank you so much. Your advice and criticism has helped immensely and I'll be sure to grab a concept and work with that, as design isn't my strongest suit. I will however try and push this project to the end. Although it's turned stylised and the refinement isn't there, I believe pushing it forward and using it to understand the technical steps that need to be taken down the line is a crucial step. 

    Once again I thank you for your time and advice. 
  • Biomag
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    Biomag interpolator
    Good luck with this one and have fun learning the pipeline :)
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