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Fox Head in 3D Ink

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Davision3D polycounter
Finished this little 3D art piece. The final result is all mesh without any textures, just black and white colors applied.

The Ink effect was not planned but after trying out a sketch MatCap with some adjustments in Photoshop I went for it all the way by using Substance Painter and sculpting brush strokes in Zbrush with a variation of my Waves brush. The fur is all sculpted, I sculpted most of the head from a sphere by using a fur buildup brush I made.

This is the original sketch sculpt before the polishing, amplifying of the fur and getting rid of the symmetry:


I will post a more detailed breakdown here but basically I used a light mask effect in Substance Painter with a clamped histogram and some painting as well as some AO. The result I then brought back into Zbrush and converted it back to mesh only.


  • Davision3D
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    Davision3D polycounter
    Here is the promised breakdown.

    I started with the sketch sculpt that I made in January. I sculpted this with a custom brush I made. A simple fur buildup brush that is smooth enough so I can do a whole sketch sculpt in SculptrisPro from a sphere with only that brush. (Thing is if it would be sharp detailed you quickly get a messy mesh and Zbrush easily get confused/wonky with the normals) I however also used some sculpting with a Dam variation and regular clay buildup for fur less parts like the nose.

    The fur is not 3D enough here to get decent ink lines. I then used this trick to amplifiy it:

    I made a very blurred DynaMesh of it, added a layer to it and then projected the details in the layer. I also projected it several times, first in a low SDIV and then increasing it every time. This gives a cleaner result. You can then increase the layer opocity above 1 to amplify it. However amplifing it can make it look really rough so I had to do some polishing as well as getting rid of the symmetry. Parts like the nose I then morphed back to the not amplified version with the morph brush and making a morph target. When you sculpt the fur separate anyway I recommend making it initially in separate layer.

    I made a quick test by using one of the Sketch mat caps and then simply increasing the contrast to the max in Photoshop. It looks rough but also very promising.

    I then decimated and generated a UV and got it over into Substance Painter with baking the high poly in there. I then experimented mainly with Curvature and AO based masks with a simple clamped Levels histogramm on top. In the end I mainly used a Light based mask with some AO and painting black for parts like nose, lips, eyes and ears. With the curvature cavity like mask it was just way too much black and without lighting too busy.

    Here is that early version with only curvature cavity and AO:
    Tiny blur on the masks can also help to make it look less rough. As well as making the Levels not 100% black and white pixels.

    Here are all the pieces of it in Zbrush:
    Its just without color but all the pieces are black except the first one.

    - White is basically what I got out of Substance Painter. I simply increased subdivision and generated a Mask by Intensity from the Substance Painter texture result. Then polygroup by mask and deleteing the black parts. Then decimated that.
    - Inner black is a blurry dynamesh with heavy inflate minus and then decimate. This is for not being able to look through the empty areas like through the nose on the cheak. I could also left the black parts on the White part but that would be lots more polys.
    - Outline is the ages old trick with making a copy of the mesh, inflating it and then inverting the normal to get outlines around the mesh no matter the view. However it turns it needs to be pretty high res to get also some fur lines on the inside of the mesh. (Maybe the fur would have to be even more extreme here.)
    - Strokes are the ink strokes I made with a variation of my waves brush. More about it below.
    - Lines are generated with Fibers. Most by using the black areas are the mask and masking out areas like nose, lips and eyes. Its not optimal though. I only manually tweaked some of the lines to be more in the direction of the actual fur lines.

    Here is a look at it without any Substance Painter white mesh. This is just the sculpt as the white part. I distorted the outline part at the back to make it not visible there (fade to white instead) as well as streching out strokes.

    One imported part about converting the Substance Painter texture to a mesh is because what you get out of Substance Painter easily looks pixelated while the mesh only version will look always sharp.

    Here is how I made the actual strokes on the back:
    Its a variation of my waves brush. I had to mask areas where I want a stroke so I can make it long hard strokes as well as not influence already existing strokes with it. The mesh can get pretty messy but it doesn't matter much since it is all black and decimated in the end anyway. For the detached ones I simply used the colors as a mask, polygroup and delete. (the red here deleted)

    Here you can see the final result up close:

    And here it is on my ArtStation portfolio:

  • calydon
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    calydon polycounter lvl 7
    Cool beans. How long would it take to do something like that start to finish once you have the process down?
  • Davision3D
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    Davision3D polycounter
    calydon said:
    Cool beans. How long would it take to do something like that start to finish once you have the process down?
    Animal head sketch sculpt like this and then the effect, probably a day. The effect In Substance Painter could be a smart material but you probably want to tweak the lighting every time and paint parts.
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