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Sketchbook: Valentina Hawes (val.ociraptor)

polycounter lvl 5
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valociraptor polycounter lvl 5

Working on a lowpoly handpainted cat character -- she's the queen of an ice palace full of little cats 😺

I find I work much faster and get a better end result when I "sketch" in 3D and start laying down textures early. I'm not working from a concept drawing (just have some inspiration pics and am making the rest up as I go). There are some extra edges on the head and ears I can probably remove, but I'm not finalizing anything yet.

Modeling in blender, texturing in 3Dcoat.

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  • valociraptor
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    valociraptor polycounter lvl 5

    updated textures a bit, trying some body shapes. Might not mess with fingers or toes and just do "mittens." Probably going to give them a giant fluffy tail...

  • valociraptor
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    valociraptor polycounter lvl 5

    trying some basic silhouettes for the clothing. I want it to read as a little cute, but still "Royal," with some elegance. I'm thinking a mix of pattern silk on the dress/fitted clothing, and a thicker, more luxe velvety fabric for the jacket or cape, then fur cuffs. Need to add some metal jewelry accents, probably a large decorative clasp at the neck, some bracelets and earrings to break up the symmetry and add contrasting color, and a large cuff on the tail.


    So far I'm leaning towards the long dress, and not convinced about the short jacket. it feels too cute or casual, I might try a more dramatic cape to lean into the "royalty" vibe.

  • RocketAlex
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    RocketAlex polycounter lvl 5

    This looks cute :) If I may, my 2 cents would be that you've spent way too many tris and put too many loops on the ears, not worth it :) Else, it looks great!

  • valociraptor
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    valociraptor polycounter lvl 5

    Render on the left, quick paintover in photoshop on the right. I'm not happy with it yet, doesn't feel coherent. I think I need to take another pass at the details and nail down some more consistent themes for the jewelry and accessories. I think the colors might be a bit too scattered as well -- maybe the gold could be cooler and lighter or more broken up, and the blue of the dress a little softer. open to suggestions as well.

    also cleaned up the topology in the head and ears, but I'll do another post on that later.

  • valociraptor
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    valociraptor polycounter lvl 5

    Got some feedback from concept artist pal Kat Bartlett (https://www.artstation.com/katalystart | https://www.instagram.com/katalystart/)! I struggle with fantasy clothing and don't usually design clothing for characters, I tend to get kind of distracted by contrasting colors and focus less on the garments themselves. She put together an awesome paintover and references for me which I'll post below :) I sometimes lose momentum on projects at this phase so I decided to reach out to people who can fill in some of the gaps in my skill set, and it was really motivating.

    I feel like everything is much more centered on the "ice queen" theme now. Excited to move onto the next phase now that I have a much stronger direction to work with.

  • valociraptor
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    valociraptor polycounter lvl 5

    Model+ wireframe updates, will be adding more little bits, like fur tuft cards to break up the symmetry, whiskers, etc as I go :)

  • valociraptor
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    valociraptor polycounter lvl 5

    started laying down textures, still very early on. not super happy with the dress fabric yet, its not super accurate/form fitting. Going to look at some texture references and take another shot at it.

  • valociraptor
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    valociraptor polycounter lvl 5

    today's update. Lots of small changes all over, defining shapes in the medallion, fabric, ruffles, fur collar and hands/feet. Painted the earrings with a first pass of metal texture. Next up is probably a pass at rebalancing the colors -- make the cape more dark/dusty purple, make the fur ruff less saturated and bring in color mixing from the rest of the character. Defining more AO and adding textures to plain areas like the cape.

  • valociraptor
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    valociraptor polycounter lvl 5

    Made 2 simple beads and a rose to use to as cape detail:

    Pretty happy with the touch of opulence they add, despite being quite simple. The rose textures need a lot more love, they're basically just the simple shapes sketched out.

    I've been purely handpainting these textures from nothing (I generally use a gradient map base from a sculpt or something to save time, but I wanted to be more expressive and improvisational with this model than I am with production models for work). But, as a result, some of my colors are a bit off, so I took a break to render what I have so far and color correct in PS so I have a more accurate guide as I finish up rendering everything.

    Excited to lock in the last few model details and just paint to completion :)

  • Fabi_G
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    Fabi_G polycounter

    Hey, super cool seeing your detailed process.

    I think it might enhance readability if the cape had different colors or values for outside and inside.

    When squinting, the ears look a bit seperated from the head, due to lower value? Blending with the bright fur of the head might connect them more to head.

    Just some opinion :D

    Looking forward to see how it continues, keep it up!

  • valociraptor
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    valociraptor polycounter lvl 5

    A lot of more subtle changes today, lots of cleanup and clarifying edges, especially the seams on the dress and the cat's face. I've been looking at a lot of handpainted textures done by Chinese and Korean artists on Sketchfab and trying to get that same clean, readable look -- a lot of the models in this style actually have extremely simple and "inaccurate" clothing folds, that are very large and low-contrast, but they all have contour lines showing the seam and the stitching at the fabric edge. You can see this at the bottom of the dress and the edge of the ruffle.

    I started putting down more texture on the cape, ice accessories and dress, plus some AO to define the different layers of clothing more. I use a hard light layer set to 65% opacity and paint shadows with a soft brush in different mesh intersections. Also added cute little wispy whiskers! Very important.

    Took the suggestions to differentiate the inner and outer cape color more, and to start softening the transition from the darker to lighter fur on the ears -- still working on these areas, but thank you for your feedback :) <3

    Closeup of the ice crown-- i think I need to pull back on some of the highlighted edges for more variation. I like the layered look I'm getting so far, but I don't know if it looks like ice...

    Also you can see very clearly here that the roses are a higher resolution than they need to be -- will need to go back and resize that texture map to fit with everything else.

    Oh yeah, she has a big tail, too!


  • valociraptor
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    valociraptor polycounter lvl 5

    Started making some expression blendshapes to take a break from texturing today. It's amazing how much of a difference a simple expression can make to showing the model's character. --I'm going to have so much fun rigging and posing her 🤩

    "pathetic."

  • valociraptor
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    valociraptor polycounter lvl 5

    Update comparison of the front-ish view! Brightened up the eyes significantly (but still kept a bit of that dramatic top shadow, I think it gives the character some intensity in the expression), added a vertical color gradient to the dress so it shifts from a blue to a more blue-green towards the bottom, and did a hard light layer pass to reinforce seams, wrinkles, edges of ice, brighten up some ruffle fabric, etc.

    I painted in a lot of "mushy" areas that aren't seen as clearly, like the back of the dress, back and sides of the crown and medallion, the roses, and the arms and legs of the cat under the dress. Added some hue shift and vertical gradient to the ears, both the inner ear fluff and the lavender-ish outer part.

    Plus a turnaround.

    I think she's ready to rig, and I'll revisit anything that stands out as odd in the texture after I'm done :)

  • valociraptor
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    valociraptor polycounter lvl 5

    pose test! I've been rigging this model in my downtime. Most of it has been pretty straightforward, but the roses and beads on the cape are giving me some trouble... I might need to do some dynamic bone and cloth sim stuff or something to get it looking good in more extreme poses.

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