Crafting a Stylized Japanese Character
Quentin Cartry talked about his stylized character made for the ArtStation Challenge Feudal Japan. Software used: ZBrush, Substance Painter, Photoshop, 3D-Coat, Marmoset Toolbag, Maya.
Hey! My name is Quentin Cartry. I’m a 3D artist from France, but now I live in Montreal. I started studying 3D in Paris 3 years ago, and last year I decided to go to Montreal for the last year of my 3D course. I graduated last June and made a decision to focus on Character art because that’s my favorite part. I really enjoy bringing characters to life!
When entering the challenge, I knew I wanted a stylized work. I liked the shapes and the mood of the initial concept and kept in mind that the time was limited, so I decided to avoid something too complex. This enabled me to try out different techniques until I reached the idea I had in mind. I learned quite many things working on this character.
During the blockout phase, I tried to apply different techniques to various parts.
I started from a sphere for each different mesh and deformed the spheres with the move tool. I try to stay as low in definition as possible since my mesh is not set up yet. At this point, I focus on the future improvement of the final piece by observing the particular constraints of some areas. While doing this, I also try to visualize the future deformation in the posing phase in order to adjust my work accordingly.
Once the blockout is done, I take each piece one by one and I retopo them in ZBrush. Thanks to that I can divide them (I crease the edges I need) and have a cleaner surface with a better wireframe than my blockout piece
I allowed myself to start the process from the beginning for many pieces, and it definitely helped me to improve the shapes and the different surfaces of the character. I often switch the current color of my sculpt to black in order to get a better overview of the shapes and force lines.
I asked for lots of feedback, and that helped me greatly. Looking at the work with a fresh eye is essential!
To know if I need to bake or retopo the detail first, I just watch if it fits into the silhouette. I tried to pay attention to the potential curving points and added edge loops to them.
Textures & Colors
First, I intended to do hand-painting. As I enjoy miniatures (like in W40k), I wanted to paint the character in the same way as if I would paint a figurine. Plus, I really wanted to push the color saturation.
In terms of software, I used Substance Painter, Photoshop, and 3D-Coat. First, I baked my character in Substance Painter, exported differents maps in 3D-Coat to project them on my model and hand-corrected them where needed. For the color blockout, I used a gradient map in Photoshop, on my cavity map and my AO. That enables to put a mask on your UV map at the same time and have better control. After that, I applied a layer of shadow and illumination (I gave the shadows several colors). Then, in Painter, I took my Albedo with the other map from the baking and started to distribute the mask with different roughness values on my model. I try different smart masks of dirt to create some interesting noise. The same thing was done with several textures for the clothes.
After a few tricks like that, I try to figure out where the model needs more visual emphasis to catch the viewer’s eye. I take my new Albedo got from Painter and export it in Photoshop or 3D coat according to the needs: when it comes to enlightening a large area I use 3D-Coat, and when it concerns a smaller area (like an edge) I use Photoshop. To my mind, a very important thing is to update your texture in the final viewer as much as possible. This will save you from unpleasant surprises.
The ‘pop’ of red color was added once I finished my albedo map in SP. I imported my albedo in 3D-Coat and painted directly on top of that in an Overlay Layer with small opacity. I did that at the end because that way it wouldn’t interfere with the initial color work.
I knew that the light was going to hit the edges of the metallic elements, so in my albedo, I kept the colors very light without noise on the edges. With the reflectivity map in Marmoset Toolbag (which is the metal from SP) they stand out.
For lighting, I used 3 main lights plus 2 additional small lights to improve the visibility and deal with little details of the character.
For the particles, I used two colors, simple radial gradients with alpha on a plane added to the bloom effect and the depth of field to blur the particles a bit. I applied the same approach to the god rays and the gradient behind the character as it gives much control over the composition.