COM eBooks Series

Chapter 01 | Sewer dwelling
Page 04 | Federico Scarbini

Chapter 02 | Subterranean
Page 20 | Marc-Olivier Plouffe

Chapter 03 | Volcano
Page 32 | Jesse Sandifer

Chapter 04 | Aquatic
Page 44 | Olive Titouan

Chapter 05 | Jungle
Page 50 | Jonas Skoog

Chapter 06 | Mountain
Page 60 | Marthin Agusta

Chapter 01



ZBrush Monster Character Creation Chapter 01: Sewer Dwelling / Swamp Monster
Chapter 01 - Sewer
Dwelling / Swamp
Software used: ZBrush

Gather information
and references
In order to create a believable creature you

deciding what my creature should look like

as a tadpole and have no lungs but have gills

and which features it should have was a tricky

and then later on they develop lungs. All of this


knowledge gave me a lot to play with. It was

Creature Design

just a matter of finding the right answer to our
organic puzzle!

Since the most obvious feature of the
environment I’m dealing with is its humidity, my

My idea was a creature that uses gills and

first concern was the respiratory system.

skin to extract oxygen from the humid air, and
that has nostrils as a backup for its respiratory

have to do a lot of research. I read every book I
had in my library about this kind of animal and in

Generally you could have two kinds of animal in


addition I gathered tons of references from the

a swamp: one with and one without gills. Gills

internet and from Wikipedia. This is an important

are present in a lot of different animals and

So the skin is permeable to oxygen and carbon

first step, because it is the foundation of your

not just in fish; you can have modified gills on

dioxide as well as water, and it has blood

creative process. Without some kind of guidance

mollusks, crustaceans, insect and amphibians. I

vessels near the surface of the skin that, when

you just randomly think about cool designs. That

very much liked the flexibility that the gill design

underwater, transmit oxygen directly into the

can be fine in some situations, but when you

could lead to, so I wanted to explore this idea


are asked to design a creature with very specific

The bone structure was another crucial thing

features you have to be very analytical.
Gills extract and dissolve oxygen from water

to think about. When thinking about sewer or

The habitat in which my creature lives isn’t

that flows into the mouth of the animal. For my

swamp dwelling creatures the salamander

really a habitat technically speaking, it’s mostly

creature I wanted something less dependent

was my first thought, although I also liked the

an environment with some typical features.

on water; something that could also live in very

turtles’ carapace design, or the spiky skin of the

For example it is very humid and the ground is

humid land environments. Nature, as always,

crocodile. Since this step influences the final

generally flooded by shallow bodies of water.

has the answer! There are animals that use

look of the creature heavily I decided to do some

their gills on land to extract oxygen from moist


There are a great variety of animals that

air, and there are also fish that use a primitive

could live in this environment: rats, frogs, fish,

nasal cavity and lungs. As well as this there are

I had a clear idea in my mind for its hands

crocodiles and insects. Because of this variety,

frogs with a very interesting life cycle. They start

and feet. I wanted them to be finned because
this way the creature would have the right
thrust underwater and also a good grip on the
wetlands. For practical reason the creature
needed to have the ability to catch prey, so I
imagined a hybrid mutation where thumb, index
and middle finger were present and the ring and
the pinky finger were mutated on a fin.
For the feet I went for real fins, although the
internal bone structure is very evident and solid.

When considering the creature’s appearance, at
first I thought about crocodiles and turtles, with
maybe a primitive carapace and a head like a
snapping turtle’s. With this in mind I developed
a sketch in Photoshop after some doodling
with pencil and paper. The design I came
out with was very close to what I had in mind


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Chapter 01: Sewer Dwelling / Swamp Monster ZBrush Monster Character Creation
(Fig.01) but for some reason it appeared too
“naturalistic” for a monster. It was not easy to
admit that the design, though nice in itself, was
not the right design I wanted for this creature...
so I decided to explore some different designs.
I picked up ZBrush and, with a technique
learned from Neville Page, created a 3D plane
and converted it into a Polymesh. I filled the
plane with a neutral gray and then with just the
RGB for my brush turn on and symmetry active,
I started to sketch on the plane with Polypaint.
At first I tried to not subdivide the plane too
much, just two or three times. This way you
cannot go crazy with details and you pay a lot
more attention to the primary forms, since you
are restricted to the mesh resolution. I came up

some nice elements I found interesting like the

whilst painting lets you have some feedback

with five different head designs (Fig.02) in the

flower-like ears on 2. 4 was nice too, maybe too

quicker than traditional painting, and within


aquatic but a nice silhouette. I couldn’t really fall

two or three hours you can end up with five-six

in love with 5. To me it was because its features

different designs. Another way I use ZBrush in

were too similar to a human’s.

combination with Photoshop for sketching is to

Sketch 1 and 1v.2 looked very cool. I liked them
a lot because they had the “monster” feeling that

start sculpting from a sphere and then take what

I was looking for, but to me they were a bit too

I found that using ZBrush in this way has some

vampire like. 2 and 3 were ok, nothing shocking,

really cool potential. Having Symmetry on


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I have and do a paintover in Photoshop (Fig.03).

Chapter 01

ZBrush Monster Character Creation Chapter 01: Sewer Dwelling / Swamp Monster
Getting back to my creature, I went on to
use ZBrush for a pure 3D sketch. I started
using ZSpheres to build an armature for my
creature, and then I used zsphere2 to sketch
the masses of the body on top of the armature.
My suggestion here is to use a thin armature,
and use the ZSketch feature to fill the masses
with bigger volumes. Try to use few strokes and
manipulate them to give the look you have in
mind using the Move and Bulge tools.
Once you have the forms roughly in place
convert your ZSketch to a Unified Skin. With this
newly created mesh you can start to develop the
forms as you normally would with the sculpting
toolset that ZBrush offers (Fig.04). I used a
combination of the Move and the new Move
Topological brushes to adjust the silhouette
and the masses, and then with the Clay and
Claytubes brushes I sculpted the mesh (Fig.05).

answer, it’s just a visual way to collect ideas, get

Base mesh and first
sculpting stage

inspired by forms and explore your thoughts.

Since I didn’t have a super clear idea about

Generally it’s hard for me to look at a sketch and

the final look of my model, I started out using

say “Ok, this is what I was looking for!”; more

ZSpheres. The goal here is to capture the

often it’s just for inspiration, a guideline, and

gesture and some of the silhouette of the

most of the time I use different elements I like

creature you have in mind, so I generally don’t

from different designs.

create very specific features at this stage, but

To me sketching is not trying to find the right

I focus on the feeling that I want in the figure
As you can see I went for a very different design


with very singular features, inspired by nature,
but with a flexible degree of interpretation. With

When I was happy with the ZSphere armature

all of this in mind, and with my references and

I converted it to an adaptive skin, to get my low

sketches in front of me I started what would be

poly base for the model.

my final design.


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Chapter 01: Sewer Dwelling / Swamp Monster ZBrush Monster Character Creation
Now I had my base I started to adjust the

the basic form of the model. Right now the form

shapes as usual, using the Move and Transpose

is temporary and it’s time to try and find how

brushes. The combined use of these two tools

you can develop that form. Sometimes I can

is fundamental to get the best out of your base

spend hours just with the Move brush, looking

mesh, because at this stage is too early to even

at the model from every angle and doing minor

use the Standard brush. A very valuable tool

adjustments. I then undo and redo rapidly to see

in ZBrush 4 is the Move Topological brush.

the difference, and decide if I should make the

This lets you move the surface of the sculpt


accordingly to its topology, so it automatically
masks what it’s near to. This is something I used

Once you have touched every polygon you

to do manually with the Transpose Masking tool,

will need more room to play, so it’s time to

but this new brush works perfectly, so no more


back and forth between Transpose and Edit for

Lately I have been using a technique that

As I already said, at this stage I mostly work with

consist of blurring the viewport while sculpting.

the Move, Move Topological, Standard and Inflat

After some tweaking I came up with a pretty

There is a button called VBlur (in ZBrush

brushes. Sometimes I also use the Transpose

decent looking base. The most important thing

3.5 it was under the Draw submenu on the

brush for some tweaks on the orientation of the

is that it has a good and defined gesture and

Preferences Menu; now in ZBrush 4 you have


silhouette, plus some initial hints of some

it on the BPR menu under View Blur). When

features (Fig.07).

it’s pressed a VBlur Radius slider appears - I

As with traditional sculpting, primary forms and

usually set it to 3 or 4. Sculpting with the blurred

looking for planes is an important thing to focus

viewport is very important in my sculpting

on. When you have some more subdivisions you

process, because at this stage the primary focus

can focus on placing landmarks such as bone

is the primary forms and with the blur active you

structures that will drive the muscles placement.

Refining the base
and building the
foundations of the
This stage is one of the two hardest steps in the

can focus on this. I find that it’s a good way to
force yourself into good habits.

creation process. You have to slowly try to refine


Fig.08 shows the evolution from the tweaked
base mesh to a level 3 subdivision. The

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Chapter 01

ZBrush Monster Character Creation Chapter 01: Sewer Dwelling / Swamp Monster

changes are not huge; it’s more of a controlled

After spending some time looking at my

use the Backface masking features a lot when

adaptation of the mesh to include some specific

references, I started tweaking the mesh. In

dealing with very thin surface like the ears.

features I saw on the initial model. In step 5 I

the end without subdividing it more, I used the

This prevents the stroke from passing through

started to add landmarks like the knee bones

polys I had and moved them until I reached the

the surface and affecting the Backface. The

and cap, as well as some initial muscle sculpting

design I was hoping for (Fig.09 – 10). I colored

Backface button is located in Brush > Masking.

like the shoulders and arms.

the parts that I changed in the process. Nothing

Bring the model to the
next level

drastic but the model was now starting to have a

These two brushes work really well when

better defined structure.

building muscle surfaces and when you have to
construct planes because the strokes are very

By now the model had most of its major features

Then I started using the brushes I mentioned

in place, so it was time to develop the existing

before, along with Clay and Claytubes with

shape. The first thing I did was take what I had

alpha06. When using these brushes I usually

After a bit of work I decided to retopologize the

and compare it to references from nature and

turn on Fast Sample (Brush > Sample) to

model to have a better density distribution. To

with the initial sketches. I was looking to see if

increase the accuracy of the surface samples,

do this I used the new GoZ plugin that allows

there was something that I could add or modify.

giving more predictable stroke results. I also

you to send you model back and forth between

organic looking.

ZBrush and other software, in my case Maya.
In Maya I used standard polygonal modeling
tools like the Split Edge tool, Append Poly,
and Extrude along with Merge and Collapse to
manipulate the mesh to my needs. The head
and the hands were the parts that needed more
attention because of the nature of the ZSpheres.
When finished I sent the mesh back to ZBrush
and the software managed to re-project the
high poly details on to the new mesh. Keep in
mind that GoZ is just an automated process of


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Chapter 01: Sewer Dwelling / Swamp Monster ZBrush Monster Character Creation

importing and exporting, which is something

took inspiration from fish like the frilled shark for

open a bakery in the middle of the desert - the

that you could already do if you imported an .obj

some elements. The design of the gills was from

same goes for wrinkles. You would never place

where the lowest subdivision level was active for

an iguana and the look of the skin from a giant

wrinkles where there is no need for them to

your tool. This means that you have the same


exist. This could seem obvious, but sometimes

projection issues you would have in the manual
process, so keep this in mind.

it’s very easy to get lost in a frenzy of detailing


without taking a moment to plan.

This is the second of the two hardest stages
As a side effect of the retopologizing process

in the creation process. Detailing is a danger

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a reason

you will lose the polygroups. To prevent this I

zone and you have to treat it very carefully. It

for every single bump and lump I place, but

use this little trick: Before sending the mesh with

can turn your model into a great model that

for most of them there is a logical placement

GoZ, use the UV Master plugin to do a rough

people can enjoy and that generates interest,

inspired by nature. Having fun is part of the

unwrap, activating the polygroups button on the

or it can destroy all the hard work you put in

game, but always control your strokes and judge

plugin panel. This way when your mesh is sent

and turn your model into a mess. There is a

their necessity at this stage.

to the external software and brought back to

simple but very important rule to keep in mind

ZBrush you can always restore the polygroups

when approaching detailing: details (or tertiary

from the Auto Groups with UV feature in the

forms) have to be supported by a hierarchy of

Polygroups menu. Obviously if you edit the

secondary and primary forms. Brushing your

topology you also have to fix the new UV, but

model with alphas doesn’t make it look prettier.

its way faster than redoing the polygroups from

Every wrinkle has to have a reason. Every

scratch (Fig.11).

spike or little bump should be placed in the right

With the right topology to work with, forms
started to adapt better to my strokes and I was

Think of the surface of your model as a map:

free to define some more precise elements and

mountains, valleys, lakes, streets, cities, stores

patterns, like the top of the head, the ears and

and bus stops have a very logical distribution.

the loose wrinkled skin on the elbow (Fig.12). I

The point of this example is that you wouldn’t


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Chapter 01

ZBrush Monster Character Creation Chapter 01: Sewer Dwelling / Swamp Monster

That being said, I tried to identify the areas

swimming, like a Jellyfish). I placed wrinkles at

An example of the logical placement of a

where the skin would compress during

the end where the feet-fins are (Fig.13 – 14).

particular detail is the little depressions I
sculpted just above the mouth (Fig.15). These

movement and I started to create localized
wrinkles, with a logical direction that followed

At this stage I also created some very rough

depressions are not there for fun, but have a

the articulation. I used the DamStandard brush

geometry with Maya and some simple box

very natural explanation. Snakes, for example,

for this process. You can find it in the brushes

modeling for the gums and teeth, and then

have these and they are called “labial pits”.

section of Spotlight.

imported then into ZBrush.

They are very unique sensitive organs that allow

Besides wrinkles you have tendons and bone
structure visible on the surface, and also veins
and little bumps. A good aid when placing these
kinds of details are references of real animals.
Generally I use the Standard brush with very low
intensity and I build the details both conceptually
and concretely using sculpt layers. By using
layers you have full control over the overall
intensity and it’s always a good thing to have the
ability to just turn off a layer if you don’t like the
I moved then on to giving the gills on the
monster’s back a solid structure, and I looked
at the neck. I used the Inflat and Pinch brushes
in the areas where skin gets folded. The same
goes on the tentacles, which I compressed
near the legs (I didn’t mention this before, but
the creature has tentacles for stability while


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Chapter 01: Sewer Dwelling / Swamp Monster ZBrush Monster Character Creation
the snakes to “see” the radiated heat of warmblooded prey, like infrared receptors.
I spent some hours detailing the whole body and
finally my final model was finished (Fig.16).

Before starting the polypainting I exported the
model’s lowest subdivision layer to Maya and
created some UVs mainly using the Unfold
feature with some relaxing and using the UV
lattice deformer where needed.
With the UV done I started the polypainting,
using salamanders and amphibians as

reference. I filled the model with a medium-dark

the skin is supposed to be more irradiated with

green color and painted the surface with the

blood vessels.

Standard brush, with Stroke set to Color Spray
and a combination of alpha 08 and alpha 22.

I then baked the polypaint to a texture and

When painting skin try to use different colors

create a displacement map to be used on top

and go for variety; variation gives skin a much

of the texture to get some depth when used as

more realistic look.

an Overlay layer, and also to have a guide as to
where to paint in Photoshop (Fig.18).

In the first pass I wanted to have general
variations and to set the first color scheme

I imported the texture into ZBrush and baked the

(Fig.17). I placed some red/pink colors where

texture to polypaint from the Texture palette on
the Tool menu.
I then used Cavity Masking to paint different
tones for different depth levels. Since the texture
seemed to me a bit dark and green I tried to
get a different color variation in the skin. When
most of the features were in place I decided
to bake the polypaint to continue the paint job
in Photoshop. Here is the texture before using
Photoshop (Fig.19 – 20).


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Chapter 01

ZBrush Monster Character Creation Chapter 01: Sewer Dwelling / Swamp Monster

Once in Photoshop I was free to use some

material to study, as is the paint job done by

idea inspired by iguanas in mind for his pose.

photographic textures. The best ones for this

maquette artists or make-up artists like Jordu

When you see them moving slowly, their arms

kind of texture come from the Total Texture

Schell or Rick Baker.

seems to grasp the air whilst they move forward.

and flexibility. I used some masks to get the

This is the final look of the texture I then used in

For posing I use Transpose Master, the new

right placement for the textures in order to place

Maya for the rendering (Fig.21 – 22).

plugin for ZBrush4. There is a button named

DVDs by 3DTotal because of their great variety

the right patterns where I needed them to be.

Layer which is a real time saver. It creates a
The gums and teeth were also polypainted using

new sculpting layer for each subtool with the

Then, using the Standard brush along with some

the same method described earlier, and then the

new pose so you can switch back to the original

custom brushes, I started painting. At first I tried

polypaint was baked into a map and the models

pose at any time.

to follow the details I already had and reinforce

were UV mapped using the PUV Tiles inside

them. Using the depth information I had from

ZBrush (Fig.23).

the displacement I had a very clear idea where

Using Topological Masking I started rotating the
torso to conform it to the action; the same goes

to place additional elements. You don’t want to


hide your sculpted details but paint on them to

Posing a character is not easy. You have to

to the legs and feet because I wanted to show

reveal the nature of the surface.

grasp not only the action but, above all, the

the hybrid nature of the feet. They are fins

essence of the creature. This gives credibility to

but because of their solid bone structure they

At this stage I used some reference to get

its structure and the impression that the “animal”

could also be used as anchor points for moving

inspired, besides nature is a very valuable

is actually living and doing something. I had an


for the limbs and head. I paid particular attention

Once happy with the pose I transferred it to the
high res sculpt and with the Standard brush I
adapted the skin where needed locally (Fig.24).

Ground modeling
To create the ground element I used a 3D plane
converted to a PolyMesh and positioned it under
my creature. Then in the lowest subdivision
layers I adapted its surface to support the
creature’s action with the Move and Move
Elastic brushes. Once it was subdivided I
sculpted it with the Clay brush to mimic a mud


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Next I applied different surface noises to

resolution mesh and another version decimated

in the surface depth going around the cylinder.

different subdivision levels. Surface noise can

at 2% to be the low poly mesh and to be used

Then, using a Non Linear Deformer called Twist,

be found in Tool > Surface and it displaces the

as a proxy (Fig.26). Once in Maya I create UVs

I twisted the cylinder to give it the appearance of

surface following a profile curve in the surface

for the ground by setting the viewport as Top

steel tubes placed in reinforced concrete. I then

slot. If you grab a curvature point in the noise

and using the Create UVs based on camera

create some UVs for the tubes using cylindrical

curve, drag it out of the graph and then come

button from the Create UV menu.


the curve which is very useful when it comes to

The gums and teeth were exported at their

The grass was made with Paint Effects. First

creating interesting valleys.

highest level because they were not that heavy,

I made the proxy ground paintable (Make

and before exporting them I used the PUV to

Paintable button on the Paint Effects menu).

bake the polypainting onto the textures.

Then I searched in the Visor for the type of

back to the graph, you will have a linear break in

I applied different curves to different subdivision
levels, taking care to change the Noise scale

grass that I needed, and I started painting on

each time just to give some variety and

The rusty iron tubes were made using a

the surface of the ground by placing the grass

randomness (Fig.25). Don’t forget to press the

polygonal cylinder with 12 subdivision axis and

where I wanted it to be. Strokes like this often

Apply to Mesh button when you’re happy with

an evenly spaced number of subdivisions for its

need some adjustments so you can modify them

the look of your surface noise since it’s behavior

height. I extruded every other face to get variety

after they have been painted using the Stroke

is to show the end result but not automatically
bake it. You have to press that button to transfer
the noise displacement to the mesh.

Maya import and
Environment elements
For the creature I exported a mid-resolution
level mesh and baked a normal map to get the
higher subdivision details.
I then exported two different ground meshes:
one decimated at 30% to become my high


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Chapter 01

ZBrush Monster Character Creation Chapter 01: Sewer Dwelling / Swamp Monster
Attribute editor. I played with its settings a bit
and when happy with the look of the grass I
converted all the strokes to polymesh by going
to Modify > Convert > Convert Paint Effect to
Polygon (Fig.27).
The background is half of a cylinder with
the face normals inverted, just to give the
impression of a round concrete surface.

Since I was going for a real environment, trying
to mimic that environment lighting was the key
to creating a realistic mood. Lighting is important
to tie together all the elements of the image.
With fake environment lighting it’s very difficult
to give the viewer the impression that the
situation portrayed is actually happening.
For this image my idea about what’s happening
is that the creature is emerging from the
darkness of the underground, maybe to find
some food or just for curiosity. It is slowly
approaching the land above, where the
underground tunnel comes from.
Generally speaking, viewers’ eyes are attracted
more to the light than to the dark, and the same
could be said for warm and cold colors. For
this reason I created a Spotlight with a warm
orange-ish color facing the creature to serve as
my main light. I then created a second Spotlight
positioned to the right, a little higher than the
camera, to be my fill light and represent a sort
of environment lighting or bounced light coming
from the environment. Both the spotlights have
the Decay rate set to Linear to give a gradual
falloff on their intensity. Behind the creature
I placed a direct light to create my rim light.
This helps a lot to enforce the silhouette of
the creature and to make it stand out from the
background. To create an overall dramatic mood

To have better specular on the ground I then

other element of the scene I opened the Light

I also placed an area light above the creature

created a Point light, activated just the specular

Linking editor (Window > Relationship Editor).

to mimic the sky or an opening in the ceiling

component and disabled its Diffuse Contribution.

Here you can set the inclusion or exclusion of


Then I placed it at the right angle to affect the

single objects from each light.

ground surface specular the way I wanted it to.
Because I didn’t want this light to affect any


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For the creature I used the mental ray “Misss_
fast_skin” shader. It can seem a bit tricky to set
up but the key to mastering this shader is to split
its setup into several steps.
To precisely set up the SSS componant I set the
Diffuse weight and the Specularity overall weight
to 0. Then I started from the Backscatter Layer
and turned the Epidermal and Subdermal Layer
weights to 0.
You then basically have two parameters to
set. One is Weight, which can be seen as the
intensity, and Radius (and Depth that I usually
set at the same value of the Radius), which is
how far the light penetrates into the skin.
I then did a test render to see how the shader
looked with the default values. I wanted the
Intensity to be very evident, so I set the Radius
in such a way that if the Intensity value was too
low it would be easy to understand how much
it would change if I turned it up a bit. Then
I started tweaking the Radius and Intensity
values. If the Radius or Intensity are too strong
then you can halve their values and do a render
and so on until you get the settings you feel are
right for the kind of skin you’re going for.
Once the Backscatter is ok, I usually write the
Intensity value in a notepad to remember the
setting and then turn it to 0 so it has no effect
and move on to the next layer, the Subdermal.
It’s difficult to say how the Subdermal layer
should look. My idea is that this is a deep layer
that should soften the shadowed area, but not
be too intense. I used the same process for the
Backscatter layer and once done copied the
weight value on the notepad and turn it to 0.

Once the three layers were ok, I copied all

The specular component was easy to set

the values I’d written in the notepad to the

up and this shader does a very good job of

Then for the Epidermal layer I used the same

respective layer weight fields and I had the SSS

representing the specular component. I also

process. This is the nearest layer to the surface

component set up. Then I turned the Diffuse

created a specular map for it so I could set the

so its intensity is higher than the Subdermal,

weight to 0.6 or 0.7 depending on the kind of

intensity of the specular where I wanted. This is

and it contributes more to the diffusion of the

texture I had and did a test render.

very important to give a realistic feeling to the

light through the surface.


skin (Fig.29).

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For the ground I used a simple Phong shader.

the material to all the objects in your scene and

In its color slot I placed a 3D “snow” texture and

set the near and far clip plane just as they were

plugged in two different ground textures from

in the extreme limits of your depth of field. Once

the Neanderthal set of the Total Textures V9:R2

rendered you will have a depth pass to use in

DVD in each color slot. I used the specular and

Photoshop later (Fig.32).

bump maps of the same texture for the specular
color and bump of the shader.

Final Photoshop post

The concrete and the rust come from handmade

This is the relax stage. All the work has been

humid, but also a bit cold. Then as a final touch

textures created from a photo and custom

done and now it’s just a matter of tweaking the

I added some strings of saliva in the creature’s

brushes and they are a simple Phong shader,

image and getting the best out of it!

mouth using a Standard Round brush.

At this stage I generally start doing some level


Ok so every shader was set and the lighting

and curve adjustments to push the value of my

This project was very challenging. I tried to push

setup was done. Time to render the final

image until I like it and to pump up the contrast

myself to do better in many fields, not only the

image (Fig.30)! Besides the beauty pass I also

a bit.

modeling but also the design, shading, lighting,

nothing too complex here.

rendered two separate passes, a Color ID pass
and a ZDepth pass.

composition - all the different aspects involved
To create the effect of the moist air I used the

when creating an illustration from scratch.

ZDepth pass as a mask and filled a new layer
For the Color ID pass I used a different surface

with a white/bluish color. This created a sort of

I hope that this long article can show you much

shader for each element in the composition so

fog effect that I tweaked until I felt it was right for

more than the techniques I used to create the

I got a flat colored result without the shading

the image.

final image. I hope it also lets you understand

component (Fig.31).

I then used color balance to give the image

a method you can use to develop a believable

the right mood and added some more curve

character (Fig.33).

For the ZDepth pass, since it’s a bit tricky to

adjustments to get the Cross Processing effect,

setup in Maya, I downloaded a great shader

which is where you use the lighter value to have

Thanks very much to the 3DCreative magazine

called “p_z” that is part of a downloadable pack

a different tint than the darker one.

team for this great opportunity and thank you

of shaders and utilities created by Ledin Pavel.

very much for reading the article!

You can download the whole pack from his

I used some more post processing to get the

website: http://www.puppet.tfdv.com/download/

depth of field using the Lens Blur filter with the

For any info or to share any feedback


depth map I rendered earlier.

please feel free to contact me here: fede@

Once installed you will find it on the mental ray

I then added a bit of breath smoke to give the

shader tab. The setup is very easy. Just assign

impression that the environment is not just


page 17

Thanks again, and happy sculpting to everyone!

Chapter 01

Federico Scarbini
For more from this artist visit:
Or contact:

Chapter 02


ZBrush Monster Character Creation Chapter 02: Subterranean Monster
Chapter 02 Subterranean Monster
Software used: ZBrush

Hey there, my name’s Marco and here’s the
tutorial on how I modelled the Land Shrimp
subterranean monster. I decided to make it in
ZBrush from start to finish, in order to show
that ZBrush 4 now has a lot of new cool tools
to assist you through the complete workflow of
character modeling, from making base meshes
to final renders.
There is a lot to say about digital sculpting but
this tutorial will focus on the basic tools and the
complete workflow in ZBrush.

1. Conceptualization
The best way to achieve impressive and catchy
results is through good references. It is possible
to accomplish great things from nothing, but
people seem to react better to things they can
relate too. This means that if you inspire yourself
from existing images, and build an original
model from a good starting point you most
probably will end up with a good response. Also

mutant creature in an unknown underground


I find it best to look at real life references instead

environment. It’s useful to think about this stuff

I started by doing some very rough sketches,

of other artists’ work if you want to do something

while making your concept because it justifies

mainly flowing lines and scribbles, and drawing

out of the box.

the specs of your character and people really

something more concrete once my mind saw

notice that. The same with muscle anatomy or

something in there (like when you see cats,

For this model, I went and checked on the

mechanical stuff: if it doesn’t seem plausible,

swans or Nazi zombies in the clouds). Also,

internet, TV and in National Geographic

people won’t buy it.

sometimes an error leads to a better result than
what you aimed for.

magazines for typical and unusual underwater
and subterranean creatures like mammals,

So, for my Land Shrimp, I imagined an

amphibians, fish, insects, weird slimy things,

underground cavern only accessible by water

After I made some quick sketches, I looked

etc. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do a large, small,

(a bit like a big water bubble cave in the depth

at the concept and mixed what I thought was

puny, epic, disgusting or cool monster, but by

of the ocean) where some fish (or a shrimp!)

cool in each of them to give it a mutant look

looking at these references I found a direction I

might have grown some legs over time like

but without losing too much plausibility. Fig.01

liked. Even if you don’t stick to it, at least picking

pre-historical fishes/amphibians did on the

shows some sketches that led to my final sketch

a direction gives you a starting point.

land a couple of hundred thousand years ago.

for the concept phase and some rough poses

From there, I downloaded a lot of pictures of

for the final beauty shots.

Character Background

shrimps, lobsters, dinosaurs, insects and weird

My goal was to take an animal that we all know,

exoskeleton species and began to conceptualize

Since I’m a better modeler than concept artist, I

but that might have evolved into a monstrous

its look.

prefer to leave my sketches incomplete in order


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Chapter 02: Subterranean Monster ZBrush Monster Character Creation

to continue the concept during the first phases

It is important to keep your meshes at a low

I did that for every part of the model except for

of the modeling in ZBrush.

subdiv level for future steps. If you feel that the

the little arms/legs, which use the basic ZSphere

lower subdiv level is not low poly enough, you

techniques. Use the Subtool Master to mirror

Helpful tool: Alchemy

can recreate it with fewer polys. To do this hide

subtools that are symmetrical.

If the white page isn’t inspiring and you need

every subtool that you don’t want to recreate,

to find original shapes to start your concept,

and use the Re-mesh All button and the Res

I strongly suggest the freeware Alchemy! It

slider (Fig.03) to re-mesh every visible subtool

doesn’t require any technical skills and it’s a

into a single lower resolution subtool with

First pass: Nailing the volumes and finishing the

great way of expanding the mind.

the appropriate resolution. This will create a


smothered mesh, but you can project it onto the

In this pass, I subdivided the placeholders and

old mesh using the Project All button (Fig.03)

just quickly built them towards the shape I was

Creating base meshes using Shadowbox

to regain its shape. The X, Y and Z toggles on

looking for in the concept. This helps to expand

One of the greatest additions to ZBrush 4 is

the Re-mesh button will give you automatic

on the concept and find other cool modules or

the Shadowbox. It is a great way to create

symmetry after the re-meshing if desired (kind of

shapes. I like to use the Clay Build-up brush

base meshes in an instant. In Fig.02, I took a

like Mirror and Weld in the Subtool submenu).

with a square alpha, and the Move and Move

2. Modeling

Now it’s time to sculpt!

Sphere3D from the 3D Meshes submenu and
made a 3DPolymesh with it, because in the
Subtool submenu, it enables the Shadowbox
button. Before pressing the Shadowbox
button you can choose the resolution and the
smoothness of the mesh you want to generate
with the Res and Polish sliders. Once the
Shadowbox appeared around the sphere, I
removed the sphere by using the Unmasking
Selection (Ctrl + Alt+ draw a square on the
canvas). Basically the Shadowbox works by
painting a mask on the three planes. Each
masked area will project a shadow and where all
the shadows cross, it creates a mesh. You don’t
need to make a detailed shape at that point, just
a placeholder. Once you are happy, click on the
Shadowbox button again and the job is done.


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ZBrush Monster Character Creation Chapter 02: Subterranean Monster
Elastic brushes for that phase. I find the Clay
brushes better than the Standard brush for
adding volume since they seem to flatten the
surface you brush over instead of accumulating
all the roundish brush strokes of the Standard
brush. Using them will help you avoid the blobby
look. If you want to make rounder shapes using
Clay brushes, just use the Smooth brushes.
Tip: Try the Alternative Smooth brush if you
want to smooth/relax the mesh without affecting
its shape too much (hold Shift + start brushing +
release Shift + continue brushing).
Fig.04 shows the head, claws and back being
sculpted during the first pass. I used the
Snakehook brush with the Move brush and a
high Focal Shift to make the spikes. If, at some
point, you feel like you stretched the mesh too
much or completely nuked it, give the Relax
slider a try and it might fix the problem without
smoothing the mesh too much. Try its radio
button too.

Once you’ve been through every subtool

need to use different brushes to make cavities

and you know where you are going, you can

and harder edges. Fig.06 shows some useful

subdivide it even further and really start detailing


the model: this is the second pass (Fig.05).
The goal here is to use the volumes built during


Second pass: Defining the surface

the first pass and sculpt the surface in order to

In this phase, we focus less on volumes and

make it look like a ridged shell that has been

begin giving the shapes some personality.

softened by water and the humid environment.

This is achieved by making shape and surface

The inspiration for the look came from some

imperfections (if you are doing something

references of dinosaur bones combined with the

organic). Keep in mind that unless it’s

shell of a lobster and hermit crab. You can still

manufactured or comes from an assembly line,

leave some sketchy brush strokes for the look:

almost nothing is smooth and slick. To begin

they will be polished further in the third pass

removing the soft look of the first pass, you’ll

(Fig.07a – 7b).

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Sculpting again is a useful technique if you’re not sure what treatment you
want to give to a surface. You do it by using an alpha and choosing the
Spray Stroke (adjust the values in the Stroke Menu if desired) and then
lightly spray the alpha over your surface (as seen in Fig.07a where the
head is getting its second pass). Often you’ll find a cool effect accidentally
that you can then use as a great starting point to continue sculpting. In
Fig.08 you can see what alpha I used for my draft, and how I sculpted
over to obtain the final results on its belly.
Even if this is a step-by-step, it is not an absolute: you can always come
back to fix things or take a step ahead and try to add micro details to know
where you’re going. Fig.09 shows the model with some subtools in their
second pass and others with third pass experiments.


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ZBrush Monster Character Creation Chapter 02: Subterranean Monster

Third pass: Polishing and adding hyper details
This step is an extension of the second pass since it is still about the
credibility and realism of the model, but in this one the focus is on
sculpting the surface texture and getting rid of the sketchiness and
softness. In Fig.10, you see the kind of tools I used for this phase. Mainly,
it is done by using the Standard and Clay brushes, the DragRect or Spray
Strokes and most importantly, the desired alpha. If you are to use the
Spray Stroke you will most probably need to play with the options in the
Stroke Menu until you find a good amount of everything. There is a gray
area here: don’t go overkill on the surface texture! (Fig.11a - 11b).
I often use the standard alphas provided with ZBrush since then you can
achieve many results by varying their treatment or the Stroke options.
Also, don’t hesitate to duplicate and modify some subtools. That’s what
I did for the shells on its back and its little leg things: I duplicated the
subtool and lowered the subdiv level until I couldn’t destroy the details
on the high subdiv level, and started modifying the shape with the Move
brush and evened the Clay Build-up brush to change the volumes


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Chapter 02

Chapter 02: Subterranean Monster ZBrush Monster Character Creation

3. Materials and

A cool new addition to ZBrush 4 is the rapid
SSS shader. I used it on the belly a little bit,

I prefer to texture my models before transposing

just to give a little effect. To use it you need a

them as it means I can still use the symmetry.

material with at least two shader slots: copy

You can do the materials or the texturing in

the Fresnel Overlay shader from the Standard

the order you want because they really come

Material and paste it in the second shader slot,

together. I tend to jump between both of them.

choose some bright red colors in the Modifier
submenu of the second shader, then just play


with the value of the SSS Slider and the S Exp

What I usually do is take a Standard Material

slider in the Shader Mixer submenu and choose

(just under the Matcap submenu) that has at

the desired Blend mode (don’t forget to enable

least two shader slots available, in case I want

SSS in the Render menu too).

to copy-paste a preset shader into one of its
slots to mix the effect using the Shader Mixer in

I put some transparency on the tail fins. This is

the Materials menu (Fig.13). If you are not using

done by first enabling the Transparency in the

a slot, just turn it off with the radio button beside

Render menu, then clicking on the third icon

the slot number.

above the desired subtool (Fig.15).

I start by applying the material to the desired

I used three materials for this creature: a strong

subtool by clicking the M button in the space

specular for the exoskeleton, a wide specular

bar options (Fig.14) and then filling with the Fill

using a purple SSS effect for the belly and

Object button in the Color menu. Then I go into

fins, and a variation of the Toy Plastic material

the Material menu and start playing with the

for the eyes. On the same subtool, you can

Diffuse slider, the Diffuse Curve, Specular slider

paint different polys with different materials

and Specular Curve until I get the results I want.

by painting with the M button in the space bar

The PhongBlinn slider at the bottom comes in

options. I painted the skin joint of the claws and

handy too. I leave the Ambient and the rest of

legs with the SSS material while the rest of the

the options in the Modifier submenu for later.

subtool is using the exoskeleton material.
I found that the best way to understand the
behaviour of the material options is using the old
fashioned method of testing the different options
until you get the desired result. Keep in mind
though that you will need to fix the materials
later when adding render effects and lights,
so don’t spend to much time with them at this
stage. And don’t forget to take a break once in a
while so that you don’t lose your objectivity. You
might run the risk of rushing through your work,
and if this is the case then your work will suffer.
Before starting the polypaint, I needed to
run some tests in Photoshop. I rendered the
model with a gray-scaled Matcap, brought it
into Photoshop and ran some tests using the
Overlay Filter on a new layer. Fig.16 shows


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Chapter 02

ZBrush Monster Character Creation Chapter 02: Subterranean Monster
some tests. I found that it is vital to have a little
bit of every color spread all over a character.
Not a lot of things in real life are monochromatic,
except maybe manufactured stuff.
I began texturing by adding a flat dark green
color and then started painting with the brush
(RGB button in the space bar options). I used
a Spray Stroke and a chaotic alpha to avoid
seeing the brush strokes and having hard
borders where the colors blend together. Once
I’d given the model its main colors, I made a
second pass using the second Polypaint Mode
on my brush (go in the Brush Menu and move
the Polypaint Mode slider in the Alpha and
Texture submenu). You might want to check
the other Polypaint modes too, like the Multiply
Mode. I finished by coloring the bumps and
cavities by using the masking options in the

of masking either the bumps or the cavity of the

down a texture on the model using Spotlight

Masking submenu of the Tool menu. I found

model. Fig.17 shows an example of these steps.

from the Texture menu. It is a very powerful tool
that allows you to project imported texture maps

that the useful options are the Intensity slider,
the Cavity profile and of course, the Mask By

Another helpful tool: Spotlight

on the model and adjust them on the fly. By

Cavity button. The Cavity profile is responsible

You can also choose to start texturing by laying

painting over the layer on the screen, Spotlight
can either use the map as a diffuse map (with
the RGB button enabled) or as a height map for
sculpting (with the Zadd button enabled). Fig.18
shows some examples.

4. Transpose and
Transpose: Part 1
Since I made some sketches, I knew what kind
of movement and flow I wanted for his pose and
what shot I wanted for my main beauty shot.
To save the camera angle, I opened the
Zapplink submenu in the Document menu and
clicked on the Cust1 or Cust2 button. Don’t
forget to save the views to file here! I used
Transpose Master to create a low poly version
of the model in order to pose him using the
Action line tools (W, E and R button on the
keyboard). This is the part where you’ll notice
if your subtools have a respectable amount of
polys in their lowest subdiv level! You don’t need
to finish the pose at this point: wait to have the
terrain nailed down first.


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Chapter 02: Subterranean Monster ZBrush Monster Character Creation


If you disable the SSS button, the SSS will not

I copied the shrimp in top view with Shift + S

First you need to find a good light setting. I used

take effect in the render even if you have some

and used it to as reference for the terrain. I

a main light and two rim lights for this model

SSS materials in the Material menu.

loaded a new Shadowbox and created a rough

(Fig.19). The intensity of each light is set at

terrain. For the sculpting and texturing, I used

almost maximum because using the shadows

Then you have a load of sliders in the

the same technique as the monster, but used

in BPR makes the scene really dark. This is

submenus, so I’ll just feed you with what you

the Polish brush to make sharper edges in some

why the preview sphere for the light seems all

need to know. For the rest it’s better for you to

places (not too much though since it’s a wet and

blasted, to compensate for the renders. Only the

experiment... what a nice “do-it-yourself” tutorial

eroded terrain). I also went crazy with Spotlight

main light generates Shadow and SSS (located

you got here eh!

to sculpt the surface texture of the rock using a

under the Intensity Curve, Fig.19). You will

rock texture map I’d imported.

notice that the Shadow submenu in the Light

Make your render tests with around 10 rays.

menu doesn’t control the shadow when using

This will cut down on your render times while


you get the look just right. If you feel like your

Transpose: Part 2
When the terrain was done, I finished the pose: I

shadows still suck, raise the amount in the Res

arranged where the claws touched the floor and

Render settings

slider. Vdepth and Ldepth will come in handy if

I gave each arm/leg part a nice flow for my main

First go to the Document menu and choose the

you feel that the lights on the shadow parts of

camera angle. I didn’t need to use Transpose

resolution you want for your render. Don’t worry

the model (often it’ll be a rim light) have lost their

Master for that step; I simply went subtool by

about making the resolution twice as large for

intensity, because the shadow actually darkens


anti-aliasing: the new BPR will make the anti-

the light even if normally the light lightens the

aliasing automatically (Fig.20).


5. Lights, renders and

The Spix (Subpixel) slider (Fig.20) is mainly to

With the new BPR (Best Preview Render) you

tell ZBrush what level of quality you want for the

can produce quality renders within ZBrush.

anti-aliasing and the amount of ray calculation

The only drawback is that the render result will

during the rendering. Spix will take into

really differ from the preview material and light

consideration the amount of rays established in

spheres in the menus and what you see on the

the submenus, but will multiply it depending on

real-time canvas.

the level of the Spix slider. The higher the slider,
the longer the render and therefore the better
the quality.
In the third window of Fig.20, you’ll need to
enable what you want enabled in your renders.


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ZBrush Monster Character Creation Chapter 02: Subterranean Monster

Each time you change a value, it’ll affect every

You can check out my ZBrush turntable on my

practice and experimentation. Without hours of

other aspect. This is why, while playing with the

website at: http://www.marcoplouffe.com

practice and experimentation, along with the

render setting, it’ll be important to adjust the

help of my teachers, classmates, friends and the

light settings and the material modifiers because


everything here works in harmony, in order to

That concludes ZBrush’s workflow tutorial for

here telling you the tricks I learnt. I owe these

achieve the best final results.

modeling, texturing and rendering a character. I

people a lot and I am really grateful for that!

many critiques I got on the forums, I wouldn’t be

hope you learnt something! Now the only thing
Composition outside of ZBrush

left is to achieve the results you see in your

If you wish to contact me, don’t hesitate to send

To prepare for the post-production, don’t forget

head, but in my opinion that only comes from

me an email; it’ll be a pleasure to answer you in

to click on the Create Maps button on the top
of the Render menu before rendering. After the
render, you’ll be able to click on the five icons
just below to save to file the Render, Depth
map, Shadow map, AO map and the Mask.
The only treatment I applied in Photoshop was
level adjustments on specific maps and putting
in a background (Fig.21 - 26).
If you want to make a turntable but you feel that
the renders need some adjustments, try to use
the options available in the Adjustment submenu
of the Render menu.


page 29

Chapter 02

my free time! You can also visit my website to
check my complete artwork.

Marc-Olivier Plouffe
For more from this artist visit:
Or contact:

Chapter 03


ZBrush Monster Character Creation Chapter 03: Volcano Monster
Chapter 03 - Volcano
Software used: ZBrush
When I first started thinking of concepts for
volcano monsters, I knew I wanted to try
creating a big, burly, walking version of a
creature. To capture this I knew I needed
to incorporate key design elements like the
blown top, flowing lava, and cratered surfaces
all over. Also, I wanted the monster to have
a little personality, emotion, and movement
so I planned on posing him out as well. To
round everything off, I decided I would add a
base so that he felt grounded and part of an

ZBrush 4 upgrade so I was able to use some

find some really great photos. I can’t post them

of the new features now available. As far as

here for copyright reasons, but I just wanted

ZBrush is the perfect tool to create such a

reference material goes, just look up volcano or

to let you know that’s how I found my unique

character. I started off in ZBrush 3.5 and about

lava keywords on an internet search engine to

reference. I just don’t happen to have an active

halfway through the process I received my

volcano in my backyard unfortunately!
To begin in ZBrush 3.5, start with a single
ZSphere and start adding arms, legs and a
head. Once you have a simple low-res adaptive
skin solution from the ZSpheres, export it out as
an .obj file and import it into 3ds Max to edit the
mesh. This is purely a matter of preference at
this point as I’m just faster with topology editing
in 3ds Max.
Next open up the back faces and extrude a
crater on his back. Then add some eyeholes
and more tessellation for the mouth area. The


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Chapter 03

Chapter 03: Volcano Monster ZBrush Monster Character Creation
main focus at this point is to have a good,
even spread of the quads and a decent flow
of topology that will work well in ZBrush. This
doesn’t have to be a perfect representation of
my design right now as we just want to have
something to get started with in ZBrush
(Fig.01 – 03).
Once the rough base mesh is complete, export
it back over to ZBrush to get the rough blocking
started. This part of the process can actually
take up the most time as it’s where we’re really
“finding” the character, and there is a lot of
pushing and pulling around of the silhouette
and proportions. For this phase you really only
need to use a couple of different brushes: Move,
Smooth, and some Inflate and Clay. Also it’s a
good idea to do some quick polygroup setup
on the arms and legs so you can quickly isolate
these areas for a more efficient workflow.
We’re purely focusing on the silhouette, weight,
center of mass and overall proportion (arm
length, leg length and head location) for this
phase. Once your pleased with the shape, start
honing in on the body masses by using the Clay
NOTE: This is when I got my copy of ZBrush
4 so I’m going to start referring to some of the
new features and brushes available. One of the
best updates is the addition of the Clay Build-up
brush which behaves like the Clay Tubes brush
but has a nice building effect that feels really
natural. It’s great for blocking in shapes as well
as doing some refining work. Another brush
that’s good fun to use and is quite helpful with
the nooks and crannies is the Move Topological
brush. This one basically respects the topology
of your mesh and doesn’t affect surrounding
areas when you are moving things around. For
instance, you can move the upper eyelids and
not affect the lower ones.
Back to the sculpt! Once we get some good
masses placed on the body, let’s define the


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ZBrush Monster Character Creation Chapter 03: Volcano Monster
facial features so we can further find the
character within. To do this, first we need some
eyeballs that we can work around (Fig.04 – 11).
In the Subtool tab, simply click on the Append
button and add a Polysphere to the subtool list.
Now we can use the Move, Rotate and Scale
buttons to place the sphere on the face. Then
use the Subtool Master plugin to generate a
quick mirrored eyeball. Next work with the Clay
Build-up brush to build up some brows and
some simple lips and little nose without getting
really detailed. I like to stay on lower subdivision
levels until I completely fill them out and can
no longer add anything without moving higher.
These keep my process honest, forcing me to


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think about the basic principles and not jump
ahead to detailing anything too soon. It also
helps the mesh not to look really lumpy and it’s
easier to control when you build it up this way
(Fig.12 – 22).
Also it should be noted that I’m placing masses


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of forms where I think it will be good to have
some rocky forms and lava flow, but at the same
time subconsciously thinking about where his
“muscles” might go. I think this might help him to
look like he could move and not just be a pile of
random rocky rubble (Fig.23 – 29).
Now that we have some sort of recognizable
character, move on up to a higher sub-d level

animated character. As a thousand and one

and begin to do a second pass on the rough

tutorials have said before, use the Move (W),

blocking. In this phase, keep using that Clay

Scale (E), and Rotate (R) controls along with

Build-up combined with the Move brushes,

some simple masking to strike a pose. Give him

and give further design to the blocky forms that

a trudging walk with emphasis on his weight and

are all over. Inherently, when you move up

size (Fig.30 – 34).

the sub-d levels, you’ll find a lot of your work
smoothed over so you have to do some clean-

When I pose my characters I really try to identify

up on the rough blocking so it still makes sense.

an action line and find some sort of appealing

Refining will come next and that involves a little

silhouette. It really helps me to not only look

more detail and thought.

at the character’s shape, but also the negative
space (the open space surrounding his form).

So now we need to really focus on identifying
the design masses. What do his arms really look

Once the pose is sorted, we can confidently

like? How is this lava going to actually flow out

move on with further definition. With our

of the crater? Should his face be symmetrical?
When creating any sculpt, these are the kinds of
questions I ask myself as I go along.
Since his forms are pretty much worked out
now, I think it would be best to pose him since
we’re approaching this as purely a conceptual/
sculptural model and not a production-ready


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forms taking a little more life, bring the Dam
Standard brush into the mix and use it to punch
in crevices and to help form out the transition
areas and lava flows (Fig.35 – 39).
It helps to make sure you’ve got decent positive
and negative relief on the surface, especially
when dealing with the textural effects that
volcanoes can create. To finish the roughing
phase, methodically cover the entire surface

brushes, begin to focus on creating the lava flow

some sort of hard surface and a somewhat

of the character to be sure that every area has

details and transition areas (Fig.40 – 48).

multi-faceted feel. Basically we’re trying to

been addressed with some sort of design. From

There should be some sort of indication of flow

avoid perfectly smooth areas because that

here, we can move on to the refining phase and

along the sides of the rock that the lava pushes

would make the sculpt look unfinished. The only

add secondary forms.

through. We want to focus on creating this all

smooth areas will be where the rock surfaces

over the surface of the character. Also use the

are melting into the base, for example, the legs

hPolish brush to do give the soft blobs of rocks

and hand transitions. I think those areas should

Using the Clay Build-up and Dam Standard

look as though gravity has really taken hold and
he’s trudging along dragging his gooey self.
This way he looks like he’s in a constant state
of going from a cool hardened rock surface to
smooth molten lava.
It’s important to note also that the lava flow has
a look that indicates layers and thickness. If this


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stuff wasn’t viscous, then it wouldn’t be nearly

To use this feature, we need to go down to the

Go to the highest subdivision level, store that

as layered. So even though this effect takes a

base level and hide all the faces but the ones

as a Morph Target, go back up to the Layer

bit of time to sculpt in over the entire character, I

where we want to add edge loops. Once hidden,

tab, create a new layer and name it, and then

believe it’s what really sets it apart as a volcano

click on Edge Loop and it will add two loops to

finally open up the Surface tab to use the Noise


my mesh. Then we can unhide the rest of the

feature. Click on the Noise button and open up

character and finish out detailing that area at

the curve palette so you can change the profile

Like me you might find that you can’t really

the higher subdivision levels. It’s not quite an

of the noise. Remember, until you click on Apply

subdivide the mesh another level, and certain

even spread of polygons at the lower levels but

to Mesh then this is just a preview of the noise

parts of the model probably won’t handle detail

it works for what we need it to do, which is being

that you don’t have to commit to.

very well. You may not have enough resolution

able to have better quality detailing in this area.

in his hands and the lava flowing from them. So

This lets us try out different strengths, scale,

to remedy this without having to do any kind of

To start the detailed surface texture for the

and curves so we achieve the kind of noise we

external retopologizing, we can just add some

craters and rocky feel, we’re going to use the

want. Since we want something kind of rocky,

edge loops using the Edge Loop button under

Surface Noise feature as opposed to dragging

we need to adjust all three values.

the Geometry tab (Fig.49 – 52).

alphas all over the character (Fig.53 – 59).


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Chapter 03: Volcano Monster ZBrush Monster Character Creation
After experimenting with different curves, I’ve
found that if we put in a dip in the middle it helps
to make some interesting craters. Then adjust
the scale to around 30 and the strength to about
-.04. Now is when we can click on Apply to
Mesh and it will be baked into the layer we’ve
You can now turn off this layer to remove the
noise and adjust its intensity slider if you want
further control. The problem is that the noise is
covering every area of the volcano monster. We
need to “erase” it out of the smooth lava flow
areas. So to do this, use the Morph brush (since
we saved out that morph target earlier) and you


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Chapter 03

ZBrush Monster Character Creation Chapter 03: Volcano Monster

can effectively just remove the noise wherever

bumps in the surface noise we just added as a

detail as much when adding the strokes. Try to

you make a brush stroke.

starting point. Select the Form Brush and Alpha

make sure that you made differing shapes and

48 and just randomly add these recesses all

sizes but ones that still made sense for typical

Another big textural addition I think we need

over the rocky surfaces. Use the Form Brush

lava rock craters. Then after you’re happy with

to make is to add deeper craters and use the

because it tends to not smooth out the existing

the craters, use the same brush and alpha but


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Chapter 03: Volcano Monster ZBrush Monster Character Creation
use the colorized spray application and lightly
go over all the rocky areas again to add another
level of roughness. Then finally, add another
layer of noise on another layer that will cover the
entire surface (Fig.60 – 62).
I made this noise to add a small level of texture
to all the smooth lava flow areas. To close out
the sculpt of the character, make sure that
you’ve got everything tied together and all the
surface transitions make sense and have a good
level of depth and variety.
The base needs a final pass so use the Clay
brush and start adding layers of smooth lava
rocks. You can also use the hPolish and Clay
Build-up brushes to give the border some sort of
varying texture and sculptural feel.
Use a Noise brush to quickly lay in some noise
across some of the smooth layered rocks so
nothing is perfectly smooth.Sculpting uniquely
volcano rocky surfaces and smooth lava flows
turned out to be quite fun and interesting
challenge to take on.
It’s a bit tedious to do these kinds of textural
effects but with the new brushes available in
ZBrush 4 along with the Surface Noise feature,
the process can flow quite nicely.
On a side note, I tackle these kinds of fun
characters and more in my character creation
training videos, which is a subscription-based
service that releases two 60 minute videos
a month. You can find more information and
pricing at http://www.cgnuggets.com. Thanks
everyone! (Fig.63 – 67).

Jesse Sandifer
For more from this artist visit:
Or contact them at:


page 42

Chapter 03

Chapter 04


ZBrush Monster Character Creation Chapter 04: Aquatic Monster
Chapter 04 - Aquatic
Software used: ZBrush
In this tutorial we will examine the subject of
sculpting and texturing an aquatic monster, and
my workflow from concept to final image.
I always start by getting my ideas down on
paper. I draw several quick sketches, create
several variations of the character and then

Edit mode. On the keyboard press the “X” key

choose the one that works best (Fig.01a – b).

to activate symmetry and draw the head, the
body, and the legs. Finally draw the hands and

Ask yourself some important questions: Where

the fingers. Use Transpose > Move to reposition

does your character live? What does he do?

any of the ZSpheres you have created (Fig.02).

And how does his environment impact on his
physical appearance? It’s also good to work with

You can also use Scale to increase or decrease

references; not to copy them, but to make your

the size of yours ZSpheres. At any time you can

work more solid and accurate. For this aquatic

see your mesh by pressing “A” on the keyboard.

creature I searched on the internet for as

Press “A” again to switch back to the ZSpheres

many photos as possible with frogs, fishes and

preview. When you’re done, put the density to 1

crocodiles in them.

under adaptive skin (Fig.03).

in Maya first. That’s why I just export the model
in Maya and delete the poles (several edges

There’s no point in spending too much time on

Don’t forget to convert your mesh into polygons

sharing the same vertex) and add some edges

the sketches since we’ll develop and improve

by pressing “Make polyMesh3D” under the


this idea directly in ZBrush, but we’ll keep these

Tool menu. You can activate Polyframe to see

sketches to help us as we go along. With all the

the wireframe. As you can see, the wireframe

This step only takes a few minutes, but will

decisions made with regards to the concept, we

generated by ZBrush is pretty good but not

strongly improve your topology and will help you

can now start the sculpting process!

totally clean.

a lot at the sculpting stage. When I’m happy, I

I start in ZBrush using ZSpheres. Go to Tool >

We could start to sculpt directly on this mesh but

start in low resolution trying to get the basic

ZSphere and draw on the canvas, then enter

I prefer to improve and clean up the base mesh

shapes. For this, I use the Move tool (Fig.04).

just export the model back to ZBrush. Now let’s


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When the silhouette is better we can start
subdividing the model.
Tip: Under Render, select “flat” and choose a
dark color for your model. It’s really helpful to be
able to see a clearer view of the silhouette and
spot if something goes wrong with the form.
I use the Standard brush first to refine the
shapes further (Fig.05).
Getting a solid overall shape and well-balanced
proportions is the most important part: you’ll
achieve a good model if you work this way.

In some cases I activate Lazy Mouse. It helps

I’ve also opened up the mouth to be able to

Details can be added later. You can use the

a lot when we need to sculpt very smooth

sculpt inside it (Fig.07).

Clay or Clay Tubes brushes as well if you prefer,

lines. To do this press “L” on the keyboard.

but don’t forget to soften your strokes with the

When I feel I don’t have enough polygons to

The teeth and the tongue are made in Maya with

Smooth brush. For the eyes, I just import a

sculpt correctly I simply divide the model, but

a simple extruded cube imported into ZBrush as

simple sphere from ZBrush as a subtool and

it’s sometimes useful to use the Pinch brush

a subtool. The extruded cube is just duplicated

duplicate it. When I’m happy I start to refine the

instead. You’ll get what you want without having

several times to make the teeth (Fig.08).

individual parts of the creature like the hands,

to add another subdivision level. Don’t forget

feet, head etc., trying to increase the detail on

to use references pictures during the sculpting

Adding details to a model is a really cool and

the sculpt (Fig.06).

process and to look at your initial sketches.

exciting part of the work, because it can strongly
improve your model, but you have to be careful
and make sure you spend enough time on this
Once again, looking at some references will be
very helpful to keep your model convincing and
safe. At this stage it’s also very important to
concentrate on very specific point of the model;
that’s why it’s useful to hide some parts to keep
your attention on the areas you’re working
on. Using alphas is a good way to add details


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ZBrush Monster Character Creation Chapter 04: Aquatic Monster

without spending too much time, but use them
sparingly to avoid ruining all the work you’ve
done so far (Fig.09).
I use polypaint to add colors to my character.
Take care when choosing the material you’re
using before you paint because some materials
are already coloured in ZBrush and are not
adapted for this stage. Try to choose a neutral
material like “SkinShaded4”, for example. I start
with a blue on the whole model and paint some
white on the belly using the Standard brush.
I then use a darker blue to create the stripes
and use several tones of cyan, purple and blue
on the different parts of the model. I finish by
adding some smaller and subtle details (Fig.10
– 11).
You can also use a cavity mask (Tool palette
> Masking Tab) so that you can paint only the
cavities on your mesh. If you want to inverse

Maya. I then import it into ZBrush and sculpt the

your mask you just have to hold Ctrl and click on

same way I did for the creature, focusing on the

the canvas.

main shape first and then detailing at the end

When you’ve finished you can unmask your
model by holding Ctrl and dragging and clicking

I don’t spend too much time on the fish though,

on the canvas.

since we won’t focus all our attention on it and
because it will be only a small part of the image

For the fish, I use the same workflow, except


the fact that I make the base mesh directly in


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Chapter 04: Aquatic Monster ZBrush Monster Character Creation
I use polypainting for the colors too. As ever,
reference material is important. When the model
is finished, I importe it with the creature as a
subtool (Fig.14).
Now it’s time to pose the character. For this I
use Transpose Master (Zplugin > Transpose
Master > Tpose Mesh) (Fig.15).
This plugin gives us the opportunity to move the
parts of the model we want with all the subtools.
This way, we can move the head with the
tongue and the teeth together for example.
Here, I try to give some dynamism to the
character. When it’s done, I go to Zplugin >
Transpose Master > Tpose SubT, and I reshape
the areas that have been deformed during the
posing process. I then add some more details
and break the symmetry (Fig.16).
I add the final touches by painting the finer
details on.
At this point, I chose to export my model into
Maya and to make the render there, but you can
choose to render your model with ZBrush if you
like. Set some good lighting up and tweak your
shaders. You can even render several passes
and composite them in Photoshop... but this is
totally up to you! In Fig.17 – Fig.18 you can see
some render tests and the final image in Fig.19.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial and learned
some useful things. Thanks for reading!


page 48

Chapter 04

Olive Titouan
For more from this artist visit:
Or contact them at:

Chapter 05



ZBrush Monster Character Creation Chapter 05: Jungle Monster
Chapter 05 - Jungle
Software used: ZBrush

Hi, my name is Jonas Skoog (energise) and
here is my tutorial on how I created a jungle
monster. I aimed for a beautiful image displaying
something creepy. ZBrush was used for almost
everything in this image, except for some stuff
in Maya and Photoshop. I hope to give you a
better understanding of my workflow and ideas
around creating a character. Happy reading!

The first thing I did after getting this assignment

- Does it have any weaknesses?

like jungle, insects and monsters I quickly filled

was to write down all the words I associate with

- How would it catch its pray?

a folder with good reference images. After

the jungle on a piece of paper. This ended up

studying these images and reading my notes I

being quite a few words, so to narrow it down

When I had answered these questions, I wrote

finally had a strong vision on what I wanted my

I picked out only the ones that excited my

yet another list describing the most important

monster to look like. Now I just had to make it


features of the monster:

stick on paper!

To get a good overview and help my inner eye,

- Poison stinger

My sketches always start out as rough

a mind map (Fig.01) was created containing

- Uses its wings to aid long leaps but

thumbnails and there are usually quite a few of

these words (glad I paid attention in school!).

cannot fly

them. This time however my mental image was

To get to know my monster a little better I then

- Hard shell plates for protection

very clear and the deadline short so I settled on

asked myself questions like:

- Long vulnerable neck

around the third concept (Fig.02). The only thing

- Uses sonar to see (no eyes)

to do now was place the final concept on the left

- What does it eat?

screen along with the reference folder and dig in

- Does it have any enemies?

With this all laid out I turned to my best friend

- What are its strengths?

Google for support. By searching for words

to the sculpting!

ZSpheres & Silhouette
To kick off the sculpting I went straight to
ZBrush using the ZSpheres. I am not superskilled in using them, but they get the job
done and they do it fast. Within a few minutes
you have a decent mesh ready to be turned
into a masterpiece. Creating something with
ZSpheres is very straightforward. Create the
first sphere symbolizing the pelvic area, activate
Symmetry from the Transform menu and just
start extruding limbs. Make sure you preview the
adaptive skin once in a while by pressing the “A”


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key to rule out any weird results. As you can see
in Fig.03 my ZSphere setup was very simple,
but it was enough for the results I wanted.
When I had laid out the foundation it was time
to start working on a strong silhouette. This is
very important for immediate recognition of a
character and must be easily understood, like
if you see someone you know from afar or from
behind. It could be anything from spiky hair to
broad shoulders telling you who that person is.
To shape the silhouette I mostly used the
Move brush along with some Standard and
Smooth brushes for minor touch-ups. Some of
the new, cool features added to ZBrush 4 are
the alternate Move brushes, which are really
helpful. Especially Move Topology, which is a
blessing when roughing out fingers and other
tight spaces.
I also switched to flat render back and forth to
get a better overview, as seen in Fig.04.


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First Sculpt Pass and Topology

Whilst inside Maya I also took the opportunity

seen from above that I could use. This image

With the silhouette nailed down the next step

to separate a few of the limbs, such as the

was then imported into Maya as an Image

was carving out all the major shapes, which in

hind legs and tongue, thus giving me a better

Plane, allowing me to quickly rough-out the

this case were the shell plates and large muscle

chance to subdivide the monster higher. I have

basic shape of the wings. A “UV Planar” was

groups. For this I used the Clay Tubes brush

found that Subtools above 10 million polygons

then applied to the mesh, allowing both sides to

almost exclusively, at an intensity of around

makes ZBrush very unstable on my system.

share the exact same UV space. The result was

20. For smoothing I lowered the intensity on

This results in numerous crashes and renders

the textures applied to the wings being mirrored

the Clay Tubes and made circular motions in

the Decimation Master useless when trying to

on both sides. After placing the UVs of the wings

a subtractive way. It just felt like I got more

include UVs, to name a few.

inside the 1-1 UV space, covering as much of

control over the smoothing that way (this does

the square as I could, a “UV Snapshot” 2048 x

not mean that I do not use the Smooth brush if

With my new base mesh(es) imported back

2048 was exported as a JPEG.

it feels needed). I am sure you have heard this

into ZBrush all I had to do was transfer all the

before but make sure you push each subdivision

details from the old base onto the new one.

This snapshot was then opened up in

level to its limit before you proceed to the next,

To do this I used a feature called “Project

Photoshop, along with the Image Plane of

slowly building more and more details as you

All”. Since I chose to change the topology

the dragonfly in a separate layer. After some

go. This gives you more control and your sculpt

before any serious details, such as pores and

cutting and pasting to align the wings with the

stays smooth and free from lumps.

wrinkles, were applied I was able to leave all

UVs, I made some last alterations using the

the settings at default. To ensure good results

Puppet Warp tool (found in the Edit menu).This

When I had reached around level 5, all the

though I recommend doing a projection for each

makes the image you wish to transform into a

flaws in the current topology started to unveil

subdivision level of your Subtool starting from

triangulated 2D mesh, allowing you to create

in the form of serious stretching. This had to be

the lowest. Also since I had separated a few

vertex points and deform by moving them.

corrected before continuing further. Normally

parts of the original mesh I needed to mask out

I would have used the built in retopology tools

the areas where they used to intersect. The

I then finished everything off with some level

in ZBrush, but since I was quite short on time I

projection will otherwise try to recreate these

adjustments, and by cleaning up a few dirty

had to think of a faster way. I quickly GoZ’d the

non-existing polygons and leave you with pretty

pixels, together with inverting it and converting it

mesh over to Maya and optimized the topology

weird results.

to grayscale to serve my purposes in ZBrush.

04a). Not a perfect solution, but it worked out


It was now time to return to ZBrush by importing

well thanks to the decent topology already

To create the wings I knew I needed good

the wing meshes as Subtools and applying the

provided by the ZSpheres and the fact that no

reference material. By searching Google for

newly created texture to them. With the texture

animation would be necessary.

a while I found a decent image of a dragonfly

in place I chose “mask by intensity” to mask

to my liking using the Split Polygon tool (Fig


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Chapter 05 Jungle Monster ZBrush Monster Character Creation

out all the black parts in the texture to protect

definition and damage. For this task I used a

lots of wrinkles using the Standard brush with

the pattern in the wings. With the mask in place

variety of brushes like Dam Standard, Clay

“spray” and “alpha 58” applied to it (Fig.06).

I was now able to apply an “inflate deform” to

Tubes (on very low intensity), Hpolish etc. For

By storing a morph target and sculpting in a

raise the veins just a little on both sides. Voila!

parts like the shell plates and such I began by

separate layer I could then used the Morph

Finished insect wings (Fig.05)!

laying out an alpha of a broken wall, which I

brush to remove all the unwanted parts. I then

then used to find new shapes and patterns. It

deleted the morph, added a new one and finally

Fine Details

is important though to see the alphas as tools

created a new layer to add new details. This

With new topology, overall definition and a

and not a final solution. To give the monster fine

method might be a little tedious, but it gives

strong silhouette it was time to start adding

details like wrinkles and such I relied heavily on

you total control over intensity and placement

some of the good stuff like tendons, muscle

layers and morph targets. I started by adding

of details. I used the exact same technique
for pores etc., just switching the alpha. Dam
Standard was also used for making wrinkles and
crisping up other details.
The environment was created in pretty much
the same way as the monster. The basic
shapes were roughed out using the Clay Tubes
brush and Hpolish. For the stone and wooden
surfaces, alphas were laid out and further
sculpted using the “Morph target method” that
I mentioned earlier. I then went crazy with
the Dam Standard and Clay Tubes brushes
to create the various crevices between the
boulders in the stone sculpture and also the
cracks in the wood (Fig.07).


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ZBrush Monster Character Creation Chapter 05: Jungle Monster
When painting my Subtools I begin by assigning
the “SkinShade4” matcap to get a proper canvas
to work from. I then fill the model with a color
that represents the final tone I am after to get
rid of all that white. To fill the model, first make
sure that only RGB is active and then press
“FillObject” found under the Color menu. From
here I start blocking out different temperature
zones (Fig.08).
- Red for warm/sensitive areas like thin skin
stretching over the muscles, knuckles, ears
- Blue for areas with lots of blood vessels and
cavities like around the eyes.
- Yellow for places where the bones are near
the surface like the forehead and ribs.
Spray (put Flow and Color to 0 in the Stroke

I really recommend buying his book, ZBrush:

When painting these areas I use a brush made

menu) and “alpha 07” applied. This will spray

Character Creation, for an in-depth explanation.

by Scott Spencer, which I call the Mottling

tiny dots all over your strokes, making the colors

brush. It is basically the Standard brush with

blend in a pointillist manner.

When the temperature zones are in place I
switch over to the Standard Brush and the color
white for something called a noodling pass,
meaning that everything gets covered with tiny
squiggly eight shapes to break up the surface.
I spray a very light layer of pink (if I am doing
skin) all over the model to blend the colors
further and tone them down. I then spray a
darker, desaturated version of the previous color
around the muscles to gain some definition.
Another temperature pass is then added to
touch up where needed. I finish the paintjob
by filling in the veins with a blue color, adding
birthmarks and add other imperfections where
An environment can also be painted using this
mottling technique, but to a far lower degree and
with a more extensive use of different textures.
A new great tool in ZBrush 4 is “Spotlight”,
which I use exclusively when adding textures to
my models (Fig.09). It works like stencils, but
giving you full control over rotation, size, color
adjustments and much more.


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Chapter 05 Jungle Monster ZBrush Monster Character Creation

While posing my monster I wanted it caught
in the moment when climbing over the stone
statue. To achieve this I used the Transpose
tools within ZBrush. This allows you to add
temporary joints to parts you wish to pose
(Fig10). Let us say I wanted my monster to
bend his elbow a little. I would then mask
everything on the body except for the area
below the elbow and blur the mask for a
smooth deformation. Next I would hit “R” on the
keyboard to switch to the Transpose tool for
rotation and draw out a joint from the center of
the elbow all the way down to the hand. By then

You can use the Transpose tool in the exact

This is something that is very effective when you

moving the end of the joint closest to the hand, I

same way to change the movement and scale

are blocking out your shapes in the “silhouette

am now able to rotate the arm below the elbow

by hitting the “W” key for move and “E” for scale

pass” that I described earlier.

into the desired position.

(you get back to brush mode by pressing “Q”).


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I must say I am very impressed with the new

colors in place I can then make conscious

Render Passes

BPR render in ZBrush 4. The results it gives

decisions about the other passes at an early

When rendering out my images I always split

makes the old “Best Render” look like a preview

stage, ruling out what works and what doesn’t.

them up into several render passes, giving me

in comparison.

much more control over the final result. The

As more passes emerge it gets very important

passes used to create the jungle monster ended

Putting it all Together

to have an organized layering system otherwise,

up being quite a few since I always do lots of

I usually start putting the image together in

for me, chaos is sure to strike when I can’t find

renders with different setting and then pick out

Photoshop right after the first passes have

the pass I am looking for. Therefore I always

the ones I like the most. As long as I have my

been rendered out. This way I can start working

begin by adding three folders in the layer stack,

base passes such as Color, Specular, Shadows

on the background and such while other

back-, middle- and foreground (Fig.12). Within

and Light the rest is pretty much trying out what

passes render in the background. With a rough

these folders everything is separated into even

looks good (Fig.11).

background containing the most important

more folders for specular and shadows etc. Also


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Chapter 05

naming your layers properly is very important.
When all the layers have been tweaked to my
liking I finish it off with a few adjustment layers,
such as Level and Color Balance. With the
image pushed to its limit the last thing to do is
applying depth. To do this, create a new alpha
layer (under the Channels tab next to Layers)
and paste the depth image taken from ZBrush
into it. Next we have to merge all the layers to
one in order to have the depth affect the entire
image. What we have to do now is, under Blur
in the Filters menu, choose “Lens Blur”. Inside
the filter look for “depth map” and select your
alpha for the source. This will give Photoshop
an idea of distance in your image and blurs it
accordingly. Feel free to try out the different
settings like Focal Distance and Radius before
you are done for optimal results.

I would like to thank 3DTotal for the opportunity
to write this tutorial. I had a blast doing it, even
though the time limit of 20 days was a little
stressful (being an artist, it was the writing part
that took up most of the time!). I hope you have
enjoyed it as much as I did creating it and if you
have any questions, do not hesitate to send me
an e-mail.
You can also visit my website for more art and
tutorials. Thanks!

Jonas Skoog
For more from this artist visit:
Or contact them at:

Chapter 06


ZBrush Monster Character Creation Chapter 06: Mountain Monster
Chapter 06 - Mountain
Software used: ZBrush

Creatures and monsters are always interesting
to build in 3D. For this tutorial, I will show you
my workflow from concept through to sculpting
and texturing a character using ZBrush.

The theme given for this tutorial is a “mountain
monster”. After doing some research, I decided
to create a mountain troll, simply because I
thought it would be interesting to design and it
fitted well into the mountain environment.
So first of all, we have to determine the
personality of this troll. I want my troll to be big
and strong, but also friendly and maybe a bit
stupid. He might wear a very simple outfit, like
an animal skin or fur, but it should be minimal
since he is living in the wild.
I made a couple of sketches for this creature,
but here’s the one that seemed to work with
the description above. As you can see I initially
wanted to give him a weapon to hunt with like
bat or stone axe, but I later dumped this idea
because I don’t want to make him look violent,
which is contrary to his personality description.
Although this concept is rough and far from
finished, it gives us a good picture of what we’re
going to sculpt later in ZBrush (Fig.01).


simply press shift + D (pressing D will have the

some extruded features such as the ear and

opposite effect; it will increase the subdivision).

the nose. When the base form is done you can
continue in a higher resolution. Slide the SubD

After the concept is done, it’s time to enter

Always work on the lowest subdivision possible,

the modeling stage. I tend to start projects by

so for now we will keep on SubD 1. Press X

building the head in order to get the overall

to work in Symmetry mode and then activate

Add more details to the head using the Standard

feeling of the character. So let’s begin by picking

Perspective by pressing P. Now we will begin to

or Claytube brush. The Claytube brush is great

a PolySphere from the Tool palette (Fig.02).

pull the sphere around to form the basic head

for adding muscle definition, like in the forehead

anatomy. To do this, click the Brush palette on

or cheek muscles. The Standard brush is used

the left and choose the Move brush.

for generic purposes like the eye socket, nostril,

You may notice that the standard PolySphere

lips, etc. The default mode for the brushes is

has too many polygons. Go to the Geometry
tab and then slide the SubD slider to 1 or


slider into SubD 2 (or press D once).

Use the Move brush to shape the face, making

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ZAdd, which is similar to adding clay/material to

Chapter 06

Chapter 06: Mountain Monster ZBrush Monster Character Creation

a sculpture. Holding Alt while you are sculpting

and go to Subtool > Append. In the box click

After you have finished adding one eye, all

will activate ZSub, which reduces the mass of

PolySphere and you will get another sphere in

you have to do is mirror it. Use a plugin called

the model (Fig.03).

the Subtool list.

Subtool Master, which you can find by going to
ZPlugin > Subtool Master. Simply click Mirror

Continue doing this until you reach SubD 3. You

To adjust the eye sphere use Transpose, which

and check Merge into one subtool, with X as the

will notice that 3 is the maximum subdivision

includes Move, Rotate and Scale. All three

mirror axis.

level at the moment. We can add more

can be found on top of the canvas. Press the

subdivision and details, but at this stage I would

Transpose button on the right of your palette to

Using different materials (MatCap) can

like to see the troll with some eyes. So we’re

make the unselected subtool (in this case the

sometimes help you work better. I usually use

going to postpone sculpting the head any further

head) invisible.

MatCap Gray for modeling purpose, which can
be found in the Material palette on your left
menu (Fig.04).
Now we will begin detailing the face. Press
Geometry > Divide to increase the subdivision.
I mainly use three brushes to detail faces,
which are Standard, Clay and Claytubes. My
usual workflow is to use Claytubes as the “base
sculpt” and after that apply the Clay or Smooth
brush to soften the texture (Fig.05).
With these basic brushes, continue sculpting
the face. Sometimes we will need to sculpt
very smooth lines; to do this simply press L to
activate lazy mouse.
Next we will add some teeth popping out
from his mouth. To do this, we’re going to use
another sphere and do the same here as we did
with the eyes. Append a PolySphere from the
Tool palette and pull the top of it using the Move
brush. Then duplicate it with the Subtool Master.
This is how the troll head looked in SubD 6


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Chapter 06

ZBrush Monster Character Creation Chapter 06: Mountain Monster
To construct the body, we will use a different
technique. The best way to do it is using
ZSpheres. First, we need to attach the ZSphere
to the head mesh. To do this, click Append
below the subtool list and then select ZSphere
from the list. The head might be covering the
ZSphere so if you can’t see it, simply press
Transform. Position the ZSphere roughly in the
center of the body using Transpose > Move
(shortcut W) (Fig.07).
Now we will start to build the body. Press X to
activate Symmetry. To add another ZSphere
use Draw (or shortcut Q) and then drag from
the center out. Use Move (W) to reposition any
of the ZSpheres you created. You can also use
Scale to increase the size of your ZSphere. After
a couple of minutes building the ZSphere here’s
what I came up with (Fig.08).
Since this character has natural seams at the
waist, separate the body and the feet. This will
also mean there will be more polygons to work
with later.
You can preview what the mesh will look like by
pressing A (or go to Adaptive Skin in the Tool
palette and press Preview). Pressing A again
will switch back to ZSphere mode. Make any
further adjustments needed, and then press
Make Adaptive Skin (also in the Adaptive Skin
menu) to convert the subtool into a mesh. The
result will appear in the Tool palette. We will
need to add this tool to the existing subtool,
so go to Subtool > Append and select the new
body mesh.
Using the same method build the feet from a
ZSphere. Turn it to Adaptive Skin and then
append it as a subtool (Fig.09).
and adding more subdivision and details. My

highest subdivision without any base in previous

Small Tip: To switch between subtools, just Alt

body, for example, is sculpted until SubD 7.

subdivisions can result in a clumpy and ugly

+ click on the subtool mesh that you want to

I’m using the same brushes as I did on the

shape (Fig.10).


head: Claytubes for the base muscle and then
the Clay or Smooth brush to smooth it. Always

Another useful feature in ZBrush is masking.

After the base mesh is finished continue to

go back to a lower subdivision if you want to

Basically we paint certain areas that we want

work on the body, sculpting more muscles

cover larger areas to sculpt. Sculpting at the

to protect when sculpting. To do this, simply


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Chapter 06

Chapter 06: Mountain Monster ZBrush Monster Character Creation

hold Ctrl and paint the mesh. We can invert this
masking by pressing Ctrl + click in the canvas
(outside the model) (Fig.11).
This will be useful to protect other areas from
sculpting, or to isolate certain part that we need
to focus on. Another way of masking is by using
Transpose > Move. To do this, press W and
hold Ctrl while dragging in the direction of the
area you want to expose (Fig.12).
After finishing the upper body, continue to add
the clothing. To create it, we’re going to extract
some mesh from the lower body.
First we need to mask the areas that we want to
extract. I’d advise doing the masking in SubD 2,

After you have done the extraction the mesh will

Standard brush with thin alpha (e.q no 39) is

to make sure there are enough polygons to work

appear in the Subtool list. Try to shape it using

also good for sculpting the fur (Fig.14b).

with later.

the Move and Standard brush (Fig.13).
Now we can take this model into the next level,
After that continue sculpting the lower body. I’m

by doing some texturing. ZBrush has a very

doing mainly what I did on the upper part: just

good texture painting feature that allow us to

building some muscles using Claytubes and

paint without UVing the model. This is known

then smoothing them using the Clay or Smooth

as Polypaint. In Polypaint, the more dense


the model, the better resolution of the texture
painted. So it’s always good to have a good

A simple gesture or expression will bring more

amount of subdivision before you get started on

life to the model. For this troll let’s add a bit of

the painting.

a smile and rotate the eyes and body to make
it look more natural. Then continue refining the

The first step is adding color to the model. Make

sculpt. Here’s what my sculpt looked like after

sure the RGB button on top of your canvas is

adding the simple expression (Fig.14a).

turned on. Then pick any color from the Color
palette and go to the Color menu. Click Fill

Extract the chest fur mesh from the body. Then

Object and the color will then be assigned to the

add some subdivision and use the Snake Hook

active subtool.

and Move brushes to sculpt the fur strands. The


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Chapter 06

ZBrush Monster Character Creation Chapter 06: Mountain Monster

Once the basic color is assigned, we can start to
paint. Choose the desired Stroke type from the
Stroke palette on the left of canvas (the default
will be dots). After you have done that, pick
“alpha 04” from the Alpha palette. This alpha will
give a good texture when creating skin. Now we
can drag to paint the texture. Fig.15 shows my
progress when painting the troll.
As you can see I’m mainly adding reddish colors
to bring the face to life.

Shaded4”, or you can download another

Adding light can really improve your render.

material from the internet.

Here’s my sculpt after tweaking the lights
(Fig.18). The default light is one Sun light. You

Tip: To pick the color from your cursor position,
simply press C. To switch the color from the
foreground to background, press V.
It is also good to have a skin material assigned
to the model. ZBrush has one named “Skin

Masking is also a great feature to help us when

can add as many as eight lights. To create the

Polypainting. In this case I am using a Cavity

image I’m using six lights, with two of them

mask. Go to the Masking tab in the Tool palette,

being Sun lights and the rest as Point lights. To

and then you can see there are many masking

change the light types, go to Types and pick

options. To create a better result, press Cavity

Point light. Other settings that we can use are

Profile. It will open a curve that we can adjust to

Intensity and Ambient.

control the masked areas (Fig.16).
The light placement is important, so try to
After we have done the masking, it’s time to

experiment with different light positions. Turning

paint all the cavities. Experiment with either

on Shadow in the Shadow tab can also add

lighter or darker colors to make it contrast with

depth to the model.

the base skin color.
And that’s the end of this tutorial! I hope you’ve
Tip: When painting whilst using the Cavity

learned some useful things about sculpting in

mask, turn off the mask visibility by pressing

ZBrush and thanks for reading.

View Mask. Press it again to turn the mask
visibility back on.

Marthin Agusta
For more from this artist visit:

Here’s what I had after painting the whole body


(Fig.17). Go to Render > Best to render the

Or contact them at:

model. You might notice that the model is quite


dark right now, so the next step will be adding
some lights.


page 65

Chapter 06


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The aim of this 198 page eBook is to provide both an efficient and methodical approach to creating characters
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