Porunn: A Character Making-of
Why did you start to work on this project, Porunn?
The main reason I decided to work on Porunn was to add more current gen realistic characters to my portfolio. I started working at her right after finishing Ramsay from Game Of Thrones. From a technical aspect, Porunn was slightly more complex in her design, from costume to hair style and that made things more interesting.
What is your process when starting to create a new character?
I always start off in Zbrush by using a base mesh for the initial sculpt. The first thing was to getting the body proportions looking as realistic as possible while also keeping close attention to the actress's actual body type. At this point I didn’t give enough importance at getting the face likeness to match.
As soon as everything was in place, I usually detach the head right under a part that I know will be covered by clothes. Doing so, allows me to add more subdivision levels to the face for a greater amount of detail.
So how do you approach this more delicate phase with the head?
Sculpting the face for a perfect likeness is the most important part at this point. I try to match it as close as possible to the actual actress by using many reference photos. Also, I like to use Zbrush’s See Through slider to quickly check the face proportions over a photo. Pores and other face details were added using Texturing.xyz’s amazing displacement maps.
Once you have your body and head, how do you continue on the process of creating such a character?
For the clothes, I usually export a subd lvl 2 body sculpt to Marvelous and create the patterns there, then I bring them back to Zbrush to add more wrinkles, details, stitches and damages.
For this character, I decided not to actually sculpt the clothes patterns, like leather and burlap because wanted to have more control on the tiling by adding them as height maps in Substance Painter.
Almost ready to texture...
When sculpting is done, I then retopologize the character, UV map each part into different uv groups and export as a single Obj mesh. This character for example has 4 groups divided into Head, Hair, Upper Body, Lower Body. I then generate the different maps (Occlusion, ID, Normal, Curvature etc) required to have total control of the texturing process right from Substance Painter.
The texturing phase:
I load the mesh in Substance Painter, and that’s where the fun begins. Before I even used Substance, I would texture in Photoshop. It would take days, if not weeks to get the basic textures done and Substance has changed all that. It took me 2-3 days to get almost finished textures and this is only my third character textured in Substance so I am still learning to fully use it.
“I usually start by creating folders and masking each material type on all the UV sets.”
There were a lot of good tutorials on the internet about using Substance Painter and after watching some of them I decided to try making my own workflow. I usually start by creating folders and masking each material type on all the UV sets.
Texturing the face...
For the face, I created a fill layer with a skin color and a basic roughness value (I kept it rather high), then I created another fill layer on top of that with only the roughness channel activated and used the baked cavity map as a mask for this layer. I would then add a paint layer in the mask and paint to control this Fill Layer opacity. This was to make some parts of the face more shiny looking. At any time I could go back and move the roughness slider to other values if I wanted to.
At this point I added a simple layer and painted over some color information (Mostly in the UV window) that would be then overlayed to the skin color underneath. If you see carefully, there are a lot of color combinations that makes skin alive. For this purpose i decided to yet again add more fill layers with specific colors and control them using masks with fill layer added to them.
Making the Make-up...
Makeup was another fill layer, with a tiled grunge mask and a paint layer on top of that to make it full at the central part and look washed out at the outer parts. Dirtiness was also a fill layer. I did break the color by adding a Fill modifier to it and overlaying. The dirt amount was controlled by masks with different grunges applied and a paint layer to remove it from some parts of the face. Blood and sweat was later added the same way.
Texturing the clothes
For the clothes, I started by using smart materials whenever possible. Leather parts had a layer of only height channel where I could tile the leather pattern to get a correct scale related to the rest of the materials. I then added a damage layer with very high roughness values and darker tone. Scratches were added as a single fill layer, with color, roughness and height channel activated, then controlled through masks.
The Burlap texture had a different approach. I first took a tileable photo of the a burlap cloth, made it into an height map and used that as a pattern. Then I overlayed different variations of colors with horizontal lines used as masks to match the original look it has on the Tv Show. I then added dirt, mud and sweat as different layers.
Metal was quickly textured by using Smart Materials already available in the software. They were slightly edited to get the look that I wanted.
Overall the texturing process was quick and smooth. What I realized after finishing was that Substance takes away all the technical hurdles of having to work on each map separately, leaving total freedom to the artist to achieve his vision.
Another great thing about Substance is how quickly you can export the final maps ready to be loaded in the game engine. While working with it, I had Marmoset open at all time, with the character loaded and shader’s already set up. At this point, exported maps from Substance would auto reload in Marmoset where I could see the final look of the character and decide where to attenuate or modify specific elements.
After finishing the textures, I rigged the character in Max, posed her and loaded back in marmoset. It took many tests to get the right look with the light’s setup but I’m happy with the final result.
About Genci Buxheli:
Genci Buxheli currently lives in the capital of Albania, Tirana.
Until now, he has been working as a freelance character artist for console, PC and mobile games. Recently, he decided to step up his career by applying for a full time job at a gaming company.