Jordan Walker recently won a CGChoice Award
with his ‘Queen’ of monsters, created in his spare time.
When starting out on this piece, Jordan said he didn't have a clear idea in mind of what he wanted to make. This is a common enough process when beginning a free-style image. “I knew that I wanted to create some sort of scary, detailed monster and I started sketching random ideas in Photoshop,” Jordan says. “After mirroring and scaling my sketches, overlaying them and sketching on top of that some more, I felt I had a decent idea in my head of what I wanted to create. The creation began to appear before me.” Jordan gathered this tutorial together, describing the production process that almost took on a life of its own. He continues.
I began to lay out a basic head and torso in 3ds Max using strip modeling. The rest of the base meshes were created in ZBrush using Zspheres. Once my basic shapes were created I used clay, clay tubes, and rake brushes to layout the macro details and shapes of my monster.
To create smaller details, I painted them mostly with custom clay brushes or used stencils that had various veins and fibers on them combined with a clay brush.
Also, using a clay brush with the stencil lets me paint details that only appear between shapes and gives the appearance of tendons and fibers stretched between the muscles.
To create my low polygon meshes, I used a combination of exporting lower resolution meshes from ZBrush and building meshes using Polyboost's polydraw tool to redraw topology on top of a medium resolution mesh.
Once the low polygon mesh was completed, I used the Roadkill UV Tool to quickly lay out UVs.
To create the normal maps for my monster, I used XNormal to project my high-resolution details to my lower polygon mesh.
I broke the model into five 2048x2048 textures; one for each major element. Each element had a texture for normals, specular color, subsurface scattering, epidermal diffuse and subdermal diffuse.
For my diffuse textures I used a combination of photo reference of marble, slime and leather as well as hand painted details.
To make details match between the normal map and diffuse maps I used Crazybump to convert my normal map to a height map.
I sharpened the details then overlayed that on top of the textures.
While I was modeling and texturing this monster I pictured very dramatic lighting as if the monster was emerging from some unknown darkness. To achieve this I used a lot of very soft spotlights with heavy falloffs to create areas of strong light on the model that faded quickly. I ended up using quite a few lights to outline shapes and elements of the monster I felt should pop or add to the silhouette.
One of the tricks I used in rendering my model was including a strong ambient occlusion pass with a short falloff in the mask for the transparent slime that stretches between the monster's joints.
This helped me avoid having to clean up a lot of hard seams where the slime planes met the monster's flesh. The rendered mesh of the monster is about 25,000 polies not including additional meshes used for slime drips and webbing.
To make sure I had a lot of source art to work with when compositing my image, I rendered out a lot of different passes of my scene.
Even though some were not used it was helpful to have a lot to work with. Some of the passes I rendered were: Ambient Occlusion, Fresnel, Lighting, Camera Y axis facing, Camera X axis facing, Z depth, Diffuse and Specular.
I used Photoshop to composite my final Image. My first steps were to lay down a very subtle background that complimented my lighting and adjust the base render using curves and levels.
My original render was a little too warm and dark so I pushed the colors a little cooler and boosted the mid tones.
Multiplying the ambient occlusion onto my model helped add much needed contact shadows.
I felt like some of the smaller details on the monster were lost in the final render so I ran a high-pass filter on my diffuse pass and put it as an overlay layer with a low opacity to emphasize details.
I wanted the monster to pop a little more against the background so I added the Fresnel pass but masked it by the Camera Y axis facing pass which kept it from brightening anything facing down.
To wrap up the image I hand painted more slime and rounded some of the low polygon edges out.
Jordan Walker is from Cary, North Carolina. Brought up with a passion for computers and creating artwork, there was one way to go for him as he left school. Straight into the nearest studio to illustrate, model and work on video games. After some time as an intern at I-Entertainment, Jordan moved through contract work on ‘Brothers in Arms’ at Gearbox Software, being a world builder on Geist at N-Space, and working as the Lead Building Artist at MacDoc Software. He is currently employed at Epic Games.
The CGSociety is the most respected and accessible global organization for creative digital artists. The CGS supports artists at every level by offering a range of services to connect, inform, educate and promote digital artists worldwide