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After years working as a 3D Generalist for several impressive companies, Xabier Sevillano decided to pursue his dream of becoming a 3D Character Artist. To bolster his portfolio, he created a game character from scratch. This impressive feat helped Xabier land his dream position at Ubisoft! Check out the workflow and creative decisions that pushed Xabier to the next level, including:

  1. Character Origin
  2. Blocking Shapes
  3. Sleep, Then Modeling
  4. Clothes
  5. Armor and Swords
  6. Baking & Texturing
  7. Lighting & Adjustments
  8. Final Character: Iko

Hi, my name is Xabier Sevillano, I am a 3D Artist from Spain. As far as I can remember, video games have always been part of my life. I studied computer programming for 3 years, but in 2011 I switched to 3D Art. Neither my parents nor the university’s counselors understood, but I was happy. In 2015, I finished university and worked as a 3D Generalist. In 2016, I decided to take a risk and move to Vietnam to work on VRnam, a project for teaching commercial airplane pilots in VR. After three years modeling 3D cockpits (hard-surface modeling), I decided it was time to chase my real goal to be a 3D Character Artist. So I left the company, built my portfolio with the help of CGMA’s Character Creation for Games course with Patrick Yeung, and have since found work as a 3D Character Artist at Ubisoft!!

1. Character Origin

CGMA shows you how to create a video game character from scratch. They only require a bust, given time restraints. But personally, I had time! Plus, I wanted to make the best artwork possible for my portfolio. So I went for a full-body character!

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After looking at tons of designs, I decided to go for a concept from Hou China. It was perfect for my purpose, simple but with a lot of big shapes. Also, who doesn’t like cool samurai demon warriors with huge swords?

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I was not sure what the name of his character was (his series was called Ji He Zi but I was not sure if it was the name of the girl or the story). So for that moment, I decided to call her Iko, which comes from Nariko from Heavenly Sword, one of my favorite games on PS3. I figured I’d find a name later on, but as you can see, the name stuck.

Enroll in CGMA’s Character Creation for Games taught by Respawn Entertainment’s Character Artist Patrick Yeung and Senior 3D Character Artist Daniel Rodrigues.

2. Blocking Shapes

As always, the first blocking is really important so I gave it a push and really put effort into making it work from the beginning.

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The approach to the blocking was basically using subdivided cubes to make everything. I used this method before but this time, the number of objects to model was way bigger.

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Anyway, I really enjoyed this part, since you start giving shape to your character and any addition looks like a huge leap forward.

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Once I established the blocking, it was really easy to make changes and move things around.

3. Sleep, Then Modeling

After that, I used Dynamesh, started adding details, and kept developing the character. This is one of the slowest parts of the process and with so many details in this character, it was a little bit overwhelming.

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One of the things that helped me a lot was making corrections and notes to my future self. Before going to sleep, I took 10 minutes to analyze what I did during the day and made some corrections.

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When I woke up the next day I had already a guideline to follow. Sometimes, I disagreed with my past-self, but it was a nice way of keeping track of my thought process.

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In the beginning, I was planning on going a little bit more realistic, with a lot of cloth details, a realistic face and hair with hair-cards. After checking how much work I needed for the hair-cards, I decided to drop that idea. So I found Gibraltar’s stylization shared by Gary Huang. Overall, it was a really nice piece of advice from Patrick to change the face since, in the concept, the girl looks like quite a generic video game character.

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4. Clothes

Since I had some time for research, I wanted to try out Marvelous Designer. It turned out quite simple to use, although I didn’t do anything complex. I only wanted to make a base there, the rest was sculpted on top of it inside ZBrush.

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After importing the base into ZBrush, I did a Projection and a clean up of the pants. Later on in the process, I saw that the pants still looked too realistic, so I did retopology, reprojection, and changed the proportions a little bit.

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Explore CGMA’s ZBrush for Concept & Iteration course taught by 3D Concept Artist Michael Pavlovich and Character Artist Patrick van Rooijen.

5. Armor and Swords

For the armor piece on the shoulder, I didn’t have any reference since in Hou’s concepts, it was sketched only roughly. I looked at some other artworks he has done and tried to design the piece myself. I kept doing some variations until I found the final one. It was a hard task to decide which one looked better on the model and complimented the overall shape, – I really liked that aggressive shape in the concept, but my first tries were too realistic and didn’t match the leg armor style. In the end, I looked back at the concept and went for a less usable, yet closer to the concept look. Still, I tried to make the armor believable.

Different shoulder armor tests, the last one is the final:

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The swords were left behind until I almost finished the project. I was not sure if I was going to have time to finish them, so I decided to leave them for later on. Luckily, in the last two weeks, I had the opportunity to finish those props.

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6. Baking & Texturing

Before this project, I used to bake in Substance Painter. I created a file for baking the Normals with an exploded view of the objects so that they don’t intersect and another one for the AO. However, when you have so many objects it is really expensive to maintain. If you need to change an object you have to do it in 2 files and export it. Following Patrick’s guideline, I tried baking in Marmoset Toolbag exporting each object into a .fbx and creating different Baking Groups. In the beginning, it might be slow, but it is way easier to maintain. Marmoset also lets you modify the cage in real-time, so I’ll definitely use this software in my baking workflow from now on.

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Working on the hair was quite interesting. I had to add a lot of color variation to the chunks of hair for which I used HSL Perceptive filter with the ObjectID map. Then, I added more variation with the thickness map and some gradient filters, and finally, I manually painted some hairs to add another dimension. Still, the hair looked like a helmet or a part that didn’t belong to the character. In order to merge the hair and the head together, I painted a shadow line on the head and darker strands on the hair.

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For texturing, I used PBR for the whole model except the hair that has a SpecGloss shader to get red highlights. I use object ID to add a Base material where I need to, modify the color, metal, roughness, and height, and then add another material for some highlights in the corners usually. Then, I add more details, such as wear and tear, color variation, rust, dust or dirt.

The texturing process is an art discipline in itself, so check out CGMA’s Character Texturing for Games in Substance course taught by Turtle Rock Studios’s Senior Character Artist Jared Chavez and Games Character Artist Saurabh Jethani.

7. Lighting & Adjustments

I tried some crazy lighting situations with different moods, but in the end, I always went back to common 3-point lighting. I wanted the character to speak for itself.

The most important part of the presentation was the feedback. Apart from Patrick’s feedback, I talked to some friends with different specializations (concept art, 3d art, and animation) and their feedback changed Iko completely. I think the pose was the biggest improvement. Some other changes I did were the saturation of the hair and eyes, the makeup, and the shape of the face.

Comparison sheet with slightly different hair tones:

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After texturing, the shape of the face flattened a little bit and didn’t look as sharp as in ZBrush. So I went back and changed the geometry. I thought it was going to be tricky to change it at this stage, but it was easier than I expected. I exported from ZBrush, and Substance handled it perfectly – I didn’t have to do any fixing, just baked the textures again. Funnily enough, this is a small detail that nobody would have probably noticed.

Pose comparison; on the left – before feedback, on the right – after feedback:

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8. Final Character: Iko

Final Thoughts

  • Studying at CGMA helped me a lot to improve. I already followed a similar workflow before, but thanks to this course, I had someone giving me feedback and advice on how to work better.
  • The biggest lessons learned are:
    1. Document your process and reflect on your work.
    2. The blocking stage is sacred. If you put effort here, your future self will be happy about it.
    3. Bake in Marmoset.
    4. Even at the later stages of the process, don’t be scared of changing core things.
    5. Feedback, feedback, and more feedback. Get it whenever possible!

LEARN MORE

CGMA provides comprehensive instruction for Art, Games, and VFX industries in a variety of courses for a range of students, from 2D and 3D artists looking to supplement their college studies to industry professionals looking to stay up to date on emerging trends and techniques in the field.

RELATED LINKS

Enroll in CGMA’s Character Creation for Games taught by Respawn Entertainment’s Character Artist Patrick Yeung and Senior 3D Character Artist Daniel Rodrigues.

Explore CGMA’s ZBrush for Concept & Iteration course taught by 3D Concept Artist Michael Pavlovich and Character Artist Patrick van Rooijen.

The texturing process is an art discipline in itself, so check out CGMA’s Character Texturing for Games in Substance course taught by Turtle Rock Studios’s Senior Character Artist Jared Chavez and Games Character Artist Saurabh Jethani.