Vanessa Mai
by yaluri on 4 May 2021 for Rookie Awards 2021

This character was one of the three characters I created for my Demo Reel. Since I have a weakness for everything that has to do with vikings and their culture and I love their aesthetics, I decided to create one myself. It was also my first attempt on a realistic human and I learned incredibly much during the process.

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Hi everyone, welcome to my enty for the Rookie Awards 2021 in the Visual Effects category. I recently graduated from PIXL VISN media arts academy and I'm super excited to finally enter the Rookie Awards this year for the first time.

So I first came up with the idea for this project when I started watching the series ‘Vikings’ again, and shortly after that 'Assassins Creed Valhalla' was released. I think I went a bit with that small ‘viking hype’ made by the game…
Also we had a homework that consisted of simulating realistic fur, which 
could be very well combined with this project.

Since I didn’t want to use a specific concept this time, I collected several ones, picked out the part I liked best from each and put together my own. To get a more detailed picture of the armor, clothing and the face, I naturally looked for more references to help me with modeling and texturing later too.

Below you can find a short description of how I approached this project if you're interested.


I started with sculpting the body out of a ZSphere in ZBrush. I used some references there too to help me with the proportions. At this point I decided to sculpt the character in A-pose and to rig her later for posing. It would have been easier to sculpt directly in pose, but I wanted to make the character 'production ready'. So I sculpted my way from the body towards the clothing, armor and accessories. The retopology and UVs I made in Maya.

Texturing I started in Mari, where I made the textures for the skin. From there I switched to Substance Painter, to overpaint the skin textures and add more details, like dirt, blood and the make up. The armor, clothing and accessories I made in Painter too.

When I was happy with the textures I started working on the fur. I modeled some simple shapes, from which I generated the xgen primitives in Maya.
For her hair though I decided to use the interactive groom splines instead of the normal xgen primitives, as I have a bit more control with them.
I think the hair and fur were the most challenging part for me this time since I hadn’t done anything like that before. Especially the braids took me a lot of time until I was happy with the result. 
Because I generated the fur and hair on the A-posed model I had to simulate them with the model into the posed version. That's one thing I want to approach differently next time on my personal projects, when I don't want to animate the character anyway. Then I would either model the character directly in pose or rig and pose it before generating the fur.
As soon as I was happy with the posed fur and hair I started to texture the socket, which was only a rough blockout at that point.
The last things I did were the lighting and some adjustments on the 
hairs later in Nuke.


Since this was my first attempt on a realistic character I learned very much during the process. I'm now way more confident with xgen and displacement maps than before. And I spent a lot of time studying references what will help me with future projects too.

Planning this project helped me a lot by giving me an overview of what needed to be done. Since I had to deal with some new techniques, I also had to save a little more time for possible problems and tutorials. I made a weekly to-do list and created milestones for myself which really helped me getting this one done.

Thank you for taking the time to look at one of my projects! I hope you like it. Feel free to leave me some feedback in the comments below. 
And I wish everyone else who is also entering the Rookie Awards 2021 the best of luck!

If you would like to get in contact with me you can use the information below:

E-mail: [email protected]

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