3D Character Artist - First year

3D Character Artist - First year

Mikele Mahchi Saba
by MikeleMahchi on 27 May 2022 for Rookie Awards 2022

This are some of my best projects and pieces of this first year as a 3D artist and a student. As part of my entry I have added some breakdowns of the entry’s, what I did, how and why I did them and some of the difficulty’s I faced. I aim to become a 3D character artist and I particularly love doing creatures and monste

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The Moon Presence

This is my take one of my favorite bosses from bloodborne, the moon presence.

This is a project made for the masters in organic modeling I’m currently doing on Lightbox Academy. The goal was to make an animation/VFX ready model with a maximum of 200000 poly´s and a maximum of 15 UDIMS.

The goal for me was to make a 3D model using as few polygons as possible and used only 14 UDIMS (which is a lot but I wanted to add as much detail as possible while keeping it simple and being able to retain all the detail from the high poly)

For this project I used Zbrush for the concepting and modeling, Maya for retopology and some assets building, I textured in Zbrush using Polypaint and rendered all in Maya using Arnold. I also used some textures from TextureHaven for the ground of the base

As I said before, the goal was to keep it simple since the creature is quite complicated and I wanted to focus on sculpting and enhancing the design while giving it my own edge and style

This was the result…

The breakdown

This is the Zbrush sculpting, I worked using subdivisions and extracting the displacement from the highest so I could then take it to Arnold and have a very detailed model while using the low poly version.

To make my life easier with the ribs of the monster I made a “master” rib, retopologized it, made the UVs and then duplicated it so that all of them had their UVs one on top of the other.

Then I decided to make 6 different iterations/versions of the ribs so I separated them on the UV tile and then worked on only 6 ribs instead of 83, this allowed me to save time and since the ribs had been morphed and stretched you wouldn’t be able to tell there were only 6 sets of textures mixed and matched.

The topology was quite a challenge since I had to maintain the intricate shapes of the model whiteout exceeding myself on the use of poly´s.

 One of the most challenging parts were the “tails” of the monster since they were complex and asymmetrical witch meant a lot of patience and planning. I had to consider that at the hip there would be a convergence of the column, the two legs and 5 tails, I had to calculate and plan out what would merge with what and how it would all connect. 

At the end I think I managed to keep it clean and low.

As I said before I decided to use polypaint for the texturing. I chose it over substance or others because I feel more in control while painting organic and “alien” creatures.

I use masks and different alphas that allow me to use all the detail I already have on Zbrush without having to bake anything or struggling to catch the finer details of the mesh

I then posed the monster in Zbrush and started doing some test renders adjusting the color balance and contrast of the textures.

I also tested some material and lightings to find the look and feel I envisioned, I wanted to have a clear difference in the tentacles and the body without having them feel too dry or too wet

This is how the model was looking, I did some renders with a white and clear background to have a clean look of the model and then decided to make a little environment like the ones used for minis to make it fell a little alive and grounded

For the little environment I tried to add all the iconic things from the boss fight arena like the graves and the iconic white flowers

After some color correct in photoshop this are the final renders

and a turn table of the final version

Human Anatomy Study

This is a human anatomy study I did to train and perfect human my face anatomy sculpting skills and get better using Xgen

The Land Shark

I wanted to make a land shark but every concept I saw was on 4 legs (like a dog or an aligator) or humanoid (like King Shark) so I decided to try to have a different take on it.

I tried different takes and I ended up liking a more dinosaur version of it, giving it some features of the Spinosaurus and Raptors. It ended up looking similar to the Pokémon Garchomp but I love it.

The creature was modeled in Zbrush, textured in Substance Painter and rendered in Maya using Arnold.

I also wanted to make it fit into a realistic scene so I used Quixel Megascans and some of the volumes and materials from Arnold to build this scene. I had to think on the habitat it would live in, food source and the weather.

This is how it ended up looking.


This is my take on “Venom” from marvel comics, I tried to do a more beastly version of the character, applying basic human anatomy and being aggressive with the slime texture and the more monstrous features.

It was sculpted in Zbrush, I made the retopology in Maya, textured in substance and rendered it on Maya using Arnold

The Skin Grabber

meet the "SkinGrabber", a mutation of the Demogorgon from stranger things who developed a thicker and more muscular body as well as meat tentacles similar to the ones the mind flayer had at the end of season 3. part of the inspiration for the concept came from the vines and veins, trying to convey the sense that its "infected" by the mind flayer and that it was “forced” to evolve.

This concept was made for the Rookies Netflix and Skills contest.

It was sculpted in Zbrush, I made the retopology in Maya, textured in Zbrush using Polypaint and rendered in Maya using Arnold

I then built a full scene for the contest and added 2 of the classical Demogorgon’s to give the sense that it was the leader of the pack. The scene was an autumn forest setting at night

I also wanted to show some of the things I had to do and use to make the environment for my render, the birch trees are the base birch model that comes with Maya, but I played with the UVs and new textures to make them look updated and better. For the leaves I used an aiColorJitter to make them varied in color and look realistic for an autumn setting. I used some Quixel materials and assets to enhance the scene and make it more realistic and alive.

For the clouds in the sky I used a volume shader on an elongated sphere combined with a Maya cloud node, the moon is a circular Area light from Arnold. the fog on the ground was made using and environmental aiFog placed below the ground level

Also, I decided to render the scene with a daytime lighting but a night sky, so that later inside photoshop I could lower the exposure and play with the color correction to convey a night time scene while keeping the monsters well-lit and as the focus of the scene.

The Shadow in the forest

the creature is an original concept made from the fusion of a white tiger, an alligator and a deer, I took some creative liberties with the anatomy of the head and the main. I also took inspiration from one of the enemies from dark souls 3, the Sulyvahns beasts, there are some clear similarities in the color palette and the way the main is shaped.

I first made a base mesh in Maya, were I took close care of the topology and made the UVs, the i took the mesh into Zbrush to start sculpting the details. I then baked a displacement map from the high poly mesh and added it to the low mesh in Maya. I took the high poly into substance painter to add the textures. the hair / main was made in Maya with Xgen. at the end it was all rendered in Maya using Arnold.

Untamed: When Animals Ruled the World - Scavenger

This creature was made for the Artstation Contest "Untamed: When Animals Ruled the World". The Original Concept belong to M K on Artstation, the link to her portfolio is the following: https://www.artstation.com/kyrielight/profile

It was all sculpted in Zbrush, retopologized in Maya, textures in Zbrush using Polypaint and rendered with Arnold inside Autodesk Maya.

The main challenge with the creature was adding the main in an organic way because I believe there is no reptile that has hair in or world so I had to figure out how that would look like and how it would work. For the look of the main I wanted to have it feel “floaty” or almost ethereal, like there was a sense of magic and make it fit with the glowing runes/marks in the creature.

Part of the concept was the scenery, I didn’t want to take away from the creature so I simplified the design of the “bird” skull and decided to add some blue butterfly’s instead of the flies to have some color contrast. I also used some Megascans to fill the scene and make it a bit more realistic

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