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3D Character Artist Showreel 2023/2024 - Adrián Valiente González

3D Character Artist Showreel 2023/2024 - Adrián Valiente González

Adrián Valiente González
by AdrianVG on 17 Apr 2024 for Rookie Awards 2024

This is a compilation of 13 months of artworks since the ending of my Master Degree studies until now. My name is Adrián Valiente and I'm a 3D character artist passionate and devoted to this field.

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Showreel 2023/2024 - Adrián Valiente González

The following artworks were done during and after finishing my master's degree studies in 2023 and until the month of March of 2024. My name is Adrián, and I'm a 3D Character Artist from Spain. I want to first show both my realistic and cartoon reels and then I'll continue with the breakdowns of the projects. (There's a blurred project on the Cartoon reel that won't participate in the contest due to privacy reasons. The Cull Obsidian project that appears on the Realism Demo reel doesn't also participate in the contest. )

Darth Malgus 3D Model - Game Ready Character

Darth Malgus was a project done during my Master's Degree studies at Lightbox Academy (the only project in the entry made during my studies). In last year's contest I presented the Cull Obsidian 3D Model, and after that one, I began making this cool sith from the Star Wars: Old Republic games!


Malgus had several versions of himself and his armor during the Old Republic games, but I fell in love with the way he looks in the "Disorder" trailer, so I started gathering references!. There are references from the cinematics, in-game content, figures and the other versions of him!


So!, back then I almost never did a 3D model with lots of armor pieces, and at first I planned making them in Maya, but I didn't want to go back and forth too much from Maya to Zbrush to tweak things. I then found Marco Plouffe's approach to hard surface with the help of Jared Chavez and I started getting my hands on it!. I found this a really handy way to make hard surface without closing Zbrush.

Retopology and UVs

Darth Malgus had to be a game-ready character, it was the main objective of the assignment. The model had to be optimized, from the topology and polycount to UV mapping and textures. The model itself has 35k tris (32k tris for the character and 3k for the lightsaber) without the robes, and 42k tris with the robes.

The character also uses multi UDIM textures with 4 texture 4k sets.

Here's the UV mapping for the Armor (First row) and the Head, Eyes and Lightsaber (Second row)


After baking the high poly model onto the low poly model in Marmoset Toolbag (which has a fantastic baking system to fix errors and isolating parts of the model) came one of my favorite parts of the 3D pipeline!. I was so excited to start texturing Malgus and tell his story with it. All the damage, hate and anger he suffered from, translated to amazing painted textures. I used Substance Painter for the texturing part.

Rigging and Posing

Posing a character is one of the biggest challenges for me, since I tend to send the A-Pose low poly mesh to Zbrush and start posing with the transpose master tool. I knew that with this amount of armor pieces I would screw up the hard surface meshes and deform them with the mask posing so, as I do have a pretty basic knowledge of rigging and skinning in 3ds max (learnt during my videogame design and development degree) and I would probably have more control when moving the model, I decided to send the model to Max and rig it there. 

I used a plug-in called Instant Rig. It was gifted and created by Firat Kiral, a really nice and great man. I created the bones for the body and some extra ones for problematic armor pieces such as the shoulder pads. The skinning for this complex model wasn't going to be instant and perfect, I had to tweak lots of weights until I got the result I was looking for.

Instant Rig is such a great plug-in for creating bone controls and cool cartoony effects such as overlapping animations and squash and stretch when animating.

Lighting and Rendering

For this next and final part I decided to make renders in both Marmoset Toolbag and test Unreal Engine 5 for the very first time!. At the beginning of the project I thought Malgus would look super cool by having lightning coming out of his hands, but I didn't know exactly how was I going to do it. I decided to explore Unreal with lots of trial and error attempts and make this effect using the Niagara system (following a tutorial).

Final Renders

And here's some of the final renders of the project!. I also made a long time ago a short montage with some panning cameras (from which I took the fragments for the Demo Reel).

Return to the sender: Kip - 3D Animation Model

Let's now change to a cartoon model!. Here's Kip, a project first planned to be finished in one week (during 2024 Easter holidays) but finally finished in two weeks (it took a whole week to plan the posing, renders and compos). Kip is a cute young postman that Robert Brown designed with a feature film animation style!. It is a model that fits perfectly for animation and films!


For this project I didn't need that much references apart from Robert's design!. When I first saw the character I thought of "Fix-It Felix Jr." from "Break it Ralph" and I wanted him to look similar or have a "Disney's Luca" style!


Kip's sculpting was "fairly" simple, but never underestimating soft and round shapes of this type of characters. It was done in two days in Zbrush and you will now see some work in progress (trust always the process people!, Kip suffered lots of changes too!).

The plan was making a first and very close approach to the design on Zbrush and then finish the entire rest of the model in Maya. No reprojections were made for normal map extraction.

Retopology, Modeling and UVs

As I stated before, the high poly model was brought to Maya to stay there. I would bring it back to Zbrush only when I needed to tweak minor stuff (by mostly using the move brushes). The rest of the props such as the clock, the envelopes, the bag and things like the cap, shoes or belt details where finished in Maya. Kip has around 53k tris in total: 42k for the character and 11k for the props.

As for the UV part, Kips uses 7 texture 2k sets.


Kip had a basic bake inside Substance painter using the low poly mesh as a high poly mesh. It is a model meant to be rendered in a software like Maya with the Open Subdivision activated for it to look smoother. Because of this, I exported a smoothed version of the model to Substance Painter and made there the whole texturing process.

Posing, Lighting and Rendering

Kip was posed inside Zbrush via Transpose Master tool, but I'm currently on the talk with someone that will rig him!

I rendered this project with Arnold in Maya. For the lighting part I started with the basic three-point light setup and added extra rim lights to further highlight the character's shape. As these lights were burning my backdrop when added, I had to disable their influence on it with the Light Linking (Centric) Maya editor.

I set up several render layers with different configurations (for rendering the character and the environment separately, with material overrides for renders like the Clay pass or the Checker pass...) and prepared every camera setup and turntables for the final composition and character presentation.

Final Renders and Presentation

Miguel O'Hara, Spiderman 2099 - Realistic 3D Model

Making a realistic version of Miguel O'Hara was an amazing experience and project that was finished really fast!. I saw a post from an incredible artist called Luis Omar, who did a realistic Gwen-Stacy Spider-verse inspired version. I absolutely loved that project, it inspired me a lot and I wanted to get a similar version of it for Miguel O'Hara (Spider-man 2099).


So!, I first obviously went to gather references directly from the film's character, but then I would have to translate that stylized model into a realistic one. I then found so many incredibly talented artists like Shuploc , Uzuriart, Samdoesarts or Mamba, that did amazing illustrations and fanarts of Miguel!, so I also included them in my reference board.

Sculpting, Retopology and High-Poly

As I said before, I got so inspired and hyped for this project that I did the sculpting part really fast!. I again chose Zbrush as my main sculpting software. No base meshes were used, everything was created from scratch.

This part is important!, and where I learnt new things!. I started gathering information and resources about achieving really high level of details and realism via 3D scanning and I found several tutorials from 3D Scan Store's Youtube channel.  It was then when I got a 3D Scan Store  model, a base mesh topology of the face (for the maps to work with its UVs) and followed the steps to apply it to my mine's!.  I used scanning data for the eyes and the face by first wrapping the base mesh using the Wrap4D software, then bringing it back to Zbrush to apply the scan displacement map and finally making corrections and more details. The Albedo map from the scan was also tweaked in Photoshop.

The rest of the body and details where retopologized in Maya.

Texturing and Mesh maps

The face normal map was directly extracted from Zbrush, as the topology already had UVs and I could export a high definition adaptative texture with every detail. The rest of the maps such as curvature, cavities and AO were baked from this Normal map. For the body, the high poly mesh with the extracted body suit details (the red parts) were baked in Substance painter.

Hair cards

This was a tough process to make for the very first time. Back then I never really did any type of grooming to my characters. I'm still learning it very little by little but I decided to give the hair cards creation a try and see how it would turn out. I bought a Fibershop license (a fantastic software for strands creation) and an amazing plug-in created by George Sladkovsky called GS_CurveTools. This plug-in is a masterpiece and makes the hair cards placing, planning and manipulation so much easier.

I knew it all had to start, as with the sculpting and texturing, with a base, the main big shapes and then all the breakups, flyaways... It was a bit chaos to be honest, as well as for another project that will be described in this contest too. I had to redo lots of hairs, but it was a good exercise to begin with!.


The posing was done via Transpose Master and masking the different areas that were going to be moved.

Final Renders

As I said at the beginning of the project, I wanted Miguel to look like it could fit in Luis Omar's Gwen Stacy scene!, so I did some research and found the light setup HDRi for it!. I want to first add some early lookdev/shading tests and a funny bald Miguel shot!. The project was rendered in Marmoset Toolbag 4.

The Flower God Judge - 3D Character

This was the first project I made after finishing my master degree studies. Based on a concept from TOARTSTUDIO.


As with Kip's project, I used mostly the own concept art and gathered some flower pictures, some reptile jaws for the tentacles and female anatomy reference from 3D total's sculptures (It was the first time making a female body).


As with the rest of the projects, I used Zbrush for the blocking, primary, secondary and tertiary forms. 

Retopology and High poly sculpt

Like with the Cull Obsidian 3D model and following the VFX workflow learnt during my studies, I did an early retopology to work with subdivisions and high resolution details. The model first had 43k tris, but I needed more topology to later better apply the displacement maps, so I decided to give just one subdivision to everything.


When I first thought of how this character would look like in a realistic version, I imagined her as a kind of a "slimy" or "waxy" creature with a lot of subsurfaced areas. I finally applied it mostly on the head and the thin parts of the model. Things like the petals or the tentacle borders. I textured her in Substance Painter making use of Scattering, Specular, Roughness and color maps.

Lighting and Final Renders

For the lighting I used the same setup as the Cull Obsidian model with minor tweaks and fitting it to this model's scale. The Flower God Judge project was rendered inside Maya with Arnold.

Loki from Disney's Loki Season  2 - 3D Likeness model

I'm pretty sure this entry is already taking too long to read and complete!, I'll make the breakdown of this project fast so I don't bore you more than necessary!. After making the Miguel O'Hara's 3D model and learnt a bit about grooming (hair cards) and high-res details with scans, I wanted to make a likeness of Tom Hiddleston after watching Loki's season 2.


I followed the same steps I did with Miguel's project: I sculpted his face and body from scratch in Zbrush (the body was used as a base for Marvelous Designer). I wrapped a scan around my model's base head with Wrap4D and used that topology to take advantage of scanning displacement and albedo maps (both later corrected). I used a really basic shirt and pants pattern in Marvelous Designer to bring both inside Zbrush again and finish them sculpting wrinkles (the peacoat, tie and shoes were modeled directly in Zbrush). I baked a high poly on a low poly retopologized mesh (everything except from the head) inside Substance Painter to then texture all. The posing was made inside Zbrush with the Transpose Master tool.

Same process with the hair cards using Fibershop and GS_Curve tools inside Maya to finally render the model inside Marmoset Toolbag. Here's a full sequence of images of the process!.

Final renders

Sunny Starscout - 3D Animation Model

Here's the final artwork for this year's showreel/portfolio/entry for the contest!. The breakdown will also be fast because it is a much more simple project compared to the rest already explained (but never underestimating it, as I said with Kip. Making cartoon and this kind of soft shapes is not that easy).


I gathered two types of references for this project: ones directly from the "My Little Pony: Next Generation" Netflix's title and others from talented artists that worked directly in the film such as Rocío Cambronero and Pablo González Bellozas.


When I started this project, I was still struggling with cartoon soft and round shapes. I wasn't having the best of my moods to be honest, but it was just a matter of time, constance and effort !. I again sculpted Sunny in Zbrush and gave her a first polypaint pass.

The hair was made with a IMM brush from Dylan Ekren. It is a brush with various types of hair and strands profiles!. The strands resulting from this brush already have a clean topology, but UVs had to be done manually.

Retopology, Prop modeling and UVs

Like Kip, Sunny was planned as a character to be rendered with an Open Subdivision mode. Because of this and after the retopology, I had to bake the low poly (subdivided one or two times) as a high poly in Substance Painter. When making this, it is important to preserve UV edges and corners in order to avoid edge bleeding errors.


After baking the low poly subvidided as a high poly, I started texturing Sunny in Substance Painter. I began with the poly paint base extracted from Zbrush and finished the rest in Substance.

Posing and Rendering

The posing was again done via Transpose Master inside Zbrush. Sunny's expression was a tough one because in each frame of the film or in the references, she has minor facial forms or shape changes because of the rig. The character was also rendered in Arnold inside Maya.


I want to thank everyone that made it this far, dedicated some time to see my breakdowns or supported the entry for the contest. Last year I couldn't submit much because I was still studying my masters degree and I had only one artwork to present. But now, this is what 13 months of hard work, constance, effort and devotion looks like. I feel passion and real love for this job (I haven't made it yet into the industry, just to clarify). I feel it like both my professional activity and my hobby (dangerous feeling some times, because the body also needs to rest) and there's still so much things left for me to learn...

This is what keeps me motivated to continue making what I love; seeing the vast possibilities, softwares, tools, techniques and fields out there waiting to be learnt. Every artist struggles at some point for lots of reasons: the stress of job hunting, being 0 inspirated to make a new piece, the beginning of a project from scratch... but as I said with the Sunny Starscout project, it is just a matter of time, practice, work, effort and passion.

You can check the rest of my artworks directly in my profile! Although this entry has way more complete breakdowns :)

Thanks again for reading!

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