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Natalie Jerabek - Character Artist
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Natalie Jerabek - Character Artist

Natalie Jerabek
by nat on 18 May 2024 for Rookie Awards 2024

Excited to share my first 3D projects as part of my journey to become a character artist for games. These projects are just the beginning, hope you enjoy them as much as I did creating them! :)

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Hey, I'm Natalie a student at Think Tank Training Centre. I have a tech background and a year ago I decided to change my career into a more creative field. I'd like to share my projects created during my foundation and intermediate term (4 months and 8 months into learning 3D). My projects don't include any post processing. I hope you enjoy them! :)

The Elf Mage

For this character I wanted to capture a royal look and feel, especially with her garments and facial expression.

 The Elf Mage is my first full character I created and marks 8 months of my 3D journey. The project was done as part of the intermediate term at Think Tank Training Centre and took 10 weeks. The focus was to understand the whole pipeline of games and to strengthen newly gained skills, like sculpting, garment creation, facial anatomy and texturing.

Day & Night Renders

360° View

Closeup

Breakdown

In the beginning I took some time to breakdown the concept to understand how the garments are built and what materials are used. Also to prepare and think about how to tackle the project I made a timeline and schedule. All of this was combined into a reference board along with real-life references for sculpting/modeling and texturing.

Garment Creation

A big part of the project was to learn Marvelous Designer and how to build garments for characters. The character wears a dress with multiple layers and many details. The sewing patterns show those details, including the golden rim sewed to the dress parts. As well as the pleats sewn on to each other and on to a base shape for the top.

Sewing patterns

On the right side the patterns for the top including her cape and on the left side the patterns for the bottom of the dress.

Simulation

The creation and simulation was first done in an A-Pose. Later on the avatar was morphed into the posed version and the fabric simulation was finalized. This was mostly done due to the arms having specific folds were the elbow bends and restimulating was the easiest way to achieve this.

For the top part of the dress, props interacting with the dress were imported to Marvelous Designer so the garments interact with them correctly. Elasticity was used to achieve the proper folds matching the concept on the white sleeves. And the pleats were created by using the pleats fold tool, as well as manually adapting the sewing to work better with the shape of the top. Further solidifying only parts of the cape was necessary to get a rather smooth surface where metal ornaments sit on top of the fabric.

Low Poly and UVs

This project was the first time for me to create a real time character and therefore create a low poly acceptable for games. It turned out as quite high resolution with a total polycount of 151K Tris. The UVs were split up based on body parts, props and materials. Resulting in UV sets for, the face, the rest of the body, the staff, ice crystal butterflies and multiple sets for the garments and one for the metal pieces. Further objects with changing opacity (gems) were given their own UV set.

Texturing & Shading

Substance Painter was used for texturing and Marmoset for the setup of shaders and final renders.

Ornament Patterns

The patterns were created using photoshop and the UVs of the garments. It was important for the patterns to follow the shape of the dress and be the same around the open skirt. Therefore a snapshot of the UVs was imported in photoshop and the patterns and shapes were drawn and placed on top of them. This created a map for a mask of the golden patterns. The mask was used in Substance Painter to change the material to match the rest of the gold details on the dress.

Texture Maps

All needed texture maps were exported from Substance Painter and used to set up shaders in Marmoset. See below the final roughness, normal, albedo and shader renders.

I was able to learn a lot during this project and build a good base for all my future projects. Big shoutout to my supervisor for all his feedback and support: thanks Alex Sizov! :)

And another shoutout to the 2D concept artist 西兰花 this project is based on!

Bubblegum Space Girl

This bubbly and fun character was my first proper 3D project and the very first character I created. The project made me put all my separately gained skills like modeling, texturing, rendering together. It was created during 4 very intense weeks and marks 4 months into learning 3D for me. 

The goal of the project was to match a 2D concept as close as possible. For which I choose a concept from the "bubblegum space" series from Wenjuinn Png

Clay Render

Progress

Blockout, Modeling & Sculpting: I began by doing a blockout to capture the most important shapes and forms. The hard surface elements were refined by modelling them accurately to match the concept. The jacket was blocked out and then sculpted to get stylized folds and a more organic look. As for the characters face, the base mesh for the face was modeled and then used to sculpt and refine the face. 

Groom: To create groom fast I was learning XGen and used clump modifiers to achieve a matching look with the concept.

Texturing & Shading: For texturing I used Mari and created multiple maps, which were used and tweaked in VRay.

Progress Slider

Full Progress Video

Texture Maps

Clay /  Normal / Albedo / Shader

Concept Comparison

As mentioned before, the goal of the project was to match the concept as close as possible. Therefore you can see a side by side comparison of my final outcome and the original concept below.

Huge thank you to my supervisor Andrew Justice for pushing me into the right direction and incredible helpful feedback! :)

Conclusion

Thank you so much for checking out my work! I can truly say I've grown a lot during these first 2 projects and fell in love with creating 3D characters. I'm currently working on the next project and it was very fun looking back to the start, seeing the growth between each project!

I also want to thank each and everybody who supported and continues to support me on this journey. It is a pleasure to be around so many hardworking artists and being able to learn from each other. I'm incredible thankful to be part of such an inspiring community! Keep up the great work everybody! :)


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