The Monkey King

The Monkey King

Dani Marti
by danimarti on 26 Mar 2021 for Rookie Awards 2021

Inspired by the Balinese Culture this is my interpretation of Hanuman, The Monkey King. A character I designed for my next video game.

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I'm developing an Open World RP video game inspired by the Balinese culture and I wanted to test my skills to see how realistic I could create a character.  This is my take on Hanuman, The Monkey King from the Ramayana Legend. In my video game this character plays as NPC, it's not the player character.

Final Images

Turntable for Face, Body and Pose


My Process

Idea and Concept

I have been always intrigued by the Balinese culture and their deep influences from Hinduism. I decided I was going to design my character inspired by their beautiful and fantastic legends.

My main reference for my design was the statues in the Balinese Temples. I didn't use any 2D concept art, my concept art was my imagination bringing to life those statues. I know this is not a traditional procedure but I was very clear on what I wanted to achieve.

I used PureRef to gather all my references to have a stronger foundation for all the elements I wanted to design.

My character would be an "Humanoid" Monkey, for me was very important to find good images of monkeys because I wanted to blend the monkey features with the human features. My main monkey reference was the Macaque, which is the most predominant breed in Bali. I used other monkey/apes references for skin and fur.

The second most important group of references was the old Balinese pictures. Being a Westerner it was very important for me  to have a better understanding how royalty and nobility were wearing traditional outfits, jewelry and other ornaments. Some of my images are Thai costumes, they are influenced by Hinduism as well but in this case I was more interested to see the detail and quality of the fabrics.

3D Model

Once I have all my references I jumped to Blender to start blocking up and modeling my character. When I was happy with the main shapes and proportions I started sculpting the face. It was very challenging because I wanted to make an “humanoid” monkey man, mostly keeping the human anatomy but with monkey features. I didn’t want my character to look like I had attached a monkey head to a human body. I had been smoothing some of the strong features of the monkey and mixing it with the human anatomy. 

Monkey Head Reference

My Head Sculpt

I adjusted a little bit the proportions, specially the distance between eyes because although monkeys have smaller eyes and they look closer to the nose, I'm trying to blend human and monkey features.

Then I started to add more details to the face and body such as wrinkles and skin details. Those details are helping to sell better the concept, once I start to add hair that will help even more...

Hand Anatomy and Details

For the hands, I decided to look at gorilla hands as reference. Macaques have very small hands and don't fit so much with the style I'm looking for. Following the idea of blending human and monkey features I enlarged hands and feet but keeping the human anatomy.

Retopology and Baking

I started the re-topology. High poly had 5,510,762 faces (triangles), low poly has 5,690 faces (quads).

I unwrapped my model for the UV, this is just the body. I planned to split my model in 4 materials, body and mouth/teeth/tongue, eyes, hair and finally clothing and accessories. I made the face much bigger because I want to make some close up renders of his face, and I want to have a higher resolution. By the other hand I laid up all my islands following the same direction to avoid issues later when texturing.

I baked my maps in Marmoset and checked my lowpoly to see if it looks good.

Mouth and Teeth

I worked on the mouth and teeth. I planned for the final render a pose where the character will be showing a very aggressive attitude with the mouth open.

Here are some references. Again trying to blend monkey and human features.

My High Poly Sculpt

My Low Poly Model


I worked on clothing in Marvelous Designer.

I made a Sarong which is very simple in terms of shape but I checked on Youtube how people traditionally wears them. I learnt there are several ways to fold the sarong, men and women usually were them differently, so I chose the one that it seemed more popular. The sarong gets folded on the front three times creating those interesting shapes.


For the accessories I started blocking out the armor, belt, jewelry, other accessories and adding detail in Blender with the help of modifiers such as Arrays and Curves...

I was ready to start with the helmet, polishing the armor pads and adding more detail.

Baking Accessories

The next step was very slow process, I retopologyzed all the accessories and baked the maps. I would like to optimize much more the models to lower the poly count, especially the helmet that was still crazy high.

Optimizing Models

I worked on optimizing the Helmet mesh. The High Poly was around 5,300,000, Mid poly at 78,000 and the final Low Poly at 27,000. Still very high for an accessory, but I don't think I can't get it lower without losing too much detail.

Checking All The Progress

I finally finished all the lowpoly meshes, separated by materials and now I'm ready for texturing. 

Those are the first renders in Substance Painter.

Hair and Fur

Hair and fur was probably the most challenging step during the whole process.
I didn't want to use particles so all my hair and fur was done as Hair Cards. I used the addon in Blender Hair tool that helps with the process but it's still a lot of trial and error, and rounds of tuning and experimenting. I redid the process probably 3-4 times because I wasn't very happy with the results.

The Start

The Skin Texture

I was struggling so much with the hair process that I decided to take a break and start texturing my character. I wanted to start with the skin, another topic that can get very hard to get right. I textured my skin on Substance Painter. I was very happy with realistic skin I achieved.


I worked on the pose to have some breaks between the hair and the texturing process. Being able to go back with fresher eyes always helps.

I'm not a rigger nor animator, so posing my character with a rig was very challenging even using references.


So finally I finished all my textures and fixed the fur that was overlapping some areas of the armor and accessories...

I worked on facial expression and polished the pose.

The saliva material was working but it can be improved, I will revisit it in my last polishing rounds.

By the other hand, rendering the character with fur or without it made a big change in his appearance... He looked more evil without fur, it was interesting to see the difference.


One of the last steps was creating the weapons for my character. I chose to recreate a Keris, an asymmetrical dagger from Indonesia. Both weapon and spiritual object, the Keris is considered to possess magical powers.

For this weapon is very important the blade, the handle and the sheath, the three parts of the Keris. I started blocking out and adding some detail but I still need to sculpt the handle. I'm attaching some references.

References and Inspirations

My Model

The Textures


Last step was taking all my models to Marmoset, recreating the materials with my textures and setting the scene with lights and some subtle post-processing effects.

Here are the last renders from Marmoset.

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