`Meet Mat` is Back - The 3D Digital Painting Contest
Character creation by Franziska Milius

Character creation by Franziska Milius

Franziska Milius
by Franziska on 4 May 2021 for Rookie Awards 2021

Hey everyone, I am excited to present my entry for The Rookies Award 2021. The two projects I have chosen are part of my Demo Reel I created at PIXL VISN, media arts academy in Cologne, where I recently completed 15 month training in 3D animation and VFX.

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1. Holy Man

Hi everyone,

My name is Franziska and the first project I would like to present is a character I created as part of my Demo Reel. Working on this character was really exciting and fun but also quite challenging because it was the first time I created a full character from sculpting to texturing, shading, grooming and lookdev.

I have a background in Illustration and before I knew Zbrush existed, I spent a lot of my time drawing people and faces by hand, studying proportions and anatomical figure drawing. When a friend introduced me to Zbrush I was fascinated by the software and the tools it provided, making it possible to create photorealistic models. I knew that I had to learn it, and this is how I started my journey at PIXL VISN.

The inspiration for this first project was a photo that I found online and was immediately captivated by its atmosphere and personality. I then started collecting similar references of faces from different angles, similar hairstyles, body types and hands.

You can see a small collection of my references in the photo below. 

Before I start sculpting, I usually spend a day collecting references so I have a variety of photos from different angles and a good idea of what I want my model to look like.

I would like to show you a bit of my work process in Zbrush now.


As I easily get lost in small details, I firstly focused on getting the proportions, anatomy and secondary forms right before looking at smaller face details such as wrinkles and pores.

My goal for this project was to hand sculpt the whole character in Zbrush, without using any scans and I learned amazing tricks from some great artists out there.

The biggest challenge was probably the time factor as I didn’t realise how time consuming it would be to sculpt every single pore and wrinkle by hand, but it was also a very creative and valuable process where I learned a lot more about skin texture and appearance.


After creating the primary and secondary forms I imported my model into Maya for retopologizing and UVs.

After bringing it back into Zbrush I started sculpting more detail around the eyes and the forehead.

Then I switched to HD geometry to sculpt finer wrinkles, pores and other little imperfections. I didn't focus too much on the chin area because I knew that this area was going to be covered by a beard.

I used 4K maps; the Albedo map, as well as the Spec and Roughness map, were painted in Zbrush, mainly using the standard brush with different alphas.


I created the hair with Xgen Interactive Grooming which I think is a very intuitive tool and using guides gives you a lot of control over the hair direction.

For each part (head, eyebrows, lashes, peach fuzz, nose hair, arms and hands) I created a separate description, and for the hair line and eyebrows I also used density maps for a better transition.

For the shader I used aiStandardHair and I rendered everything with Arnold.



2. Butterfly Lady

The inspiration for my second Demo Reel character was a beautiful illustration by Lena Richards.

For this project I wanted to follow a different workflow.

I sculpted the primary and secondary forms in Zbrush and the retopology and UVs were done in Maya. I then imported my model into Mari where I created all my texture maps and I used textures from Texturing XYZ for the displacement.

Before I started sculpting this project, I also spent some time collecting references. Even though I had already chosen a concept for my main inspiration, I think it is always really important to have a variety of real life anatomical references.

Here is a small collection of what has inspired me:


For creating the cape I used the Zbrush 2021 dynamic cloth simulation which was great fun to play with and gave me a good starting point.

I then refined and sculpted some more fabric folds with the standard brush.

To give the sweatshirt a more realistic cotton look, I used a fabric pattern as noise and placed it onto the base sculpt with surface noise. I used the same technique for the cape pattern and then exported a displacement map to use it in Maya.


Once I was happy with my secondary forms in Zbrush, I exported the medium resolution version of my model into Mari where I created 4K maps.

I painted a combination of different Texturing XYZ maps for the secondary and tertiary displacement onto my model, using the Stamp Tool and Warp Tool to locally adjust and get a smooth transition between my maps.


The software I used:

Also check out my full Demo Reel with some more camera animation.

Thank you and best of luck to everyone! :)

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