Weekly Drills 035 - #UnderwaterCreature
Pipeline: Reference gathering with PureRef / Blockout + concept sculpt in Zbrush / Retopo + UDIMs in Blender / Detail Reprojection + Final Sculpting Pass + Displacement Maps in Zbrush / Textures in Substance Painter / Shading + Rendering in Blender (Eevee) / Post Processing + Compositing in Photoshop
Weekly Drills #035 - Underwater Creature
Here's my entry for this week's challenge: the narwhal a.k.a. the unicorn of the sea!
Very weird, yet very interesting creature.
Top and bottom view
PureRef Board, UVs and other parts of the process
It was really fun to go through this project.
In the beginning, I didn't even think that I'd been able to deliver a full creature in less than one week, but once I started, I became fully absorbed into it and really enjoyed the process!
I started by watching some videos, reading some Wikipedia pages, and gathering useful references into a PureRef board, to understand narwhals' funky anatomy, dimensions, and overall characteristics.
Then I started blocking out the model in Zbrush with ZSpheres (love 'em!) and progressively refining it until it was roughly 75% done (nice silhouette and volume plus some mid-frequency details). At this point, I went to Blender for the retopology and UV stage. I split the main model into 3 UDIMS, with 2K resolution each, and also created the eyes and the tusk. The latter was created procedurally with Blenders' modifiers (Screw and Taper), after defining a curve for the shape's section.
After that, I went back to Zbrush to reproject the details onto the re-topologized model (with morph target and layers), and to finalize the sculpt (breaking edges and symmetry, adding variations). I then baked my displacement maps and tested them in Blender (this was a pain, but I managed to find a fix by fiddling with the Multi Map Exporter settings).
It was then time to paint the texture in Substance Painter. Texturing is probably one of my weakest areas at the moment, but this project helped me a lot to improve my workflow. I tried to combine both procedural techniques and hand-painted ones, and to plan what I wanted to do with my materials in advance. All in all, the result seemed fine, but I feel like I have some more progress to do.
The renders were done in Blender Eevee because I still (sadly) work on a laptop. I'm looking forward to building a proper workstation to finally push my images at a higher level.
Finally, I did some compositing and grading in Photoshop to achieve the underwater look ;)
Hope you enjoy it!