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Eastward Gaze: A One Week Journey through Character Development and Texturing

Eastward Gaze: A One Week Journey through Character Development and Texturing

by ThePolygator on 24 Sep 2023

In one week, I tackled character development and shader creation, inspired by Sao Feng from 'Pirates of the Caribbean' under the theme 'Far East.' Using Redshift, I overcame grooming challenges with ZBrush's FiberMesh and XGen. I ventured into Substance for skin texturing and much more.

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I am Ilias Morscher, and I'm proud to present the project I completed in just one week as part of my end-of-term  3 assignment at PIXL VISN Media Arts School. This project challenged me in various ways, from time management to creativity and execution. It reflects my dedication to this industry and showcases the skills I've acquired during my time at the school. If you'd like to know more about this project please feel free to read through this article.


I found inspiration for my project in "Pirates of the Caribbean," particularly the character Sao Feng from Singapore. Our end-of-term project's theme, "Far East," was announced just a day before we began. Sao Feng had been a character I wanted to create for a while, and the theme was a perfect fit.

Completing this project in one week was a challenge, especially since I tackled many new techniques for the first time. While I might have some reservations, I'm proud of the outcome. It pushed my creative boundaries and allowed me to learn and grow as a 3D artist.


I created my very first proper eyeball shader, and I must admit, I'm quite proud of how the eyes turned out.

In preparation for the project week, I enrolled in a fantastic course by Tom Newbury, which proved to be an invaluable resource in helping me develop this eye shader.

For the iris, I made use of Texturing XYZ to enhance the albedo and displacement. I blended the iris and the sclera using a ramp in Hypershade, which I found to be particularly effective in achieving a seamless transition between these two crucial components. To enhance the realism, I incorporated a subtle bump map to the white of the sclera.

In addition, I took the initiative to connect the eyeball seamlessly to the character's body by creating a straightforward tearline. This addition, while seemingly minor, made a significant difference in the overall appearance and realism of the eye shader.


I executed the complete rendering of the project utilizing Redshift. Throughout this term, I dedicated myself to creating lighting assignments with Redshift, and I must admit, I have developed a strong affinity for this rendering engine.

Redshift, in my opinion, represents an elegant fusion of the best qualities of Arnold and V-Ray. Its simplicity, intuitiveness, speed, and reliability make it a standout choice for rendering.

On the final day, I undertook the rendering of 700 frames, completing the task in a remarkably efficient six-hour overnight process. What stood out was the nearly noise-free output. Following some minor denoising in applications like Nuke and DaVinci Resolve, the quality remained exceptionally high.

Given the expeditious rendering times, I found myself with surplus time to spare. Leveraging this advantage, I produced several hundred additional frames, further enhancing the scope and quality of the project.


Adapting to the tools I used for this project was indeed a learning curve. I found myself frequently switching between ZBrush's FiberMesh and XGen for grooming. ZBrush's FiberMesh is remarkable for its simplicity and reliability, as it consistently delivers the desired results. However, it comes with certain limitations regarding control when compared to XGen.

My transition to XGen, while promising, came with its share of challenges. It often felt somewhat buggy, though it's entirely possible that my learning curve played a role in this perception. A single misplaced click or failure to save the numerous settings could result in the loss of painstakingly crafted masks and other work. The fragility and lack of intuitiveness in XGen presented hurdles.

Nonetheless, as I gradually became more proficient with XGen, I began to appreciate its capabilities and versatility. It started to feel not only enjoyable but also incredibly powerful. I'm inclined to explore XGen further in future projects, although I acknowledge that it does come with a steep learning curve.

It's worth noting that grooming, particularly with XGen, can be quite time-consuming. Given the project's time constraints, I wished I had more hours to dedicate to the grooming process. Despite these challenges and limitations, I'm content with the outcome, considering it was my first attempt with XGen. However, I also recognize substantial room for improvement in this aspect of my work.


I employed Mari for character texturing, a tool renowned for its exceptional performance, especially when dealing with numerous UDIMs. However, I was determined to push my boundaries and explore new horizons, leading me to undertake my first skin texturing project using Substance. To my surprise, the experience turned out to be much more exhilarating than I initially anticipated.

In the span of just one day, approximately 6 to 7 hours, I managed to complete the skin texture. This process was not only efficient but also incredibly enjoyable. It allowed me to experiment with a different workflow and gain valuable experience in a new area of texturing.


The experience of working on this project was incredibly enjoyable, and I gained a wealth of knowledge along the way. As is often the case, I found myself wishing for more time to refine the project further. While the final result may not have been perfect, it's gratifying to recognize the progress I make with each character I undertake. This continuous improvement serves as a powerful source of motivation.

I must acknowledge that the end-of-term and midterm projects at PIXL VISN are among the most valuable aspects of our education. It's truly exciting to witness the creative output of both my peers and myself within the span of just one week. Your feedback and insights are highly appreciated, and I want to express my gratitude for taking the time to read about my project.

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