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Sculpting Emotion: A First Dive into Expressive Portraiture

Sculpting Emotion: A First Dive into Expressive Portraiture

by ThePolygator on 14 Jan 2024

I'm Ilias Morscher, a student at Pixl Visn Media Arts Academy in Cologne, Germany. Recently completed a two-week character design project, emphasizing sculpting, grooming, and texturing. Open to feedback and always up for the next creative venture.

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I am Ilias Morscher, a student at Pixl Visn Media Arts Academy in Cologne, Germany. The project I'm sharing was completed during a two-week production training. My goal was to create a character inspired by the 50s/60s sailor/captain/deckhand theme. For this project, I chose to concentrate on a bust to ensure more detailed work within a confined space. While there are aspects I would have liked to refine with more time, I am generally content with what I was able to accomplish in the given timeframe.



I sculpted the expression in ZBrush, marking my first attempt at capturing a specific facial expression. Turns out, it's trickier than I initially thought – not just nailing the look but also figuring out the right workflow. I'm still not 100% certain on whether I should retopologize in a neutral pose and then add the expression, or if it's better to retopologize in the expression position to minimize stretching. The option of using blendshapes is also on the table.

Admittedly, I'm not entirely satisfied with the expression, but I kind of saw that coming since it was my first go at it.

Any advice or thoughts would be greatly appreciated.


I handled all the texturing in Substance Painter. Unfortunately, I'm still a bit dissatisfied with Substance's performance when dealing with numerous UDIMs and high resolutions. Nevertheless, it remains my preferred texturing program. Achieving the right look for the tattoos proved tricky to avoid them appearing like mere stamps. I aimed for that "shabby" appearance of being tattooed too deeply, reflecting the scarring of the skin as was common back in the day. I believe I managed to get pretty close to that desired aesthetic.

Having some of those "shabby" tattoos myself, I guess I had solid personal reference points to draw from :).


For the character's groom, I employed Maya XGen to create the overall look. Specifically, the groom of the hat is an area I would have liked to refine further if additional time were available.


Thank you for taking the time to read through this. I'm aware there are areas for improvement, and I'm always appreciative of feedback on my work. Feel free to explore my profile and check out some of my other works. Thanks again, and goodbye.

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