The idea with “Guam Bay – Chamorra Village”, was to create a colourful, quirky universe with interesting characters. I wanted to challenge myself in design, appeal, color and style, and decided to do so by making a project that would require me to do modeling, sculpting, animation, texturing and compositing as well as illustration. This tutorial will take you through the process from beginning till end, and will give you a good idea about the work that went into bringing this project to life.
The first step was to do my research and find good reference for the world I wanted to build. Once the visual design was settled, I sculpted the characters in Zbrush and did a rough block-in of the environment in Maya. I put it all together to resemble the illustration I would like to end up with. Next, I did a simple light setup, rendered out the image and proceeded to paint on top in Photoshop. From there I did my line art, values, colors and finally rendering. Next step was to take the sculpted characters and make them into proper game models using Maya for retopo, shading and UV’ing and Photoshop for texturing. The illustration was later animated using After Effects.
Before I start a project, I always make sure to have plenty of reference and inspiration. I’ll find tons of images relevant for what I want to make and save them in a place I can easily access for when I need them. At this stage, anything that catches my interest will do. For this project, I was heavily inspired by artists such as CreatureBox, Floriane Marchix (the artist of Rayman Legends) and the Splash Art from League of Legends.
Time To Sketch
When you feel like you’ve collected enough reference, it’s time to start sketching. In my case, I knew I wanted 3 characters; a girl, a robot and a fish. I also knew they had to live in a fishing village, so with that in mind, I started drawing. Try not to be afraid of making something ugly and experiment a bit at this stage, if you insist on making everything look pretty, there is a chance you don’t get to explore enough and will end up with something generic and boring. Be bold. Furthermore, keep in mind what universe you characters live in and who they are: what do they like, what are their fears and their goals? All of this will influence your deigns.
Once finished with my rough character sketches and final concepts, I went on to block out the designs in ZBrush and the environment in Maya. I later combined the two to use as a base for the illustration. A simple white shader was applied to the scene before it was rendered with Mental Ray; I was now ready to move into Photoshop and begin painting. I did my line art and values based on the render and then went straight into paint the final picture. The challenge was to tie all the different elements together without confusing the viewer. In the end, you want everything in the picture to support your focal point, in my case; the characters.
Character development in ZBrush
Modeling & Texturing
Based on my ZBrush sculpts, I did the retopo in Maya using the Quad Draw tool. When doing UV’s, I place the seams in convenient places; if your models wear clothes, think about where the seams would be in real life and use it as a guide. I unfolded my UV’s in ZBrush and went on to texturing. As preparation, I bake out an occlusion map to get an easy overview of where everything goes on my models.
Photoshop is my primary software when it comes to textures; I like the flexibility it gives you to constantly edit, change and experiment with your look. Occasionally, I’ll use ZBrush, Mudbox or Mari to fix my seems, but for the most part I enjoy the challenge of painting in a 2D application. The shading consisted of a simple toon shader and a Maya toon outline which was then rendered using Mental Ray. For this project, some of the light and occlusion shadows were painted in to achieve a more cartoony and edgy look.