Check out the armored lizard chapter from the "Armored Beasts" ebook and learn Zbrush techniques for creating your own beast...
Hi, my name is Bruno Camara and over the next few pages I'll be explaining the process I used to create my lizard character. I hope you like it!
The main idea for this tutorial was to come up with an armored creature of some kind, so I decided to create a reptilian beast that lived a long time ago, in a fantasy kind of era where there were few resources and constant conflict. The beast wasn't very intelligent and basically lived by fighting for food. He was always one of the first on the battlefield and his armor wasn't particularly strong or thick because of the lack of resources and the fact that the lizards can't forge metal. It was basically made of things he found or collected from dead enemies.
With this idea in my head I started to sketch some rough ideas (Fig.01). I created some messy silhouettes and then the character began to form out of these.
Generally the first sketches you make are the most cliché ones. The more options and variations you sketch, the more interesting and original they become. In Fig.02 you can see the option I chose as the concept for my character, which I then developed into the final concept shown in Fig.03.
It is here that I defined everything. You don't need to do a detailed sketch or concept for your images, but getting some ideas down on paper may help. It helps me a great deal when I start the sculpting, as I already know what I plan to do and have things like scale and pose decided in advance. I always gather references at this point as well, as it helps sell the image and make it more accurate.
Then it was time to start the hard work. For the modeling I separated the character into three main parts: the head, body and props. Before anything else though, I started on the main base using ZSpheres (Fig. 04).
After building the structure I converted it to a mesh (Tool > Make PolyMesh 3D). I then started to define the proportions and general shape of the muscles (Fig.05).
Sculpting the Head
On this mesh I had already defined the shapes of the head, but I hadn't detailed it yet so I did a simple retopology to have a better base to start from (Fig.06).
To make the retopology of any mesh, do the following:
1. Create a ZSphere and hit Edit
2. In Tool > Rigging, click Select Mesh
3. Select the mesh you will use to create the
4. Go to Tool > Topology > Edit Topology
5. Turn Symmetry on (if needed) and click on
the model to begin creating new geometry
6. Press A to see the new mesh
7. When you are done, press Tool > Make
That's the process I used to make the new mesh for the head. This new mesh had some basic edge loops for a better flow and easy detailing in the future. Once the new topology was done I started to detail the head using a reference of a blue-tongued lizard and a Komodo dragon to help me.
The first one stands out among all other lizards because of his nice body texture and weird tongue. Since my armored lizard was going to be huge, at three or four times the size of a human, his skin would be more like a Komodo dragon's or a dinosaur's than a little lizard. Other references were used too, like iguanas and other lizards.
After gathering several references, I also downloaded several alphas related to lizard skin. You can find great alphas on Pixologic's website.
I started defining the main muscles on the head and neck and the folds of skin. I then moved on to the gums and tongue (Fig.07). The eyes were a simple Sphere3D object and the tongue was made from ZSpheres.
To make the teeth I masked the position of the teeth on the gums and used Extract to create a new subtool. Then using the Inflat tool and the Pinch brushes, I pulled and shaped each tooth (Fig.08). Like the tongue, the drool was also made from ZSpheres (Fig.09).
Finally I detailed the scales around the mouth and eyes manually. Basically I masked the mouth region where the scales would be, inverted the mask and used a combination of the Standard brush and Inflat brush to highlight the scales (Fig.10). I used this process for the major scales; the others I did with skin alphas (Fig.11).
I didn't spend much time on the shoulders as they were going to be hidden behind the leather clothes. In Fig.12 you can see the completed head.
Detailing the Body
The lizard's body demanded a mixture of human and lizard anatomy. To tackle this I collected as many references of human muscles and lizards as possible. I tried to create a strong body that looked balanced enough to carry the weight of the armor.
As I had already modeled a base for the body, I used it to begin to define the muscles of the limbs, but before I did that I deleted all of the head geometry as it was no longer necessary. I started with the arms and hands, and defined the muscles and veins (Fig.13). I then moved on to the legs (Fig.14), and finally the torso and tail (Fig.15). Some parts were not detailed as they were going to be covered by cloth and armor.
For the scales I used the same process as I did for the head. I manually modeled the main parts like the elbow and joints. For the rest I used a lot of alphas and adjusted any problems that arose.
The final body can be seen in Fig.16. At this point I had seven subtools: the head, body, eyes, tongue, drool, upper teeth and lower teeth.
Modeling the Props
There are several props on this character. I divided them into five different parts and created them in this order: cloth, armor, shield, leather straps and weapons. For both parts of cloth I used Extract (Tools > Subtool > Extract). Extract is just great and really speeds up the workflow. At the lowest level of subdivision and with the Ctrl key pressed, I masked the rags of leather that I wanted to extract (Fig.17).
Once they were masked I clicked Extract. I set the parameters for Edge Smoothness to 0, Surface Smoothness to 0 and Thickness to 0.3. Depending on the model you make these values may vary. After extracting them I softened the edges of the extracted model manually, so I could have a better range of smoothness. It was necessary to separate the cloth from the body a bit with the Move brush, to make them fall on the body, simulating gravity. I created three different rags of leather for the torso (Fig.18).
For the lower clothes I had to extract a base geometry and mask over it to make out the final cloth. I created two rags (Fig.19).