Art Spotlight: Allosaurus

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Who I am, what I do

Hi, my name is Marcel Schanz. I am a 3D artist working as a freelancer, currently for a dinosaur project called “Saurotopia” (and on Reddit).

This is why my account has been filling up with prehistoric animals over the last few weeks. The project seems very promising but I am not allowed to release details. But I am busy creating dinosaurs, so more will be arriving on Sketchfab.

I am German, recently moved to Berlin. In 2009 I studied 3D Art and Animation at Games Academy in Frankfurt. I was employed at Bigpoint, Good Game Studios and briefly at Blue Byte before I founded my own company.

Find my portfolio on Artstation.

Building the dinosaur

As a dinosaur is not a fantasy animal, my first step is to get reference images of the skeleton, preferably a schematic side view. There will definitely be personal design touches done by me but I want a correct starting point.

The image is important for the first draft sculpted with ZBrush. You can set ZBrush to a see-through mode to reveal the image underneath it.

It might help to use ZSpheres for the first sculpt. ZSpheres are rigged balls connected to each other which is great to define major joints, shapes and extremities in a non-destructive way. To get to the next level of detail I convert the spheres to actual geometry.

The first geometry is always a Dynamesh. It allows the resolution of the geometry to be smoothed when distortion on it becomes too strong. It feels like real clay and gives you a lot of freedom when deforming the mesh, a wonderful tool I do not want to miss!

The mesh is in a neutral t-pose, so retopologizing, rigging and skinning or posing later is easy, fast and good.

The dynamesh sculpt is fairly detailed when I decide to switch to a good topologized mesh. I retopologize in 3DS Max. Use the GoZ Button to transfer the geometry between the two programs.

When retopologizing I keep the geometry very low at first (as seen in the picture below) for three reasons. It is very fast and easy to retopologize, to unwrap the UV and to move geometry on the lowest subdivision level in ZBrush. However for the final lowpoly I use a version subdivided twice so I get 16 times more polygons.

Concerning the UVs – I need a lot of pixel resolution for the textures, so the Allosaurus’ body has two 4096² pixels materials separated by material IDs. You can check it by using the model inspector in Sketchfab > 2D > base color > choose a material in the upper right corner.

Once the UV is unwrapped I start with the final sculpt by getting the retopologized mesh into ZBrush, subdivide it and project the details from the first dynamesh to the retopologized mesh. Then I sculpt more details in – foldings of the skin and major scales that are big enough to contribute to the lowpoly’s shape. I do not sculpt all scales into the highpoly sculpt because I want the freedom to change them if needed. I do that later in Substance painter. So smaller scales are only part of the textures, not the sculpt.

The scales I created are sculpted in ZBrush and can be bought here.

They are seamless, so I just have to drag them either in Zbrush onto the sculpt or use them in Substance Painter.


When the sculpt is done I bake the normal map in 3DS Max. I do that in 3DS Max because I can directly see and manipulate the cage if necessary, which I cannot do in Substance Painter.

All additional maps (Ambient Occlusion, Curvature, Thickness, World Normals, Position Gradient) are baked by Substance Painter.

Painter is great for texturing. I established my workflow for the dinosaurs so that layers that I need for all dinosaurs (like a dirtlayer for the feet, scratch marks / wounds, the mouth, claws and maybe scales) I can store as smart materials. It saves time and keeps the look consistent between different meshes.

I very rarely use paint layers. They are not as flexible as fill layers are. For the scales I just have to drop my scale textures (heightmap, colourmask) into either the mask of the fill layers or the channels of the fill layers. Then I can manipulate both with filters like levels, curves, colour and hue changes.

Why Sketchfab?

After texturing I want to show the final result to my client. That is where Sketchfab comes in super handy. I pose the mesh in ZBrush by masking and rotating the body, upload it to Sketchfab and my client can see the results in realtime on his screen. His feedback can be better than if he had only static pictures.
The same applies to animated models. We use the 3DS Max internal CAT rig. He can even assess the animation via sketchfab.

Thank you for your interest,




About the author

Marcel Schanz

3D Artist

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