Hello, my name is Gautier Foucart.
Based near Paris, France, I’ve been working as a 3D artist for video games for 6 years, including the last 3 years as a Character Artist.
Ever since I read the late Kentaro Miura’s masterpiece Berserk, I wanted to create a fan-art of its amazing characters. The first step was to gather as much reference material as I could: pages from the manga, model sheets, and stills from the anime adaptation as well as anatomical references and pictures of actual historical weapons and armor.
To save time, I often start from one of my own basemeshes but once in a while I find it a good exercise to start from scratch. So, for this project I started by sculpting the face from a sphere in ZBrush with DynaMesh. Then I added more primitive shapes to create the proportions of the body and merged them.
Once I was satisfied with this first version of the head and body, I exported them to Blender and started the retopology work.
For the retopology, I used Blender’s snap to surface tool and shrinkwrap modifier. I tend to keep my mesh fairly low poly—it’s faster, eases retakes, and it makes no difference for the end result as it will be subdivided.
Then I imported this clean mesh into ZBrush and started adding details, fixing the proportions, etc.
For the face, I used a multichannel map from TexturingXYZ to add skin detail. If you are interested, I explained my workflow on my ArtStation page.
From this body I did a blockout of the clothing and armor by masking and extracting parts of the body and sculpting them with DynaMesh. Once again, I used Blender for the retopology and modeling. For the hard surface pieces, I used the bevel modifier to keep the edges sharp.
For the clothing I sometimes use Marvelous Designer, but for this project I ended up only using it for the shirt. I wanted really specific and slightly stylized folds, so to match the manga it was easier and faster to sculpt them directly in ZBrush.
When I was satisfied with my high poly sculpt, I once again exported my mesh to Blender and started the low poly retopology.
As I like to keep a clean topology in ZBrush, I’ll often use the lowest subdivision as a basis for my retopology and merge the different parts like the armor, ornaments, and rivets into a single mesh.
For the UVs, I’ll typically split my low poly mesh in several materials. I’ll often have one for the face, one for the top of the body, and one for the bottom of the body but those divisions can vary depending on the level of detail I want to achieve and the complexity of the character.
To unwrap, I separated the front and back sides of each mesh with mark seam.
To avoid deformations, I only unwrapped the flat part of the front side and pinned the UVs.
Finally, I unwrapped the entire mesh.
Once all the parts were unwrapped, I packed the UVs manually, as I usually do. It’s probably not as efficient as automatic packing but in many cases It will save a lot of time in texturing.
For example, on this character I made sure to keep all the meshes that were going to use a directional texture (the leather straps, the fabric, the metal curls of the shoulders, etc.) facing the same way.
When I can, I use symmetry to save some texture space.
I used Marmoset Toolbag to bake all the details from my high poly to my low poly.
I made sure to have my low poly and high poly meshes share the same name with _low and _high suffixes to keep my bakes clean. I also enabled the “exclude when ignoring groups” feature on the moving parts to prevent them from casting a shadow on other objects in my ambient occlusion bakes.
I then textured everything in Substance Painter using these bakes.
For the hair I used the Hair Tool add-on for Blender, which has several tools to create mesh hair cards from curves.
I started by creating several strands of hair that I placed on the skull one by one with curve modifiers. I like to keep everything non-destructive so I can continue improving the strands after I place them.
For the shorter hair on the back of the skull I also used Hair Tool to generate hair cards from a particle system, allowing me to use Blender’s groom tools to adjust the hair cards.
A great trick to improve hair rendering is to smooth your hair cards’ normals. I do this by sculpting a mesh with the same volume as my hairstyle and transferring the normals with a data transfer modifier.
The setup of the materials in Sketchfab was straightforward, I just plugged in my PBR textures exported from Substance Painter. I added dithering transparency and anisotropic reflections to the hair and subsurface scattering to the skin.
To add some depth to the eyes, I used a black mesh with an opacity gradient and a crescent of emissive light in the material of the eyes.
Before setting up my lighting, I enabled the post-processing filters, especially the screen space reflection and ambient occlusion. I also set the tone mapping to filmic for enhanced contrast.
The lighting is composed of an HDRI and 3 spotlights, key light, fill light, and rim light.
Thanks to Sketchfab for the opportunity of writing this blog post.
I was happy to pay tribute to one of my favorite works of fiction, I hope you liked it! I also hope you found this breakdown of my workflow helpful.