Art Spotlight: Sapphir

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Hey! I’m Arsen Nedovis from Lviv, Ukraine. As a child, I used to create imaginary worlds and play games. I’d spent hours playing Lineage 2. Yet I preferred World of Warcraft due to its graphic style. Like most kids, I was dreaming of creating my own MMORPG. At that time, I couldn’t even imagine how much work it would take. So, I decided to start learning 3D graphics. I studied YouTube video tutorials and forums, but even then I still did not believe that this could be something more than a hobby. Having learned ZBrush and found a good job making miniatures for one year, I am now working in a cozy studio Moonhauzen, and trying to improve my proficiency in 3D. I’m a straight edge; in my spare time I just kickbox, sometimes I play Overwatch, and I love my pitbull Ursa.


I feel that my sketches do not fully convey characters’ emotions; the impression a viewer gets doesn’t fully match the one I have in mind.

I’m pretty much self-taught. So I’ve decided to set a goal I’m going to reach in three stages:

  1. Convey the emotion intended by the author.
  2. Besides conveying the emotional aspect, create a correct anatomy (Currently, I’m working on understanding the anatomy, using the book Anatomy for Sculptors by Uldis Zarins with Sandis Kondrats)
  3. Create an anatomically correct artwork with emotions, and good game topology.

By creating the artwork “Sapphire”, I’ve accomplished the first stage (Convey the emotion intended by the author). I was looking for a character expressing a peculiar emotion. At the same time, the emotion was supposed to be challenging to be modelled in 3D.

The awesome reference that I found helped a lot. (Thank you, Ross Tran!)

Sapphire by Ross Tran (Source)



Firstly, I blocked out the character in ZBrush. I placed the reference in the background and used a see-through function to make a draft. At this stage, sketches were rough.

Then, I made my sketch geometry similar to the one of the ref, using DynaMesh.

To get the forms I wanted, I used Clay Buildup, and Move/Move Topological to make the forms in my sketch similar to the ones in the source image. SnakeHook helped me to create the character’s hair.

I didn’t bother much with the topology, as it wasn’t the initial goal of my work. (I was striving to convey the emotions). That’s why I decided to use the easiest method of automatic retopology with ZRemesher. I was setting a Target Polygons Count parameter separately for each SubTool.

I hand drew the face in Blender, as it is essential to outline all its geometric flows. At this stage, I drew small details such as eyelashes, adjusted locks of hair, added more feathers in the background and to the owl. Then, I measured the similarity again.


This painting method was my guide. (Miki Bencz did a nice overview of projection making.) Straying from Miki’s strategy, I decided to blur the initial image in Photoshop using gaussian blur and projected a blurred image to learn how to make aesthetic strokes. (Not the easiest task for me, as I’ve never tried to paint in 2D. Still, I’m taking a liking to it.) Here’s the result of my several-hour painting. It was starting to look like what I had initially planned. Meaning, I’m on the right path.

Now, it’s time to adjust the geometry again. Judging from the texture, it’s easy to say what sets the original and my sketch apart. At first glance, it’s all about the subtle nuances of the facial expression. Yet, the general impression is totally different. Afterwards, I placed the original image in front of my work in the background slot and started making changes to the geometry by adjusting the transparency property.

In the ref, one shoulder is leaning forward and looks bigger. I could have reached the same effect using Field of View cam. Yet, it would have distorted the other proportions. That’s why I decided to leave one shoulder smaller.

When I am happy with the result, I upload the model to 3D-Coat again and finish with the texture.

Thus, I’ve achieved the ultimate result in several iterations of texture/geometry editing. With alfa texture in the Eraser tool, I achieved the effect of the “geometry absence” by erasing the lower part.


Using Sketchfab, I selected the following settings:

  • Chose Classic and used a Shadeless mode;
  • Switched off all the light sources, as there was no longer a point in them;
  • Set a white background, just as in Ross Tran’s image;
  • I used only Diffuse and Opacity texture maps in the Material tab;
  • I was planning to turn the Post-processing off. Still, through trial and error, I figured out that the SSAO filter is pretty awesome.

Sketchfab 3D Editor settings

I want to take the opportunity to thank everyone who contributes to my development as an artist. Especially, huge thanks to the Sketchfab members, whose works are in my category of favourites now. I am super grateful to the Sketchfab service, which gives me an opportunity to have access to incredible 3D art, study their topology and texture. It’s a great pleasure to be here, guys.


About the author

Arsen Nedovis

Junior 3D Artist. Learning hand-painted direction.

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  • A huge pleasure to read about this piece !
    It’s quite interesting to know that 2D painting is not your realm, yet you really managed to convey emotions (I guess everyone will have its own reading of the piece) through the 3D painting job.
    Very (very very) nice work, I’m eager to see the next step(s) 🙂

  • Avatar Ahmed says:

    You call yourself a “Junior 3D Artist”! Man you’re a pro 🙂

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