Art Spotlight: Updo

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Heya! My name is Heather and I am a 3D Artist working in the game industry. I got my start 5 years ago at Disney Interactive, and have since enjoyed a fun career working on neat projects! I love creating art and feel so lucky to do this for a living. : )


Recently I have had a bit of free time and wanted to practice my character art since I mostly do props, environments, and creatures. I did a few practice sculpts before stumbling upon Mike Henry’s ArtStation and came across his painting “Updo”. I loved the anime style and thought it’d be a great piece to test my skills! It was extra nice using this piece since he included a video of his painting process.


I used a lot of programs to create this piece. I started out in ZBrush where I created a base shape by appending circles and cylinders together. I tried to get as close to the reference’s shape and focused on translating 2D to 3D. After I was happy with it I dynameshed all of the parts together and worked my way to a high-poly sculpt. I wasn’t sure where I was going at first, so I created more detail than I needed to.

Because my version of ZBrush doesn’t have ZRemesh, I decided to bring the sculpt into Maya to retopologize, though I was a little lazy and decimated the hair in ZBrush. I find that by bringing down the polycount and getting proper topology, I can focus on tweaking the verts into shape easier than compared to 2.5m points.

After retopologizing, I went back and forth between ZBrush and 3ds Max and tweaked the model to be closer to the concept. I like using Max’s modifiers like FFD to gently move shapes. I find that having access to both of these programs helps me easily switch between being more artistic (ZBrush), and more precise (Max).


After I was happy with the model, I UV’d and brought it into 3D-Coat to be painted! I started off with base colors and large spaces of shadow. Since the concept is more anime style, I used hard brushes with no fall off. While watching the video the concept artist made, I noticed that he turned his original sketch into a blending layer. I did the same and found that a multiply layer with some opacity gave me just the right look to create the red lines.

I found that the most difficult part of the painting was the hair. By looking at my model from the top and turning on wireframe, I could paint the outlines on and get it looking good from multiple angles, which was very important to me. Overall I had a lot of fun playing around with painting the lines and deciding what to take from the concept. Thankfully the concept was very clear in its style so I had a lot to go on for her back and areas not shown.


After finishing my painting, the model felt like it was missing something, so I decided to add an outline to solidify the look! It’s pretty easy to do in 3ds Max.

I duplicated the model, added a black material, then did the following steps.

A. I went into the object properties and turned on Backface Cull. This makes it so the back of the polygons are see-through. If you have a flat plane, you will be able to see it from one side, but not the other.

B. I selected all of the faces of the model and flipped them, so that anything inside the duplicated mesh would be visible .

C. I added a Push Modifier. This takes all of the verts selected and scales them inward or outward uniformly. While scaling the model up moves the verts from the pivot point of the model, the push modifier moves each vert from its starting location.

After completing the above steps, the duplicated model and the original model with a flat shader looked like this. I had also made the decision not to give the earring an outline so it would match the concept.

Finishing Up in Sketchfab

Once in Sketchfab I hooked the texture to the model’s Base Color and Emission. For the duplicated mesh, I made sure to turn the Faces Rendering to Single-Sided (it’s Double-Sided by default), so that the inside original mesh could be seen. I didn’t want to do too much in the post-processing tab, but I did sharpen and brighten the scene a bit. The last thing I did was change the field of view to be 6 degrees in an attempt to match the concept’s angle, though 3D will never match 2D.

Thanks for reading! Have a lovely day : )

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About the author

Heather Knudson

3D Artist at Panic Button Games

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