Rogue Development Diary

Tutorial by Lee 'almighty_gir' Devonald

Week 1

Week one started with a bang. We all got together on Google+ (something I was sceptical about... I’m not a social networking fan) but actually it has some AMAZING features. Screen sharing is just mindblowingly fantastic even if it’s in its infancy and lacks some features. I’d strongly recommend it to anyone considering a collaborative project.

This week consists of choosing our girl, collecting reference, and... Drawing. Emphasis here on drawing. I’m not a fan at all; I think I suck at drawing which makes me not want to draw which has led to it being a self fulfilled prophecy! I don’t practice because I think I suck and because I don’t practice I DO suck! But that’s okay! This isn’t a drawing master class and truth be told I totally understand the reasoning behind the drawing part of this exercise.

When top artists tell you to try drawing your subject before you model them it’s to help you become more intimate with the subject, to see it from more angles than you may already have and more importantly it actually helps you to find out things you might have missed at a cursory glance. There are quite a few things I picked up drawing Rogue that I would have missed if I didn’t do it. The relationship between the shoulders and hips, the elongation of the torso... these are things you can make a guess at by looking at pictures, but when you start to draw the character you quickly understand how they’re exaggerated, and how easy it would be to go too far and make it all wrong!

It’s at this point I’m going to introduce you guys to a couple of things. I don’t really have a massive concept bible. Instead I focused on a single fantastic reference. This would be my primary sheet, the one I use when all else fails.


Rogue figurine.
Image by Lee 'almighty_gir' Devonald

Once I had put together the bible reference I started out on secondary reference. This would be fan art or other secondary sources that I thought were good reflections of the character. In some cases this even included real people’s faces, hips, chests etc. All things I felt would be good to use in building the model, things that screamed “sexy”, or things that really spoke to the character of rogue... the mischievous southern belle, cursed to love from a distance, that fierce and eternal tease. And finally it included any and all of the sketches and drawings I did, yes I’m aware they’re horrible! But it’s spurred me into wanting to do more drawing which is a good thing.

I’ve decided to upload the secondary bible in a .psd file, I think it’s important that you guys see how I built up the sketches (and help me do it better). I started by doing a block out stage, where I focused on main body shapes... the hips, ribcage etc.

The Sketching!

An important note here is that I actually did my orthos first... and that’s a mistake! There’s a lot missing from the orthos. They lack character, and in a lot of places they seem to lack all of the things I learned from doing all of the other sketches. They also weren’t as good! After sketching as much as I did for the rest of the sheet I’d gotten into a much better flow, and by comparison the orthos were just bad! But that’s part of the point of this course, to learn and do better next time. Here’s how I went about the sketches


Rogue development sketches.
Image by Lee 'almighty_gir' Devonald

The Analysis

Analysis is important here. I wasn’t just looking at women (although that’s important); I was finding the differences between real women and marvel comics women...

It’s also important to note certain anatomical things... most of you probably know them, but for those who don’t, here are some of the things I picked out. When a leg bends, the hip doesn’t... bear this in mind when rigging especially. It also creates a subtle “seam” on the body, which is an inch or two below the natural seam from the iliac crest and the crotch.

Week 2

Now, the course at this point takes a wider scope... weeks 2, 3, and 4 are actually joined at the hip. They focus on making a base mesh, blocking out, and sculpting.

I built a base mesh during week 1, while sketching. I wanted to stay a little ahead of the curve if possible, and I LOVE sculpting. So getting into that part of it as early as possible was a must for me.

Anyway! Rambling aside this is how I went about building my base mesh.

The Head

I wanted to keep it quads where possible. This is a good rule to follow when you’re looking at sculpting, too many triangles and even too many “poles” (vertices which share more than four faces) can give you an inconsistent smoothing result which is obviously not a good thing. That said, my mesh has a couple of poles here and there, and two triangles... well, two in “prominent locations” anyway.

I had originally intended the head of the mesh to be as plain as possible... pretty much a subdivided cube attached to a neck. But then I also wanted to practice my topology, so ended up making a head with edge loops and such. No truly defined features where possible, but still decent topology. So when making the head I focused hard on clearly defining these loops:


Screenshot of character bust with loops.
Image by Lee 'almighty_gir' Devonald

Hopefully if you’re looking to build a base mesh and you keep these things in mind, you’ll have a finished product that will hold up well in sculpting, and will serve as a half decent guide at the same time. Remember that a lot of these loops are placed according to muscle structure, so when you come to sculpting you’ll find less resistance along those lines, and more resistance along lines which aren’t supported anatomically.

The Body

Here is where things can be quite interesting. I decided to keep a largely even polygon distribution so as to make sculpting easier, but at the same time try to include loops around areas which would have naturally high definition.


Screenshot of front torso with loops.
Image by Lee 'almighty_gir' Devonald


Screenshot of back torso with loops.
Image by Lee 'almighty_gir' Devonald

As you can see, I put some effort into keeping as even a distribution as possible, whilst trying to define some key areas.

The Zbrush

And the final stage was to create suitable polygroups in Zbrush.


Screenshot of character polygroups in zBrush.
Image by Lee 'almighty_gir' Devonald

The polygroups include everything I could see becoming a problem area, or an area in need of focus, such as fingers. The mesh also includes an inner mouth (excluding teeth, tongue and gums) which is its own polygroup.

The Freebees!

Please feel free to download any of the following base meshes:


Both of the .obj files are exported from zbrush and require you to import them into your program of choice as a single mesh, failure to do this will result in a lot of separate objects!

Also, if you do decide to use these basemeshes, please give credit where it's due. thanks!

Will likely update this post later in the week as more work is done!

Week 2 – continued

I spent a few hours last night sculpting, but I got very tired. I think I eventually went to bed at around 4:30am. I was having such a blast on Google hangout with the other guys that I just wanted to stay and make cool art, but ultimately I felt I’d devolved into a raving lunatic spouting nonsense about tooth lasers and Irishmen.

So today I did a little more sculpting, and now I’ve come to the analysis step. While I did lay out a lot of core muscle groups for the entire mesh, I focused mainly on the upper and lower body poly groups. This means I can focus on getting it completely right and then move onto another part. It means you can break down your workload too... if you sculpt out the entire body, and then analyse it, there’s a lot to go through and that can be really daunting! So break it down into manageable chunks.

Torso analysis

This step is very similar to how I analysed my sketches. I took a bunch of screenshots from different angles in zbrush, mainly rotating around the y axis. I then sketched some block shapes over the top for the ribcage and hips, along with s-curves and such; almost as if I’d just started doing a whole bunch of sketches instead. And again, when i'd done that, i sketched over the top, and wrote notes about the changes i needed to make, or things i thought were good.

While I did this, I kept flicking back to my reference images, along with a multitude of other naked chicks in various poses and angles. Doing this helped me identify some core problems with where I’d gone so far. It also revealed I’d done some things right too.

here's a handy dandy gif image of the process.


Analysis of torso in zBrush.
Image by Lee 'almighty_gir' Devonald

Week 2 - End

Apologies for the late update, i had a rather hectic weekend! this will hopefully bring everyone up to speed with where i was at on sunday (end of week 2).

i spend much of the week tweaking and refining the torso shape, getting it to a place i was happy. i also spent a lot of time on the head. i'm not happy with the head at all now and i can see myself spending the next couple of weeks working on it.

The Torso

after last weeks torso analysis, i made pretty much all the changes i wanted to make to the torso. i've got her looking how i want, slender, toned, but still buxom enough to be sexy. but when it came to getting the bodysuit look, i realised i'd made a bit of a boob (lol) in the topology of the basemesh.


Analysis of torso in zBrush with clothed and unclothed model.
Image by Lee 'almighty_gir' Devonald

as you can see above, the topology is great if your character is naked, or in just a bra. but for a tshirt or bodysuit you'd want to change some of that topology to the more grid like/uniform structure. it's no big deal, i'd originally intended to sculpt the bodysuit as a layer in zbrush but i ended up exporting the mesh into max, duplicating most of the body, and redoing the chest topology before taking it back in for a project all and then work on the look and feel of a skin-tight suit.

this focused mainly on very gentle use of the "damstandard" brush, blocking in the creases on the lowest subdivision that could handle it. they'll be refined later in week 3 or 4, but for now just getting their positioning was most important.

while doing this, try to remember that there's a body under there. sure a skin tight suit might flatten the flesh underneath in some areas, like the breasts. but it will also diminish some of the natural creases, like the one from the crotch to the iliac crest, and the belly button.

The Head

ugh this is hard. REALLY hard. there are certain points i NEED to hit to make this come out okay.


Analysis of head in zBrush.
Image by Lee 'almighty_gir' Devonald

the top set of images is what i was left with after my 1 on 1 with Hazardous. the bottom set of images is where i was at by the end of the week, after tweaking it myself and trying to get it to where i liked it. there's things i like for sure, but a lot that i don't.

again, just drawing over the screenshots was a big eye opener. it really helped me to see what was wrong and how to fix it. it's something i should have done a lot more in the past but was too lazy. but this whole thing has just opened my eyes to how "bad" i was being before (in the behavioural sense of the word as well as the skill level).

so yeah... DRAW MORE! hah.

i was expecting this update to be a little longer... well, next one will have more cloth stuff in it so that might take a while, and hair too.

Week 3

so this week Haz did another sculptover on my mesh. i watched him do it, completely knackered, total lack of sleep threatening to destroy me. watched him push here, pull there, and before i knew it, Rogue looked like a new woman!

the thing is, when i compare the two, a lot of the major landmarks were fine before he sculpted over. the lips were in the right place, the jawline terminated at the right place, the eyes are the right size/the right distance apart, the nose is the right length etc. so from that point of view, WIN!

but there were a lot of areas where my lack of experience... and his immense amount of experience showed. now, the very first time he did a sculpt over, i just took that mesh and played around with it, keeping what i wanted, changing what i didn't. and to my shame i've only just realised i learned absolutely fuck all by doing that! i thought i'd learned just from watching, but far from it; it barely sunk in at all. so this time i did something a little different!

i did the same analysis that i'd done in the past, sketching, writing notes etc. trying to get a feel for the changes he'd made. but when it came to the sculpting, i decided to load his mesh up in max, put it to one side of my screen, loaded zbrush on the other side, and tried to replicate his changes.

The Analysis

Old Mesh

so at the top here you can see my old mesh. problems included:

Hazardous's Revision

when you look at haz's revision in the middle, you can see he's gone up an extra subdivision... but that aside, you should be able to see:


Analysis of head in zBrush.
Image by Lee 'almighty_gir' Devonald

My Revision

and on the bottom you can see my own revision:

this has been an amazing learning experience. i've learned so much doing it this way. more to come!

Week 4

Week 4 is the final week of sculpting. by the end of the week we all hoped to be done with our high-poly meshes and begin looking toward making the final low poly meshes.

so this week i spent a little time finishing up the forms of the character, following up on feedback (note the ass crack), adjusting proportions and finally, adding details. details here means wrinkles and folds in the different clothes she is wearing. i didn't want to add any type of wrinkles or blemishes to the skin in the high poly, those will be left to the texture if they're even added much at all.

so now we get onto the subject of wrinkles... folds in cloth. and it's a lot simpler than you might expect. just about all wrinkles or folds can be catagarized in one of three:

here's an image of what I tried to accomplish.


Analysis of torso in zBrush.
Image by Lee 'almighty_gir' Devonald

i tried as much as possible to simply visualise this on my mesh, trying to think about where wrinkling would occur most, and also to bear in mind the material it's happening on. for example:

another note here is that it's NOT super important to be neat and tidy. most folds aren't! having "perfect" lines and edges in your folds will make them look un-natural, realism is about imperfections (in my opinion). so loosten up!

at the same time as all of this there were a couple of things i was conscious of:


Demonstration of creating seams in Rogue's outfit.
Image by Lee 'almighty_gir' Devonald

and finally, here's a turntable of the final high-poly.

Week 5

pre-note: all pictures here are at least 3 days old and things have changed since.

This week i'm retopoing/creating the low poly mesh. now, one of the big advantages of having the basemesh set up the way i made it was that the topology is already largely how i want it. the biggest issues i had were in defining specific areas.

Now, there's no real budget here. ultimately this course is about making a sexy woman. but i also want a strong portfolio piece which will say to devs "hey... this guy knows his stuff". well... i HOPE they will say that haha.

So let's face it, this is a "hero character", and this particular hero has... well... "heroic areas" hehe. So it's important that those areas look good, right?! This meant adding more edges to the breasts, and arse. to keep them low poly enough that they're within acceptable limits, but high enough that it looks smooth and round... but that's for later. for now here's:

General tips

For retopo i just use 3ds max's built in freeform tools. they're incredibly easy to use! just select your low poly mesh, in the graphite tools area select freeform, and polydraw. set it to "draw on - surface", and then click "pick" and click your high poly mesh. then using the tools within the freeform ribbon you can retopo while all your verts stick to the high poly mesh like glue!

that said, there are some things you should look into doing during retopo:

The Face

so with the face, using the above generalities, i went over the mesh. i looked for areas that needed more definition, that weren't filling out the volumes of the high poly, or were just too low resolution for what i wanted. for example:


Screenshot of low poly model.
Image by Lee 'almighty_gir' Devonald


Screenshot of low poly model.
Image by Lee 'almighty_gir' Devonald

The Hands

the hands were... well, not fun heh. this was one area where keeping volume was difficult. the fingers were actually really difficult, in fact it's almost impossible to retain the volume on fingers without racking up the amount of sides they have. i eventually just settled for six and i'm happy with the result. As you can see in the images below, there are a few areas where the fleshyness of the high poly just aren't covered by the low poly. that said, i feel like i managed to retain enough of the form that they'll bake down well, and still look womanly and "dainty" so to speak. here are some things to remember:


Screenshot of low poly hands.
Image by Lee 'almighty_gir' Devonald

Other bits

for most of the body i just followed what i've already talked about, but i figured i should mention a little on building a low poly with baking normalmaps in mind, for those who haven't done it or want to try it.

putting it simply, just remember that normalmaps are there to fake internal detail. so when you can save polygons by not trying to define every single bit of that detail, then awesome! but it's just as important to know when you SHOULD be defining detail in the low poly itself.

the best way to do this is just zoom out, any details which can't be seen in the silouhette from "game distance", which is how far zoomed out you usually see your character, can be covered by the normalmap. any details which can be seen that far out should probably be handled by geometry.

an example of that detail and how to handle it with your geometry, the red line is the high poly, the blue is the low poly.


Low poly close up demonstration.
Image by Lee 'almighty_gir' Devonald

Final Renders


Final render of the face.
Image by Lee 'almighty_gir' Devonald


Final render of the face with wires.
Image by Lee 'almighty_gir' Devonald


Final render of Rogue.
Image by Lee 'almighty_gir' Devonald


Final render of Rogue with wires.
Image by Lee 'almighty_gir' Devonald

Roguedevelopmentdiary (last edited 2013-03-06 17:56:35 by almighty_gir)