After doing the Alien and Zombie Boy I received a few emails asking me about different techniques I used in making it, so I figured to answer any and all questions I would go in and break it down from beginning to end.
So first I started with the base mesh of a kid project that I did, and modified to to how I needed it to be I immediately saw this staggering zombie lurching forward in my head.
And so began detailing the thing. I wont lie, I don't like using a lot of brushes. I do love the clay buildup brush. It allows me to work fast and frenzied. I set this to a low intensity and really grow the form.
I tend to go in periodically with the DMS standard brush, and chisel in details that I know will be needed later one. once everything is really set, on the lower levels I go in with the soft form brush and build up what I missed.
I don't like using the inflate tool too much, only because it tends to get tricky to use on higher levels.
Now its very important to note at this point and all points in the process that I'm constantly looking at and adjusting the silhouette. This is probably the most important part of the sculpting process, as it will determine how your figure reads when compared to any background.
This image below shows perspective turned off, my mistake I admit, so its not a real example, but I do want to put something here to illustrate the point. It really is important.
I then set the clay polish tool to -1 and surface to +1 and it gives me a natural blurring of the pores into the skin.
Texturing & UVs
Texturing is something that I truly love in zbrush. Mudbox fanboys will piss and moan about per poly painting, but the speed at which I can paint naturalistic textures is something I love. To make it simple, my texturing process for all of my models is the same. I start with a dark color, and work lighter. Its an additive process that I feel really works well.
As for painted skin textures (as many asked about the alien piece I did) the trick is to not pain solid colors. Granted looking at it now I probably could have pushed the textures a bit more, but in any case the brushes used was a standard brush set to color spray, with a speckled alpha.
I set the spray to around .7 so that I get an even coat, without seeing the actually edge of the apha, or seeing it repeat.
I like to mask off, the cavities, and fill with a 3% dark tone, its not really visible but does get picked up in maya.
The teeth and tongue were done the same way.
At this point I'm ready to UV. Using the plugin UV Master, I do a quick and dirty rip of the mesh. It was good enough for me to edit. I know the head is oddly placed, but it worked for what I needed it to do.
Planning and Maya
So now with texture at hand I begin looking for a set up that I feel is what I want in my final image. I decided to go with the center one in this case.
Taking a cue from the "Make it look real with Mental Ray" tutorial, I then exported a normal map for the 4th level of detail. I then created a low res displacement map (about 1024px) for any detail lvl 4 and beyond that needed that extra pop.
And then it was on to maya. With everything ported in I began first with lighting, to recreate what I did in Zbrush. I came up with using two spotlights, one with Area light turned on. Its a bit different than using an area light, I feel I can get a sharp/soft mix that I want quicker that way.
I then assigned the Mental Ray Fast skin shader to pretty much every thing haha. I didn't touch the values, I could have but in in seeing so many Vray renders with default settings I said "why cant mental ray?" Master Zap took a lot of time making sure those values matched what was accurate for flesh, and so I only scaled the effect to fit the character and lowered the sub-dermal weight (as he was dead)
some texture samples :
Finally I rendered with FG on and a simple color for environment. Then I took it into photoshop and finished it.
I now adjusted said image here (just adjusted curves a bit):