Making of my first photorealistic character

I am Ovidiu Bejan, 3D Character Artist at AMC RO Studio in Bucharest.
I’ve started my adventure in the industry twelve years ago as an environment and vehicles artist. I switched to characters seven years ago.
Before this exercise that I’ll proudly present to you, I made characters for MMO games.
This is my first high detail model made in a photorealistic manner.

The “Old Lady” character was build on the idea of human study.
My subject is a former high class lady who became a homeless person.
I called her Iustina (eng: Justine).
The concept belongs to our former colleague Olga Ciob and I thank her for inspiring me.

Concept Artist: Olga Ciob

It was a challenging step for me as there’s visual richness in it, implying many artistic and technical efforts, lots of fine details which reveal her personality and life choices.

The high poly model is sculpted with Zbrush and it has approx. 42 M polygons. I wanted to be sculpturally challenging especially for the clothes as I made them by hand, not using cloth simulations. I realised that I have a passion for this, to figure out how fabric materials behave.
The hair and fox fur are done with a basic fiber mesh and lots of grooming afterwards, controlled on patches separately with masks.

The clothes see-through-wear & tear gaps are painted masks converted in color and then used as transparent in Zbrush’s texture map, same as the umbrella.
The ornaments on the chest are a simple insert mesh brush with a tube profile and a little bit of patience. I really enjoyed doing this.
As for the face, I wanted to pay attention at the saggy bitter expression from the start in the early stages of division levels and I got to the wrinkles and pores details in the last stages, keeping them on layers. I added fine sharp volume structure with some noisy procedurals in Painter.
I chose a pale “illish” skin color, characteristic of old age with spots sampled from photos through Substance Painter’s decals technique.
I added subtle details with small blood vessels and painted veins.

The lowpoly model is made with Maya in Quad Draw Tool, over the high poly reference. It is designed to work in AAA games having a moderate polycount of 15k and another 5k for the hair and fur geometry cards.
The alpha texture cards are bake-sampled from the hair and fur portions of the high model where I considered they look best. I chose to sample them, not to model them separately as it’s better to keep the right scale and look of the texture. They are oriented in many directions to keep the silhouette visually rich.

The overall silhouette is meant to be bulky and compact for the large coat area and varied visually in color and detail information with the ripped cloth in the lower part and furry/hairy cards and flower ornaments for the upper part.
The model uses one 2k texture for the head, hands and eyes with larger UVs, another 2k texture for the alpha hair and fur cards and a 4k for the body.

I used the lovely Substance Painter for the textures and materials, with lots of particular details for cloth imperfections and dirt, made with decals, stencils and general procedural maps. I tried to create relations among materials in roughness and metalness, like the shines of the neat jewelry and chest lacing in contrast with the dusty sober clothes.

I enjoyed very much creating Justine, for the details and gimmicks mostly, trying to picture the person I want to reveal, her personality, the way she’s struglling in life, polishing her jewelry, adding items to her clothes like safety pins, rough seams, cracked plastic black balls instead of fox eyes, little things that she cares about.
As I’ve said this is my first model on a bigger scale in terms of detail, I hope to have the chance to get better in the future and make Justine proud for being my first.

Thank you!
Ovidiu Bejan, 3D Character Artist