Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Flame Troll #2 Armor texture and surface sculpt

Troll Prototype
Proto Troll needs texture love

Back to the Flame Troll and this is where I left it last time; an early base mesh for a full plate armored suit. Some skin tests done to check the mesh, I got the troll walking around, textures are placeholder tests and no real UV mapping done at this stage. The Troll is fully articulated without too much fancy rigging.

My next step was the UV map, for this I use a mix of Maya and Z-Brush UV Master. I sort out my UV islands in Maya first then I go into Z-Brush and Use the UV Master plugin for a straightforward flatten but keeping my UV islands, I generally end up re-positioning the layout of the UVs in Maya at the end to tidy up. A bizarre mechanical job but it has to be done. Below you can see the entire armor suit except for the shoulder, elbow and knee pads which I put on a separate texture page. I always snap shot my UVs before I go into texturing so I have an overlay which shows me where and what I'm painting. Sensible layout of the UVs also helps with this so for example at the top of the page in the middle are all the Troll's fingers. It makes it easier to paint if elements of the model are where you expect them to be, otherwise you have to cross reference with Maya to track down what you want to paint. Although there is generally an unavoidable period where you need to familiarise yourself with your new UV map.

Troll Armor UV

 Once the UVs were out the way I took the model into Z-Brush and started sculpting. I quickly discovered that I could not get the level of detail I wanted with out hitting the poly limit for my machine so I had to divide the model up into several sections. In this way I could go to the maximum poly limit on each separate piece and so have an overall poly limit that was much higher. The body had 6 separate sections in the end which were: arms, chest plate, gauntlets, legs and additional armor plates.

Below you can see work in progress normal maps on the model. What I usually do is set up with Xnormal so I can drop my normal maps onto the model as I am adjusting my sculpt in Z-Brush so the screen grabs below are from Maya. It means swapping around between software which is a drag. When I first started using normal maps I would do all my sculpting, finish it and then generate my normal maps and drop them into Maya. This means less messing about but can lead to unforeseen errors which you can catch if you check your work as you're creating it. I find it less of a headache to keep an eye on any developing problems as I'm working rather than get all the way through the sculpt and then have a nasty surprise.

Troll Normals WIP #1
The mat version above is an earlier version than the shiny silver version below. If you look closely you can see there are lots of blank areas on the armor in the pictures above and below which I filled in later, like the phoenix that I sculpted into the centre of the breast plate. These pictures show the model with just a base one tone colour applied to it. All the rivets and gubbins are coming from the normal map.

Troll Normals WIP #2

 Below you can see the separate sections sculpted in Z-Brush. I really liked the Phoenix design I came up with for this characters breast plate, I decided that I wanted the Troll to have a magic flaming spear and that he needed an emblem of fire to go on his armor. I doodled out a phoenix holding the rune for fire on a scrap of paper and then transferred it to the armor using Z-Brush (by eye). You can find all sorts of runes and ancient symbols by checking the internet and it can be lots of fun researching this kind of thing. Or you can just use your imagination.

Troll ZBrush Sculpts
Once my sculpt was done it was time to move on to the texture painting. Below you can see the model before I started really going into the painting so you're just seeing the detail of the sculpt transferred onto the model through a normal map. The result is a very  beaten up surface that seems peculiarly clean and plastic, time to get painting!

Troll Head and Shoulders Normals

Troll Back Normals
Back view ready for painting
Troll Front Normals
I set a simple pose for rendering so I can check my work as I paint   

Troll Side Normals

Here are some details from the texture sheet, these are the hand painted flat images that I mapped to the model to complete it. You can see the Phoenix breast plate and one of the shoulder plates, these flat images work in combination with the surface sculpt to give the impression that dirt has caught in the recesses and that the corners and raised areas have been scratched  and battered. I use an ambient occlusion map as a starting point to paint from. It often helps the model to paint in details that are not in the sculpt so you should not stick too rigidly to the ambient occlusion, (within reason of course).

Troll Texture Detail #1

Troll Texture Detail #2

Again  as I'm painting I am constantly checking the results in Maya and running off the odd render.

Troll Textures WIP #1

Troll Textures WIP #2

Flame Troll Back View

Flame Troll Front View

So there you have it one flame Troll in a suit of long serving battle worn armor, complete with sigils and magic seals.

 We are not done yet though as next will come the spear.

Flame Spear Wip


  1. Wow, that is really intricate work! So lifelike. You ought to generate a CAD file to "print" out your monster on a 3-D printer.

    1. Thanks Helena, yeah I need to get round to that at some point, I can just export it as an OBJ file which is pretty easy. I would also need to use the much higher res Z-Brush models and stitch them together but it's doable.

  2. Your technical skills are amazing. That's a pretty powerful looking troll. I'd hate to have to face him on a wrestling mat.

  3. Thanks NP, one thing that's not yet apparent, the troll is well over 6 feet tall probably 7 or 8. Definitely not for wrestling, maybe poke him in the eye and run!

  4. That's amazing. You're very talented! Your short film was funny.

    1. Thanks great to hear that you liked the film too.

  5. Replies
    1. Thanks Angie, it's like I'm getting a BC full house!


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