Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Z-Brush Horned Green Dragon

Horned Green Dragon main
Screen grab of Zbrush sculpt with polypaint.
I've been thinking about making a dragon model for a very long time and actually started doing something about it. I decided to just open up Zbrush and go at it. I think sketching in 3d is sometimes easier than on paper. You need to put more effort in to get a decent looking 3d model. However a drawing  can give the illusion of a nice form with out true substance. You find the flaws of the drawing only when you try to build it.
Horned Green Dragon Side View

Horned Green Dragon Low angle

 Inspiration For The Dragon's Head

I've painted dragons here before and read up on descriptions of what dragons look like. They are described as having elements of the horse, camel and dog. A very broad mix to play with and part of why I enjoy making fantasy creatures so much. I have some pictures that live in my head when I think of dragons, I can remember seeing Smaug by Greg and Tim Hildebrandt on the cover of the Hobbit when I was probably 8 or so. Strange to see two brothers credited for the same picture, I had no idea it was by two artists. That picture echoes round the web as well as the inside of my head so I expect many of you will recognize it.

Another big influence for me was lead figures for fantasy games like Dungeons & Dragons. I actually went looking for some of the miniatures I used to have and found The Great Fire Dragon, there's clearly an influence there. I couldn't find the artists name but it's fair to say that the artists who made those figures had a big influence on me and I learned a good deal of what I know about painting from painting miniatures. More recently I saw the cover art of John Jude Palencar for the novel Eragon and that stuck too.

Horned Green Dragon montage

 Making The Dragon's Head

I screen grabbed the dragons head at intervals as I was working so you can see how the dragon developed. The dragon started as a poly sphere and I remeshed round about every time I did a screen grab. Remeshing prevents the polygons from being overstretched when you are putting detail into an area which  lacks the required number of polygons.

This model was intended to develop ideas and have fun. I would normally build a base mesh in Maya with a low polycount with the intention of having a fully poseable skinned model. I may still do this but I enjoyed just focusing on sculpting for a change. Low poly modeling is a very different process and not as good for developing ideas. Zbrush has a much more organic feel which very much suits pulling around fantasy creatures.

Horned Green Dragon WIP #1
 I start with basic shapes which I pull around using the move tool.

Horned Green Dragon WIP #2

Horned Green Dragon WIP #3

Horned Green Dragon WIP #4
 Once I had the head shape looking the way I wanted I put the details in.

Scales are quite easy and fun to do using Zbrush.

If you have a nice form to start with the scales almost draw themselves.

That was where I stopped on the sculpt.

Early polypaint, I experimented with some materials too.

Almost there, this is an outliner material that helped the texturing.

Painting The Dragon's Head

I painted the model using polypaint in Zbrush. It's probably the first time I've used it so much and it worked out quite well. Because I  painted directly onto the model in the same way I sculpt, it's much easier than painting an unfolded map in photoshop. I did use photoshop to tweak a little but for the most part it's polypaint. The best part is not having to guess how it's going to look. When you're painting the flat map what you're looking at is a peculiar pancake version of your dragon that looks like it has been skinned ready for stuffing. This is not a rendered model, all the images are just screen grabs so this model could look even nicer with the right lighting.

If I develop this model further (which depends on how much attention it gets) I think I would start thinking about more of a crest of horns and a larger mouth with more prominent teeth. I would also texture the eyes as they are currently just placeholder spheres with a material applied.

If you would like me to develop the dragon further please like, +1 and/or share this post and I will get the message. Thanks to all the plussers on my last post I very much appreciate active readers, this blog welcomes and needs your support.


  1. Awesome article and very insightful as to how you made the Dragons head

  2. I'm always amazed how much knowledge and work it takes to create even the simplest-seeming figures. I never noticed the camel resemblance before, it's pretty evident in your design. There's so much detail in the head already, it's hard to imagine you developing it even more.

    1. Thanks for the great comment NP. I can always add more detail. I think that was about 5 hours for the sculpt which is pretty quick for me. With anything like this what you are looking at is cumulative knowledge. The more time I spend sculpting the faster I can do it. One thing I noticed later is that there is a fair bit of giraffe in that dragon. I spent some time at college sketching giraffes and it seems to have reincarnated in this dragon :)

  3. I am impressed. He definitely has character.

    1. Thanks Big D character is always what I aim for, great to hear that it's coming across.

  4. Awesome Dragon bro... Really dig it! Got some awesome talent and 5 hours is pretty impressive :) How long have you been a 3-d artist for ?

    Great information in your post!

    1. Thanks Rohan, My first game was Timesplitters published back in 2000 I mostly animated for that but I also built a few of the characters.

  5. I enjoyed how you walked us through your creative process. I'm not much of a dragon girl but I really like this one!

    1. Thanks Kathleen happy to hear it. Just wondering what's better than dragons?

  6. Well, hope this doesn't reflect on me but, I like sloths...

    1. Heh no Sloths are cool very characterful.


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