Armored Norn – Process Notes

For preliminary work I started with the concept image and estimated the height at eight heads. I further isolated some of the key elements of the armor itself into various layers to get a better sense of how the elements should fit over
one another.


In Zbrush, I decided to exaggerate the length of the legs somewhat to suggest greater height, which I initially reasoned would make for more interesting lower-angle presentation shots.


I started modeling the innermost layers of cloth and leather and worked my way out to the armor. The metal armor, being the most prominent element on the model, I decided would need greater attention.


Close to the final sculpt – I kept the armor fairly low-poly until the very end so that I could move the individual vertices around as needed – and, in case I needed to re-model them at some point.


Before finalizing a UV map in Blender, I made smaller, individual test maps for each of the major elements (armor, cloth, leather, skin, etc.) in order to check for errors and artifacts during baking with xNormal. Not having to worry about UV placement and smaller image sizes made iteration much faster, but keeping track of the files and re-loading image files
turned out to be quite tedious. As such, I didn’t do much detail work for the texture at this stage, concerning myself mostly with the normal maps. The exception to this was the front and back of the waist-tabard /surcoat; as the shapes were mostly flat, baking the designs on each side to fit a new UV layout wouldn’t be a problem.


The model initially clocked in at some 8000-plus polygons and although I was able to reduce the tri figure to less than 7000, doing so created some new problems regarding the geometry. Some pieces of high-poly armor didn’t quite match up with the new low-poly geometry and as such required an overhaul. Fortunately, I had backed up earlier iterations of the Zbrush file, so while tedious, the process of reshaping the now mismatched armor pieces didn’t take as long as expected.


After the overhaul of the high-poly armor geometry, I was ready to consolidate the individual maps of each element into a final layout. A test pattern proved invaluable in judging the size of each element in UV space relative to 3D space.


The texture was mostly finalized at this point, but I had until now neglected smaller elements like the fur lining and various straps, which didn’t have as much resolution as I had wanted. Another redo was in order – the UVs this time.


At this point I was more or less satisfied with the current resolution of each element of the model and moved on to texture painting in Photoshop. I organized the layers roughly corresponding to normal, diffuse and specular textures, with additional folders for skin and metal, etc, adding Photoshop layers as needed.


I made a quick display base for the model, but as quickly abandoned it as it took up a lot of space on presentation images and took focus away from the character.


Exaggerating the legs as much as I did proved to be a poor decision in hindsight, as it made posing the character in a sitting position awkward. To capitalize on the model’s verticality, I kept with upright poses instead.



Though I was initially happy with the first round of images, the following day I realized upon looking at the images again that the bloom was too overpowering and so began making adjustments to the diffuse and specular maps. I also added 50 additional tris to the model as over the course of the next week and went about making additional tweaks to the poses and geometry. I also made adjustments to the diffuse texture, as the color scheme had begun to deviate too far from the original concept image.

Back to presentation page.