I decided to participate in the 3D Bust Challenge by Yekaterina Bourykina! I've been wanting to participate in more art challenges and this one happened to line up well with my current schedule :) I'm glad I did it, I had a great time working on this character!
I decided to go with a concept by Hunter Bonyun (deerlordhunter), who makes incredible work and was kind enough to give me permission to use her concept! I'm super into fantasy, D&D-esque characters so when I saw this piece I was immediately drawn to it.
First I experimented with some color palettes, since the original concept was ink only. After a few versions, I finally went with the fourth option.
Next I went into sculpting. I tried to mirror as many things as I could to cut down on baking / texturing time, however planned to slightly shift some parts of the low poly (back braids, horns) after the bakes were done to avoid it looking too unnaturally mirrored. The biggest challenge for me was getting the face right, since he has sharp yet also sloped and gentle features. The braids were also pretty tough to shape properly!
Next came retopo (3D Coat), UVing (Maya 2018), and baking (Marmoset Toolbag 3). I'm thrilled I managed to retopo the braids, I attempted to do so once in the past and was unsuccessful. It was pretty tricky tho and I'm not 100% convinced I did it as efficiently and clean as I could have, but for this project's purpose I was satisfied with them. If anyone has a good method for tackling braids, I'm open to suggestions! :)
From the bakes. I combined the AO, green and blue channels from the world space normals, and the curvature map in Photoshop. After applying Gradient Map adjustment layers for each element (hair, skin, etc), I was able to get a nice foundation for my textures!
On a new UV I created the floating plants from the concepts. I kept them as a plane since they were so thin and to reduce sculpting time. The flowers on his hair were retopo-ed from a sculpt I made in Zbrush, but in hindsight I could have created the flower using square planes with alphas like I did with the plants to reduce polycount.
And it's done! I'm happy I could submit it before the deadline :) Normally I reduce as much as I can for efficiency, but since there was no tri count + map size limitation I gave myself some leeway and ended up with a tri count of 14.7k and 4k maps.