This is as a first foray into game character modelling. I’m in the process of recreating Sabriel, the title character from the first book in Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom series. Perhaps not as original as coming up with a set concept myself, but as with most written works the visual interpretation can lend some variance on my own part.

Planning There’s not an awful lot of fanart for the character as it stands, and of that that does exist have details that don’t really fit with what’s described in the book, in my opinion anyway. There is thankfully a fairly accurate rendition recently done for the most recent reprint covers, painted by artist Sebastian Ciaffaglione, which I’m using as primary reference. I collected these together with concepts from a few other artists on this pinterest board. Foremost though in starting out my focus was on creating a good base model for a female character, having never modeled one before. Using the model sheet I drew (below) I managed to get a result I’m fairly happy with, excepting the face.

Base Model Sheet for Sabriel
Base Model Sheet for Sabriel

Modelling As this is largely a learning experience for me in how to model and what achieves the best results I created the ‘naked’ character in 3DSMax for the most part with a combination of box modelling and edge extrusion. When I got to the face however I was experiencing a fairly profound level of difficulty achieving a result I was happy with. In Hindsight I mainly attribute this to the way in which I drew the face on the model sheet and what I can only put down to a need to practice female facial anatomy somewhat more (or facial anatomy in general really), but it was in the end a good thing really because it lead to trying out an alternative method that I will likely use in future for modelling the entire character.

Pretty good likeness...
dsc03410 Pretty good likeness…

ZBrush This is perhaps the most intuitive program I have even used, once I got used to it. The results achievable in ZBrush are far and above what I think I could generally ever achieve in a more tradition 3D modeling pipeline, at least in the same amount of time. I’m honestly pretty fortunate here as my brother was there to talk me though a lot of the interface and functionality of the brushes, whereupon I went to work sculpting something of a mixture of Kate Beckisale’s face mixed with general elements of what I was presented with upon typing ‘pretty girls’ into google image search (yes, I actually did that, shhh). The result was something I was much happier with, which was then exported as an .FBX for the next step.

The Face of Approval
The Face of Approval

Retopo – 3D Coat This was again on recommendation from my brother. Could have done this part in max just as well, but perhaps not as easily as 3D coat makes it. Retopologising in 3D coat is ultimately as easy as dragging out quads over the established mesh, with adjustments as simple as dragging the morph brush over the verts you want moved.

A day at the retopo spa.
A day at the retopo spa.

Took me about 2 hours in total to retopologise the head in suitable detail on my first try. Thoroughly recommend it to anyone else wanting to achieve similar ends. The video below is in much the same strain as how I went about it.

Back to Work From there I went back to 3DSMax with the new mesh for the head and have incorporated it into the overall model. I spent some time nutting over some rough notes for the general outfit and props and am in the process now of finishing off the model for the grand undertaking of unwrapping, texturing, rigging, skinning etc.

Update and Outfit Notes

But more on that later, this post is long enough…

Ref  – (2015). [Easter Island Head] Retrieved from