As I was working on another story (this time in a sci-fi setting), I decided to model one of the characters to use for promos.
I didn’t think it would be too difficult, and yet it didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped.
The woman’s name is Niva, and she’s a battle-hardened agent of a galactic peace-keeping force (for lack of a better term). In concept, she’d be similar to one of the Green Lanterns from DC Comics’ Green Lantern Corps.
So the order of the day here was to come up with some kind of super-slick space scene, rendered in Blender using the rendering Cycles engine.
The Daz Studio
The only thing I did with the Bodysuit was to change it’s diffuse color to black in the Surfaces tab, then add a bump map of simple repeating hexagon shapes (since hexagons are obviously the shape of the future) to create the pattern you see in the final image. Here’s a smaller version of the bump map that was used:
Then, since Niva is a Black character (can’t say “African-America” since there’s no Africa or America where she’s from), I needed to find a morph and/or texture pack to use with V4 in order to change her the way I’d envisioned. So to get Victoria looking this way I went and bought the Taylia character.
I really wanted this one because she’s reminiscent of one of my favorite actresses Garcelle Beauvais. So I went ahead and installed the character in Daz, then applied her to my V4.
Usually I adjust the face morphs on all the models, even if only a little bit. It’s always handy to have the Victoria 4.2 Morphs++ for making those types of changes. You need to have that morph pack anyway for most V4 characters, so might as well get comfortable using it.
For the hair, I went with the Cindy Short Hair (which I also used in my Power Girl artwork). Actually, it was a toss-up between this and an afro hair prop called Alicia – Mega Morphing Afro Style. In the end I decided to save the afro style for a different character, as I didn’t want both of them to have the exact same hair.
Blender Part 1
As you can see, Niva has a couple of bands with symbols mounted to her chest and arms (and legs). I couldn’t create these in Daz, so I decided to make them in Blender.
First, I had to create the shapes in Adobe Illustrator and get them nailed down. Instead of importing the paths into Blender, I just used exported jpegs as a template to model on top of. Honestly, importing paths into Blender is usually more trouble than it’s worth.
So even though I was going to bring the entire character back into Blender, it made more sense to create these objects first, then bring them into Daz Studio for positioning (I did this by exporting obj files from Blender, then importing those into Daz). This way, once they’re correctly parented I don’t have to worry about putting them back on in Blender every time I want to use this character.
I didn’t even bother texturing them, just added a diffuse color and left it at that. All the texturing would be done in Blender.
Now that I had all the elements in place, I did a somewhat basic pose and exported an obj file to bring into Blender.
Blender Part 2
In Blender it was time to do the texturing and lighting. As you can see the obj looks pretty terrible, but luckily it renders much better than that.
This is the time where I adjusted the skin settings, glossy shaders on the armbands and symbols, and went a little bit too far with the bump mapping on the suit. I only meant to suggest the hexagon pattern in the suit, but instead it kind of overwhelmed the whole thing. I’ll tone that down next time.
Also, the skin came out looking more “plasticky” than I wanted. I’ve learned some things since this one that will let me avoid this look in the future
The glows around the symbols were done using a glow and blur node in the Blender Compositor. I ended up enhancing the glows quite a bit in Photoshop. I probably should have just done them entirely in Photoshop but I wanted to see how they would look coming out of Blender.
You can see in my early renders (below) that I played around with adding a yellow vertical stripe into the suit on her left side. It ended up looking much better in my head than I could get it to look in the render, so I took it out.
The final image is filled up with a bunch of something all over the shot. Those are actually a Carbon Molecule model I got from Blendswap.com.
I removed most of the coloring, then used Blender’s particle system to create a veritable storm of these molecules floating about. Since they didn’t necessarily have to interact with the character, I ended up rendering these out separately for speed. This way with the molecules as a separate render I’d be able to mask out any I didn’t want when I brought it into Photoshop.
In Photoshop, I now had two layers – one with the character, and one with the carbon molecules.
To complete the image, I needed a decent “space background”. I checked out some Nasa Space Images and chose the below image to start with:
As you can tell from the final image, I completely changed the colors/levels and a lot of other stuff, too. I use many images from Nasa in my space scenes, but I haven’t yet used one without altering it significantly.
So in general, I used Photoshop to add to the glowing symbols on the character, add some glows to the molecules and drop in the space background. I almost always adjust the levels to get some deeper blacks and add a bit more contrast to the render. This is all actually stuff you can do in Blender, but since it’s so much easier for me to do in Photoshop I just do it that way.
Gallery of Shame
It’s that time again, the initial renders and rejected images that are left trailing in the wake of this project. Many of these are pretty small, but you’ll get the idea of how the project progressed.
I meant for this piece to be a promo poster or other image for my story, but I don’t think I’d use it as it is right now. When I get some time, I’ll go back into this one in Blender to adjust some of the shaders and textures. Hopefully I’ll come up with a look more in line with what I was originally going for.
We all have to make those initial stumbles, though, so I learned a bit about what I didn’t want in this one.
So that about wraps it up for this piece, if you have any comments or questions, just let me know in the comments section below.
Until next time..!