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In the beginning
For many of us, it can sometimes be hard to motivate ourselves to produce new work. For me, these are the times I look towards the familiar and nostalgic. Batman was my favorite childhood superhero. And Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns has always been my favorite interpretation of Batman. So, I thought it would be a fitting tribute to recreate the second book’s cover. It was the perfect reference to translate into 3D (or at least so I thought).
This piece was first modeled using 3ds Max. My main concern was to keep a low poly model that would work well in Zbrush (nice quads). Each part (head, gloves, cape, boots, belt and shirt) was modeled separately and unwrapped prior to Zbrush. I also decided to reuse some old geometry to block in what I needed. This enabled me to work rather quickly and dive into the high poly modeling and shaping in Zbrush.
After I imported my mesh, I used the move brush in symmetry mode to establish Batman’s overall shape in a t-pose. After this was done, the mesh was split into sub-objects, so I could focus on each part separately. This also helped my computer to keep from crashing. I used all the basic preset brushes in Zbrush (standard, pinch, smooth, inflate, slash and the snake hook for torn fabric) to create this character.
Once the model was advanced enough, I used Transpose Master to move and rotate Batman’s appendages into his beat up and barely standing, pose. Transpose Master is a great plug in for Zbrush that unifies the sub-objects and then allows you to pose your character in the lowest sub-division. After this, further modeling was done to fix the symmetry issue, as well as to correct the fabric folds, tears and muscles to follow the pose more closely.
The textures were created from an exported cavity map using Zmapper. This helped me to keep the strong graphic lines. It also gave me a great template to see where I could paint the texture. I also used the Zapplink plug in from Zbrush to correct seams and retouch the diffuse map. I did use a couple of photos for the bruising and the skin (I used it in an overlay/soft-light layer to enhance what I already painted). I kept the maps very flat because I wanted the textures to remain clean and easily readable. This also attributed to the comic book look. The normals map was done using Zmapper as well (I used the tangent best quality for 3ds Max setting). I made sure to map it to the same sub-division and then I exported it back into 3ds Max.
The specular map was then created using the diffuse in Photoshop (a grey scale version with adjusted contrast levels). All objects have texture maps of 2048 x 2048.