I decided to start by jumping straight into Zbrush for my concept stage – this is because I find it to be just as fast and flexible as Photoshop, but also come with the added benefit of producing a (even if it’s a basic one) 3D model which can easily be reworked and optimized for further work.
For the beast I started out with a Sphere mesh that I stretched out into my primary shape with the Move brush. At this stage my main concern is to look at the overall shape and silhouette of the head and to keep the proportions relatively plausible (maintaining a balance between fantasy and realism in these is definitely a topic for another time )
Once the basic shapes were done I used the Clay Tubes brush to create bone structures. At this stage I’m focusing on features on the skull such as cheek bones and eye sockets – these are important when making a predatory animal as certain aspects like the eyes facing forwards and the size of the jaw muscles are common between predators. Other than that I also explored some ideas with an upper crest and a beak-like front part of the face. This is where I figured moving forward with a chicken design might work.
Next step was to smooth out the bone structure by thinking about where some of the muscles would go as such eye muscles would fill out the eye sockets while others fill in the jaw area. This step makes the design look less bony and malnourished while adding mass and bulk to the creature without altering the design. This was done mainly by using the Polish brush with an inverted square alpha.
Final step was adding skin. Artists like Davind Krentz have great videos explaining how this works. But basically by using the Clay Tubes brush again I built wrinkles and scales around the face. I wanted to show as many variation in the skin as possible so I has wrinkly turkey skin around the eyes, hard looking keratin formation around the bottom jaw and front, while keeping the skin softer around the neck thinking about adding feathers to cover it.
This was the first attempt at the feathers. I used a separate Fibermesh settings with an opacity mask to create different feather types. At this stage I was happy with the model.
The next step was to render the model out in Keyshot and paint over the image in Photoshop. This was an extremely quick way of experimenting with different feather set ups.
Here is the final version of the model with the changes from the previous step implemented.
At this stage I feel that this post is getting quite lengthy, so I will discuss the texturing work in a separate post.