Continuing the bodybuilder series, my Mudbox character sculpting tutorial lays out the process of creating detailed anatomy for a muscular character, a pretty standard piece that should be in every character artist’s portfolio.
Though the human body, overall, is an extremely complicated shape, the sculpting process itself breaks that shape down into a few easy steps. By repeating these steps again and again over the surface of the mesh, the end result is that high level of complexity we need to create a compelling character!
So what are the steps?
Mudbox Character Sculpting steps:
- Bulge, to add volume
- Foamy, to cut in sharp detail
- Smooth, to smoothly blend the Bulge and Foamy sculpt strokes into the mesh
The steps themselves are easy to describe. But as with all things artistic, the devil is in the details.
1. Creating Volume
Step one is using the Bulge brush or the Wax brush to build up our mesh’s surface, to add the necessary volume to make our character’s muscle forms stand out.
Since the character was modeled in Maya to follow image planes closely, much of the volume for the character’s musculature is already built-in to the low-res mesh.
So what we’re looking to do is add volume that our mesh was too low-res to capture before: the bulge of the bicep, the definition in the shoulders, the subtle bone and muscle in the ribcage and abdomen.
2. Cutting in Detail
Sculpting always starts soft-looking. A good artist has to add in the sharp-looking details to create a compelling sculpt. Some artists prefer the Knife brush in Mudbox, but I like to use the Foamy brush, set to a negative intensity, with a very sharp falloff.
This brush cuts around the edges of muscles to better define their silhouettes. And since most of the muscle volume was already baked in to the base mesh, we’ll probably do a lot more cutting than we will building up.
This is also the brush to use to cut in the small organic details that really create a good-looking sculpt. The serratus muscles, for example, are defined much more here than they are in the first step.
After pretty much every sculpt stroke, a smoothing pass is needed. The Smooth brush blends our sculpted detail together, creating a cohesive whole, instead of a rough, chiseled or blobby looking model.
The trick to smoothing is to know where to smooth. If you smooth too much, your sculpted strokes will basically disappear altogether!
The key is to smooth along edges and endpoints. An easy way to think of it is in terms of boundaries: the boundaries of each new sculpt stroke are what need blending into the main surface, to create that cohesive whole.
Sculpt in small areas to capture individual features, smooth it to blend with the rest of the surface, and then move on to the next area.
In this way, the complexity of the body is broken down to smaller, basic shapes. And the smooth step ensures that you are constantly evaluating the overall look of the mesh, meaning nothing is created in a vacuum, and the result will look great!
Here’s the video! Practice makes perfect, even more so for sculpting than other disciplines. So get started!