Senior 3D Character Artist, Nabil Chequeiq, breaks down his fan art of Pheonix from the video game Valorant.
Hello, my name is Nabil - I’m originally from Morocco. I’ve always loved 3D character art. I actually spent a few years teaching myself the basics since there isn't much of a 3D scene in Morocco. I was lucky enough to be mentored at Ubisoft, and have since been working in video games.
In this article, I’m going to break down my fan art of Pheonix from Valorant – which happens to be the game I’m currently playing. My main goal here was to make Pheonix as realistic as possible.
My first step was to start gathering as many references as I could find online from Valorant, as well as photographs of people that looked like the character Pheonix. I followed that up by starting to block the general concept in ZBrush.
Blocking the Character
Next, I started blocking all the elements with basic shapes. I always work with the low-poly sphere, and duplicate that SubTool to create other elements - I prefer that process over appending new objects. As soon as I felt happy with the general shapes, I dynameshed my model and started adding more space in the character's silhouette.
Detail and Cloth
Here, I did a rough Polypaint to get a general idea of the forms I wanted. Then, I did a first pass of retopology for the character’s head, and a quick Maya retopo of the jacket to get some clean shapes. This allows me to change things up quickly and keep the forms clean.
Once I had a clearer idea of what I wanted, I started to block the cloth in Marvelous Designer. I then imported it into Maya to do retopology using a UV tool script. After that, I transferred the UVs into the 3D geometry in Maya using a transfer attribute tool that comes with the Marvelous Designer mesh.
UVs and ZBrush details
After doing the retopology, I started creating UVs using a combination of Maya and ZBrush. I then exported all the objects, and started projecting the high detail from the jacket into the retopo one. For the character’s face, I used a combination of XYZ textures (Alpha pack) and ZBrush brushes.
Here, I used Mari for the face texture and Substance Painter for the clothing texture. I combined that with some mixed materials in Maya to emulate small detail variations in the skin and hair color using bump maps.
The hair was a challenge because I hadn’t worked on a hairstyle like that before. I started off by blocking the hair in ZBrush and then did the UVs. Each cylinder had its own UV in case I needed to color each group of hair separately. I followed that up by applying XGen to the group of cylinders. I then used vertex color to color the hair, and Ai UserData Color node to make Arnold recognize the vertex color in the render.
I almost always use Arnold for my renders. It’s fast and you can do whatever you want with it quickly. To make the most of Arnold, I worked only with the Standard Surface shader and plugged all the textures exported from Substance Painter and Mari. I didn't go crazy with the render settings because I use HDRI to get the final looks I want.
Thanks for reading. I hope you learned a thing or two.