August 15, 2019

Disco Elf Corel - or how to make a stylized character

I finished my second ever character for games: a disco elf called Corel. Like my last character, butterfly woman Madeliefje, I made it to participate in a draw-this-in-your-style challenge organized by Poopikat, and I also wanted to learn Blender 2.8. This is the original concept by Poopikat:


According to Poopikat's description, Corel "has darker skin, Glow tattoos and white-ish blue hair with two big bows. I'd like to think of her as a water/snow elf if that makes any sense." I thought it would be cool to make them glowing tattoos, so I decided to make a 3d version of her in Blender. I also wanted to improve what I thought wasn't good about my last character.

Improvement 1: Face. So I started with the old character. Most 3d artists use a basic character and change it to make it look more like the character they want to make because most human-looking characters have similar body shapes. Step one was to improve the face. I first changed her jaw bone to make a sharper jaw and I also changed her eyes. What I learned was that very small changes can change the look of a face. If you look in a mirror and then open your eyes slightly and stare at yourself, you only have to raise your eye-brows a few millimeters to go from just a "looking" face to a "staring" face. To improve this character I made the distance between the eye-lids and the eye-brows smaller to make a more concerned face like in the original concept. I also remade the size of the lips and I gave her an open mouth where you can see her teeth. The teeth are just a flat white surface because they are almost not visible anyway.


Improvement 2: Body. Madeliefje's body looked like a human body, but I wanted Corel's body to be more stylized. One artist I get inspiration from is Carlos Ortega Elizalde, who's making characters with a slim body and large head. I think they look really cool. So I changed Corel's body to be smaller while increasing her head size.


Improvement 3: Rig. To make a 3d character move around you need to "rig" it by adding bones like a human has. Some people have this as a job, so it's not something you learn in an afternoon. I'm using Blender and a free add-on to Blender is Rigify which will generate a rig for you. I used a simple rig to animate Madeliefje and I realized I couldn't pose her the way I wanted because I couldn't rotate her hands. It takes some time to learn Rigify and you have to tweak the generated rig to make it fit your character, but because all human-looking characters move in the same way, Rigify will help you a lot once you learned it.

What I want to improve when making the next character.
  • Hair. Making hair for game characters is not easy - there's a reason most game characters have short hair or a ponytail. The reason is that big hair will demand many triangles, making the game slower and it's also difficult to animate a big hair. Corel's hair consists of many hair pieces you have to add one-by-one and the result is that you end up with a "stripy" hair and many triangles belonging to the hair pieces are hidden, so it's a waste of triangles. I've seen some characters where the hair is just one big mesh, so I might try to make that type of hair next time. 
  • Cloth creases. Corel is wearing a body-suit and to make it look more like cloth you have to sculpt creases. I think they were too small and you can't barely see them in the final model, so I will make them bigger next time.
  • Normal map. To make smaller details on a less detailed mesh, you need a normal map. The normal map belonging to Madeliefje was so bad I had to remove it, but Corel has a normal map. This normal map generated some weird edges and I think the reason is that Corel is too low-poly, so next time I will add a few more triangles, especially around the legs.      

These are the final poses, with some inspiration from a disco movie with John Travolta. I added the smoke as a post-processing effect in Krita:


If you want to vote for her you can find her on Artstation.

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