Character design

This character design unit looked very fun!! It would also allow me to take what I had been carrying out in the first unit. Developing a character and understanding the character. Henning came in at the beginning of the unit giving us advice on how he carries out modelling and designing a character. His advice was to understand the character, the language, the feeling you want from the character. These pieces of advice will be used to inform the rest of this designing unit!
Here is a mind map that I created in order to consider a character… I had a lot of ideas such as an arctic vampire or a spy from WWII. In the end I chose to go with either a silent movies actress. I felt this would allow me to pose her expressive and gather a lot of visual research for me to begin designing with.


Above is a synopsis I created for this character. This was a really fun bit for me as I was really able to get into the characters mode of thinking. It is true what they say the more you write for a character the more you get to understand the character. This has proven a good practice for my other project with Mike. I created as many questions to answer as well as using character question prompts online. All equating to a much fuller picture in my head of what my character is like. Some of my favourite questions I asked were: Greatest regret? Idea of perfect happiness and last time she cried. It put in perspective what the character priorities. Even though I am not animating this character It allowed me to think as she was alive.


Creating moodboards

Atmospheric board. I have a tendency to make lots of boards for different things. This board is to get a sense of atmosphere. It is meant to feel light hearted, free and expressive. 


Pose Board – Above is another moodboard I created to understand how actresses in the silent movies era used there bodies and how they posed. It really is an extension of understanding how my character would animate. I used this particular board when I was modelling my body as well as my own sketches.

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Pintrest= My greatest reference tool. I have only just begun using pintrest recently but it has been a great tool for me to separate my references. I created this board so I could analyse how silent movie actresses presented themselves and the general ideal beauty at that time. Above this you can see the board  that I collected imagery for anatomy, clothing, expressions for viola. Very useful tool.

Getting reference and understanding context

Gaining Reference and context!

After initially creating moodboards and synopsis i head to the study zone where I looked at different books about movie industry at this time as well as fashion in this decade. This would all help me build on my character, what was beautiful then? What did they wear?

I learnt ultimately that the 1920s was time about defiance. After the world war one people expressed themselves. Woman going against traditional beauty, hiding there figures in loose fitting clothes, cutting there hair to seem more boyish. Cinema was taking off and it was a very exciting time. This for me was so interesting to learn and how would it feel to growing up in the 1900s and living in the 20s!

Henning emphasised the importance of understanding where the character lives and the environmental context.  I looked through the below book and scanned in several pages which I found beautiful and a good starting point to my designs.


Brigitte Helm in Metropolis 

One of my inspirations is Helm in Metropolis and the pure beauty of how she moves and expresses herself. Furthermore her features were the considered ideal of beauty in 1927 when the film was released. The 1920s Ideal of beauty was complete opposite of today, with thin long eyebrows, thin lips, little to no curves, short hair and long defined noses. I love Helm’s ability to change from a innocent character to a dark menacing one! I will be using Helm as a reference point when designing my character.


I really love Helm’s features in metropolis and the defined nose.

(Below the amazing dance scene in Metropolis which is just stunning to watch!)


Salome 1923

Another film which I used as a reference point was Salome, I found it whilst researching for this project and fell in love with the piece. It is really beautifully filmed but it is again good to identify character poses and how women were using there bodies at the time my character lived.



I used this book, Fashion sourcebook to give me some more information of the time and culture. It helped me come up with appropriate clothes for Viola. It was very resourceful and full with fashion photography and illustrations demonstrating what it would be like to shop in the 1920s.
I thought this image was similar to my design with the sloping shoulders and long limbs and illustration at the time.
This was a big inspiration and very close to my final clothing. I liked the “V” and the simplicity of the clothes. My character is not rich only working on several films in a small role.
Beautiful fashion illustrations, look at the long limbs and the way the characters have been posed. Pointed feet as the character stands still.
I scanned this in as I loved the characters pose on the right. I did a similar sketch due to this.
Glamorous look!


Designing a character

Below you can see pages from my sketchbook. I don’t need to annotate each page but you can see how I worked through designing the character. I  began using all my references and then identified the things which worked and the things that just didn’t.



Used this page to try out some expressive moves. Working with flow lines to begin with.


Using my reference boards and research I began to create some inked designs for the head. It was really fun to play around with the elaborate hairs that they had at the time.

Above I began to think about body shape and further developing the heads. I like the idea of a long body that could be used to be expressive. It also meets with the ideal beauty at the time. A lot of the fashion illustrations showed tall women and I think it could work really nicely in using her long limbs.
I like this page because of the distinctive differences in the features between the heads. I really like the bottom left image that demonstrates a long nose and little lips.
As I work on these head,  I understand that I really want a distinctive cupids bow.  I also love the idea of having sloping shoulders.


Developing the body and how it moves. I want a long torso for the character.




Beauty Board – I wanted to use what was considered beauty to reinforce my designs. I made this board at this point to finalise the head designs. I also really like the art deco concept I made in one of my sketches so I want to carry that through. The Roman statues also sees very distinct art deco noses that swerve from the eyes. This is something I would like to finalise in my designs.








Love the defined nose on the left page, it looks very strong. I would like to experiment trying to make the face cute or lovable.




Final Favourites – I scanned in the above heads and photoshopped them onto one page. These were my final favourites. I wanted to make some final sketches using sections of them all.

 Final Character Design

Above and below you can see my final character design. I tried to work through the different expressions. I am actually really happy without how the design came out. I used a lot of my research to understand the relevance of the time. The ideal beauty, the women who were casted. I chose to use sloping shoulders, thin lips, expressive eyes and a long define nose. The eyebrows are long.




Sculpting with Clay 

Images to show concept clay sculptures also known as Maquette sculptures, art

I decided I would like to try modelling my character or at least the head in clay. I think doing this process will allow me to see what marks I need to create so that every brush stroks in zBrush is there for a reason as Henning advised. Working with clay is still the same as working in zBrush this. By this I mean you have to work from the foundations to the skin. I think physically holding clay and moulding it will inform my sculpting stage in zBrush.

“At Pixar there are two full-time sculptors who make clay maquettes of our main characters, taking two-dimensional designs into three dimensions. Both are incredibly talented. They explore the characters and their facial expressions before these are built on the computer.” Jonathan Hoffman 

In the thread above a modeller discusses the potential of using clay to model and then 3D scan into zBrush.



Above you can see my progress of making my sculpted character. It was tricker than what I thought! It took me some time and I still think I could improve it. But it is my first time sculpting a face.The experience was very useful when I come to sculpt my character in zBrush. It let me figure out how I want to define the structure. How the side profile should look in accordance to the structure of the face. How I want the neck to swoon into the chest. How tall the hair will appear on the face. Sure you can get this from drawings as well but having something I can physically hold allows me to see what I want to emphasise or shrink. For instance I think I want to make the bottom of the nose smaller and the cupids bow more pronounced. The lips were super hard to do, I see why it took 7 years for Leonardo Da Vinci to perfect Mona Lisa smile.

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Final costume design at the end on the right. I wanted it simple, as I stated previously, Viola is not rich.

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Modelling in Zbrush

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To begin the modelling It started with this little sphere! What is this sphere you maybe thinking if you are a complete beginner like myself. Well it is a Zsphere and one of the ways to create you character is to use it to build on. The main shortcuts I used were “W” and “Q” (Q allowing you to draw and rotate) (W to allow you to move the new spheres and pull them out)

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When I did the legs they kept ending up really skinny so I had to redo them. I think Zbrush was really good to use to make you think about anatomy, the curves of the body.
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I might have spent a little long worrying about the zsphere stage. But I tried to think about how the joints would sit, the shape of the bodypart. I felt if I made this step as accurate as possible it would make the sculpting stage easier.
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I used my sketches as well as the reference board imported via the image plane section.
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I kept switching to the A to preview the adaptive skin.

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The hardest section of modelling with zSphere was the fingers! I tried to work it out myself, but in the end watched a tutorial. Using a shift and click control I was able to create Fingers which I could pull out.

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Positioning the hands and looking at hand reference for the composition in the thumb and fingers/
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Final zSpheres.
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With Adaptive Skin.
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Silhouette of the character. I wanted her distinctive with long limbs, heavily sloped shoulders and a powerful profile.
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Problem :The symmetry on my face was off. I researched how to turn it back on but nothing was working! The symmetry was working perfectly on the body. I realised the head seemed slightly off(not face on) so i rotated it correct and it worked fine after. Symettry made it so much easier to sculpt the head! (Lesson learnt!) I accidentally also made my character wonky without realising so I used the move and rotate tools to get the body straight again. Henning showed me this when he was talking through my body.
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Sculpting the basic features. I used my sketches (As you can see behind as a reference as well as my beauty board which showed the features I wanted to define (Such as the nose, cupids bow and profile).
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Perspective shot.
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Playing around with the facial expression
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Playing around with the facial expression
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I dynameshed the face in order to carry out the basic details of the face.
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When I dynameshed I had to make sure there was no problems with fingers or thighs being joined together luckily that wasn’t the case.
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I wanted a distinct cupid bow as this is something evident in every sketch I did!! Henning reminded us to look at lip anatomy. Which is something I tried to do remembering the middle ball that sits on the top lip and turning in the corners of the mouth to give it realistic depth.
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Placing the eyes in uts socket.
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The profile was something important to m y character as it shouldn’t have a forehead it should slope all the way to the nose which i am happy to see I could achieve!

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My clay model’s profile.
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Working through the face.
Adding hair. ( Was working from my sketchbook in my lap for reference and holding my clay model!) But you can see i added a new subtool and used the move tool to mould it into the shape I wanted. This would mean i could colour it easier without painting on the face by mistake and also it gave me the freedom of coming back to that subtool and editing throughout the modelling stages.

Creating the clothes

Henning said that the clothes in Zbrush and creating realistic looking cloth can be tricky!

Adding the dress. In order to do this dress I masked a vest shape on to my character. Then I extruded it in the masking category on the right and pulled it down so it became a dress. Further giving it details with the clay build up tool. I didn’t want to add too much detail as it is meant to be stylised and it would look out of place among the rest of the character. As the character’s clothes are baggy I did not need to worry too much about the muscles being too distinct I did however added detail to the back in the bum and in the spine, shoulder blades. 
Distinctive profile. Stylised hair! Here is my painted version. I painted my character by taking my self of the “Zadd” replacing it with “RGB” and changing to draw mode. Using the colour drop down and selecting colours I was able to add colour. As I wanted my character black and white I chose black and whites and everything in-between to my character.



Sculpting in Zbrush



It needs to serve a function.




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