• Alien Skin Material
    Alien Skin Material (click to expand!)

    Here’s the material setup I used for the Destroying Angel project (detailed in this post). Part of this setup uses the “Crevice Dirt” vertex paint technique by Blender Guru. Hope it’s useful!

  • Destroying Angel: Process

    After working on a series of models where I was doing a lot of retopology practice, I found myself longing to throw all that optimization stuff in the garbo in favor of just doing a big, complex sculpt. So, that’s where I started with this one, the “Destroying Angel”. Taking inspiration from a couple different sources – both the toxic mushroom of the same name and the Cephalotes ant – I booleaned together a cylinder and sphere, applied a subdivision surface modifier to make the resultant shape easier to manipulate, and pulled it into sculpt mode.

    Destroying Angel
    There is a Species of Ant that has a Door for a Head

    The four sculpt tools I’ve found work best for 99% of situations are Draw, Crease, Smooth, and Grab. Crease in particular is miracle tool – not only for making folds, wrinkles, carving out the orbits of eye sockets, etc., but by using it in the “Add” direction it can really wonderfully punctuate edges of eyelids and, in the case of this model, the lips. I made sure to have Dynamic Topology enabled and set to a Detail Size of 4px; I find this gives the best fidelity without being too fine grain. After finishing my first pass on the head, I began assembling groups of basic shapes to form the foundation of the body’s left side, booleaning them all together and then symmetrizing the mesh along the X axis. Getting this simple skeleton right first made building up detail later on a lot easier.

    Sculpting details onto the body was pretty much the same as with the head. Some connections between objects at boolean points were a little finicky, so I used the Clay tool to smooth them out. I then booleaned the head onto the body to begin smoothing the transition between the two forms. At this point the mesh was beginning to get DENSE, so I selected any area I wasn’t actively sculpting and hid it (H) so Blender wouldn’t be crawlin’. Once the body was mostly complete, I returned to the head and started Grab tooling it to exaggerate the forms/give it a little more visual interest. Sculpt phase complete!

    Initially I thought I wouldn’t UV unwrap this project at all, opting instead for a material setup that didn’t require it. I started by setting up a Principled shader with basic translucency/displacement/noise texturing. I then applied this “crevice dirt” technique by Blender Guru by entering Vertex Paint mode and playing with the “Dirty Vertex Colors” settings. That particular tutorial is meant for accumulated grime in mesh crevices, but I’ve found that when used with colors representing areas of thin skin, it can provide a good foundation for organic material too (so long as there’s some additional texture layering on top to obscure it). It was at this point that I decided the overall look was still a little too anemic though, so I started UV unwrapping it anyway.

    UV unwrapping a complex mesh is kind of a pain in the ass. By lasso-selecting specific areas you’re intent on texturing, unwrapping and then hiding each selection (as detailed in this video by The Luwiz Art), you can fully unwrap WITHOUT marking seams, a process which, with a sufficiently dense and non-uniform mesh, might take a couple decades off your life. In this instance, I used this technique to unwrap and paint the mouth, crown, groin, and other areas of thin skin that I felt needed extra visual attention. I then added this to the material with a MixRGB node set to multiply.

    From left to right: Just the Vertex Paint shader, Shader with Noise texturing and translucency, Shader mixed with multiplied Image texturing.

    It was at this point that I felt I wanted the Destroying Angel to be holding some sort of weapon (more menacing that way), so I started making a simple trident in a separate file. The ornamentation on the hilt was created by extruding vertices downward along the round edge of the basic hilt, subdividing the resulting edges, separating them into another object and then turning them into curves (they were turned back into mesh objects when I had fiddled them into their final shape). The material was based on this one for “damascus steel” by DECODED.

    Finally, I assembled all the parts, rigged and posed the body, and voila! Overall very happy with this piece, and may do similar stuff in future. For now, here’s some extra pics of this lovely lady for y’all!