WIP - Artwork - "Time travellers"


Hi everybody, it’s been a long time I didn’t share any progress on my personal projects here, too much pro work pushing away every tiny bits of free time ^^

Here is an Artwork project started in 2015 that I often went back on. I’d like to finish it this year as the main idea and most of the elements are done.

Here are the early/old CG elements:

Hand painted displacement for the scales:

Pretty sure that now I’d find a quicker way to procedurally create the textures of these shoes in Designer.

I almost created all the clothes for the characters in the scene too. The initial idea was to simulate the cloth in max with Cloth modifier, pinching and moving some vertex here and there to get the desired look in the final images.
Still hand painted + some old “hand made” procedural texture creation on the shirt and trousers

I made some experimentations about creating displacement maps from pictures using Bitmap 2 material by Allegorithmic and I must admit it makes a great job.
By using the “slope based” constraint on pictured objects lighted from one direction, we get quite good displacement maps.
That process might be less precise but it’s also less constraints than using Photoscan or the normal map photography process. For these tests I used only 1 light, another light, more diffuse and on top of the pictured objects will be added for next shooting sessions.

A few more original clothes:

Some original props:

About the stained glass I originally wanted to use Joker Martini script “Welder” to create the weld elements but it didn’t worked the way I wanted for my geometry therefore I simply used my original pattern geometry (diamonds) and added a lattice modifier on top and a few displacement maps (like the welder max script does). After installing the windows in the final scene I felt coloured glass elements was too much, despite the facts it looks really cool. I’ll only use light colour variations on each glass elements.

The electric plug was fairly easy to model, based on boolean operation on splines then extruded and converted to editable poly + turbosmooth, smooth by smoothing groups.

The Tissue box was more challenging, it asked a few tricks using a cloth modifier to get the desired shape of the tissues.

— Then there was a gap of 4 years —

Things evolved a little in this artwork, first of all: the camera angle to give the story a better understanding (and also avoid the same angle from Alice).
Then a few architectural parts have been adapted: walls and windows.

I also started the work on a new element. The animated version of this hand is only here as a test. The rigged hand will be posed then sculpted again to add more details here and there depending on palm and fingers orientation.

Some more props:

I can say that I had a lot of fun creating the many textures of the windows elements for the scene, thanks to Substance!
Welding points need refinement at the modelling step.

Computer updated texture on Substance Designer:

Case for ramune bottles

A few years ago I used to model almost everything in Max even the organic stuff, therefore the initial model of this character didn’t look so great:

A couple of years ago, I forced myself to learn Zbrush with a daily routine: every morning, start from a sphere and sculpt a head until the end of the day (approximately 8 hours later) then leave the model, finished or no and then move on a new head the next morning. It taught me patience and it gave me interesting results, you can find the article about this CG sculpting week on my blog

For this Artwork, here is the initial new head after a few days of work:

— Another gap of 2 years —

The too few free recent days I worked again on the male character of this never ending artwork by refining shapes and volume on the face and also started the cloth work directly in Zbrush for the base displacement. Oh and I adjusted the environment a tiny bit here and there.

Before adding details sculpt to the head I decided to move from the dynamesh to clean topology version. At first the Zremesher from polygroups (using polygroups from paint option) result were kind of good but it lacked some real edge loops around the eye areas therefore 3ds max helped to draw a clean topology for the lower part of the head that needed to keep its symmetry. However Zremesher gave a good result on the top part of the mesh, it only needed a few poly bridge and adjustment in max to stick the two meshes together.

Original Zbrush Re topology attempt

Zbrush + 3ds Max topology before being merged forever

With a good topology it was time to finally start some adjustment way easier to manage a subD 1 like on the eyelids, no more wobbly skin there! Then I could add details with alphas on the skin part.

Topology talking, this is a non animated project however I created a “good” topology for the faces of my characters anyway. It helps in many process coming after the modelling step: easier unwrapping, easier expression editing, good flow of polygons for the displacement in rendered images.

These Zbrush cloth brushes are awesome, no more waiting for max cloth modifier to painfully move faces in real-time. The hands comes from the model created a few months ago, less scary though.
By the way I adjusted the torso volume to get a less super hero proportions.

Now, the geek part!

Time changes, workflows evolve! Still using Substance software, this time with Designer, I created a new cloth wrinkles collection with multi angle lighted pictures of some fabric, trying light and heavy fabrics to get more variations in the results. It works pretty good and can be easily used in Substance suite or directly in Zbrush as Alphas!

But Wait! You remember Zbrush can now deform surfaces with cloth brushes easily? Why not use this process to also create Alphas? I may create vector brushes as well for full 3D distortion.

Left: alphas from Zbrush cloth on a plane / Top right: Height maps from texture scanning / Right: Zbrush simulated cloth + cloth brushes strokes + details from generated alphas

Let’s end this post with some lighting and environment adjustments. After some thoughts, I came to the conclusion that you don’t need to have an extremely dark picture tones to express dark meaning in your art. Take notes Matt :bat:

What’s coming next: I’m already working on setting the correct scale between characters and the environment and then will come the fun part: rigging, skinning and posing the characters. All this interspersed by new props modelling to fill the room.

Thanks for reading this unusual long resume post.


This week end I worked on some problematic elements of the scene. Firstly I tried to find a way to easily model the very soft and light fabric that covers the female character, trying to mimic the cloth you can see on marble statues. This was achieved in Zbrush with the dynamic menu, the cloth hook brush and by adding/exaggerating details with the standard brush using the basic brush or pre-made alphas. The test looks conclusive and will be applied to the final scene.

In the mean time I adjusted characters poses and camera angle, once this step will be validated I’ll be able to play with all the characters and bed clothes. Fun ahead.

Basically using firmness at 1 and added a lot of simulation steps in Zbrush
Then the mistakes are corrected with brushes

Initial tests didn’t look static enough

New props to create! speakers, cables, air conditioner, plastic tube and clothes

Then I moved on the eye shader. It’s been years I used the same method to create eyes, I thought it was time to learn new things!
The model is half Zbrush sculpted, half substance designer textured then it’s only Standard surface shaders magic occurring in 3ds Max.

Female character body proportions have been adjusted, the rest need a few more modifications.
The complexity will come from the skinning for posing the character, making clothes that easily follow body skin, etc.

On a side note: The Max scene gathering all the elements is now clean and well organised in many layers and sub layers. As the coming weeks will be pro work intensive, I’ll focus on the creation of missing props.


The past days were pretty intensive on hard surface props modelling. I decided to fully model the computer even if we won’t see the back parts of the meshes in the final artwork. the model is fully modelled and the new part are unwrapped, everything is ready for texturing!

One of the new props is a set of speakers, fairly quickly created in a couple of hours for modelling, unwrapping and texturing.

The other one is a huge air conditioner engine. The model is not entirely done yet but until now: approximately 13 hours of poly modelling recorded to be delivered on Youtube (short version) and Art station for the full length version!

This model will mostly be visible from top 3/4 but guess what: it’s going to be released on the sketchfab store once the artwork will be done! This is one of the reason I’m passing time to model a lot of details. The other reason: it’s fun.

Some areas show bad curvature behaviour, to be fixed soon

I spent time to find a way to create the tube connected for hot air extraction. The current solution is to go with Railclone and play with many 3D parts of the same element.


Recently I started to play with Blender and while having some fun on the hair creation I thought about processes I could use on my Artwork using Ornatrix in max. I had the same experience in the past when working on Vray and suddenly had ideas to translate to my Mental Ray workflow. Ah Brain.

One of the character will have more or less long hairs covering the bed. Instead of painting the hair guides precisely the way I wanted them, I roughly painted the main direction, in the top viewport, and let the “Gravity” + “Push away from surface” modifiers do the job. It worked!

Then I tried to randomize these straight hair with some “Frizz” and “Curl modifiers”, I also played with a “Hair multiplier” modifier and it started to look pretty close to what I had in mind.

It’s a half procedural workflow

Hair volume and shapes are good but what about the material? Using a Ramp RGB node (implicit UVs turned on) plugged in the diffuse slot of a Standard Hair material we can have whatever color we want along the hair BUT we start to have an issue if we want random color per strand. Of course there is a “Melanin randomize” option but what if we want real RGB random values on our initial diffuse color or ramp?

Original ramp without random color per strand

The solution was to use a Color jitter node using the “face” section with “uniform ID” option turned on and then by playing with the randomness in the Saturation, Hue, etc. It works like a charm. It’s up to hue ಠ_ಠ to plug all the nodes in a layer node to precisely get the desired transfer mode and results.

I’ll go more in details in the future making of article

Here I turned the diffuse value really high but if you want more specular you can lower the diffuse value to get a more natural look. The diffuse section of the Standard Hair shader works like this: think of it like adding raw paint on your real hairs, the specular will vanish.

On the other news, the hands have been enhanced by an automatic deformation process based on Reaction manager linked to a morpher modifier and some skin morphs to smooth out the roundness of some joints.

Auto morpher in action

Skin morphs On/Off

Some fake translucency shader tests have been done, mostly to update the old textures already created, this time all is done with substance and many OSL + Arnold nodes in Max material editor.