Using Skottie Young's Spider-Man image, I start by laying down a ZSphere base or skeleton for the character. ZSpheres are an excellent way to start a character, especially a stylised such as like Spider-Man - or my version here, Spideyman. They help you get a handle on proportions and you discover very quickly what is and isn't working.
Next, I use Maya to construct a quick chimney for the base and continue adjusting the pose until I am happy. I make a few more adjustments to the posing of the hands and convert the ZSpheres to a mesh, then start sculpting some of the cloth folds and wrinkles. I also add the secondary chimneys and the antenna.
Once I am happy with the 'vibe', I export out the body and used Topogun to retopologise and export the new body into Maya. I also retopologise sections of the body and head, so I can get Edge Loops where I need them for the web pattern on the suit. This is one area where I deviate from Skottie's original image. He had a thin web pattern, but some things don’t translate well from 2D into 3D, so I decide to go with a thicker and chunkier pattern.
I then export out the new web pattern mesh and jump back into Maya.
In Maya I select all of the faces and extrude them on all axes individually to create smaller faces with a frame. I then delete the inner faces so all I am left with are the 'frames'. I export out all of the frame mesh and go back into ZBrush to concentrate on Spideyman's suit.
01. Getting started
In ZBrush, I divide the new suit up and project the details from the old body sculpt onto the new mesh. I import the web pattern mesh, turn off Smooth and divide it up a few times. Once I have roughly the same division levels as the suit, I project the web pattern down to the suit so they adhere to the cloth folds and wrinkles.
I then mask out the web pattern and extract the mesh to get some depth. Next, I mask out the rims of the eyes, extract them and sculpt them a little so they have a nice hard bevel.
02. Adding definition
I want more definition in both the spider symbol and the eye rims, so I export them out and retopologise them. I then reimport and divide them up. The spider symbol still needs more pop, so I mask and extract it, separating the edge into a new Polygroup.
I then isolate this Polygroup and grow the selection until I have a nice thick rim around the border of the symbol. I mask the border, select the rest of the symbol and deflate the inner section, creating a nice hard rim that really makes the symbol pop.
03. Creating texture
To create texture variation between the suit and the more rubbery parts of his outfit, I select the body subtool at the lowest subdivision level. Using the UV Planar function, I unwrap each face of the mesh to overlap so they use the same UV space.
Then I jump back up to the highest sub-division level and assign a waffle type alpha as a texture, and mask the mesh using the texture’s intensity. Then I deflate the inner part of the waffle mask, invert it and inflate the waffle ridges. Finally, I polypaint the whole suit.
Words: Duncan Fraser
A sculptor for Iloura in Australia, Duncan Fraser is currently working on a top-secret film project. Before that, he worked in the video games industry. This article originally appeared in 3D World issue 180.