Use references to concept a fighting beast

18 May 2021108:57

TLDRThe transcript details an artist's process of designing a futuristic, zombie sci-fi elephant in a gladiator ring setting. The artist uses Procreate for initial sketches, focusing on the silhouette and invasive robotic design over accurate anatomy. The concept involves robotics controlling animal bodies, suggested through the sketching process. After settling on a design, the artist moves to Photoshop for more accurate sketches, considering lighting and mood. ZBrush is then used for 3D modeling, with references to anatomy textbooks for accuracy. The model is posed and textured, with attention to skin details like wrinkles and freckles. The artist emphasizes the importance of accurate posing and the use of materials and render passes in ZBrush before finalizing the image in Photoshop. The summary concludes with the artist's approach to painting over the 3D model in Photoshop to achieve a realistic and cohesive final image.


  • 🎨 Start with a rough sketch in Procreate to block out initial ideas without worrying about accuracy or proportions.
  • πŸ€– Conceptualize the design with a futuristic twist, imagining robotics controlling animal bodies in a gladiator ring setting.
  • 🐘 Focus on the silhouette at the initial stages and refine the design of the robotic elements to complement the natural form of the elephant.
  • πŸ–₯️ Use Photoshop for more accurate sketches, considering elephant anatomy and planning the lighting and mood for the final image.
  • πŸ“ Understand the final dimensions and focal length to ensure the model's angle and perspective are correct for the composition.
  • 🌫️ Create a dramatic atmosphere with top-down lighting to cast deep shadows, enhancing the beast's intimidating presence.
  • πŸ—ΊοΈ Use ZBrush to start with a basic sphere and work with dynamesh for easy modification, constantly referring to anatomy references.
  • πŸ” Pay attention to muscle groups and flow, using the opacity slider in ZBrush to overlay reference images for accuracy.
  • 🧩 Keep different parts of the model like ears as separate sub-tools for easier modification and detail.
  • πŸ”„ Regularly use dynamesh to maintain the base mesh, allowing for continuous sculpting without losing detail.
  • πŸ–ŒοΈ Use a combination of standard and clay buildup brushes to sculpt and add wrinkles or details to the model.

Q & A

  • What software does the artist use for sketching initial ideas?

    -The artist uses Procreate for sketching out initial ideas and blocking out basic concepts.

  • What is the concept behind the design of the fighting beast?

    -The concept involves a futuristic gladiator ring where robotics control the bodies of animals and humans, creating an invasive yet exoskeleton-like appearance.

  • How does the artist approach the silhouette during the initial sketching phase?

    -The artist focuses on the silhouette and the initial read of the design, not worrying about finer details or accurate proportions at this stage.

  • What is the significance of knowing the final dimensions of the image?

    -Knowing the final dimensions helps the artist determine the viewing angle and focal length for the model, ensuring the composition aligns with the intended vision.

  • How does the artist refine the model's details in ZBrush?

    -The artist uses a combination of move and scale brushes, clay buildup brush, and dynamesh to refine the model, constantly referring to anatomy textbooks for accuracy.

  • Why does the artist keep the robotics as separate sub tools in ZBrush?

    -Keeping the robotics as separate sub tools allows for easier modification and adjustment without affecting the rest of the model.

  • What is the purpose of using reference images of emaciated elephants?

    -The reference images help the artist to create a sickly, zombie-like appearance for the elephant, focusing on how the skin droops over bones and muscles showing through.

  • How does the artist ensure the model's proportions are accurate?

    -The artist works in symmetry initially and uses an opacity slider in ZBrush to overlay reference images, ensuring the model's proportions are consistent with real-life anatomy.

  • What is the advantage of using the transpose tool in posing the model?

    -The transpose tool allows the artist to combine all sub tools into one object for posing, making it easier to mask and move parts without individually selecting each component.

  • How does the artist add texturing to the elephant's skin?

    -The artist uses the standard brush with various alphas on a subdivided model to add texture, focusing on areas with more wrinkles and folds, such as around the legs and joints.

  • What is the final step in the artist's process before starting the final painting?

    -The final step is to create a rough paint over a composited render of the model to establish a guideline for the final painting, ensuring the composition and details are cohesive.



🎨 Initial Sketching and Concept Development

The artist begins by sketching initial ideas using Procreate, focusing on basic concepts rather than precise details. The goal is to establish a futuristic gladiator ring setting with robotic elements controlling an elephant's body. The artist emphasizes the importance of silhouettes and general shapes over fine details at this stage.


πŸ–ŒοΈ Refining the Design in Photoshop

After the initial sketch, the artist moves to Photoshop for more accurate sketches, considering elephant anatomy and the final image's lighting. The artist discusses the importance of knowing the final image dimensions for camera angle and focal length, opting for an exaggerated, fisheye-like perspective.


πŸ—ΊοΈ Setting the Scene and Mood

The artist describes the desired mood with top-down lighting to create dramatic shadows, making the elephant appear large and intimidating. The setting is a cave-like gladiator ring with a misty atmosphere, rocks, plants, and a sandy, gravelly platform contrasting with the walls.


πŸ•³οΈ Sculpting the Basic Elephant Form in ZBrush

The artist starts sculpting in ZBrush using a basic sphere, working with dynamesh to pull and extrude parts while maintaining detail. Reference to anatomy textbooks is emphasized for accuracy in muscle groups and joint placement. The artist uses an opacity slider for accurate proportions and begins sculpting the legs, trunk, and overall body shape in symmetry.


πŸ” Reviewing and Refining the Sculpt

The artist checks the sculpture from various angles and against anatomy images to ensure accuracy. Details like wrinkles are added using specific brushes, and the artist emphasizes the iterative process of sculpting, refining, and checking against references.


πŸ“š Using Reference Images for Texturing

Disturbing photos of emaciated elephants serve as references for a sickly, zombie-like appearance. The artist focuses on skin texture, muscle definition, and the flow of muscles, aiming for a balanced and anatomically correct model that can be reused for future projects.


πŸ€– Integrating Robotics into the Sculpt

The artist adds robotics as separate subtools to the elephant model, allowing for easy modification without affecting the main body. Hard surface modeling techniques are discussed, with a focus on maintaining clean, rigid forms and sharp edges.


πŸ–‰οΈ Detailing and Texturing the Model

The artist focuses on the overall shape of the robotics and adds details using layers in ZBrush. This allows for non-committal sculpting before finalizing the design. The importance of animal anatomy is highlighted as the main focus of the piece.


🦣 Posing the Elephant Model

Once the basic body is complete, the artist poses the elephant using the transpose tool in ZBrush, aiming for a dynamic, charging stance. The artist stresses the importance of moving limbs only at joints and maintaining symmetry until ready to adjust individual limbs.


🎨 Texturing and Polypainting

The artist adds texture to the elephant using alphas for skin details like wrinkles and cracks, referencing the specific features of an Indian elephant. Polypainting is used to add color and detail, with attention to speckles and freckles, providing a base for further painting in Photoshop.


πŸ“ Checking Pose and Preparing for Final Render

The artist ensures the pose works with the desired camera focal length, adjusting the model as needed for a strong silhouette. The model is T-posed for minor modifications before setting up the final camera view and lighting.


🌟 Lighting and Material Experimentation

The artist sets up lighting to match theι’„ε…ˆ sketched mood, using different materials to see how light interacts with the model. Render passes are saved out as PSD files for later use in Photoshop, allowing for adjustments and enhancements.


πŸ–ΌοΈ Final Painting and Composite

In Photoshop, the artist composites render passes over the main render, adjusting layers for effects like shininess on the robotics. A rough paintover on a new document serves as a guideline for the final painting, helping to establish the direction and color scheme.


πŸ–ŒοΈ Final Touches and Finishing Techniques

The artist adds final details like rock textures and background elements, keeping them blurred and out of focus due to the misty environment. Finishing touches include blurring, adding noise, and adjusting values to create a cohesive, photographic look, ensuring the final image appears as a single, solid piece.




Procreate is a digital illustration software used for sketching and painting on devices like iPads. In the video, it is used for initial sketches and blocking out ideas for the fighting beast design. The artist prefers it for its flexibility and the ability to quickly iterate on concepts without worrying about accuracy or proportions at this stage.


ZBrush is a high-resolution 3D sculpting tool used for creating detailed models. The artist uses ZBrush to refine the beast's design by starting with a basic sphere and using various tools to sculpt the body parts, paying close attention to anatomy and muscle structure. It's instrumental in achieving a realistic and highly detailed final model.


Dynamesh is a feature within ZBrush that allows for dynamic mesh creation, which is useful for organic sculpting. The artist uses Dynamesh to continuously modify the model without worrying about losing detail or stretching polygons, which is crucial for the iterative process of sculpting the fighting beast.

πŸ’‘Anatomy Textbooks

Anatomy textbooks are references that provide detailed information on the structure and form of bodies, both human and animal. The artist uses these books to ensure that the beast's anatomy is accurate, focusing on muscle groups, joint locations, and the flow of muscles. This helps in creating a believable and realistic creature.


Polypainting is a technique in 3D modeling where colors are directly applied to the 3D model's surface. The artist uses polypainting to add color and texture to the elephant model, which serves as a base for further detailing and painting in Photoshop. It helps in visualizing the model with color and texture before proceeding to more complex rendering and painting stages.


Rendering is the process of generating a 2D image or animation from a 3D model by simulating the behavior of light. The artist uses different materials and lighting setups in the render to test how the model appears under various conditions. This step is essential for understanding how the final image might look and for making necessary adjustments before finalizing the design.


Photoshop is a digital image editing software used for retouching and compositing images. The artist brings the render passes and main render into Photoshop to composite them and start the final painting. Photoshop is used for adding fine details, adjusting colors, and creating the final illustration that combines the 3D model's realism with artistic enhancements.

πŸ’‘Focal Length

Focal length refers to the distance in a camera between the lens and the image sensor. In the context of the video, the artist discusses setting a specific focal length to achieve a desired perspective and field of view for the final image, akin to using a fisheye lens for an exaggerated effect.

πŸ’‘Top Down Lighting

Top down lighting is a lighting technique where the light source is positioned above the subject, casting shadows downward. The artist intends to use this to create dramatic shadows on the elephant's body, enhancing its intimidating presence and emphasizing its size and power in the final image.


Posing refers to the arrangement of a model's body into a specific position for display or artistic purposes. The artist discusses posing the elephant model to convey a sense of movement and action, as if it's charging at the camera, which adds dynamism and energy to the final illustration.

πŸ’‘Hard Surface Modeling

Hard surface modeling is a technique used to create geometric, mechanical, or structural elements in a 3D model. The artist uses this technique to design the robotic elements that control the beast, ensuring they have a rigid and mechanical appearance that contrasts with the organic form of the elephant.


The artist uses Procreate for initial sketching and to block out initial ideas without worrying about accuracy or proportions.

The concept involves a futuristic gladiator ring where robotics control the bodies of animals and humans.

The robotics are designed to feel invasive yet exoskeletal, controlling the bodies they are attached to.

Silhouettes are the primary focus during the initial sketching phase to establish the overall look.

Photoshop is used for more accurate sketches, considering elephant anatomy and the final image's lighting.

The artist emphasizes the importance of knowing the final image dimensions for proper model viewing angles and focal length.

A lower focal length is chosen to create an exaggerated, fisheye-like effect in the final image.

The lighting aims to create dramatic shadows to make the elephant appear as intimidating as possible.

The environment is envisioned as a cave-like gladiator ring with a misty, foggy atmosphere.

ZBrush is utilized for 3D modeling, starting with a basic sphere and using dynamesh for flexibility.

Anatomy textbooks are referenced to ensure accurate muscle groups and joint placements in the model.

The artist uses an opacity slider in ZBrush to overlay reference images for maintaining proportions.

The sculpting process involves using move and scale brushes to shape the model, starting general and refining as needed.

Ears are modeled as separate subtools for easier modification and to access difficult areas.

Disturbing photos of emaciated elephants are used as references to achieve a sickly, zombie-like appearance.

The artist plans to create a reusable library of animal models for future projects.

The model is posed using the transpose tool in ZBrush, maintaining accuracy by only moving joints and skeletal bend points.

Subdivision is done in stages, with the final subdivision model used for texturing with alphas.

Polypainting is used to add color and texture to the model, with attention to reference images for realism.

Different materials are tested in ZBrush to see how lighting interacts with them before final rendering.

Render passes are saved as PSD files and composited in Photoshop for further detailing and painting.

The artist emphasizes the importance of creating a rough paintover as a guideline before starting the final painting.

Final adjustments in Photoshop include warping, adding highlights, and painting in freckles and wrinkles for added realism.

The artist uses various techniques to ensure the final image has a cohesive, photographic look, hiding any evidence of the digital painting process.