Making of the Ent - Painting

Making of the Ent

Texture painting

Finishing the modelling is a misleading success. Painting Gail was a challenge of its own. So I took the path through the vibrant atmosphere of the woods of rhythm (by putting on some Forestdelic music) and dreamed of colors and patterns to fill the white skin of my canvas to bring it to life.


Real tree bark
Flattened texture

Painting the textures started in the park actually. I took my camera and headed for some trees... old trees. My aim was to get a realistic texture basis from where I could go in with variation depending on the surface I wanted. After catching some lovely tree bark and some stones, I headed back to the computer to paint Gails body with some reality. It started with some adjustments in Photoshop. The Gamma value was adjusted, as the colors in the RGB screen space would not reflect how it is in reality. Next I took decreased the level of highlights to make the texture more flat.

Real mossy tree
Flattened moss
The geometry should determine which part of the surface is bumpy and how much, not the picture. In some spots further correction of color and light variation had to be made. Especially in places where the texture would seem to repeat itself due to recognizable patterns. With all that done and the textures saved, the real painting could be started. I used the "Spotlight" feature in Zbrush to paint, but there are plenty of other 3D painting applications out there. My consideration was, to be honest, that I wanted to avoid conversion and interface issues in case of switching between applications. I had some issues with that earlier and did not want to waste my time with troubleshooting.
Texture applied to model
I painted a part of Gail with all types of tree textures I have taken in the park and showed them to the Forestdelic guys to decide which one to use. In the end we all voted for the same texture. The winning texture had 2 variations, which I took from 2 different sides of the same real tree in the park. One was more mossy, the other had only the trees own color variation. As a general rule I applied the mossy texture to the roots and the lower trunk parts and the other on the head, arms and upper trunk parts. The following procedure was then the same for all body parts with some variation.


Cavitiy mapping
After giving the surface its base color I masked off the peaks and valleys on the actual patch of surface I was working on. This meant, that I could give the peaks a tint of lighter beige color and to the valleys a tint of reddish color without influencing each other or painting over what I already made. I kept the strength of the paint fairly low, because I just wanted to sightly  variate the color without loosing the nice patterns I had already on them. This method turned out to be really cool looking on an application like this. With the peaks and valleys tinted I turned to the cavities. I wanted to have the impression of darker dirt like colors in the smaller cavities, like it is in reality. To achieve this I masked out the small scale, highly drafted valleys, or cavities as some would call it. Inverting that I could paint those with a darker brown color. On more close-up camera positions it may be necessary to approach this in 2 steps. Painting a wider selection with middle brown color and the cavities with darker brown color. In this case as no close-up was needed this wouldn't be noticeable anyway.

Features of special interest

Chipped of bark
Crack and spot marks

While giving a very nice look, the steps above still don't give a realistic surface. I know, I know, what on earth could be realistic on a non-existing creature. Well, in this case I mean mainly the uniform surface. Existing or not, Gail would surely have some distinguished features, like scars, cracks, burn marks and spider webs.

Adding those I choose the method, that I would add color to the mesh and some depth also. This means for example burn marks would also be a darker tint of the base color, but at the same time also sink into the surface a bit. On the other hand spider webs would tint the surface very light and rise out a bit in level.


Finally we come to the hair... excuse me, I mean moss, grass and willow. However on Gail these are distributed like human hair and this is also the intention. Imagine how odd we look if we are stripped of all our hair, that's how Gail looks now. Obviously these details give a huge amount of extra to the appearance. Based on the originals I modeled different types of moss, grass and willow with Zbrush fibers. To stay somehow application independent I'll go more into modeling detail here. Grass is the most simple.
I set the geometry as gradually thinning towards the end in width and somewhat uniform in depth. The color I set to yellowish green towards the root and more fresh green toward the tip. Distribution took some experimenting, but I chose a clogged semi random placement on one side of the root mostly in the valleys. For moss the width and depth I made like a zigzag pattern, while the color was 2 darker greens from top to bottom.
When applying I also created a second hair on top of it, which meant to represent the little flowers of the moss. Those are basically only thin stems with a petal on it. I tried to put these unevenly distributed on one side of Gail thinning strongly towards the head. Finally the willow, which I imagined as hanging organic stuff, which distributes mainly on the ivy but also other parts. Therefore the width and depth was somewh
at altering all the way and the color was dead brown. Distribution I set evenly there.

Lighting and rendering

After finishing all above processes I was very excited to switch on all sub-models and layers to take a first render. I was really comfortable with the result and the Forestdelic guys loved it. I just needed to adapt the lighting to the final scene. Altogether I used 9 lights to simulate the desired environment, which resulted from the appearance of the Forestdelic webside. The result was the following:


The journey with Gail had benefits for all parties and was equally fun to experience. Gail had the chance to be created and can now roam the rhythmical woods on the Forestdelic website. I on the other hand had the chance to optimize processes and workflows for such a complex task, which turned out to be equally fruitful. Starting from a rough sketch seeing how each level of detail adds a subtle amount of individuality and contributes to the final picture. Progress is made in small steps, never try to make a huge change in a sub-step process. Keeping that in mind I'm proud to say that almost no rework on anything was needed, which is a great achievement in such a project.

All that said, thanks for reading through the end and see you soon in other articles.


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