RnD with lil’ ol Me -Dragon Scales

Fresh out of  my experiments with human skin (doesn’t that sound shifty) I was thrown back into the intricacies of texturing again… this time my dinosaur/dragon/chicken-thing from “Red Chases Blue” which we shall refer to as… Red.

My inspiration behind the textures that I decided to use for this was Smaug from the Hobbit. Looking at some production videos and books from the movie it was really interesting to see how that character was made… and textured in particular. I was amazed by the amount of detail a character that massive had on him and for a while it was a complete mystery to me (still is…) as to how they did it… but i think I may have done something vaguely in the right direction for this one 😉

My first step was to get some masks for the model and fast! To do this I went into Zbrush with a sideview of the model and took several screenshots with different MatCap materials (as long as I kept them black and white everything worked quite well) as well as exporting several grey-scale (pun not intended) textures done with the different masking options.


Once I had about 8 different images I went into Photoshop and turned them into masking layers – this meant that these images which were based on the model geometry would control the flow of detail across the model. I then created several grey-scale images of scales and bumps from various birds and reptiles. These were then combined with the masks to create a single model wide displacement image.


I then used MARI to project this image onto my original mesh which resulted in several small errors that were manually corrected. At that point I had a displacement map that was aligned with the model UVs! The next step was to apply it…



For this I went back into Zbrush where I masked my model using the displacement map, I then used the Move brush to push and pull different sections of the model. Again as with the Skin RnD this gave me great speed and control over the appearance of the model. I then used the different masking options in Zbrush to export some masks that I then colored in Photoshop. To do this I used Levels and Selective Colors and I ended up with two completely different color maps.


The next step was to take those into MARI and merge them by masking the out to create some color patterns. The advantage of this workflow is that it allowed me to have displacement and color maps that sync perfectly!


*Merging the color maps and adding details for dirt and dry scales


*Final result

My texturing workflow while different is also largely based on the work of Javier Blanco who I fully recommend you read up on in case I failed to explain some parts… he also got a better result in the end in some aspects so do take his word over mine 😉


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