of the Female Cleric : From First Concept to Final Render
By Arno Schmitz
Photoshop, Maya, Mudbox, Mental Ray
The first idea taken into consideration was that this character could
live in the same world as my previously designed character. Influenced
mainly by Christian religion and the Vatican, a holy warrior was
created. She is not a "one man army"; instead her focus lies on
protecting her fellow combatants. A function that would fit well with
her look and theme. To capture her purity it was decided to make her an
attractive young girl. She has stunning red hair to indicate that she is
a fierce warrior; red also fits well with the slightly transparent white
robes that make up the majority of her costume.
Contrasting the Designs
Since both her and my previous character, The Lightning Mage, live in
the same world and will finally meet each other, it was important to
create contrast between both their function and appearance. Although the
Chinese mage is not evil, his body has clearly been corrupted by his
power. The mage's clothes are worn down heavily, and his body is abused
in contrast to the physical beauty of the young girl and her clean white
clothing. Even the tonal values of the two characters are made in
contrast to each other (Fig.01).
For those who are interested I have included the character profile
below. This is a sheet of questions you can ask to help define who the
character you are creating is. This is a good start for designing, or a
method to help you get ideas when you are stuck. You can always fall
back on this when you are looking for new ideas or ways to unify
For those of you who are purely interested in the technical side I'd
recommend skipping this section and going straight to the section about
the design process.
Who is your character? Is he/she important? Good or bad? Profession?
The character is a cleric who is assigned by the holy church to a group
of crusaders. Her position in a group or army is that of a motivator and
representative of the church. Like all clerics she has been raised in a
monastery and received military training.
What is the world that he/she lives in like?
The world resembles a medieval world with cultures similar to European,
Asian and African. However there is a strong fantasy element in this
world that allows for magic, wizards and exotic wildlife to exist. This
world is under the threat of demons that want to plunge the world into
Any special abilities or not?
Even though her skill with the spear exceeds that of an average
crusader, her real strengths lies in her cross and her knowledge of the
holy and unholy. By using the cross she can expel demons from their
hosts, and can keep demons and undead at a distance. She can even
produce a shockwave to push evil beings away, and intense light to
What drives your character? Goals? Objectives?
The character's goal is justice and the expansion of the church she
serves with such dedication. She is a very protective character, always
protecting her fellow crusaders in battle.
equipment does he/she use? Weaponry? Tools? Why does he/she need those?
Her most important weapon is her staff, which has a holy cross as a
headpiece. This staff can repel and kill demons and undead in many ways.
Besides its magical abilities it serves as her blunt weapon, able to
crush shields and bones. Her primary physical weapon is her spear; she
received extensive military training exclusively for spear use. The
spear has no magical abilities and is meant to be used against the human
enemies of the church.
She also carries a shield that, like the staff, contains holy powers. It
has no offensive abilities but is unable to be destroyed by any attack
made by an unholy being.
Does he/she have relatives/companions?
She has already survived two military campaigns, leaving her with
connections to many high-ranking officers and brave crusaders. Besides
that she has many companions in the monastery, the place where she lives
in between missions.
there a side character?
During the progression of the game she joins the group of the player
character with some crusaders to assist them in their fight against the
The Design Process
The design process is a chronological description of the steps taken to
get from the initial idea to the final design (Fig.02).
original idea was to create a brute warrior type. This was abandoned;
instead the focus was redirected to create a holy warrior. This change
allowed for a much more interesting design, and opened up an entire new
window of reference to draw inspiration from. This also gave much
stronger motivation for her to be a soldier; instead of bloodlust, she
now fights for justice and the survival of the church.
Giving her a pure character, it was justifiable to give her a young,
beautiful and unblemished face (Fig.03).
the costume, two main sources of reference/influences were used:
catholic robes were mixed with Victorian dresses to get the final look
for this character. The few plates of armour copy the detailing of the
Victorian dresses. The shoulder plates covered by the amice were added
to increase the "crusader” feel (Fig.04).
Fig.04 you can clearly see the excessive use of rich materials in the
catholic clothing. The use of gold is very apparent and is adopted into
the design. At first the idea was to give the plating a metal colour,
but gold fitted the theme better and increased the holiness of the
Victorian details fitted in very well with the Catholic details, but the
overall form was much more feminine and exposing. Things like corsets
were adopted from this style into the character design; this gave the
character a younger and more feminine look.
In Fig.06 you can see some of the full body designs for the character.
When creating the full body designs, appropriate detail images are
usually also created at the same time. In this stage you need to
determine if all the elements flow correctly with each other, and see
how the clothing affects the visual proportions of the character
detail sketches you can see in Fig.07 are mostly influenced by Christian
symbols. For things like gloves and boots, many variations were made in
an effort to find the balance between plate armour and cloth. The
embroidery on the cloth is based on Victorian designs, and the plating
has Victorian leaves and birds included in them. A golden dove holds the
bust together, and the hip plates have an eagle head incorporated into
For this character, a minimal colour palette was used: red, white and
gold for the character, and gold and silver for the weapons. Some
exploratory sketches can be seen in Fig.08.
It is a great advantage to be able sketch in colour, and being
able to change colours quickly. I tried to really push the white
in some instances to emphasize the holy aspect. But when there
were too many white elements the character looked more like a
bride warrior then a holy warrior.
The final colour palette has the following philosophy behind it:
She is a young and fierce warrior, very passionate and
protective in battle. This is represented by the colour red and
is the core of her personality and her costume. Besides that,
she represents the holy church and is a pure person. This is
represented by the colour white, and is mainly used on the
extremities and as accents. This leads to a character with a
fierce red core and a holy white protective halo. Something that
precisely describes her personality (Fig.09).
Since this character is meant to be a RPG game character she will have
different items and clothing during the game. Three armour sets were
created, each representing a group of progressively better armour
pieces. Light armour represents items such as robes and leather armour;
medium armour represents items such as chain mail and scale male; heavy
armour represents all types of plated armour (Fig.10).
focus for this project was only the light armour, but starting points
for the other armour levels were created so I had an indication of how
this system would work.
The small bird sculpture on the chest piece represents a dove. This
animal was chosen because a white dove is a symbol for peace, which is
something that fits well with the message of the church. The main motif
on the large plates is an eagle head, which was chosen to compliment the
dove because it is a larger and more aggressive bird.
Holy crosses are used to represent the church, and are used on the staff
and on some of the larger pieces of fabric.
Victorian filigree is used on the boots and as detail on the plates,
sometimes mixed with Christian filigree. The flowing shapes give a more
elegant and feminine design.
Finishing the Concept
For this design, two types of concept art were created: the main image
that shows the cleric in a front and back three-quarter view, and an
orthographic sheet containing the front, side and back view of the
orthographic sheets in Fig.12 contain the true information about the
shapes of the character. The character might appear a bit bloated; the
reason being that, the actual orthographic views of the base mesh were
used as the basis. Sometimes when artists draw these sheets by hand,
they use some kind of perspective in the orthographic sheets, which is
wrong, and will result in a thin model. This has to do with the
foreshortening of cylindrical shapes in perspective.
All the sheets use neutral light to give a clear indication of colour
and material types. There are multiple sheets, each showing a layer of
the costume, so that no part is obscured by another part of the costume
The overall workflow was very standard. I already had a base mesh that I
used to help me concept in 2D. This mesh served as the starting point
for the modelling process. I aligned all the orthographic sheets in
Maya, and modelled all the costume parts around the base mesh. All hard
surface parts were refined in Maya, while more organic parts of the
model were taken into Mudbox to be sculpted. The body and especially the
face also underwent a heavy sculpting pass in Mudbox (Fig.13).
aim was for the final model to be of cinematic quality, with a polycount
of 231,196 triangles; it's still manageable to work within Maya while
giving the impression of a really high polygon model. After the UV's
were done, all the sculpted information was baked down using normal
Texturing was done in Photoshop. Mudbox was used for projection
painting. Fig.14 shows a few examples of finished textures sets. The top
row shows the diffuse/colour maps, the middle row the specular maps, and
the lowest row shows the normal maps.
textures were tweaked to work with my shaders, which were fairly simple
in most cases. Phongs and blinns were used for a lot of the common
materials. mental ray's fast miss_fast_skin_maya shader was used for all
the skin. Mia_material_x_passes shaders were used to get a nice
scattering effect on the white robes by enabling translucency. The
mi_car_phen_x_passes shader was used to create a more convincing gold
look for all the armour plates (Fig.15).
Posing was achieved by rigging the character in Maya. Soft skinning was
used for all the organic parts, and all hard surface parts were simply
parented to the bones. nCloth allowed all the flowing fabrics to be
draped nicely over underlying parts (Fig.16).
character was posed in a variety of different poses to find the one that
best represented the character. My test case, just like with the
lightning mage, was to recreate my concept art in 3D. This meant
reproducing the pose, lighting, etc., and taking it a step further than
was done originally in the concept. A comparison can be seen in Fig.17
confident, I experimented with more sophisticated poses. In the end I
choose to do a contrapposto ("counterpose"), which is a pose used a lot
in classical art where the figure puts his or her weight on one leg,
called the standing leg. Since I had drawn these types of poses for a
year now I was familiar with their characteristics. The cross was added
to add some more implied story to the character, and also to give her
something to balance on. The face is looking away on purpose; the idea
was that she was looking at a church window in the distance. A floor and
back wall for the church were modelled to give the entire scene better
was completely done in mental ray. My lighting setup was fairly
traditional: I used a key, fill and two rim lights (all mental ray area
lights). Final Gather was used to add additional bounce light into the
scene. An HDR image of a church interior was used to cast the final
gather, and be reflected in the metallic parts of the character
lighting was split up into multiple passes; diffuse, specular,
reflection and bounce light were all separated to have greater control
in post. Helper maps, such as material ID maps and a depth map, were
also rendered out (Fig.20).
In the end I composited the main layers (diffuse, specular, reflection
and bounce light) in a very straightforward fashion: I just used Linear
Dodge to add them on top of each other in Photoshop. Only the bounce
light intensity was lowered to give a better sense of direct light
coming through the window out of frame.
The depth map turned out to be invaluable in controlling all the
atmospheric effects, and really making all the 2D effects integrate
nicely with the 3D objects. Fig.21 shows the image going through some of
the steps to get to the final image.
that, it was just a matter of cropping your image nicely and colour
correcting it. In Fig.22 you can see the resulting final image. One of
my biggest lessons learned from the last project that I took into this
one is to always render big enough. If you ever want to make a nice
print from your work you don't want to have to go back and re-render
everything at higher resolution and redo all your post-effects in
Sketches and other Images
Below the sketches and images made during this project in roughly
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