Monday, 11 March 2013

Building a dinosaur: Starting to detail Triceratops

The next stage in the construction of our Triceratops model is one on the fun parts of creating 3D models: detailing. This is mainly carried out in zBrush and takes full advantage of the symmetry option which allows the artist to mirror brush stokes over the axis of choice. This means you can add detail without having to do it twice and as dinosaurs are symmetrical this is extremely useful. Of course, there will be subtle asymmetrical details that will need to be added but these can wait until we have the main details sculpted.

As with the rest of the modelling process, detailing is best approached by starting out with the larger details first and working in ever-increasing resolution as the finer details are added. There are decisions to be made at this stage too, deciding how much to actually model with geometry and how much to add using displacement maps and texturing. For the time being, I'm going to continue adding to the geometry as we're still dealing with larger details rather than the tiny stuff.

As you can see I've started to refine some areas that were difficult to model by pulling polygons and points, such as much of the skull detailing including the rostral and orbit areas, the epioccipitals and general refinements around the skull. I'm also adding wrinkles to the skin, especially in limb areas. I'm also attempting to keep the animal looking quite fleshy as I'm anxious too avoid an overly skinny look with bones poking through everywhere. Most of this work is done using standard zBrush brushes and alphas; the need for custom alphas will be when the finer detailing such as skin texture is being applied.

Many of the decisions on how the muscles look are based on our earlier reconstruction of the musculature of Triceratops, but at this stage it's worth considering how the integument of the animal affects the way the skin might fold and fall across the skin and muscles. Keep referring to any reference you have gathered and be mindful of the analogues you choose; elephant skin is probably very different to ceratopsian skin, so do the research. More on this in the next post.


  1. nice musculature. How long have you been working with zBrush? (I find the entry curve somewhat daunting.)

  2. Hi David! I hope you are well mate.

    This is the first real modelling I've done in zBrush to be honest, and I'm learning as I go. The other stuff I've created in the program has been molecular stuff for animations of in-vitro processes and these tend to be little more than complicated blobs (that cause days of debate amongst clients).

    I can't recommend zBrush highly enough though, it really is quite incredible when you get used to it but I have to say I've only scratched the surface of it's capabilities.

  3. Looking good.

    Glad to see you didn't abandon this series. Seeing some of the old gang palaeo-art again is stirring my apathy/burn out a bit.

    IF I return to palaeo-art I am thinking about zBrush. What kind of machine specs do you think it minimally needs?

  4. Thanks Craig. I've spent more time getting involved with research and so the art has taken a back seat, although I'm determined to finish this chap eventually.

    As for specs I'm not sure, but it works fine on my iMac as well as my beefier render machine. It's probably worth checking out the Pixelogic site for full requirements before making any decisions.