From Fire Emblem Fates by Nintendo
For this particular model my inspiration was rather straightforward: the project is a fan-art of the new Fire Emblem game announced by Nintendo back in January. I not only love this serie for the mechanics and complex thinking it requires but also for it’s unique art style. Character design is truly delightful and I’m fascinated by how it looks in the CG cutscenes they release, a nice blend of anime and realistic style which I find unique and enchanting.
The only material I had to work with was the youtube trailer which fortunately goes over the character quite extensively. I did a quick sketch to get a grasp of the whole design while thinking about what would be the most challenging part. The long skirt and hair were my main concern, followed closely by the anime-style face for which I wasn’t sure how much detail would be needed. I went looking for some examples on Sketchfab to try and gather my thoughts and get a feel for how other artists tackled these issues.
I started in Maya with a very rough model of the body. At this stage my focus was making the proportions and body-shape fit the original design.
Next step was to make her cloth, trinket and jewelry. For the skirt, the plan was to use Maya’s dynamic N-Cloth system, so I made the base shape which would later be simulated.
I gave a lot of thought on the best course of action for modelling the hair. At first, I thought I would be able to rig them or use dynamic systems, but in the end, seeing as my model wasn’t going to be used for anything else, I decided on a less time-consuming method. I would just model them directly as I wanted them to be, which required to first rig and then pose the character.
UVs unwrapping and Textures painting
More often than not I like to search for the most optimal way of laying out my UVs, which comes in very handy for making game assets. But this model’s only purpose was to end up looking pretty on Sketchfab, to that effect, I decided to bake the lighting. I ended up making a simple full-character unfold using the new Maya 2015 Unfold3D which works surprisingly well.
Because of the distinct anime style, the texture work turned out to be quite simple. The patterns for the ornaments were made with Photoshop and the few remaining details were done on 3Dcoat. I then mainly went for flat colors, subtle gradients and a very light occlusion.
Flat Shading AO (right ) and Diffuse Only ( left )
Quick rig with my own script
It was now time to make the character move. I have my own rigging script that I use to make biped character rig. The script is very fast and tailored to my needs. In the trailer, we can see that the girl is performing an oriental dance so I searched on the internet for some references regarding the position for arms and legs to ensure that the final result would really give off the impression of a dancing movement. I was looking for a dynamic pose which would be fun to work with and would give me some leeway with the hair and the skirt.
My personal auto-rig script in action
Dynamic cloth for the skirt and the veil
To get the folds and wrinkles right on the skirt and the veil, I used Maya’s N-Cloth simulation. With the right setup, some wind, turbulence and air flow, I was able to obtain the desired effect without having to animate the character. I then froze the model and kept it in that position.
Cloth simulation for the skirt and veil
Modeling of the Hair once posed
Last but not least, modeling the long, very long hair :). To make them, I used subdiv in Maya and it was crucial that I kept the polycount low while modeling to keep control of what I was doing while still having a smooth visual feedback of the final result. I then unwrapped all the hair and painted some subtle strands and color variation in 3DCoat.
Modeling the hair, working with subdivision to keep control of the curves
Two tone shading and Light baking for Sketchfab
Finally one of the most important part of an anime art style is the lighting. I used a two tone shading (light and shadow) and a single directional light. One has to be very careful when choosing the amount of shadow on the model. Too much shadow and it looks like bad 3D and you lose the anime style, but not enough and the result is flat and boring.
Fully lighted character, baked into multiple lightmaps
I baked everything in a few lightmaps and all that was left to do was upload to Sketchfab and set up the scene.
In the end, I can say that I’ve had a great time working on this project. The subject is lovely and the actual process of modelling featured some really challenging parts. I am however quite happy with the final result and delighted by the heart-warming reception it has had on Sketchfab.