Inspirations & Story:
My character was inspired by the baby dolls that I used to play with when I was young and cute creatures that I used to imagine. I looked at references such as baby dolls in Japan, creatures from Where the While Things Are and 3D models created by other artists.
My character is called Dream Eater because these fairy-like creatures eat dreams. They have four ears including the rabbit ears which detect noises coming from the dreams of sleeping children. Once they hear children's nightmare, they use their goggles to detect their location and once they arrive where the children are sleeping, these creatures consume the nightmare. As a result, children don't remember what their nightmare was when they wake up. Although these Dream Eaters look cute but creepy, they work hard to consume nightmare for children around the world to make them happy.
Color keys & Model sheet:
During the process of modeling, I did a quick paint-over of my character to determine the color keys and general look. I found a lot of reference images from Google for every aspect of him including the red overalls, lion tail, leather helmet with goggles, and rabbit ears. By doing this rough paint-over, I was able to save time and increase efficiency during the production since I knew exactly how I wanted my character to look like.
It was my first time to model anything in ZBrush. Previously, I only used ZBrush for texturing purposes, but with Mari, I didn't touch ZBrush for a long time. It was very fun sculpting my character since it was like playing with clay. Because I was determined to render in Maya, I used Topogun to topologize almost all objects except for few accessories like helmet strap that was modeled and UVed in Maya. I had to look at a lot of references of toddlers, children, and babies to create this character and had to make sure that the proportion was correct.
* Modeling progress: click individual images below for a bigger view
Textures & Shading:
All of the textures were created in Mari 2.5 and Photoshop. I used high-resolution skin textures as a base. The shading of the body was a lot of trial and error, and I had to watch tutorials to learn about how SSS work with Mental Ray and how I can make the skin shader look better. I plugged Miss_fast_skin_shader to Mia_material X to achieve a better result.
* Click individual images below for a bigger view
For the leather helmet, I had to research how the leather has been stitched in different parts and how I can deal with the holes in the helmet where the characters' ears come out. I looked at a lot of reference images and also had to make sure that the specular is not too strong in areas that are worn out.
As for the eye, I attempted using a real human eye for the iris, but it didn't look good, and since my character is pretty stylized, I decided to paint the eye on my own using Photoshop.
I rendered with Mental Ray in Maya 2014. I had a grey dome with normals reversed so that they were pointing inwards. I used two area lights with portal lights embedded to them. The glass on the helmet was separately rendered with HDRI and later comped in Nuke X. All the objects have separate RGB masks to control the color and brightness in Nuke.