Additional Work

Teaching myself ZBrush

Helpful Tips – Learning as I go:

Symmetry – Transform > Activate Symmetry. Choose a world axis (X for Down the Centre)

To create a seperate sphere for eyes, Toolbox > Subtool > Append > Sphere.

You can position the ball, selected the subtool and go to Subtool > Duplicate. Then Move the new eyeball and merge them to the same mesh and activate symmetry to sculpt eyes.

Basic Brush Uses –

  • Build Clay: Adds Clay to the sculpt (Holding Alt removes clay)
  • Smooth (Hold Shift): Levels out a clay surface
  • Dam Standard: Creates sharp indents (like scoring marks)
  • Alphas are the shapes of the brush. The white area of an alpha gets used, and they adapt to transparency. Eg. using a gradient fading circle brush will apply a soft brush.


Helpful/Inspirational Videos

Speed Sculpt of Heimerdinger from League of Legends.

Step by Step of Heimerdinger and Singed.

Dynamesh – a tool that allows you to create a clean grid topology over distorted sculpts.


First Sculpting Attempt:

There are some problems with stretched mesh on the shoulders and lower cheeks as well as the ridge above the eye. I’ll have to research how to properly utilise dynamesh and zremesher to keep a clean mesh to sculpt on in future. I’m pretty happy for my first sculpt, took around 40 minutes.

Also figured out how to make a progress video:


Pipeline for Champion Project

  • Research Riot process and existing champions
  • Come up with base idea that sounds cool
  • Light research and some a lot of idea sketching
  • Revisit research, delve deep
  • Revisit sketches, apply new knowledge
  • Finalise sketches and settle on an idea
  • Play around with colours and poses
  • Paint a rendered version
  • Produce detailed concept sheet
  • Begin sculpting in ZBrush
  • Learn more about sculpting, topology for videogames and rigging
  • Retopologise
  • Rig model
  • UV Mapping
  • Create texture
  • Finish Model
  • Animations for auto-attacks, critical strikes, abilities, idle, walk, run, gate and death
  • Apply vfx to spells and model where necessary
  • Finalise product
  • Create a skin if extra time is available


Visual FX in Videogames



So as part of my training to become better I want to learn a little about VFX in videogames. This is also part of my effort to be experienced in every area of art at Riot Games to boost my shot at an internship. What I like about VFX from what I’ve seen is structured and logical everything is. The breakdown above of the “Sunfire Cape” is very simple and inspiring and by the end of the week I’m going to see if I can produce something similar. The guy that made the video, Jason Keyser, works as a VFX artist for League of Legends and has a few breakdown videos. In the comment section, someone had asked him what would be the best tool to use to get something close to League of Legends and he suggested Unreal Engine 4. Apparently it has a steeper learning curve than Unity, but I’m willing to tackle it for the challenge.

I’m going to be following this tutorial series to teach myself the basics of UE4’s Cascade for particle effects. In this post I’m going to summarise the videos/take notes on anything important I want to come back to.

Here is a document containing a summary of different FX types and particles.

First video is all about terminology for particle effects.

Particle – A point in space that may be assigned attributes/behaviour.

Sprite – 2D plane that will always face the camera.

Particle System – The assets that reside in your content browser.

Emitter Actor – The physical object in a scene that acts as a reference to a particle system.

Particle System Component – I think this is a blueprint…for an Emitter Actor…?

Cascade – The particle editing system inside UE4.

Emitter – A column in Cascade that holds all of the properties for an individual particle.


I saw a tutorial by Dean Ashford and decided to give it a go, here is my first result:

Very basic, but a good foundation to start tinkering with things.


Crafting a Champion – Research for Riot

I recently discovered the Riot Games Internship Program, and holy s*** I need this so bad. I can’t think of any better way to jump-start my hopeful career in concept art, and with the odds against me (at least 6000:1) I’ll have to try and prove myself. So that’s what I’ll try and do.

I’ve decided I’m going to follow the Riot Pipeline for character design and make a champion or two of my own while thoroughly exploring each idea. I’m going to start by reading some different Dev Blogs posted by Riot about their champion process and write about my research here. I’ll link each blog as I read them.

*DISCLAIMER: No images belong to me and are all property of Riot Games*

Developing Dark Star Thresh

This project involves creating a ‘skin’ for a pre-existing character. It starts by identifying ‘Thresh’s’ core idea and how to “multiply that by 100”. They spend some time identifying the reason and personality behind the skin. They give Thresh a purpose and a motive, helping anchor the design.

One of the concepts they enjoyed involved a “cloud of space” emanating from Thresh’s head, but they needed to deem whether it would look as good in game and so they ran tests to confirm it was possible. It took four weeks to lock in the skin’s visual direction, on top of the initial week of brainstorming.

He was initially designed with a red colour palette, but this was changed to distinguish him from his other skin (Blood Moon).

The rest of the article delves in to aspects past concept art, so I’ll be moving on from it and leaving on this awesome process shot of his loading screen splash art.


On the Champion Rework Pipeline

So apparently it takes around 9 months to create a champion of visual update. I’m gonna be doing mine a little quicker…

First Phase: Open ideation phase (about three months). A small team of writers, concept artists, designers and a producer works on this phase, and there are usually about 3 going at once.

Some early Yorick thumbnails

Ok, so there’s not much in this one along the lines of concept work. Moving on…


Narrative Hooks

This article mainly focuses on backstory and behind the scenes plot that goes in to making a character’s background believable and solid. I love this image of “Bilgewater Slaughter-Sheds” which are never mentioned in the game at all but are exactly the type of thing I’d expect to see in the brine-soaked town.

Maybe I could use this as a background for one of my characters…

Leave your bundle of threads loose so the curious can pull on them to find how they tangle together. League of Legends isn’t a single narrative, it’s an existing universe with characters that are anchored to it.

“For the audience, dangling story threads and hooks provide areas of intrigue and speculation, a tiny glimpse of events that hint at bigger things yet to come, or suggest a deeper and richer world history/backstory. They can also function to suggest a much bigger world out there, one that is vibrant with stories just waiting to be discovered. Finally, they also give the audience a chance to voice what story hooks they’d like to see developed, giving the creators a better idea of what they should focus on.”

“The one thing that’s most important, however, is avoiding creating frustration by dangling out a million story hooks that are never developed or followed up. That kind of thing can be irritating, and can have a detrimental effect, not just with the audience, but on the narrative universe as a whole. It can start to feel like there’s nothing behind all those hints and nods – it’s just a facade of depth, with no actual substance.”

There is a balance to finalising stories for closure and leaving ends open for audiences to wonder. That’s the hook. There are some interesting points on narrative in a world on this article, so give it a read. Moving on to something more concept-y.


Jhin Development Process

So this is a lot more of the “meat and veg” type stuff I wanted to get in to, and highlights the early stages of a concept that I crave. The team started with an initial idea, they wanted a champion that felt like you were using an old bolt-action sniper rifle, and wanted to differentiate between this character and the other sniper wielding character, Caitlyn.

Ok so on a side-note I started looking up Caitlyn’s visual update after typing that last paragraph and stumbled on to a freelance concept artist who does a lot of work for Riot by the name of Thomas Randby and some of his work is really awesome stuff.

So, back to Jhin. Bolt action sniper. Robotic Cowboy. Bounty Hunter. These were the buzzwords initially used in crafting him. Some of them were chipped off through the design process.

They thought the term “Deadeye” resonated very well with this new champion. They started looking at the idea that “ever shot counts” as it does with a bolt-action sniper. They implemented an ammo system for his shots before he has to reload, something that no other champion has. The point of his abilities were that even though they had extremely long range, they could also miss (which is not the case with Caitlyn.)

After further playing around with the ammo mechanic, they decided that the fourth shot should deal the most damage from a gameplay perspective but why would this be the case in a real-world idea? That’s when they hit the sweet spot by making Jhin an artist. He doesn’t just want to kill his targets, he wants it to be so perfect that their deaths are his art. He becomes a Virtuoso.

“In carnage, I bloom; like a flower in the dawn.”  -Jhin

After discovering his artistic identity, the team incorporated rose imagery in to one of his abilites and heavily referenced opera in his personality, design and aura. His ultimate ability, aptly named ‘Curtain Call’ has four extreme long-range, high damage shots. And as soon as you enter this stance, a violin can be heard playing as you paint the canvas with blood.

They removed the robot element from his identity because they wanted him to appear human. They invented a mask to cover his face with a calming, confident yet sinister grin. They placed him within a faction of their world, Ionia; a place of intricate design that favoured form over function. Makes sense. This was a true psychopath.

The best part about Jhin’s design is his rifle. It’s actually a four chambered pistol, that he then constructs in to a rifle for long range, paired with the asymmetrical hump on his shoulder to create a piercing cannon. They also gave the barrel a fountain pen-esque nib at the end to emphasise his personality as a “creative”. His colour scheme was that of roman emperors, because “while Jhin’s very much equipped to kill, he’s also dressed to impress.”

With Jhin’s final release, they also released a skin called “High Noon Jhin” which is a nod to the robo-cowboy that inspired his initial creation.

This is the kind of depth I want to go for with my design. Research, themes, tropes, aesthetics, playstyle, factions; everything. I want to take it as far as I can.


There’s a bunch more blogs that I’ve read through and enjoyed but instead of me summarising them you can read them directly here:

Tahm Kench – a large fish demon dubbed the “River King” with quite the mouth on him (In both senses). A personal favourite of mine.

Kindred – a snow white lamb and an ominous dark wolf spirit combo that sew and reap life.

Kalista – a culmination of vengeful spirits manifested in to one form. She throws spears.

Sion – a resurrected juggernaut equipped with a battleaxe and a blood lust. His newly-fitted lower jaw is the crown of a King he slaughtered.

Aurelion Sol – creator of stars, wanderer of galaxies. Narcissist. This enormous space dragon was a leap for the game design team to implement.

Galio – A stone-bound sentinel seeking to supersede strength as a sentient shield. He’s a big gargoyle.

Taliyah –  A weaver of earth and rock, she hails from humble beginnings.

Kled –  A redneck squirrel that rides a lizard.

Ivern – The friendliest tree man you’ll ever meet.

Camille – Her legs are blades.

Enjoy reading these! They’re great insights in to professional storytelling and design.


Collaboration with Gianni

So I’ve been talking a lot with Gianni from second year and he was showing me a viking model that he’s working on as a personal project. We were having discussions, sharing opinions and showing each other various inspirations that we knew of to help further the project. I was talking to him a bit about concept artists and the industry for them and how it’s something I was interested in, and so he suggested that I could help him out with his design and it would help bolster some of my concept art portfolio, as well as give him some cool ideas to model with.

I started by designing some different axe variants. I did some research in to basic Viking axe shapes while taking inspiration from games like Skyrim as well as from Norse mythology. I tried to incorporate things like Celtic patterns as well as viking runes and imagery whilst playing around with various shapes to get something unique but practical. In time I will design further axe designs as well as armour/swords to match the design.

Gianni Axe

After the axe designs, I decided to get stuck in to a quick full-body sketch based on what Gianni had already modelled, with a few tweaks in places. I added things such as decorative bolts, shoulder plating and chain mail, as well as moving some things around to add more practicality to the design. I will further finish this painting in future and dive in to more variations and details on more intricate designs (such as the antler on his head that is not visible at this angle.)


Gianni also was talking about how he wanted to pose the character, and so I threw together a quick sketch of the pose and how it would look silhouetted. Gianni had originally said that he wanted the flag to fly horizontally instead of vertically, however I suggested that that seemed too “elite” for a viking, and that a vertical banner read more as “this is my land” and he agreed.


Below is an image from Gianni’s Artstation where you can find more angles and progress images of the viking so far.

Here is a link to his blog for development of the project:

I’m really excited to really sink my teeth in to this project, and future projects we have discussed working on. It’s great practice for both of us and he’s doing a fantastic job. His passion for teaching himself has inspired me to start my own small personal project.


Current progress of the model by Gianni Francesco De Giuseppe

Sad Bot

After working with Gianni and sitting down to talk with him a few times when I’m in uni late at night, I got inspired by his drive to set challenges for himself to be ahead of the game when it comes to his modelling work. Because of this, I’ve been inspired to start my own personal project to teach myself something new. I was browsing through Instagram one night and found a doodle from an artist I follow called Ching Yeh from Taiwan. I found the  design to be cute and when looking at it thought to myself, “Yeah, I could do that?”. And so that’s what I did. With permission of course:


So this was the little doodle that inspired me to get creative. I thought this would be a good way to familiarise myself with normal maps, UV mapping and programs like Substance Painter and ZBrush. So that’s the challenge I’ve set myself, and will most likely be an early summer project. For the final finished piece I’m going to pose the robot as seen in the original drawing, but I also want to make it fully rigged.


Art by Ching Yeh on Instagram: @chingyeh005

I started with making the basic body and head shapes, as they’re straightforward enough. I’m trying to use everything I know about good topology to try and make it correctly, as well as modelling via extruding instead of creating a new object every time I want to add a small part. Only parts that will move independently will require new objects.

So the first thing I started going in to detail with was the head. This was going well, I modelled the antenna, got the basic head shape down and even made little slots for the visor to retract back with. Then it came to the screen. I thought the screen would be fine, and the first way I went about it was just extruding the face and rounding it, but that didn’t go as planned. Now, there were a few things I could have done to fix this problem, and my solution was unnecessarily complicated but I’m still pleased with how well it worked. I created a cylinder with roughly the same curvature that I wanted the face to have, and put it on its side. I then created a flat plane, and sub-divided it a few times. Finally, I added nCloth properties to the plane and made the cylinder a collider. I also upped the “wetness” of the plane to get it to hug the cylinder closely. After this I froze the transformations and removed the ncloth properties and voile; a perfectly curved plane….that I could have used the curve tool for but screw it, useless innovation.


Using nCloth properties to model the screen “Face”

After toying around with the head a little more I decided to move on to the arms before going in to more detail. Normally I would draw out an orthographic diagram to help me understand the shape and assembly of the character, but this time I just wasn’t bothered and decided to do it in my head as I go. The drawing is slightly obscure in its makeup and so I had to improvise a little when creating the arm. I was attempting to imagine how I would build this if it were an actual robot, with slots, bolts, pivots etc. Below you can see a breakdown of how it has went so far. I’ll be going back to add further detail but it fits together at the moment and functions well so I’m happy with it.


Below is an overall view of the mesh so far.


And here is a render of the current stage. I did have the forearm finished before, but Maya crashed as it is destined to do and I lost some of that progress. I’ll finish that arm, do the legs and then lastly the printer arm and sad paper. Then I’ll focus on the intricacies of the mechanical parts, as I hope to have the visors on the face fully functioning and all limbs movable. Then I’ll take it to ZBrush to add imperfections and teach myself Normal Mapping, and finally in to substance painter to add scratches, rust and other subtle tidbits. I’ll keep updating this blog as I go. I’m looking forward to finishing this project and expanding my toolkit a little.


Final Year Concept Art

Ok, so out of the blue I’ve been thrown in to the Lion’s Den…(do Lion’s have dens?)…

A group of final years approached me and have asked me to produce some concept art for their final animation. I am completely blown away, and I feel a little intimidated but also excited that they’ve asked me! Apparently Alec told them that I was good at this sort of thing which is only half true… Concept Art? Can’t get enough of it. Robots? …oh jeez..

Usually I struggle with anything mechanical and prefer more organic designs which took this a little outside my comfort zone but I was still willing to give it a shot.

My challenge was to create a robot design that was:

  • Humanoid in Appearance
  • Able to emote without traditional facial features (eyebrows etc.)
  • Appeared like it worked in a factory-type industry.

James Dalton began by showing me an animated short rendered in Unity called ‘Adam’.

It looked awesome; absolutely insane. I loved the design work behind the robots within it. James had said they were focusing on something close to the main robots, which look like this:

Image result for adam unity

So the challenge was to emulate this without blatantly ripping it off, essentially. The team were kind enough to include a few mood boards to point me in the direction they were looking which I will spam here:

Displaying masks moodboard.jpg Displaying More character stuff [R].png Displaying robot body moodboard.jpg Displaying robot face shapes.jpg Displaying robot.png
Displaying 1402012_551466404937851_1860601873_o.jpg

Art by James Dalton

From the looks of the mask ideas they were sending me, they were inclined to go without certain key facial features so as to perhaps take away the human feeling of the face while still allowing it to linger. I started throwing together a chassis to house this worker robot just to have a base to work from. Along the way I started fiddling with a head idea. This was the first round of sketches I came up with, the first taking a few minutes and the second a little longer as I played around with design.


Initial body silhouette scribbles.


While drawing these designs I looked at different sources of machinery and humanoid robotics to understand how it would kind of work “under the hood”. The head design could be used to emote by way of a small triangle that can reposition and project symbols on a screen to show basic mannerisms to portray emotion. A bit of feedback was that the body was too “bodybuilder” and not enough “athlete swimmer” so I slimmed it down slightly as seen above.

I looked at examples of robotic arms so as to understand how the head would move. As for the tarp that covered up this machinery on the neck, I had remembered about a video by Marc Brunet at that I watched a few years back and decided to revisit it.

The head design with the emotive screen was inspired by ‘Zer0’ from Borderlands 2, a Japanese assassin who speaks only in Haiku and hides his face behind a hologram projecting helmet.

‘Zer0’, Borderlands 2

The team seemed to like the ideas and thought it was going along the right path. James liked the head idea, but felt it was slightly too simple for their story and had suggested I take a more humanoid approach. Professor Maguire later informed me this was due to it being easier to do motion-capture when the design resembled a model.


The final render sketch for the design.

So with this feedback I went and did a bunch of sketches with different bits of inspiration flaring in every so often. The team had asked that I put more of a focus on the head design as that’s the part the audience would be focusing on. They were pretty happy with the torso so far, so I made a few variations.

With the base design hammered down I was able to duplicate and tweak to come up with a few different ideas for the team:


After getting a few good and bad ideas down I took them back for another round of review. The head shape they were most interested in was the top-right (The most human-shaped) and so I decideed to run with that. I produced an alternate design along the same shape but cleaned it up a little and decided to explore emotion and function. Around this time the team informed me that they had modified their plot so that the robots would now work with partners in the story and so I drew up a partner design that coupled with the original.

MF Faces

I looked at exploring function within the design