A Beautiful Gunfighter Girl Breakdown: Sculpting & Clothing Techniques

3D Character Artist Kevin Beckers did a detailed breakdown of making his Rock D's Beauty model with ZBrush, Substance 3D Painter, and XGen and shared his clothing-making technique and rendering tips.


My name is Kevin Beckers, artist handle Tycane3d. The way I got into 3D art was simple: I used to draw a lot as a kid and wanted to be a comic book artist or something like that, but when stumbled on a piece of software on a friend's computer called "Raydream" and "Bryce", I was hooked. The skills I have now are 25 years of having no other hobby than 3D and gaming. First, I learned poly modeling, making cars and hardware like phones or a PSP, simple robots, and some ArchViz. Then ZBrush came along, and I was hooked even more.

The projects I have contributed to are varied. I've worked in CG for about 15 years for such companies as Miele, Philips, and Axis Studios. I think the thing I'm most proud of right now is my time with Axis, especially getting to model a bunch of characters for the 2022 movie "Scrooge: A Christmas Carol".

Getting Started

I chose to work on Rock D's Beauty model because I had just more or less finished my monster hunters series based on Tooth Wu's designs, and wanted something high-tech and sexy looking, as opposed to all the iron armor and leather belts from the aforementioned. While scouring ArtStation for a cool concept, I came across one of Rock D's sketches that fit the bill. I am a big fan of Rock D's work and had done one of his concepts in the past, so I decided to work on the Beauty model, it seemed manageable.

Once I find a concept, I start looking for references of stuff that I might need or like such as other artists' renders that I feel are excellent and I want to emulate in quality, but also images to help me model, sculpt, or design. In this PureRef sheet below you can see everything I've gathered from shoes to anatomy. I even used Call of Duty's Gunsmith to capture different types of guns at different angles:

Face & Body

When starting a project I always begin with the face, and admittedly I have a hard time with faces. It takes me a while to get them to look like a face, it's all by eye, so I don't put down references in ZBrush or anything. I find a bunch of references of people I like the look of and, in this case, I used a lot of references of Jung Ho-yeon, as Squid Games was popular at that time.

I start out with a sphere, and simply keep sculpting, moving, and tweaking it until it starts to look like something. The first hour or 2, I'm mostly panicking, but from experience, I know that eventually it will turn out alright.

Once I have the face in a spot where I'm happy with it, I start adding placeholder textures via Polypaint like makeup and eyebrows, then I make a crude mesh that represents the hairstyle I'm aiming for. Adding this stuff helps because I can see the overall image and how everything looks in relation to each other. Looking at a bald, hairless uniform and colored face is unnatural and can make it hard to see what works and what doesn't.

With the face done, for the body in this case I used an old base model I made years ago. I cut off its old head and attached the new one with the ZModeler Bridge Tool. After that, I spent a healthy amount of time adjusting the body to be more anatomically correct.

For the face detailing, I used a VFace scan from TexturingXYZ, it's a bit lazy perhaps but has great quality.

I used ZWrap to wrap the VFace and transferred all its microdetails and texture via the Project function in ZBrush. After that, I did some cleanup and polishing of the details and textures and used different human detailing brushes to sculpt in detailing for the rest of her body. The hands are a tad rough as I didn't spend too much time on them since they would be mostly covered by gloves.


For clothes, I usually extract a piece of mesh from the main body and shape it into whatever piece it's supposed to become using the Move and Clay Buildup tool. In the case of the leggings, the shape was already just simply the leg, so no extra shaping was required on that.

Next, I start using ZBrush's Slice tool to make shapes in the extracted piece, and once I'm happy with that, I play around with ZRemesher and try to wrangle it into giving me a topology flow for each piece, which can take some time and tweaking to get right. Once I'm satisfied with the topology I use the Panel Loops function to give the pieces the thickness I want, and lastly, I use ZRemesher to extract the edges to make them interesting and add some detailing.

With this method, it's hard to sculpt folds and wrinkles to the model, and adding wrinkles in the base mesh early on makes it hard to get nice slice patterns, so I use cloth brushes to kind of stamp in folds and wrinkles. Before I do that, I make a Morph Target, start stamping in folds, and with ZBrush's Morph tool, I paint out any folds I don't want or want to be less or softened.

For the jacket, I took a bit of a different approach, with a new technique I came up with for heavily detailed pieces of cloth with lots of separate meshes.

It's pretty hard to make wrinkles and folds across different mesh pieces while holding on to sharp edges or seams, because to sculpt folds you need to polish and smooth the sculpted details, and that can mess with the detailing of the piece. 

What I do is I make a simplified version of the clothing piece that requires folds, and make sure that it has the same shape globally, but is a simple single-piece shape. I duplicate that shape, and on the duplicate, I make all the folds I want to be on the main clothing piece. After that, I take the simplified and sculpted duplicate into 3ds Max and make a Morpher, where I have the simplified version morph into the sculpted or fold simplified version. Skin Wrap modifier is a function where you can have one mesh's face stick to another mesh's face, it's useful for when you have a rigged character, and you want to add stuff like buttons or pockets without having to reskin. I take the main clothing mesh, and with the simplified version's Morpher set to 0 so the folds are not visible, I Skin Wrap the main clothing mesh to the simplified mesh with the Morpher on it.

Once its done calculating the Skin Wrap, I can then set the simplified morpher to 1, so it morphs into the folded version, and the main clothing piece will deform with it, and I will have transferred all the fold sculpting details from the sculpted simplified to the main clothing piece.

From there on out I can reimport that clothing mesh .obj into ZBrush, into the same SubTool of the original clothing piece. With a Morph Target set, it will load the clothing piece with folds as a ZBrush Morph Target, and I can easily paint out folds that don’t work with the Morpher brush. I'm quite happy with that workflow and use it a lot.

The shoes were made pretty early on, but I never really liked the first versions, so I tried again and still didn't get it where I would think, "Yeah this is cool", so later on during the project, I decided to make completely different ones. Eventually, I got a pair I thought worked better.


For the hard-surface modeling, in the case of the gun and grenade, I poly-modeled the big shapes, using old-fashioned SubD modeling, and then used 3ds Max Boolean tools to create detailing, making sure to do proper clean up around the booleans, so I could chamfer the edges to get nice highlights in render.

The sword was made with poly-modeling as well, but I did sculpt in some detailing in ZBrush. They are modeled the same way as the clothes, which is with a base shape in the shape of a shoe, then I cut them up with the slice tool and used the Panel tool and ZModeler to give thickness and edges.

Topology & Unwrapping

For this project, I didn't do much retopologizing. I do, at times, make proper retopo for pieces but do it mostly to show prospective clients that I have that ability. To most 3D Artists, it's not the most enjoyable part of the process, and to keep the project relatively speedy and avoid the risk of losing motivation, I prefer to use ZRemesher tools for personal projects.

For professional work where proper animation or gaming retopo is required, I just use 3ds Max's retopology tools, plus I have a bunch of previously made proper base meshes for faces and bodies, that I use in combination with ZWrap to transfer that topology to whatever mesh that needs it.

For unwrapping, I have been using RizomUV for the past year, it's an amazing tool for UVs. It's yet another separate piece of software, but it just gives better and faster results than most of them and has some really nice functions to get nice UV Islands. Unwrapping moderately dense meshes in 3ds Max or Maya can be pretty slow, RizomUV is super fast by comparison.


I do all of my texturing in Substance 3D Painter. Sometimes I set up some parts with Polypaint in ZBrush, but mostly it's all in Painter.

In the case of her body, before I transferred the TexturingXYZ model to my model, I had to clean up the texture it comes with in Photoshop, removing sun spots, moles, etc.

With that texture set as Polypaint in ZBrush, I transferred the texture to a .png, loaded that texture into a fill layer in Substance 3D Painter, and started building up the Roughness Map, using a ZBrush-generated Cavity Map. Then I added adjustments, makeup, and tattoos using the Paint tools.

As for the rest, it's the same process for most other parts, which is to load the model, bake Normal Map, Curvature, and so on using Substance 3D's Baker. Either use one of the smart materials that come with substance as a base, tweak it however I want, or make them from scratch, using the Mask Editor.

In the case of the gun, I used the gunmetal smart material, tweaked it to be a bit less heavy, and then threw some funky Call of Duty-like skin on it. I figured having a nice colorful gun would look better than a standard boring black gun. I like to add decals when I can, for some reason stuff looks more real with them on it to my eyes.

For the rest of the models, it's all that same process, I don't have any special tricks. I use the default V-Ray material export preset from Substance 3D, although I have tweaked it to add the Displacement Map and IOR map, which can be useful at times.


I did the hair in Maya using XGen. I have only relatively recently started using it, it's the whole reason I use Maya now because unfortunately, 3ds Max doesn't have a proper hair solution that is stable. I don't know how it is now, but Ornatrix has proven to be horribly unstable for me in the past, exploding grooms after an update, and randomly ruining grooms I spent hours on, so I was pretty new to XGen it when starting Beauty's hair.

I did some tutorials while working on the monster hunters and this was my first attempt at guide curve hair.

On a separate skullcap, I started out with Normal XGen. I find laying down the guide curves works really well, separating the different hair locks using the Region Map. For this character, I only did the areas that you will actually see since she’s wearing a hood. I use standard XGen's place guides system to create the peach fuzz, eyebrows, and eyelashes.

Once I was happy enough with what the hair looked like, I converted the hair to XGen Interactive. The reason for that is XGen Interactive has some amazing tools XGen Normal doesn't have, like being able to "sculpt" the hair, which means I can manually move and adjust the hair individually if needed similar to ZBrush, which makes it easy to control, fix intersections with clothing, make manual hair clumps and shape them exactly how I want.


As for rendering, I always use V-Ray. I have tried different rendering engines, I'm just most comfortable with it as I have been using it for almost as long as I've been doing 3D.

I like to start with a V-Ray dome light with an HDR image map as a driver, I have a bunch from HDRI Haven, so I picked one that suits my needs. In this case, I believe it’s called Peppermint Factory. I rotate the map to something that kinda has the light and shadows coming from where I want it to be, that will be my base. I leave it at a relatively low intensity, as an ambient to fill up dark areas.

After that, I start adding V-Ray plane lights, I usually do a 3-point light system, key light, fill light, and edge or rim lights.

But unlike the standard 3-point lights, I like to use double lights, meaning that I will have two edge lights on the same side for example, one having a color, and one being white, and have them offset from each other a little. This way, I get a bit of color gradient in the light, instead of having uniform color, it looks better to my eyes.

I add a big rim light that covers most of her body, this helps the model separate from the background and gives a bit of a silhouette. The color I use usually is based on the background color, in this case, it's a bit peach-like, so something along those lines:

Then I just start playing with values until I get something I'm happy with, I try to compliment the forms, make sure the shapes have some depth using reflections from the planes and edge lights, and try to make it separate well from the light background. I also try to get smooth uninterrupted reflections, something I did a lot for Philips packaging images when I worked in that field.

Once I'm happy with the render, I take it into After Effects to tweak the colors so everything is nice and vibrant and in balance using Magic Bullet Looks, give it a smidge of bloom, some vignetting, etc.

Final look:


I have 2 young kids and a full-time day job, this way I only get a few hours here and there and time on the weekend, so this character took me about 3 months to make. I also had a catastrophic HDD crash that wiped out my 2023 projects folder and the backup drive, so I had to start over.

The most difficult part was definitely the face and hair since I’ve only recently started using XGen, it was a learning experience. Faces, in general, are difficult for me, I can spend hours tweaking them and will keep tweaking them during the process.

Here's my advice to beginning artists, just have fun.

Kevin Beckers, 3D Character Artist

Interview conducted by Theodore McKenzie

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