Sculpting MUSCLES in MUDBOX 2015: a character sculpting tutorial

Sculpting MUSCLES in MUDBOX 2015: a character sculpting tutorial

In this video, I am going to go over the process I used to create the muscles on this guy. Let’s get started in Mudbox. I’ve got a low res base mesh. And I’m going to get some texture reference of a muscular guy and I want to project it on to my model as a stencil. The first thing that I do is go to the Edit menu, then choose Edit Stencil option. And Iwill change the stencil around so that it matches my model more carefully. To edit this
stencil, I can use both painting tools and sculpting tools. So I’m going to use the grab brush to just push the image reference around so
that it matches my model more closely. Then I’ll project using the
Projection Paintbrush, and now I’m ready start sculpting. So
I’ve created a sculpt layer and I’m going to try using in the Sculpt brush first. But creating muscle shapes with the sculpt brush can be difficult. I like to use the wax brush instead. With the wax brush, I’ll lay in big areas of muscle mass, and in general, I’ll try and mimic the shape
the actual muscle fibers and the direction that the
muscles flow in, with individual strokes from the wax
brush. I’ll continue this all across the front of the character, so that I’ve created as much
muscle detail as I can, that’s visible from my front view projection. Once I get that blocked
in, I want to turn the texture off, so that I can view the sculpt detail
without the texture. And I’ll see that I have this obviously very blocky shape, so I want to
take the Smooth brush brush and just smooth those muscle
shapes together. Creating this way mimics the way the
actual body works, where we have these big muscle shapes, that are covered underneath skin. The skin is almost like a fabric,
that stretches over these big shapes, that kind of mutes the individual silhouette of each object. It makes them all blend together. We end up with this, now we’re gonna turn our attention back. I’ve already projected the texture, and I’m just going to use the wax
brush again, to block out the shape, and smooth it out
as I did with the front. Next, I’m going to reduce the opacity of my
textures to 50%, and this means I can see more of my sculpt detail, and less of my texture detail. It’s time to up-res our mesh, to subdivide again, and we wanted to test our brushes to
make sure that we can get that level detail we need. We’re looking for brushes that don’t have a lot of aliasing around them, when we use them on the mesh. The next step is carving detail into the surface, using
a brush that has a very sharp fall off and a negative value. I’ll just push in around the larger shapes, to
better define the edges of those shapes. So I’m using this
sharp, negative brush, to carve around muscle edges and bone edges, to really emphasize that sharper level detail. I can also add more detail using the wax brush at
this level. In both cases, whether I’m adding mass using wax or
carving in using that sharp negative brush, I’m always smoothing right after I paint
that detail in, to better blend everything together,
to make it look like a more organic form. You’ll note that I’m
sculpting asymmetrically. This is because most
bodies are asymmetrical. But especially the front of the torso,
this is very important because that’s generally where the viewer is going notice it most. In the case of the pectorals and
the abdominals on a character like this, we really want to make sure that we’re
creating a symmetrical shapes, and we really want to pay attention to a
reference, as opposed to trying to create shapes the way we think they should be, instead of the way they actually are. I’ll add the belly button while I’m here using a sharp positive brush, to just
stretch it between the existing abdominals. It doesn’t pop out or sit on top of the abdominal region. As always, to check
my sculpting, I’m turning the texture off so I can see actual surface detail that I’ve created. Then I repeat the smoothing process
on the back. One thing I notice as I was sculpting, is
that the muscles on the back really didn’t have enough volume. Things
weren’t popping out enough. I tried to use the wax brush and the sculpt brush to push things out. But for existing
detail that’s already well-defined, the Bulge Tool will inflate the
existing detail. It’s really great for popping muscles out. Now I’m still working with the back, making
sure that all my shapes are very smoothly blended together, so I
have a cohesive, organic feeling body. And then I can step up to a higher subdivision level, and
start to add finer detail, the way that I did on the front of the torso, where I am pushing smaller details out. I’m also using that sharp negative brush to carve detail in around shapes. Now, the bigger the area that I’m carving
into, the bigger I want my sharp brush to be. Because I want to create some roundness
along the edges of the area I’m carving into, so in areas where we have big muscles, areas like the center of the spine, we’re using a much bigger brush
that we might expect, because we want to have nice, rounded
shapes, so they look like muscles, as opposed to creating really thin lines between our shapes, which looks like a comic book drawing. Takes on fake, artificial look. After I’ve carved in all that detail,I’ll smooth a lot of it out. This may seem counterproductive, but
again this is the way that the body works. We have these very defined muscle and bone shapes, and the skin is laid over
them, the skin stretches on top, and it creates a
much smoother surface. Once I’m done there, I’m going to
subdivide again because I want to add even finer resolution detail. At this
point, now I can represent very detailed things like striations in
the muscle, and more unique organic forms. I stressed earlier that we don’t want to
have a symmetrical shape, so now is the time we start carving in asymmetrical detail around our muscle
shapes, using that sharp negative brush. I also mentioned a few times how the skin
stretches over top of objects, and we’ve used the smooth brush to accomplish that until now. We can also used Fill Brush. When we have a pretty big gap between
areas, we could use that Fill Brush to stretch between those
areas, that will actually create a very stretched look, that we can blend into the surface. We do
that when we’re looking for a guy who looks really ripped, whose muscles are basically too big for the skin that they’re covered with, it creates that really hyper muscular look. At this level detail, I also use my
sculpt and my wax brushes to add tiny bulges along the surface. This helps things look more organic, more
like a natural shape. It reflects the fact that each
individual’s body is going to have differences between the way their
muscles are formed, and the way that they’re used. I can stretch between those details using Fill brush, to enhance that stretched look again. We haven’t looked at the front in a while, so I’ll turn my attention back here. I’ll start to carve in those same sorts of
high-level details, where I’m using my sharp negative brush, to add some difference in definition
between muscle groups. For example, between the pectorals and the deltoids here. At the same time, I’ll smooth other bits
detail, for example, the area where the
abdominals connect to rib cage. We’re usually not going to see tremendously sharp line there unless we get someone that’s flexing very hard. I’ll smooth that out so I get a better blend. Depending on the kind of character that
we’re trying to create, we might want to have exactly that kind of super sharp hyper-muscular detail. At this
point, I just noticed that the clavicle is sticking out a little bit too much. I’ll use my Grab brush to push that back
in. Now we’re ready for our next step, we
subdivide again, test to make sure that the resolution is where we need, and I will use my Pinch Brush now. I’ll drag the Pinch Brush around all
the edges, that usually, we’ve been using our
sharp, negative brush to define. And this Pinch
brush will pull all that detail together, to create a much
higher frequency detail. The end result is going to be sharper, or
more crisp, detail. This is a really important
aspect of the sculpting process, because, by default, our sculpt tools give us very naturally
soft shapes. This is where the pinch brush comes into
play – it pulls those shapes together, it creates sharper creases between
objects. And this is definitely a big step. It
separates professional and amateur models. It’s easy to create a soft body model. Knowing how to sharpen it, how to pull those shapes together, is what pushes the model to the next
level. Once again, seemingly counterproductively, I’m again softening my detail using
the smooth tool, and I am smoothing around the pinches
that I created, too blend the pinches into the surrounding
areas. What I’m not ssmoothing is the sharp line at the center of each pinch. This way, we get a
nice smoth organic model, but at the same time we still retain a lot sharp detail. This is as far as I’m going to take it with this tutorial. We’ve laid in our basic shapes, we’ve carved in some sharper detail, blended everything together nicely with smooths, we’ve used pinch to sharpen things up.
And this process is a quick one. It took less than an hour to create this muscle detail, because it’s a quick intuitive way to work. Thanks for watching, hope that you found
this helpful, you can check out more at

28 Replies to “Sculpting MUSCLES in MUDBOX 2015: a character sculpting tutorial”

  1. Ive never seen that method of using an image to sculpt anatomy before, but i thought one would be shooting themselves in the foot as an artist if you start of this way, I always thought people should be learning anatomy so that they remember it and can recall it, the ability to sculpt anatomy with little or no reference is essential to any character artist, as you will well know from your experience. That said, i was surprised how effective those smoothed out large wax strokes were at getting the big forms in early. Great video James, id like to see more character art related videos from you, your work is very good. 

  2. I'm in love with your tutorials. The things I gave up seems so much easier now. Thank you for that.
    Is there a chance you could make a character texturing and rigging tutorial? Would be a great help.
    Also what graphics card do you use? I'm planning an upgrade for mine, so need some advice. Thanks in advance 🙂

  3. no doubt this guy is good i am just learning it but i came from Blender and i cant get detail like that because at about 2 mil the turning lags until i turn the quick nav on and i keep x mirror on so i can get closer detail and keep large muscle detail even then i take it off and use grab and crease brush to get better single sided detail so it doesn't look the same. So now you guys know i am not gonna be a noob i do have knowledge. Now i know this guy was aiming for non perfect detail and for him to be A-symmetrical and not perfect but some muscle groups look like he worked out on the side alot more and others seemed like a small cluster of muscles and other side was 1 giant bulge couldn't you achieve that by simply turning on mirror and afterwards use grab brush and crease brush along with smooth brush or try to free sculpt both sides and try doing it humanly perfect so you achieve the unique detail and keep it relatively identical. I understand he has a story as all sculpts do you tend to build a story on to when why how. Now let me reiterate i am not a noob and i am not trying to bash James work just asking and throwing ideas that he may or may not comment on and see his story. By the way the body looks like the gladiator guy you havee for the front cover of this video.

  4. Hi, I'm a games design student and I've been watching your videos for a few months now, I absolutely love the work you create! I have tried to create my own 3D work but progression is slow as expected for a beginner like me, do you have any advice on specific areas to focus on to speed up the practice a little or anything like that? Thanks, keep up the amazing videos!

  5. Very good, and excellent imagination and character development and finishing. Now let's see you sculpt this perfectly in clay by hand. Because when the power goes out, and you are only left with hand tools, it is then and only then that you can call yourself a true artisan.

  6. How do you view and manipulate vertices in mudbox? And can object be combined? Do you have any tutorial on mouths and face animation either in the mudbox software or combining mudbox with 3ds max or blender?

  7. people pleases don't do this specially if your a beginner just learn anatomy start from the skeleton and end it with muscle insertions , origins and skin layers along with fat distribution + practice figure sculpting from photo reference you will master ref dissection and copying (skills which are essential for film and game industries )

  8. I'm currently making a Neanderthal character but I only have the head and neck. should I just keep adding onto the neck to eventually have a body or is there a better way to attach a body onto the head?

  9. +James Taylor Sorry, this is a noob-sculpting question (I have recently started learning Mudbox) but when you say "negative brush" do you mean checking the "Invert Function" check-box for the brush? It doesn't look like the invert function is checked sometimes when you are "carving" in muscle detail with the foamy brush, but I cant quite tell as the video is fast paced at times. Also, on one of the sites that I have come accross you have said you use a "custom foamy brush," could you elaborate on that a little?

    Anyways, you videos and other materials have been a great help, thank you!! I am in school for computer graphics technology and have been learning some of the programs prior to the classes we use them in, to be able to make the best of my classes and produce the best work I can.

    Thanks again!

  10. Can you make the whole anatomy of the body? The organs and bone so you start by the body and stuff since well it's super sadesfying**

  11. Hello, I know this video is a few years old now, but it's helped me so much already in my 3D modelling class. That said, my wax brush isn't acting like yours at all, it either comes out lumpy or it doesn't work at building anything up at all, I've already tried increasing the strength of it like you mentioned down below, is there anything else at all that I can try?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *