Creating a Maori Mobster in ZBrush, Marvelous Designer & Substance

Vladimir Uryadov has shared the workflow behind the Mighty Mongrel Mob project, discussed the retopology process, and showed two texturing methods that are used in the film industry.


Hello everyone, my name is Vladimir Uryadov. I graduated from an institute that was not related to 3D graphics, but while still at school I became very interested in computer graphics. I am currently working for Sperasoft as a Senior Character Artist. Prior to that, I worked as a Lead Artist for more than seven years for Asymmetric VFX studio, where I created many different characters for such films as Viy, Iron mask, Viking, Quackerz, and a couple of yet to be released films. Several years ago, I worked for Streamline in Malaysia, where I created characters for games.

Mighty Mongrel Mob Project

I started the Mighty Mongrel Mob project for an annual competition held at Sperasoft. I wanted to make a portrait that no one else has tried to do in 3D, something unique, something little-known, but at the same time inspiring.

On the Internet, I came across an article about the indigenous population of New Zealand – the Maori. A very interesting nationality with its own history and traditions. Then I noticed that in NZ there is a certain bandit group called Mighty Mongrel Mob, not the most pleasant people, mostly bandits, but there is something wild, unbridled about them. There was a photo session organized by John Rothman. Among these pictures, I found a picture of Greco Notorious. An absolutely amazing photo, as well as all the other photos. And my choice fell on him.

In general, the history of the indigenous population of NZ, as well as of the gang itself, is very interesting, I advise you to read it, you will not regret it. What references did I have? Only this photo, the gang itself is very secretive for obvious reasons, so I had to be content with only the photo itself. Here is my final collection of references, which I have compiled in the PureRef program.

The Face

The face was the least of the problems I encountered during the making of this project. It took me only 2-4 days. Although I redid some points several times, in general, there were no problems with it. As usual, I started with my BaseMesh, which I made studying topology. Subsequently, it came in handy for me in many projects. Since I only had a front view, I had to rely on my knowledge. When the basic shapes were ready, I started working on the details. To create the pores, I used XYZ textures and some scans from the 3D Scan Store. In the first pass, I applied displacement from XYZ textures (you can find more details here).

Using the ZWrap plugin for ZBrush, I wrapped one of the 3D Scan Store scans into my model and using the HistoryRecall brush I began to project more interesting parts onto my model. The model had 60 million polygons on the top SubDivision, which was enough to extrude the detailed pores and wrinkles, plus I had a tertiary and micro map from XYZ texture pack. Next, I baked Displacement and Normal Maps and all additional Maps

The Outfit

It took quite a long time to create the clothes. I started by creating a base in Marvelous Designer. The result gave a good basis.

Then I gradually added details, working on the folds, layer by layer, leading to the final result. The final result looked like this:

All medals and clasps were modeled in 3ds Max. For the medals, I used references found on the Internet. The two central ones were made using a frontal image of real medals, which I desaturate and turned into a Displacement Map, which I later extruded in ZBrush and slightly modified. The whole process took quite a long time, but the result was worth it. When everything was ready, I unwrapped the model and then baked the Displacement and Normal Maps. The Normal Map will help at the texturing stage.

Retopology and Unwrapping

I only did retopology for clothes from Marvelous Designer. I used 3ds Max for this. The process is pretty quick and easy. To do this, you need to export two models from the Marvelous Designer – ready-made clothes and an expanded (flat) version of these clothes. Then you need to retopologize the flat version. And using the SkinWrap and Morpher modifiers, you can transfer the new topology to the finished model from Marvelous Designer. To make it clearer, I made a small video. Everything else was done from scratch.

Working with UVs shouldn't be a worry, you can turn up the music and just do it. For unwrapping, I usually use 2 programs. The first one is RizomUV, in which you can very quickly achieve the required quality in the shortest time. The second program is UVLayout, which I use to pack UVs into the different UDIMs. UVLayout has a lot of useful and easy-to-use UV wrapping tools and much more control than RizomUV. I packed each piece of clothing into a separate UDIM so the textures were very clear and the fabric texture was readable. As a result, I got 18 UDIMs.

That's all, after that I transferred the UVs to ZBrush and baked the textures.


Texturing the head was simple and very difficult at the same time. I did all the texturing in Substance 3D Painter. First, I took a face texture which I baked from XYZ, and textured the missing parts. It didn't take a long time. The next step was to draw tattoos. There were problems with them. After several unsuccessful attempts, I simply projected the tattoos from the photo onto my model, exported the texture from Substance 3D Painter, and finished it in Photoshop. I had to manually redraw many of the missing elements. Then I went back to SP and started adjusting the skin color, adding various pigment spots, then I made a Roughness Map. I returned to this more than once, since a lot depended on lighting and many other factors. That's all, then all the magic happened at the shading stage.

The most difficult stage of this project was the clothes texturing. It took a long time. I needed to create a tiled material with the desired texture whether leather, plain fabric, or denim. Then I added some dirt, cavities, AO, and highlight different parts of the clothes adding more and more details, relying on the reference.

In this project, I used two texturing methods that are used in the film industry. For large items of clothing, I used a method in which only the base color, spots, and stickers are textured, and the texture of the fabric is added during the shading step. Tiled textures are used for this. Thus, even if the tile is only 1k in size but repeated 10-15 times, then even at maximum magnification, you can see a beautiful fabric pattern. The rest of the objects were textured using the standard method. When texturing is complete, you can proceed to the shading stage.


For lighting, I didn't use anything complicated. I tried to get a light similar to the reference. To do this, I placed a light source on both sides and a couple of fill sources with cold and warm light. I experimented a lot until I got the right result.

For the backdrop, I used a regular plane. Several light sources with warm and cold colors behind the character helped me to add variety to the background.

After the final render was done, I played around a bit with contrast and other settings in Photoshop to give it a livelier look. That’s how I got a warm version of my work. 

But I like cool shades, so I applied LUT in Photoshop, took the image into a cool shade, added DOF, a filter with noise, and so on. I prefer the cold version more


It took me a little over 2 months to create this work, I worked 2-4 hours every day after work. The main difficulty was to force myself to continue working despite overwork and a desire to watch some kind of TV show or play computer games. I looked through the current stage every day to understand how to finish it easier and faster.

What advice can I give? Just be glad that you have chosen this profession, enjoy the opportunity to create. If something doesn't work out for you, rejoice in it. Only by making mistakes will you learn something new.

That's all, thank you all and see you soon! You can subscribe to my Instagram or to my page on ArtStation.

Vladimir Uryadov, Senior Character Artist

Interview conducted by Arti Sergeev

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Comments 4

  • Anonymous user

    Great job. I love how L Nataly is worried about the importance of the face tattoos to the Mongrels who are literally wearing nazi symbols and are cancer to the local community. We wouldn't want to hurt feelings of some gang members, wouldn't we? Modern world man...


    Anonymous user

    ·4 months ago·
  • L Nataly

    About Ta Moko improper use


    L Nataly

    ·4 months ago·
  • L Nataly
    Use subtitles


    L Nataly

    ·4 months ago·
  • L Nataly

    This is a fantastic piece however was permission from not just the photographer but the rights permissions to use his Ta Moko gained first?
    To the Maori people the Moko is sacred, and reruse of someones Moko is viewed as essentially you are using their spirit, their identity, a symbol of their achievement and standing in society; its their signature.
    There is a reason these images are so unique and not a topic non maori touch often. It can be incredibly insensitive to use such images or moko for self gain without the knowledge of the Moko wearer. Even a year ago someone did a painting of a Maori woman with ta moko and sold it. This person received huge backlash from the New Zealand community.
    I hope that you approached the photographer and Greco Notorious' community his Iwi first for permission.
    The photographers name is Jono Rotman. Incorrectly credited in this interview.


    L Nataly

    ·4 months ago·

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