Creating Cool Hellboy Diorama in Blender, ZBrush & Substance 3D Painter

Caio Fantini shared the workflow behind the Hellboy project, showing us the process of modeling the diorama and the monster's skin shader.


I’m Caio Fantini, I have worked with 3D art for sixteen years. During part of this time, I conducted classes and worked with publicity, advertising, and games until I started with collectibles, a field that I’m still working in nowadays.

The Hellboy Project

I started a few years ago, after seeing a concept by Carlos Huante, and then I decided to reproduce it in 3D. I'm a big fan of his work! As the years went by, I dropped this project and returned with other ideas in addition to copying his concept art. So I decided to create something in a statue format, adding my thoughts to merge with Carlos Huante’s art. My friend Tulio Brito helped me with some ideas for the base art.


For the head, basically, I followed Carlos Huante’s art and added some extra details like pores. For the head with the biggest horns, I followed some mutton's horn references.

For the body, I always follow anatomy references. Some parts of the clothes, like the cover, I created in Marvelous to have a more realistic simulation. 

I wanted to give the cover some movement, so I added texture, additional folds, and rips in ZBrush. The guns were made in Blender with additional details added in ZBrush. As for the fire, it's just a composition in Photoshop. After several attempts to match some fire images, I added them using the screen blend mode in Photoshop.

For the monster, I followed references to Carlos Huante’s style. I tried to add some more realistic skin texture and made up the back part of his belly. For the tooth fairy, I searched for references from the Hellboy film, mixed with my style and some animal references.

For the base art of the diorama, I enlisted the help of my friend Tulio Brito to create the art, then I applied it in ZBrush like an alpha. Afterward, I added stone textures for the base and did the same with some Hellboy drawings and the logo.


My objective was to learn a bit more about Blender, so I made the guns and inorganic parts there. The rest of the topology is just a ZRemesh in ZBrush using polygroups to generate some loops, like in the tooth fairy. Then I created a UV with UDIM using Blender itself.


I like to paint a color base in ZBrush first and then take it to Substance 3D Painter for extra details and masks. 

For the eyes, I created two layers; the external layer is a sphere with glass material for the reflection. I created the shader for everything in Blender. Here is an example of the skin shader for the monster.


I used the Blender's Cycles to render. I applied an HDRI for general lighting and three basic points to light the rest. I used some incidence maps to light the sword, crown, stone arm, and fire's floor too. I did the post-production in Photoshop, nothing major, just a correction of color and contrast. The render was more close to the final image. I made some adjustments like adding fire, smoke, and dust to the skeletons.


I started this project years ago and it stood by for a long time until I returned to work on it. Not finishing this project was torturing me, so I decided to definitely conclude it this year. It went through several changes over time. So if I had to estimate a time, without counting the years that it was on standby, maybe it took five or six months to finish. I used it to learn a bit about Blender during the process. My advice for those starting is to never stop studying and try to give your best on your personal projects. And another piece of advice is to try to have fun during the process!

Caio Fantini, Character Artist

Interview conducted by Gloria Levine

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