In this article we will introduce you to a 3D artist based on characters from Bulgaria. Ivaylo has been working in the freelance industry since 2013. He has collaborated with Mastfire studios (worked on Blackwake), Barog Game Labs, Actalogic, NXA and various independent developers.

Hello. My name is Ivaylo Ivanov. I’m from Sofia, Bulgaria. I’m 23 years old and I’m a freelance artist on 3D characters.

Art is not only my hobby, it is what really matters to me and defines me. When I was in high school, I was only good at math. The other teachers knew me as a child with the same drawings in their notebooks.

Until 2011, I was drawing mostly anime. I did storyboard moves and then i bonded it all in a hyfmaker because I didn’t know anything better. That’s how I made my first animations before I learned how “Final Fantasy: Advent Children” or “Beowulf” was created. This inspired me to study software for 3D. But even though the animation fascinated me, I’m not doing it at the moment. I’m not a fan of rigging and skinning, so I leave it to more patient colleagues.

I am currently working with various developers from indie to AAA. Mostly I find work on Unreal Engine forums. So I was able to collaborate with many indie developers and put a hand in many indie games. Lately, I’ve been working a lot with larger studios, including creating the main characters for the upcoming AAA titles. Unfortunately, I can’t talk much about their new projects since they are under the NDA, but 2019 has been a very big year for me. Hopefully 2020 will be even better.

Most of all in my work I like the opportunity to develop. I strive to be as good as possible. Doing it in the comfort of my home, getting paid, improving the quality of my daily life is something I love about my job. I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. I think I’m really happy.

-Tell us about working on one of your projects.
My favorite work is Tognatale. The last work in my portfolio, which depicts Ragnar Lotbrok played by Travis Fimmel in the TV series “Vikings”. The most difficult aspect of this project was to create emotion without losing the resemblance to the character. The expression I chose was really hard to embody because it had almost no references from the actor. I only had one photo in the series where Travis was doing a similar facial expression, one that I had to improvise a lot.

To make it, I started with a skull. I put all the basic muscles and shapes on it, so it’s as anatomically correct as I could.

After that, I played a little with proportions before i started to detail.

His eyes also needed special attention, as he had a really wild, crazy look and angry blue eyes. I spent a lot of time to do it right. With hair and beard also had to tinker, it is always difficult, but in this braid there was something special. Fortunately, this isn’t the first time I’ve done braided hair.

What software did you use to work on this project?

For my work, I used zbrush, Blender, Substance Painter and Marmoset Toolbag.

I did most of the work at zbrush. Here I sculpted the skull, added muscle tissue, and then finalized the head. Later I did retopology in Blender. There he also worked on hair, using hair cards, unwrapped and prepared the entire model for export to Substance Painter. I used textural cards that i had pre-baked. After I did all the textures, I set the scene in Marmoset Toolbag, tuned the shaders and lighting to get the final result.

The process was not new to me. But I had to focus on facial expression. As I said, the most difficult part of the project was creating an image with emotions. I’ll be disassembling my pipeline in my author’s course of zBrush. Projects.

Why did you choose the character?
There are many reasons for this, but if you highlight the main, it would be the fact that the appearance of the character can tell a whole story: from how they are dressed, to their hairstyles, from eye color to scars. In movies or games I am primarily attracted to characters, they are very important for a good story.

I also think character creation is the hardest part of computer graphics. Not only the design, but also the technical side. It’s really very exciting and testing. You should have a good knowledge of anatomy, good sculpting skills and attention to small details. You need to know how to texture your skin, how to customize shaders.

Do you like the fact that there is no limit to perfection in creating characters, but there is always room for growth?
Yes, that’s what I missed. The character has a lot of room for improvement, both in terms of artistry and software. I am sure that in the end we will be able to get the perfect person who will be impossible to distinguish from a photo or video (some artists are already close enough to this).

One of my ultimate goals is to make a real-time photorealistic model. Real time rendering tools are not yet as powerful as prerendering tools such as Vray or Arnold, so the results are not yet comparable. But I really want to be able to move on to a level that will allow me to do hyperrealistic portraits using only real time, and I believe it will be possible in the future.

Can you give some advice to aspiring 3D artists?
Nothing special, just a tip on how to get better – focus on mastering the basics of sculpting and do it very often. It’s an acquired skill.

Watch a recording of a creative encounter with Ivaylo, where he tells how to sculpt a photo-realistic Game-Ready character (Russian subtitles). And sign up for his author’s course of zBrush.Projects.

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