making of the joker

On this project I used Maya for the base model, ZBrush for details, Photoshop for texturing and matte painting, shave and haircut for the hair and Mental ray for rendering.


When I first saw the dark knight movie posters I really liked them - especially one of them. I decided to try to do something similar, just for fun, but I didn’t want my character to look like Heath Ledger; I wanted to do something that was similar, but still original.

Concept Design

I usually start with a concept design, but since I already knew what the joker looked like (having seen the posters), I didn’t want to do this time.


I started the base by modeling the head area. I didn’t use any model sheets or reference images and I tried a different method. I usually do use model sheets and start with a poly cube and extruding faces, adding resolution step by step. But for this one I started with a poly face and extruding edges. Once I finished the head I decided that the method was quite convenient, so I decided to model the rest of the character in the same way. I took a generic male model, which I found in a Gnomon training DVD, and I made it live, so that I could use it as a reference for extruding edges. At the end I had to make some modifications because the reference model was too muscular and I didn’t want the joker to look like some kind of body builder.

One thing to point out is that I wish that I had used a model sheet for the face at least. The reason for this is that - it may not be obvious in my poster - but the eyes are too close together and using a model sheet would have eradicated that problem.

Once I’d finished the base modeling and UV mapping I did a quick smooth bind, posed my character and exported everything into ZBrush.


I imported the head model into ZBrush and appended the rest of the model as sub tools. When I start sculpting in ZBrush I always try to focus on the overall picture and gestures first; I don’t worry about all the minor adjustments and surface details until I’m satisfied with the general appearance. Most of the time I attend to rely on bump maps, as opposed to creating high frequency details in ZBrush. The only area that I did use high frequency details on was the face. 

I spent less time on sculpting the trousers than the rest of the model because, based on the lighting that I had in mind, I knew that it was going to be almost black in the final image. Once I was finished with the sculpting I exported every piece with a normal map. The mesh that brought to maya was 148712 polygons.

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