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Meet the Artist: Cheryl Chen

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Hi! I’m Cheryl Chen and I’m currently studying computing in London. Blender has been a hobby of mine for about 5 years, and I enjoy making characters in my free time.

Getting Started with Blender

I started Blender when I was 15 or so. As an avid anime watcher, I got a lot of inspiration from the huge range of expressive anime characters, and I wanted to create some of my own. However, I was never great at drawing, nor particularly motivated to learn how to shade properly. I was fond of computers though, so I decided to figure out how to get software to render things for me. Thus, I started my journey with Blender as a pretty roundabout path to making anime characters.

I had a slow start with Blender. Besides getting over being intimidated by the interface, I had a lot to learn about observing facial features and human body proportions, and just being able to form the things I saw as 3D models. Despite the hours I spent poring over online tutorials, my early efforts were pretty horrifying and gave anyone who saw my models a mini heart-attack. I struggled a lot with forming models from 2D reference images, as I wasn’t knowledgeable enough in anatomy to fill in the gaps between the references.

I wasn’t really getting anywhere after months of fumbling around, so I turned to MakeHuman to generate some recognisably human meshes. By comparing the realistic proportions of the models with my hyper-stylised, vaguely humanoid ones, I started toning down the anime influence a bit more. As my models finally grew distinguishable noses, I gained enough confidence to put my art online. Eventually, I had a fluke with my render of a dancer. I think it was the first time I had more than 20 views on anything :P It gave me a glimpse of what I could keep making in the future and was a huge motivation for me to keep creating characters and learning Blender!

Work Process

When creating my characters, I do have a tendency to meander around and try out five different ideas before I settle with the final piece, but here is the very abridged work process for a current project.

The first stage is to model and rig my character. I do sometimes use my older models as a base to speed up the modelling process, since I find the next steps more fun.

To solidify my ideas, I usually start by posing the model. I get a lot of references from online galleries, manga, or awkwardly posing in front of a mirror. It gives me a better idea of the composition and feel for the piece. I also sketch out my initial ideas for hair and clothing with the grease pencil.

I like to use Blender’s particle system for the hair. I find it a lot easier to focus on a particular aspect of the hairstyle by breaking it up into pieces. I usually start from the fringe and build the hair in sections.

While Blender does have its own pretty powerful cloth simulator, I prefer to use the more specialized Marvelous Designer for making the clothes. With the main objects in place, I start working on the texturing and lighting. For more organic textures like skin, I switch to Substance Painter for some 3D painting. I set up the lighting after I’m happy with the character materials. I usually start by setting the key light with an area lamp. I try to get the eyes some shine to give the character some life. To get some extra glossiness, I mix the cornea material with a glossy shader. Since I was planning to do an outdoor scene for this one, I used an HDRI to fill out the rest of the lighting. This particular HDRI wasn’t very bright, so I also added another softer lamp behind the character for a little rim lighting.

And now it’s time to finish up texturing the rest of the scene and throw in more details.

Inspiration

My inspiration just comes from random things I come across, like a scene from a manga I read, emotions that I’ve felt, or even just the outfit that someone wore one day. Sites like ArtStation are also a huge sea of amazing ideas and talent. My ego shatters into a million pieces every time I browse the trending pages, but that inspires me to try to make something even better the next time!

My current characters are pretty simplistic and standalone at the moment, but I think it will be awesome to eventually make something more cinematic, with multiple characters tied together with a story, with their own fleshed out backgrounds and details down to the pore!

Anyway, thanks for sitting through my ramblings :D

About the Artist

Cheryl Chen, I make characters for fun

 

 

10 Comments

  1. love your characters, I really like that look between realistic and toon style. great to see a woman doing blender . have you thought about 3d printing your work? the partical hair wont print but its still possible to do hair you just have to build it as a mesh. I use to make everything other then character, now pushing my self with sculpting characters for 3d printing. anyway keep it up, be great to see some of your work animated too.

  2. I was inspired by your story! Someone like me who isn't mch good with drawing but wanted to become a Character modeller. hihi

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