Making of Ellie

Hi guys, I’m Rajitha, I’m a Freelance Character Artist from Brisbane, Australia. I instantly fell in love with The Last Of Us the first time I played. This was 10 years ago when it came out on the PS3. So with the remake being released, I wanted to make some fanart dedicated to it. I started Ellie about 6 months ago, but ended up giving up on it because I was struggling to match her likeness and I just wasn’t happy with the direction the project was heading. But very recently I decided to revisit it and this time round I was able to complete it. The end goal of this project was to have the final render look like a still from a film. 

Sculpting and Modeling

Sculpting was the trickiest part, matching Ellie’s likeness was quite difficult. In the end I don’t think I was able to match Ellie exactly, but I was happy enough with it to call it done. Had to finish this project sometime. To assist me with the sculpting, I made camera line ups in Maya. The ones shown here are before I matched, hence the model not lining up accurately. 

The rest of the modeling consisted of her clothes (shirt and Tee). They were both done in Marvelous Designer. After the shirt was blocked out in  Designer I took it into Maya for retopology. This mesh was taken into Zbrush to do the final sculpting and apply the displacement pass. This was my first time doing the whole Marvelous Designer pipeline. There were things I definitely could’ve done better, especially with the pattern creation. 

The displacement for her shirt was done in Mari using texturingxyz textures. For this one I used Denim shirt #01 and Denim shirt #02. The textures were projected in Mari, matching the landmarks of the shirt approximately with the texture. Then these projected displacement maps were applied in ZBrush where I cleaned areas that were giving me errors. 

Texturing and Lookdev

The skin texture also played a huge part in her likeness. I went for a bit more saturated and tanned look for my version of Ellie, just a stylistic decision on my part. But I still wanted her to give the feel of what Ellie looks like in the games. I played around with a couple of different scans before settling on VFace #119. I found it had the best base to start of with and build up layers with hand painting. 

After I have brought the base texture into Mari, I hand paint on top of it while doing lookdev until I’m happy with the result. For the damage (blood, dirt, sweat and etc) I painted isolation masks in Mari which were then brought into lookdev. I made a shader for each material and blended between them using the imported masks. This was not the most optimized way of doing things, but at the end of the day, it's a personal project with pretty much no limitations, hence taking that approach. 

Groom and groom shading 

This was probably the toughest groom I’ve done so far. I’m not really a grooming artist and I would say it's a weakness of mine that I’m trying to improve. Again just like the sculpting, I tried matching her groom with the line ups I had. Since I wasn’t going for a 1:1 digital double groom, I was pretty loose with most things, as long as the end result was recognizable as Ellie’s hair. 

This was achieved by placing the first layer of curves individually and making sure it matches the silhouette. Once I’m happy with that, I start working on the layers underneath until there are no visible errors with the groom and it follows the curves without the use of any modifiers. When the guides are all placed and the hair generation is not showing any errors, I start adding modifiers such as noise and clumping to break up the groom and give it a realistic look. 

Finally the hair shading was very simple. In the past I’ve made much more intricate shaders using expressions in XGen. But with the V-Ray hair shader, it had most of the parameters I wanted to randomize already built in. This saved an incredible amount of time when it came to the lookdev. Attributes such as melanin, grays and glossiness were randomized to achieve the final look. 

Final Curves 

Final Groom

Lighting and Grading

Lighting is a huge part in any piece of art, and it's no different here where I was going for a cinematic look. It was key that the lighting conveyed the mood I was after, which was something dark and gritty, yet not too high contrast. I was inspired by one of the shots from The Green Knight, which played as my hero reference for the lighting. However I thought it was a bit too dark for what I was after for my final render. 

The color grade is also essential for the mood of the final piece. Again for that I used the shot from The Green Knight as my reference, however I was also inspired by the color grading in Michael Mann’s films. For the grading I used Davinci Resolve, first time using it, so I don’t doubt I made a ton of mistakes, but in the end I managed to get a look I was happy with. 


Big thanks to Texturingxyz for the support with all my projects and the chance to write this breakdown. If you have any questions about my work or want to reach out, feel free to follow me on my socials.