How Digital Sculptor Francesco Orrú Creates Stunning Miniatures

3d sculpting
digital sculptor

By Francesco Orrú

Digital Sculptor and 3D Artist

My Creative Process

Hey, who are you?

Hi! My name is Francesco Orrù, I’m 27, from Italy and I’ve lived in London 4 years now. I’m a digital sculptor and freelance 3D artist with a background of 3 years now I’m in 3D printing, games and wargame miniatures.

What projects do you have under your wings?

At the moment I’m working as a full time 3D artist here in London in 3D printing but I’m also involved in multiple freelance projects. Most of the works I’m doing now are miniatures for some upcoming board game titles like Galactic Warlords by Archona Games and Primewarp to name a few.

I also worked as a character artist for a RTS-MOBA game and on other workshops in FDM and resin 3D printing here in London.

Let’s talk digital sculpting. What made you pursue this craftsmanship?

Well, I guess it comes from my passion for design and games basically. When I was in primary school I was quite liking technical drawing and I’ve always been an avid blizzard and Epic Games player. Games like Age of Empires 2, Starcraft, Unreal Tournament and Baldur’s Gate are just a few of the titles that pushed me to learn how to make characters.

I also think that my previous passion for guitar helped me develop my creativity probably in combination with design. Not saying that this is directly linked with my decision of pursue digital sculpting, but I believe that they have in common the creative process for sure.

What software do you use, and why?

The software I mostly use at work and when I freelance is Zbrush. It’s a really powerful software that allows you to work like with clay in traditional sculpting basically, but much faster like everyone says. The possibility to handle millions of polygons and the fantastic and unique features of this program are the perfect combination for people like me who love creating characters but it is also used a lot by environment artists and concept artists. You can do sketches, illustrations, game characters, 3D models ready for 3D printing and much more with it.

The other tools that I use are Maya, 3D Coat, Substance Painter, Keyshot, Photoshop and Marmoset Toolbag. Each of these softwares is great for particularly reasons and purposes but basically are the best or the most used in game development and concepting.

Please break down your usual process in steps

I normally start my freelance commissions for wargaming from a concept in 2D that is provided by the client. My task involves creating the 3D sculpt that reflects as much as possible the vision and art direction of the concept artist and the studio.
The process I follow from here can be summarized in these simple steps:

  • Analyze the 2D concept and apply a divide-et-impera approach to my work.
  • Split the task into subtasks that can be easily performed and accomplished in the best way and in the minor time as possible
3d sculpting
  • Start sculpting from a base mesh. Sometimes I start for a sphere too but in order to speed up the process is a common practice to have an archive of base meshes (male and female, sometimes even with different body fat can be helpful)
3d sculpting
  • It happens that when I have a nice low poly base mesh I do first the pose before to work in detailing. This can save you hours of work if you don’t want to use Zsphere rigs or Transpose Master in Zbrush. To use those in fact is commonly prefered to have a better topology (at least Zremeshed). Since we don’t actually care too much about polygon structure and flows for 3D printing, is better to pose first sometimes and detail after. However there could be occasions where I make a model in A pose for instance and I pose it after if it’s not too complicated.
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  • When the pose is done I start making the armor pieces and the different tools and clothes. I normally do everything in Zbrush even when I have to work in low poly for certain parts. Zmodeller is just too great to don’t be used. Also the fact that you don’t have to jump into Maya or Modo to make something more precise is just a very good time saver. I move in other softwares only if I think that I really need to optimize something and to have better vertex control than Zbrush.
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  • When all the parts are completed and finished with the right accuracy in details (also consulting the producer to see if there are details that can be printed or not) it’s time to merge everything using Dynamesh to create a single solid object.
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  • The final steps involves decimating the geometry in Zbrush, export in Netfabb for double checking the size and the geometry and we are done!  

What are your go-to sites and resources for digital sculpting?

I visit everyday Artstation. I think is the best platform to keep updated with the best works in the industry. Other websites are CG Society, Polycount, 3D total, Zbrush central, Gumroad and Cubebrush. In these sites you can find a great amount of technical knowledge that you can assimilate on your own time frame. You can also buy tutorials for a really cheap price and dedicate yourself on learning always something new if you want.

Where can people see more of your work?

I use constantly Artstation and I also have my artstation pro profile that allowed me to build my custom website. 

So you can find me here