The Little Mermaid - Sea Creature WIP

Hi there! This is my first time in a Flipped Normals challenge and when it comes to fairy tales, my favourite one is definitely The Little Mermaid!

For this challenge I’ll go for a more creature-like approach while still keeping some human features and avoiding a predator and menacing look .I imagined her living in the ocean twilight zone where sunlight decreases rapidly with depth, so this would affect her app! earance, especially her eyes. It’s also a contrast to the sunny and bright surface where she’d like to live and a way to show how far she’s from there. Considering the darker waters where she inhabits and the fact that in the original tale she doesn’t have a happy ending, I’ll use a neutral palette instead of bright colors. Although she’s a sea creature, I still want her to look young, curious and naive.

Good luck everybody!


A few days ago I started blocking the mermaid. I spent most of the time on her human parts to make sure the anatomy is right. The tail is still pretty basic but it already has the proportions I had in mind for her.

I’m currently working on the fluke, finns and hands but still keeping it a low resolution. For the mermaid anatomy I’m using the book “The Resurrectionist” as reference. It’s a “Gray’s Anatomy” for mythological creatures which is pretty cool cause I want to keep the mermaid as believeable as possible. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Last week I’ve spent some time working on her face to give her a youthfull teen-like look and I’ve worked on her hands. I’ve decided to add some membranes between her fingers cause I thought it would add a more sea creature vibe.

After doing some research I’ve learned that sound waves travel faster in water than air. Since human ears are shaped to capture the waves in air, we only hear muffled sounds underwater. Considering she’s a sea creature, seal and whale ears (which is basically just a hole on the head) would make much more sense. To me the head fins is a nice solution to keep some volume where the ear should be and avoid a weird look of just the head with holes (which I haven’t added yet).

I’m currently retopologizing her cause I thought having control of the poly density in some areas would help me a lot before adding fine details so I wouldn’t have to go too crazy on poly count in ZBrush. I’ve added the main loops on her face and body and made sure to add edge loops around areas that would need to be isolated in animation, like her fins.

I want to keep her polycount at 50k tris at maximum cause I want to make her hair using hair cards so it looks flowy and wavy like it’s underwater.

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I’ve finally finished the retopology. I’ve made a mouth interior with gums, tongue and teeth and so far she’s 21.693 tris. I’ve also created her UV and I’m gonna use one of the 4K texture map for the body and the other one I’ll save for the hair.

Having an appropriate topology I went back to ZBrush to sculpt finer details.

Right now I’m gathering reference for the hair so I can start working on it. I’ll use XGen to make my hair cards so I can place them on the head to create the effect I have in mind. :slight_smile:

I’ve been spending quite some time on hair creation. Like I mentioned before, I’m gonna make hair cards to get a more natural, flowy real-time asset, using the same technique of Aloy’s hair in Horizon Zero Dawn. I basically used XGen to make different hair locks that I used to bake the hair textures.

With texture in hand, I made various hair cards that I’ll need to style the mermaid’s hair, as seen on the image below. I’m not completely satisfied with my hair cards but since I’ve already started blocking the hair I would have no time to fix them and redo all the work.

It took me a few days and many many hours to finish the hair blockout cause the cards have to be positioned and modified one by one. This is not the final look yet cause there’s still a lot of work to do adding more volume, detailed locks and flyways; refining the hairstyle. I’m using this hair color just to make it easy to block it out cause I want it to match her overall texture set. So far this is how it is coming out!


I finally finished the hair! I might still do more tweaks here and there after I texture her but I think the hair is decent enough for me to move on for now.

What I like the most about this method is that you get a nice and natural hair line that avoids that fake “helmet” look no so uncommon in real-time characters. It also works fine for fur and beard.

It ended up with less polys than I expected and so far the character with the hair 42.275 tris with hair, eyes, mouth interior, tongue, gums and teeth.

Now I’ll bake the additional maps so I can jump in Susbtance Painter to finally start texturing her.


I wanted to update the topic image but I have absolutely forgotten how to do it :roll_eyes: :woman_facepalming: Can anybody help me?

If you click edit on your title, there’s a change thumbnail option :stuck_out_tongue:

I really like the hair, can’t wait to see it textured

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The hair is looking really nice! :heart_eyes:

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My god the hair is so cool!

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I’ve finally textured the mermaid in Substance Painter. I decided to use a more neutral color palette since she lives in deep waters and her body is all hand painted, including the fish eyes that I think added to the creature-like vibe. There’s some scattering on her face hands and especially on her fins.

Now I’m back to Maya where I’m currently working on her pose and I’m also setting my scene in Unreal to finally wrap it up and make my final submission!

Just made my final submission! Here are some screenshots of this lady from Unreal 4. I hope you like it!

Cheers! :smiley:

Unreal screenshots of the hair