Jan 15, 2024

How to create a PFP render-basic / Workflow tips

Here there are the basics of the workflow we are using to create quick assets for rendering purposes.


Learn a quick workflow for creating traits with rendering purposes.


  • ZBrush
  • Maya (optional, only needed if you want to create a low topology with UVs using it).
  • Toolbag, Marmoset
  • Substance Painter


  • Masking - "Ctrl+drag"
  • Unmasking - "Ctrl+Alt+drag" or "Ctrl + click out the model"
  • Create Polygroups by mask - "Ctrl+W"
  • Selection - "Ctrl+Shift"
  • Hide Selection - "Ctrl+Shift+Alt"

Initial steps

The first mandatory step is to create a good base mesh for the body:

  • In this case, I am using the male tool in Zbrush Lightbox.
  • Perform a clean retopology.
  • Ensure correct polygroups by regrouping some parts, as shown in the reference.
  • Keep a low number of polygons with subdivisions.
  • Avoid using Dynamesh.

Mesh to see and interesting polygroups division

As you can observe in the image, with a correct base mesh, you can duplicate it and delete the parts you don’t want to create different types of clothing. Assign different polygroups for distinct clothing items, like green for the shirt and pink for the trousers. Additionally, if you need to create shorts, it’s as simple as cutting the topology along the loop you deem necessary.

The next step involves using the ZModeler brush. Configure the options as shown, allowing you to extrude your mesh and add volume.

Mesh after extrusion with volume
Mesh after "Smooth" with "Polish" and "Inflate"

Additionally, utilize the polygroups to quickly generate UVs shortly.

ZModeler set up for extrusion

Smooth out the details without significantly altering the topology using the tools in the Deformation Menu. In this case, tools like “Polish by groups” are very useful to achieve a more relaxed mesh, and “Inflate” can be used to add a bit of extra volume.

Menu Deformation location

This type of workflow is perfect for preserving the loops of the underlying mesh, ensuring that the loop continuity between meshes is not disrupted. This make it much easier to rig and animate in the end.

Loops continuity

After this step, you can easily add loops along the edges you don't want to lose. This allows you to add subdivisions and begin sculpting your highly detailed mesh.

ZModeler set up for adding edge loops

Edge loops correct position
Final result

Create quick UVs using the UVMaster tool in the ZPlugin Menu. Make sure to enable the polygoups option activated so that it automatically cuts your mesh based on the groups created during the previous extrusion with the ZModeler brush.

UV "Unwrap" location
UV "Preview" location

Renaming and exporting your meshes

It is crucial to do this accurately; using the same naming convention for the low and the high meshes will make thing easier for baking. Many softwares tools operate based on naming order, and having your meshes correctly named significantly speeds up the process.

Renaming meshes
FBX export tool location

Import the meshes using the quick loader in Toolbag and proceed with the baking using the setup as shown in the references.

Toolbag set up
Low prebaked

Low baked

Ensure to rename the material correctly before you begin working in your Substance scene.

Material name location in Maya

Substance workflow

  • Set up your scene with your mesh and your baked maps.
  • Add some interesting materials.
  • Work with the material as a base.
  • Duplicate the material and adjust the parameters to create lighter and darker variations.
  • For the lighter version, use a brighter colour and reduce roughness.
  • For the darker version, use a darker colour and increase roughness.
  • With these three layers, you can easily create a simple shader.

Painter scene set up
Baked maps added

Base material added
Shader created

After that, you can group your layers and add a black mask to the group. This allows you to isolate parts and continue adding detail to your model.

You can duplicate this group and invert your mask to have another group where you can add more materials and details that work well in the unused parts of the other group.

Workflow with masks
Preview with a flat colour

Add some details to make your model more appeailing, and that’s it.

Final result


This is a quick workflow for creating traits (clothes, hats etc.) for avatars intented to be rendered and used as profile pictures. It is easy to follow and yields  good results in the end.

You can also apply this workflow to a hand-made retopology ready for animation, ensuring that your clothes have the same topology as your mesh.

This makes them suitable for animation purposes as well. Feel free to use and adapt this workflow according to your preferences 😉.

Substance Painter
Nestor Llop

I am a 3D artist passionate about sculpting creatures and characters

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