The Magical World of 3D Printed Comic Creatures: The Adorable Mushables by Elfriede de Rooster
by Fabian | January 21, 2015
Belgian designer Elfriede de Rooster, also known as Brrrumblebee, has been drawing ever since she was a small child. Influenced by Belgian comic books and French animation series, she soon started to draw characters from her favorite comics. After working for Studio Peyo, the creator of the Smurfs, and helping in the creation of the Danish film series “Troll Tales”, Elfriede started experimenting with digital 2D painting using Corel Painter before switching to 3D modelling software in 2007. In this post, we get to know the talented designer and learn how she is using ZBrush to make her cute, adorable and warmhearted 3D Printed creatures come to life. Read on to meet these wonderful fellows: the Mushables.
1. Hello Elfriede, tell us a bit about yourself
My brother and I were influenced by Belgian and French comics at an early age. But also by television animation such as Goldorak, Capitaine Flam and Les Mystérieuses Cités d’Or to name a few. I wanted to become a comic artist too. At one point I got to work for Studio Peyo where I learned how to build a character. Shortly after, I became self-employed, doing lots of illustrations and layout for animation. This led me to work for an animation company in Denmark as a storyboard artist. Denmark has been an eye opener on a personal level. I discovered my love for colors and for nature. I became an intuitive painter. From there on I made the switch to work (mainly) digitally.
In 2007, I got intrigued with 3D modelling, probably triggered by Pixar. I wanted to know how to do this and in my search I stumbled on ZBrush. That tool gets better with every release! I know it fairly well but there is still a ton to learn about it. From 2D/flat, through adding bright colors in my life to one filled with depth… philosophically and literally. I wonder which next dimension will be added?
2. What do you do in your everyday life?
When working on other people’s projects, it involves translating their sketches into 3D. I still do illustration work, but my focus is really on 3D. I find a lot of satisfaction in this. There is one thing I really stress when people or companies like to work with me – ask me for what I am best in because that is where I offer quality. If they want something that is out of my league – say a realistic humanoid – then I ask them to look for another artist who’s proficient in this kind of work. After all, I want to bring value for the client.
3. What are the Mushables?
The Mushables are cousins of the mushrooms. Except that the Mushables are adorable and magical creatures who can walk and talk like we do. They are kind and gentle folks, with a good sense of humor. They are very respectful towards each other, and with that also towards their environment. They do things together, but are also giving each other the space they need for themselves. They appreciate each other’s talents and uniqueness too. Everyone can live by their true nature. Balance and respect are keywords.
Mush-Mush is the main character and still has to find out what his true nature is. But he’s not alone on his quest. Leaving the village once in a while will help him too. Encountering other tribes he never knew existed, will hold a mirror to him. Mush-Mush was born on the 26th of August 2014 – at least his 3D representation. I felt I was gliding into a depression and knew that sculpting would help me feel better again. I had a tiny sketch of Mush-Mush on my desk already for 3 months, and decided it was time to make a sculpt of it. I worked an entire day, making corrections too… but at the end I was so ‘wowed’ I fell instantly in love with this warmhearted character. There was something about it I couldn’t describe but I felt suddenly so happy I wanted to create more of these… that was the start of the world of the Mushables.
4. Where do you get your inspiration from?
Mush-Mush was created by memory, but I knew real mushrooms had different looks. Autumn had just started and I saw mushrooms everywhere. In nature, in magazines, on the internet … I didn’t know there was such a huge variety of mushrooms in the world! Not only in shape, but also in color! I will not run out of inspiration for a while, that’s for sure.
When it comes to the story behind the characters, my inspiration comes from the interactions I have with others. Or by simple observation. I really like a mix of different worlds and environments. Such as ancient or fantasy clothing (think pirates, peasants, Native Americans, samurai, etc.) with modern and futuristic elements (think jet-ski, space ships, space suits, etc.)
5. Can you describe your style in just a few words?
Coming from 2D, my style has evolved to a more round style, in that characters got more depth and volume. Not only literally. My style feels warm and gentle, cuddly. My work is very colorful, and appears to be simple. But the fact is, when you have a ‘simple’ style, you can’t hide mistakes. You really have to know what you are doing, and it demands more time than most people think.
6. When did you start using 3D Printing technology and which 3D design software do you use most?
I discovered 3D Printing technology in 2012 on the ZBrush forum. The idea to be able to hold your virtual design in your hand, to feel it, fascinated me. I had to try it out, and ordered my first 3D Prints by the end of that same year.
I only used one piece of software at this point to create my 3D designs, and that is ZBrush. This truly works for me. ZBrush allows for exploration of design in a very fun and intuitive way. You don’t have to think when designing, you can really go with the flow. You can think if you wish, but it is not required. I love the freedom the software gives me.
This is how I typically use ZBrush:
“Most of the time I start in symmetry mode. I put down basic shapes and forms, until I am happy with the overall proportions. These can always be adjusted at a later stage. You are never really stuck.”
“Creating polygroups on your mesh is very useful to extract other pieces from it – such as the belt which fits exactly on the body. This is important when 3D Printing. You can’t have gaps. I add more detail, and take care of the pose and expression before adding color.”
“After adding color, it is still possible that I decide to make some minor changes when looking back at my design several days later… as I did with the mouth in this case.”
The final result: Mushable “M-Elvis” was 3D printed in multicolor – a fine granular powder.
6. Which materials are your favorite to 3D Print in, and why?
I haven’t used a lot of different materials so far but right now I would say that multi-color sandstone is my favorite even though it is a rather fragile material. The reason is it prints in color and I love colors. If I had the knowledge and experience to paint miniatures, I would probably go with a stronger material such as prime gray or polyamide. That is not the case for now.
Another favorite is titanium in its natural form, non-polished. I particularly like the texture and color, and the fact it allows for very high level of details.
A multi-color object gets 3D printed at i.materialise
7. Please describe your workflow a little
I rarely use reference material for my own work. If I do, I feel I can’t work as intuitively as I would love to. I rarely start from a sketch either, and if I do I leave plenty of room for improvisation along the way. I love to start from scratch, from an idea or image popping in my head. I always have a notebook at hand when out of the house. You never know when inspiration strikes.
My goal is not to be realistic in my work, but to go for the feeling of it. Of course it has to look beautiful too (I know it’s in the eye of the beholder). I always start with the overall shape when sculpting, and reassure myself that proportions feel right. Gradually more and more details are brought into the sculpt. Adding color is the very last step, which is also done in ZBrush. Since 2014, I really started to pay attention to my designs, so they can always be 3D Printed if I desire so.
8. Where can we find more of your work?
9. What’s next and what are you working on now?
When I am not working on other people’s projects, my time goes entirely to the Mushables. I fell in love with these magical creatures. It is a universe so vast it leaves room to incorporate lots of other cute and crazy creatures. I have plenty of ideas for them. On my to-do list (might take several years) are a board and computer game, a feature animation and illustrated books.
Having my very own shop is also on my list. I noticed that pictures don’t say it all, and that people still love to see for themselves. But even more so to experience how the object feels. The tactile aspect is very important. And then there are also live demonstrations I am thinking about. Showing people how much fun it can be to sculpt in a digital way. Perhaps ignite the fire in some people whose talents have still to awaken?
Interested in the Mushables? Visit Elfriede’s shop on i.materialise.com to find out more about these lovely creatures.