Introduction to
3D Character Modeling

Curriculum Summary

12-week course breakdown:

Session 01 Overview of 3D Character Design

Character modeling covers a wide breadth of skills and in this first session we’ll get an overview of the main elements we’ll be studying. We’ll also look at the role that the Character Artist plays within the production pipeline. An important aspect of any model is the base design or concept, and we’ll dive into that idea as you develop your reference assets.

Session 02 Base Mesh Creation

In week two, you will learn how to create a base mesh using poly modeling techniques in 3D programs and/or ZBrush. Based on your concept art or the provided reference material, you’ll block out basic proportions using box modeling techniques. You’ll also begin learning topology best practices for production and sculpting.

Session 03 Base Body Design

In week three, you will continue to refine and build the base body mesh. Once the base mesh is working, you will learn how to take it further by starting to shape out basic proportions using ZBrush.

Session 04 Head and Hand Design

In week four, you will be going deeper into your character's head and hand modeling with a focus on sculpting with efficient topology in mind. We’ll focus our attention on general facial proportions and how to adapt those to your specific design. We’ll also study the facial planes of the head and the underlying anatomical structure of the skull to create production-ready facial topology.

Session 05 Head and Hand Sculpting

In week five you will learn how to sculpt the head and hands with accuracy and detail, including how to construct and sculpt ears, noses, lips, and fingers. We’ll also look at how to sculpt and indicate facial muscles as well as other surface details.

Session 06 Costume and Armor Design

In week six you’ll learn how to block out armor and costumes based on concept art and visual design. Workflows covered will include how to block out the basic forms of the armor and costume elements, and then how to improve the overall silhouette, design, and function. You’ll then refine that base structure in ZBrush for a higher level of finish and design.

Session 07 Hard Surface Modeling

In week seven you will learn how to make hard surface models using subdivisions. We’ll apply the concepts of hard surface modeling to our armor designs. At every stage we’ll be evaluating the overall look of our character models, ensuring we’re maintaining functionality, staying true to the main elements of our concepts, and accentuating the overall look wherever we can.

Session 08 Detailing Costume and Armor Elements

Week eight will focus on refining the details of your model’s armor and costume elements. This includes understanding wrinkles and folds and indicating metal details and scratches, as well as other surface indications or material call outs.

Session 09 UV Layout

Character artists are typically tasked with preparing the model for texturing, and part of that process is the layout of UVs and the unwrapping of the model. In week nine you’ll learn how to unwrap UVs efficiently and how to bake them using a decimated ZBrush OBJ file. This process can be technical, but the payoff of having a model prepped for clean texturing without warping is highly rewarding.

Session 10 ZBrush Poly Painting 01: Texturing the Head

With the hard work of preparing the UVs out of the way, you can start the texturing process. This is where the life of the character can really start to take shape. You’ll learn to texture your character with Photoshop, paint the various maps needed in the production environment, and handle the subtleties of painting skin texture maps.

Session 11 ZBrush Poly Painting 02: Costume and Armor Texturing

In week eleven we’ll move on to painting the texture maps for the costume elements and armor pieces, and we’ll look at how you can create a basic render of your character model to show off your hard work!

Session 12 ZBrush Rendering and Presentation

In this final week we’ll evaluate what’s working with your character model and where potential areas of improvement can be made. This will help prepare you to refine your design and give you the skills to continue doing so in the future. You will also learn the basics of how to render in ZBrush to best present your character design.