Character Art with Pavel Protasov

Character Art with Pavel Protasov

Pavel Protasov gave a little talk on his character art workflow and gave a few pieces of advice: sculpting anatomy, painting models and rendering.

Pavel Protasov gave a little talk on his character art workflow and gave a few pieces of advice: sculpting anatomy, painting models and rendering.


Hello, my name is Pavel Protasov, I’m a self-educated character artist from Ukraine. I started my career at Gameloft, Ukraine in 2010 and soon moved to Gameloft, New Zealand in 2014 working it up to a Senior Character Artist. Two years later, however, finding that my heart was still back in Europe, I returned and now work as a freelance Character Artist. Having worked with such studios a 2K, Firaxis, Aaron Sims Studio, and Axis Animation I was able to participate in a great number of projects like Civilization 6, Warhammer: Vermintide 2 and XCOM 2.

I don’t have a formal art degree but constant self-education and practice helped me to improve my skills of traditional and digital sculpting, modeling and texturing.

Anatomy Role in Sculpting

I don’t see a conflict between art and anatomy. Nature is always beautiful and balanced. I’m just trying to observe and maintain the hierarchy of forms. Otherwise, the work may become a mess.  My knowledge of anatomy is still weak but I’m trying to observe as much as I can and use references such as 3D scans and photos when working on the projects. Regarding education, I would highly recommend an awesome course Mastering Organic Modeling with GIO NAKPIL. It really changed the way I sculpt and understand organic forms. Even after 3 years since finishing it, I’m still coming back to it from time to time.

Sculpting Workflow

In my personal artworks, I usually start with basic shapes, such as Cube or Sphere. I use them to create a blockout. I work with primary shapes with Move Tool keeping them as separate subtools or merging with the help of masks. When I am more or less satisfied with the silhouette, I merge parts using Dynamesh and continue my work with forms from primary to secondary and tertiary. The process is quite long, and I prefer to sculpt the whole model equally keeping the hierarchy rather than finish separate pieces one by one. Final surface details like pores, small skin defects, etc. should not contradict the main shapes. A model should look good without fine details, they are like the icing on the cake.

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Human Tissue & Muscles

As my mentor said, threat the muscles and tissue like balloons with water. To achieve realism, I’m trying to imagine how the gravity would affect them during the sculpting process. Also, I’m always looking at 3D scans for inspiration. I’m observing wrinkles from all angles and try to achieve that kind of forms.

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Painting the Model

I paint my base colors in ZBrush. That’s the fastest way for me to define the final result during early stages. Then when I start texturing there is already a good basement for me to start with. My texturing process is similar to the one you can see in tutorials by Magdalena Dadela.

I create numerous layers with color variations and use masks to paint. This way I can edit a layer opacity later. I hope Allegorithmic will add a proper pen pressure eventually but so far it seems to be the only way to paint.

Substance Painter Advantages

The biggest plus of Substance Painter is its speed. I don’t have favorite tools or something like that, but I really adore how quick and user-friendly Substance is. The best advice I can give is to collect your own database of materials, it will save you plenty of time.

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Rendering: Go to the Basics

If you want to develop your skills in rendering, first of all, go to the basics. Learn the cinematic lighting and lighting setup in general. I like classical setups such as Rembrandt light, it adds a dramatic atmosphere to the scene. My tools for rendering are pretty standard. Most of my sculptures rendered in V-Ray and my real-time stuff is rendered in Marmoset 3. For both, you can find plenty of tutorials. I’d recommend digging scenes made by other great artists and learn from them.


If you’re looking for tutorials and inspiration, I’d suggest checking a few people:

  • As I mentioned earlier, Gio Nakpil is a great sculptor and an awesome mentor;
  • Jamie-lee Lloyd, Lead Character Artist – Rockstar North. His ArtStation is a perfect example of how top-notch real-time characters should look like;
  • Magdalena Dadela, awesome face studies full of character and great tutorials;
  • And Aris Kolokontes.

If you found this article interesting, below we are listing a couple of related Unity Store Assets that may be useful for you.

Pavel Protasov, Character Artist

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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