Cartoony Characters Production Tips
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Bit late to the game. The kickstarter got cancelled in January! :(

by koen vosters
3 hours ago

Kickstarter failed and it got cancelled?

by Madhav Bharadwaj
5 hours ago

will the course contain timelapses?

Cartoony Characters Production Tips
19 February, 2018
Character Art

Caroline (Pricillia) Ng did a wonderful breakdown of her character study, talking about modeling, rendering and texturing.

The project

I usually start projects when I see a concept or an illustration that I like, then I decide whether I want to do this for film res or games. For this particular project I decided to do it for games because it was a simple full character, and I could focus more on texturing and look deving for games more than the modeling aspect.

Since the concept art was only a front view of the character, I had to search for other character illustrations from the same artist, as well as looking at similar stylized characters done in 3D to get an idea of how this character would appear in 3D.

I started by blocking in basic shapes in Zbrush with the illustrated image placed behind the model. This way I could get the shapes correct from the front view. I then start looking in from all angles and moving each shape, while referencing with the images I found.

Next, I would merge all the shapes together in Zbrush (If the are shapes were inserted as a new subtool), then dynamesh the shapes together.


After having the base of the character blocked in, most of the organic models were extracted from the base model with a thickness of 0 as shown in the image below.

 After extracting each piece, I ZRemesh the model to make a cleaner mesh and use the ZModeler brush to extrude the mesh to create thickness. To do this, hover over a face and press down the space bar. While pressing down the space bar, select ‘Extrude’ and ‘Polygroup All’. Click and drag to extrude.

You can polygroup your mesh so that the polygroup that you hover over gets extruded while the other polygroup does not. This is how I created the thinner cloth around the wrist area and thicker, puffier cloth on the rest of the sweater.

For the most part, most of the models were done straight in Zbrush and some meshes such as the hooks, rope, fishing rod and plastic badges were modeled in Maya and placed on the character in Zbrush.

I sculpted the folds and indents of the clothes in Zbrush and left the threads out. For cloths and fabrics, I usually use the Slash, Standard and DamStandard brushes to sculpt the folds.

I did a lot of the micro detailing in the texturing phase with Substance Painter. For example, the threads on the clothes and fabric badges were painted with a higher height.

The low res of the organic meshes were created in Maya and altogether it was 27 009 tris. I used Substance Painter to bake my hi res to lo res. I exploded my meshes and fixed any minor problems using Photoshop as sometimes it was faster to do a fix paint over than to re bake over and over to resolve the small issue.


I used the materials and smart materials that were provided in Substance Painter and hand-painted on top of it. Dirt and weathering of the materials were mostly hand painted to age them and they were painted in areas such as the knees, the bottom and elbows etc.

I also used a lot of gradients and ambient occlusion to make the textures appear more stylized and use colours that contrasted to the base colour to make the colours pop. First I would use an occlusion smart mask on a darker colour and then hand paint the edges to give it a more natural and painterly look. I always paint on top of a mask that has been applied a smart mask as I feel they never look natural.

For the Fur of the rabbit, I searched for a few basic fur alphas. I use one of the alphas as an alpha brush with an off white colour and a higher level of height. I paint this all over the body and adjust the colour opacity of the layer to which I am satisfied.

In order to break up the repeating pattern, I take the other alpha image and do exactly the same thing on a different layer. I paint on areas where the previous layer clearly shows repetition.


This character was rendered using Marmoset Toolbag. I used a simple set up. I lit it using the three point-lighting set up, a blue light as the rim, a purple light as a fill light, and a yellow/orange light as the key light. All the lights’ spot sharpness was reduced so the shadows would be softer.

The sky light’s brightness was dimmed so that it would still show reflections and act as another fill light.

The reflections of the light from the sky light and key lighting in the eyes were important to make the character look alive. I wanted a flatter lighting look and not something too complicated for this project. 

I did not use much of post effects. I had the saturation turned up a little higher and the flare strength as well.

It took around one week to finish the character from scratch. I did this project focusing more on the baking, texturing and look deving of the character in real time. The model altogether is 27 009 tris and the poly count could still go lower for in game.

Caroline (Pricillia) Ng, Freelance Artist

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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Phillipe AugustoDMacmiguel ortega Recent comment authors

Amazing! You were great!


It looks like there’s a nice fresnel on the fur, did you use the sss fuzz in marmoset? Inspiring stuff!

miguel ortega
miguel ortega

wonderful like always!

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