Cartoony Look in Character Development

Cartoony Look in Character Development
Chadwick Dusenbery talked about the techniques he uses to create adorable 3d characters.


My Name is Chadwick Dusenbery, I grew up in a small town outside Kansas City Missouri, called Parkville, located on the Missouri River. Growing up, I was really into watching a lot of behind the scenes documentary’s on Films and Video Games. I love to see how things are made and how stuff works. I made a career change at the age of seventeen from being an industrial welder to what I really wanted, to spend the rest of my life making films and games. I made the decision and took the responsibility to learn Maya that semester. On break for Christmas, my Mom told me Neville Page, Lead Creature Designer on James Cameron’s “Avatar” was visiting his family for Christmas, right next to door to my house. Neville Page is the First person to introduce me to Zbrush, and from that day forward I fell deeper in love with deliberate practice of developing my artistic skills and learning 3D applications. Neville, was also the first person to introduce me to Gnomon School of VFX, where three years later I attended. It was a fantastic experience, met some incredible people, and fell in love with my future wife there as well, Serina Mo!

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During this time I had three apprenticeships with Lead model Supervisor Zack Petroc from Walt Disney feature animation, Art Director from James Cameron “Avatar” Dylan Cole and Cameron Davis Concept artist on Guitar hero. After School, I landed my first freelance job as a 3D character artist, working with Director Cory Edwards, Creator of “Hoodwinked” My wife Serina Mo and I traveled to Upstate New York Rochester, where she landed her first job as a 2D artist at Game Studio called “Workinman”, while I was freelancing on Projects that won’t see the light of day. It was their I was introduced to Zac Retz Concept artist and illustrator, and blossomed into an incredible friendship with same goal of landing a full-time career in feature animation, we worked hard on a collaborative story called “Seek.” We were both successful and landed are first full-time job working on the new “Scooby Doo” for Reel Fx and Warner Brother’s, and had the privilege to work with Production Designer David Levy.

Cartoony Look

I think the most important element of the cartoony look in 3D is a solid 2D Concept that inspires me, and working with concept artist to complete the vision. I study a lot of real Human anatomy and helps greatly when transferring the ability working on 3d Stylized characters. Sometimes the style is about less is more, and smoothing out areas that the basic shape is all that’s remains. A lot of effort goes into a 3D character with a lot of back and forth collaboration between me and the concept artist, sometimes requires teamwork with paint over’s. The process goes like this, taking my first interpretation of the 2d Concept, I will do my best to nail it down the best I can, I send over my orthographic’ s to the concept artist, as they make 2d corrections, then I apply those corrections to the model sometimes adding more or less to the beginning concept. It’s been a real privilege to work with some the best concept artist in the film Industry, I very much enjoy each project, and the process that goes into working together.

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Choosing Zbrush

Zbrush is very effective for bringing 3D Art to life! As soon as I jump into the software, I am not thinking technical, but free to think creatively, which is very freeing for me to produce the work I want at a high level. I find that there is no problem that I cannot solve with the software. I started with Zbrush 3.2 back in 2008, and has been great growing with Zbrush with new upgrades and features!

Ice Cream Kitty Unicorn

It started with working very closely with my good friend Zac Retz. He is a true master at Capturing Visually Cute designs. We were working together on our Story project Called “Seek” where we had a bakery Scene with a bakery lady Called “Lady Buns.” We needed some Ice cream designs and Zac painted up the “Ice Cream Kitty Unicorn!” Once I saw it, I knew it was a winner, and began Sculpting! Very simple character prop, I use a lot of the insert sphere brush feature, and then I group split them into separate sub tool’s. My Work flow process is DynaMesh to merge pieces together, then work in Low poly Zremesher for control of over simple forms. I began with a sphere for the head, I insert two spheres where ears would be and blocked them out into the ear shape. Carved out where the eyes would be, and placed two small spheres inside, from there I made a cone primitive in Maya, exported then imported into Zbrush, and placed the cone under the head. Sculpted out the top of the head where the horn would be and inserted a sphere and began to block out the top of the horn shape. Blocked out the hand and tongue with the same workflow. The Sculpture took about a Five hours start to finish.

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Color and rendering 

After the “Ice Cream Kitty Unicorn” was done and sculpted, I began coloring with a basic poly paint matching the concept. I then Used the Zbrush to Keyshot Bridge feature, finished up the final render in Keyshot.

3D Print

The process is pretty simple, I have done couple test prints with a FDM printer and SLA Liquid resin based printer. For a FDM to get a perfect print I make sure there are no Over hangs and making sure every shape is at 45 degree angle, which sometimes I have to adjust the sculpt a little. For a SLA Liquid printer, I make sure the model is hollowed out, to save print time and material.


My best advice to new comers is to be patient with yourself with Art and Software. Study from the Artist that inspire you, and learn what you like from his or her work best. Watch and read as much training that you get hold of! Always stay humble, and always remind yourself why you got into art in the first place.

Chadwick Dusenbery, Zbrush 3D Sculptor and Modeler

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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Comments 2

  • Anwar




    ·2 years ago·
  • michael

    An amazing journey) an amazing young man!



    ·2 years ago·

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