Crafting a Stylized Character Based on 2D

Crafting a Stylized Character Based on 2D

Viviane Herzog shared the way she translated Yan Liang’s 2D character into a 3D stylized model made in ZBrush.

Viviane Herzog shared the way she translated Yan Liang‘s 2D character into a 3D stylized model made in ZBrush.

Life Updates

I have lately decided to make big changes in my life and have quit my job at Behaviour Interactive where I was working for the past year on an upcoming Game of Thrones game.

I took this opportunity to start a freelance career and focus more on the things I love about making video game art. I have taken some time to do personal projects and now I am back into business!


I fell in love with Yan Liang’s art and thought it would make awesome 3D characters. All his characters have a strong identity and a very appealing visual. Yan is focusing on the shapes and silhouette with the level of stylization I really like. So I politely asked him and he was kind enough to let me sculpt one of his characters.

It was an opportunity for me to try new stuff, step out of my comfort zone and play more with high res renders. I wanted to make a nice sculpted figure and experiment with a few different software options for a cool render.

The goal was to make one render as close as possible to the original reference, cartoony and pretty flat like a comic illustration and the other render that looked more like a toy figure.

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Translating a 2D Character to 3D

Translating 2D to 3D is always a challenge. Most of the time it is easy to change the proportions with the pose and perspective and tweak the drawing in a way it looks nice in 2D, but when it comes to 3D, you realize that a few elements can’t work the way they were drawn. Your job is to do the right interpretation and make the necessary changes. For example, in Yan’s concept, a few things were not clearly defined so I just did my own version of them.


When doing a posed sculpture from design, I find it easier to start with the usual T-pose base model, add all the clothing and important features, and then pose the model. I feel I have more control over the proportions that way.

I started with my own base mesh that I did a couple of months ago for the ArtStation store and personal use. My goal back then was to make a strong base I could reuse to save a lot of time when starting any kind of new characters.

It is not the right body type or anything but that doesn’t really matter. The topology and polygroups make it easy to change the body type according to any kind of stylization.

With the base mesh, I started to blockout all the clothing and proportions keeping the reference on the side.

When I was happy with the general silhouette, I started sculpting all the different elements, still in T-pose.

I try to work exclusively in ZBrush to gain some time. I use the masking/extract from my base model in order to create all the different pieces of clothing and play with Zmodeler for all the hard-surface stuff.

To achieve clean folding, I usually start sketching the folds and then use Zremesher before finishing sculpting. Thus, the topology will follow the folding and you will have some very sharp and clean surface at the end.

When I was happy with the whole sculpture I started posing the model using Transpose Master. The challenge was to match the original concept as much as possible resculpting a few elements and finishing off the character with all the small details.

Colors & Rendering

For the color, I did a very simple polypaint. If I had planned to do UVs and a real texture I would probably have done that before posing, but in this case, it was some very basic coloring in ZBrush.

Then, I started experimenting with PBR renders.

I did the first render in ZBrush, using the SketchShaded and SkinShade matcap as a base and played a bit with the shadows to get some sharpness. I did some compositing to add a rimlight, but overall, it was pretty straightforward and I only used the basic features of ZBrush. I was very happy with the result I got because the look turned out cartoony flat and didn’t lose details at the same time.

The second render was done in Keyshot. I didn’t know much about it but I had a lot of fun playing with the render settings and materials to achieve a more realistic look.


Overall, the biggest challenge of this piece was to keep the identity of the original character, strong, sharp, and edgy. And there is no secret about how to do it- just observation and iteration.

Viviane Herzog, Senior Character Artist

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev


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