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Former Disney Character Artist Adopts Reallusion's New Character Creator Toon Base

Check out how Shane Olson, a talented Character Artist, has created a Disney-like toon girl using Reallusion's Character Creator latest Toon Base.


Shane Olson, a ZBrush guru for his invaluable years at Disney, has transitioned into a full-time online instructor, specializing in teaching the creation of stylized characters through his dedicated course. Shane has sculpted a myriad of characters during his livestreams, often focusing on detailed busts due to time constraints. Despite the challenge of rigging characters or adding bodies and clothes, a recent discovery with Character Creator integrated with ZBrush has captivated Shane. With Character Creator's latest Toon Base and ZBrush Pose Link Plugin, ZBrush artists can give their sculpted stylized characters a fully animatable body and facial rig, and effortlessly bring them to the game engine or 3D printing.

Choosing Reallusion Character Creator for My New Workflow

Many of the characters I have worked on in the past were posed using ZBrush. Although I have achieved success through investing significant time, effort, and overcoming frustrations, I have discovered an impressive third-party software that can assist with this task: Character Creator 4. Recently, I stumbled upon it, and its capabilities blew me away. If Character Creator had been available during my time working on projects like Disney Infinity, I would undoubtedly have used it instead of the original workflow.

To clarify, while creating a character from scratch in ZBrush is feasible, it does present challenges when we need to make live demos and animate them for commercialization pitches. I will demonstrate how you can seamlessly leverage the CC Toon Base from Character Creator, using GoZ to map your ZBrush projects, and then reintegrate them back to Character Creator for detailed customization. Furthermore, you can save this character for future use, making the entire process much more efficient.

How I did it: Steps with Key Visuals in ZBrush & Character Creator

CC Base Intro: Preparing GoZ

I started with a bust of a female head created during one of my ZBrush livestreams. The concept for this piece was designed by the talented Concept Artist, Joshua Black. The default base model in Character Creator is quite realistic, so I collaborated closely with the Reallusion team to develop a fresh Stylized Toon Base Model. This Toon Base is now available, and you can access the forum page and download it to your Character Creator.

Using Shane's Ruler for Scaling

To help with the scene scale between Character Creator and ZBrush, we can use a ruler that I made a while back while working on Disney Infinity. The ruler is metric, so you can use it for a variety of measurements. In this case, we want it to represent meters since the CC4 world scale is in Meters. You can get this ruler for free from my website

Starting GoZ & Sending Data

Next, we want to press the Clear cache files button to clear out any data. Now, over in Character Creator, we can load in our Stylized base mesh. If you so choose, you can select the Eyelash checkbox, which will separate the lashes into a separate subtool in ZBrush, which will allow you to edit it a bit more easily. Just remember that you have to select that box every time you go back and forth.  

Note: Since we have already set our scene scale in ZBrush, there is no need to check the Match Model Scale box. Click GoZ to transfer the Neutral Base to ZBrush, where it will be appended to your current Tool. It should appear as shown. If you need to scale your character or the Base mesh, you can use the Transpose All Selected Subtools option on the Gizmo. By holding Shift + Ctrl, you can select the desired subtools for movement and scaling.

Mapping the Characters (Head & Body)

After our reference mesh is in place, adjust all of the SubTools of the neutral Toon Base mesh to match. I usually start by adjusting the head first. We can use a wonderful plugin to speed up this process called HeadShot 2 Plugin, but if we don't have the plugin, we can move it by hand. Then, when we are all done, we can selectively mask and project areas to get a closer match. We can also take some time to adjust and re-sculpt the proportions of the body at this time. Also, we can add subdivision levels to the meshes and paint them with PolyPaint. Later on, we can export the polypaint out as textures and apply them over in CC4.

Adjusting Facials (Eyes & Eyelashes)

When the head is complete, we may now move the eyes, lashes, brows, teeth, and tongue to match your reference. You don't have to match the eye occlusion or tearline. Those will be readjusted automatically when you send the mesh back to CC4. The eyeballs are essential, and you will need to nudge them into place to match your mesh underneath. It's intuitive and doesn't take that long to complete when you turn on the symmetry button and align the eyes. Similarly, the same method applies to the eyelashes. A tip for you is to use a 3D mouse for faster navigation. After completing this process, the character will look like this.

GoZ Back to Character Creator

This is where the magic happens! Once everything is matched and adjusted how we like it, we can send the neutral base mesh back to CC4 by hitting GoZ Visible in ZBrush. I recommend hiding everything except for the base pieces that start with Character Creator. I like to get the base body working first. If we have clothing and accessories, we can send them over later.

This is the beauty of Character Creator: it's fully rigged, and it has UVs, skin weights, and a bone system. This base mesh is built on a full-body FK/IK rig, so you get the benefit of using that rig in other software like Unreal Engine, Unity, Blender, or Maya. It's really smart!

Skin Weighting Tools

While we are sending the character data, some objects may not adopt good skin weighting. In this case, the skirt wasn't weighted well. We can go in and adjust the weights so it behaves better. Simply click the Attributes > Skin Weights button. We will now see a skeleton, which will let us know that we are in skin-weight mode. Click the skirt and click on Modify Attributes, and there's the Skin Weights tab. Just click on that, and this is a lot like doing skin weights. You'll see these twist bones and leg bones.

If you right-click on a Twist bone, you should see it show up in the weighting. If you right-click on the bone, you can see its skin weighting. You can also select the bones and use the paint brushes to adjust the weights or strength.

Baking Textures in ZBrush to Import into CC4

To get the textures out of ZBrush, select the object in ZBrush from which you want to export the materials. Character Creator's base mesh comes with UDIM, which consists of multiple UV sets. Select the texture from PolyPaint, click on Create All Maps, and remember the location where you saved it. Now, let's go back to Character Creator.

When you push your character from ZBrush to CC4, it will adopt the original texture that was on the Base Toon Avatar. The Base Mesh already has UVs, so all you need to do is generate the textures from the PolyPaint in ZBrush and then load them into CC4.

Applying Content Library

Another beautiful thing about Character Creator is that it comes with a library of assets like clothes, shoes, and various other items that you can simply drag and drop onto your character. Also, you can purchase even more content from Reallusion's Content Store! For my character, I decided to add a pair of red high-heeled shoes. If you use the base mesh Avatar from Character Creator, you can make use of all these assets. Although most of them are realistic character assets, that's perfectly fine. You can load them, push them over to ZBrush to stylize them, change the textures, and then send them back to CC for use on your CC characters.

Post-Editing: Facial Adjusting in CC4

This section is about fine-tuning your characters. You can very easily apply animation to preview and check your facial and body rig. You can also adjust the materials and make her lips more glossy by going into the Roughness Map and painting in the roughness so her lips and eyeballs are shiny.


There are also lights that you can add. What is really nice about this is it's a real-time PBR renderer. You can render them and adjust the lights and the subsurface scattering. To modify them, go to the Scene Tab, select the lights section, and you'll find a bunch of customization buttons to adjust the settings. These include the colors, light direction, rim light, shadows, and more. You can also add more than one light on the character and mix them up to make your character even pop out.

Final Thoughts

I love this workflow. After doing a few characters this way, I want to go through and do the same thing to a whole bunch of my characters. It's such a joy to give your characters an actual full body with full rigging, including facial movements. Once you get to that point, you're hooked. Then, the next phase is to add a nice environment and some nice lights. Then, you can start to look into other plugins like Face Tools that allow you to hand-sculpt the facial morphs. You can also look into adding more motions with iClone or driving the character's face with your face using AccuFace. It's so much fun!!

Shane Olson, Senior Character Artist

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