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Stylized Character Production: Tips and Tricks

Patrick Yeung prepared another breakdown of a wonderful fantasy character based on Overwatch heroes mentioning some pro tips and tricks learned at Gnomon.

Patrick Yeung prepared another breakdown of a wonderful fantasy character based on Overwatch heroes mentioning some pro tips and tricks learned at Gnomon.

Hi! My name is Patrick Yeung and I’m a Character Artist in the Lab department of Lightstorm Entertainment. It feels surreal being part of a project of this magnitude. We have an amazing and diverse team of artists here working on James Cameron’s Avatar Sequels. I am very grateful to Andrea Adams, my visual structure instructor from Gnomon School of VFX, for believing in me and recommending me to Lightstorm. It’s been a crazy adventure ever since.

Last time we spoke to Patrick he was studying at Gnomon. Check out his breakdown of the fantasy character Pora Palmata here:

New Project

I spent 5 days on it, and I think it is a good turn around time with a well thought out concept. I gave myself a challenge to finish a personal piece during a few vacation days I had. Jun Luo‘s concept is fantastic, and it is a huge inspiration for this project. I love the clarity of the illustration and the cross between Pharah and Symmetra, two of my favorite characters from Overwatch.

Block Out Tricks

Leticia Gillet teaches a fantastic stylized character course at Gnomon. The first thing she taught us is to use a subdivided cube as a building block. Using only the move brush and the duplicates of the building block, you can create all the necessary shapes needed during the primary block out.  

The advantage of staying in this stage for as long as possible is to keep the focus on the primary form of the character. The same principle applies to everything from sci-fi hard surface mechs to organic creatures. Primary form affects how light reflects off of surfaces.  This method of starting a project work particularly well for an Overwatch character because it promotes strong silhouettes and creates very clean surfaces.

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I performed the retopoing in Maya using the Quad Draw Tool. I usually decimate my meshes in ZBrush to about 100k polygons and then import into Maya to retopo. A pro tip for retopoing game characters is to line up your topology as much as possible from body to the outfit and accessories on top of the body. This allows a rigger to give an even deformation without the ugly penetration of geometries that comes with the body and outfit having inconsistent topology.

If you check out my wireframe render you will see that the loincloth edge loops is in continuity with the legs’ edge loops. Same with the left arm bracelet and the left arm. The hair also has consistent edge loops all around the head.


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Photoshop and Substance Painter both have the color gradient function which allows an artist to use a black and white map to control the shift in color. This means that as long as the ambient occlusion, object space normal and world position maps are available, you are already halfway there to creating a decent color map. For this particular project, I was imitating the stylized look Overwatch is built on. The shading of this game relies heavily on the diffuse map and specular roughness. This method of texturing gives a smooth and dynamic color map quicker than trying to achieve the same look by hand.

Material Setup

I think the most import aspect of the material setup that is necessary to achieve the cool Overmatch look is the emphasis on color maps. Almost everything that is non-metal will be a high roughness value to bring out the diffuse. If you look at the models in game closely, metal and shiny material(except the eyes) never get shiny enough to give a sharp reflection.

In summary, there are 3 takeaways from this project that I think will help those who are interested in character art greatly.

  1. Think Big: Focus on the foundation at the beginning of the modeling phase. Take time to block out the big shapes to get the silhouette and form right.
  2. Cheat a Little: Make your life easier by using the gradient map function in conjunction with the AO + Object space map to get a kick start on the color map.
  3. Imagine Deformation: Pay attention to the topology of the things the character is wearing. The edges should line up with the character’s topology as much as possible if the item or clothing is relatively form-fitting.

Thank you 80.LV for giving me an opportunity to share a little bit of my process for making this character. I hope the information presented in this breakdown is useful and helpful!

Patrick Yeung, Character Artist at Lightstorm Entertainment

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev

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Comments 2


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    ·4 years ago·
  • cal9595

    Super useful article, some things i knew and others i didn't, also helped me think of ways i could do things better in general



    ·5 years ago·

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