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Stylizing 3D Character Content: Model, Texture, Details

The amazing Luana Bueno did a very detailed breakdown of her low-poly fan-version of Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn.


My name is Luana, I’m a 3D Character Artist living in São Paulo, Brasil. I moved here 6 years ago to go to college because I won a Game Design scholarship at Anhembi Morumbi College.

I had my first contact with 3D in college, but at that time as I was already in charge of concept and illustration functions in my group, then I did not have the opportunity to go deep in this area.
When I saw for the first time a hand-painted model, I knew that finally, I found the thing that I want to do.

I worked for a long time with publicity and used the nights to study 3D. After that, I worked for a while as a modeler in a VR game called RoVr.

I’m currently freelancing and taking a time to work in my portfolio.

I can say for sure that the 3D path is way more pleasant if you have the company of friends that can help you and make the journey funnier. They are my mana potions that recover my energy during and after each obstacle: André, Alex, Bona, Eduardo, Elisa, Dionísio, Fábio, Felipe, Gustavo, Maciel, Micael, Vitor, Ziba. And of course my sister Luma.


I started the project by collecting several references, from Aloy, actresses or models that I thought could help me when I was blocking some part of Aloy’s face or that would help me in the texture. This part is important to be commented because I see many people starting a project using no references. I feel confident in saying that your project has 50% more chances of success if you collect good references.

There are several programs to organize your references. I use Pure Ref.
This is my reference board. It was more organized in the beginning, but as needed, I moved the images during the project.

I started a blockout on ZBrush. This blockout is something very initial just to serve as a basis for me to do retopology later.

Note that I didn’t go into the details because I knew that these details would be made on texture.

With the blockout done, I exported the .obj to Maya and started the retopology. For this step, it’s important to get references to make a correct topology. The topology needs to follow the correct loop of polygons imagining that your character may be animated in the future.

Final topology:


Before starting the project, I import a reference on Photoshop and make the necessary line guides that will help me during the modeling.
This is an important study of the concept. In this process I analyze the proportions and how many accessories the character has.

In fact, the details were all painted in texture. The model is just a simple mesh made in Maya with the silhouette and shapes that I found necessary to build the good painting on top.


Starting with the UVs, despite the model being a bust, I decided to divide it into two UVs, one for face and clothes and the other for hair, fur and some other parts that needed transparency. That choice was made because I wanted a big texture resolution.

With my friends, I learned to be very picky about the way my UV’s are organized.
They are very demanding and make me be very critical of my work.

Leaving the Uvs straight and organized is a step that is already part of my workflow and is something very simple to do. It only requires the artist to be careful not to stretch the texture in some areas.

Moving to the textures, what I really like about hand-painted textures, is that it’s all about observation and perseverance than technical understanding. We have to go through several tools, but when it comes to the texture part, it’s just you and an all grey model waiting to come to life.

Since the beginning, the goal of this project was to improve my hand painted skills. So I did not bake any maps to help me in painting.
I started by putting the base colors on the whole model and from there I was refining part by part. The first part that I turned my attention was the face.
I used as a reference an artist called Pug.

Here follows the link to the blog of his school, in which they have several works of him and his students. I hope his models inspire other hand-painted artists as well.
Note: I do not speak Chinese, so I also have to use the translator to understand the blog. But it’s worth!

For the head, I painted hair by hair. It seems like a crazy job, but it was worth because I learned a lot during the process, painting and repainting many areas.

For texture, it has no secret or a magic brush that you use and comes out a perfect texture. Just do and redo until one time you will inevitably get a good result.

Using 3D-Coat

Aloy was practically all painted in 3D-Coat. It is the perfect tool for texturizing hand painted models. I use the flat view (hotkey ‘2’ in 3dCoat) and this gives me full control of how my painting is getting.
I used Photoshop to make the braided necklace. I tried to paint it by hand, but it was not getting uniform, so I found an image with a braid similar of Aloy’s necklace and applied directly to the UV on Photoshop and used it as a guide for me to paint in 3DCoat.

After painting the textures, I used Photoshop to map the opacity map and to adjust the hair color for.


Until then I had no human characters in my portfolio and I knew that studying anatomy and handpainted was something inevitable for me. I would have to do it and this was the perfect time for it.

I wanted very much to make a bust of a female character who had a different haircut, with several details.

I looked for a concept that I liked and did not find. Until in a conversation with my friend Alex he mentioned the game Horizon and then I just knew: I’m going to model Aloy.
I knew it would not be easy to start with the bust of such a complex character, but I did not care so much about the difficulty, I just accepted it and did it.

The hair and necklaces were the parts that worried me the most. The necklaces I solved faster than I imagined and see the model progress was given to me more courage to continue.
The hair part was a bit more difficult, when I started to paint the texture, I saw that the mesh was not working well, so I went back to Maya and re-created the blockout and opened the UVs again. And even after that adjustment, I painted the hair several times until it was acceptable to my eyes.

What makes this model interesting? I had to overcome myself as an artist to finish every part of it. I know that it is not just my work, every feedback I received from my friends helped me to complete Aloy and make her more Aloy than ever.

It became the project of a group that I had the happiness to bring to life with my hands.

Luana Bueno, 3D Character Artist

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev 

Join discussion

Comments 5


    Nice tutorial! thx for sharing.



    ·5 years ago·
  • Anonymous user

    Thanks :D


    Anonymous user

    ·6 years ago·
  • Leonardo




    ·6 years ago·
  • Arzate Thelian

    Amazing!!!! *___________*


    Arzate Thelian

    ·6 years ago·
  • Dwight Friesen

    Optima Luana!


    Dwight Friesen

    ·6 years ago·

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