Elective | 3D Classroom. CG Master Academy
Stylized Characters (Zbrush & Maya)
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Danny Williams
Senior Character Artist
Danny has worked in Television, Film, and Games for nearly 20 years. He's worked on animated films, commercials, and AAA video game titles. He has also taught modeling, digital sculpting, and character design at New York University, The School of Visual Arts, and the Art Center College of Design. He's been a presenter at CG-Con, The Savanah College of Art and Design, The Creative Talent Network, and the inaugural Zbrush Summit. Danny is passionate about creating compelling characters and sharing what he's learned during his career.

Course Description

We will create two stylized characters during this course.  Each project will last five weeks.  This might sound like a long time, but we will be iterating on these pieces heavily and the pace should be brisk, but not intimidating.
Although we are creating stylized characters, the goal will be to create subjects which feel grounded enough in reality that they still seem viable, functional and believable.  
While some of the costuming or props for these characters may incorporate industrial elements, the primary focus will be on organic, natural forms.  In short, we will look to stylize things we find in nature, and anatomy right up to the point where they lose viability as a natural shape.  If you are looking to work exclusively on hard surface elements, that may be outside the scope of the course.

Project Breakdown:

The deliverables for the first character will be a series of high resolution images and a turntable of a digital maquette created primarily in zbrush.
The second character will be a production ready mesh which will start as a zbrush sculpt OR Maya base mesh (this will be up to the individual artist using the design of the character as a metric for choosing a pipeline).  The Deliverable will be a 3D model, with production ready topology and UVs with textures applied in Substance Painter. 
Skill Level: Intermediate 


Zbrush -- digital sculpting
Maya --Digital Modeling, Deformation, and UV layout
Substance Painter -- Digital Material/Shader development, baking, and texturing
Xnormal (slight) --baking
Iray (slight) -- rendering
Arnold (slight) -- rendering
Marmoset Toolbag -- rendering/Display

Course Format

Course Format: Standard
Duration: 10 Weeks
Lecture Type: Pre-recorded
Assignment: Deadlines each week.
Feedback: Individual Recordings
Q&A: Once a week. 

*For classes with fewer than 6 students feedback may be provided during the live Q&A session.

Estimated time for course work: 10-20 hours per week

Course Outline


Project One | Part1

  • Basic Zbrush Navigation & tools
  • Strategies for form development. (angle, relationships, cross section & Hierarchy)


Project One | Part2

  • Progressive modeling (the traditional approach) (Dynamesh)
  • Subdivision Modeling (Digital tools)


Project One | Part3

  • (Zbrush)
  • Digital Sculpting Vs. Digital Modeling.


Project One | Part4

  • (Zbrush/Maya -- when to use which)
  • Posing


Project One | Part5

  • Polypainting
  • Rendering in Zbrush


Project Two | Part1

  • Production Modeling Overview(rules to make rigging happy)
  • UV Layout
  • Intelligent approaches for iteration.


Project Two | Part2

  • High resolution details using Zbrush.
  • Comparative anatomy


Project Two | Part3

Texture Baking


Project Two | Part4

Advanced material & texture development with Substance Painter


Project Two | Part5

Offline rendering in Iray & Arnold