3D World


Fol­low Julien Kas­par’s char­ac­ter cre­ation work­flow guide and dis­cover how to ren­der en­gag­ing mod­els for film pro­duc­tion


In this tu­to­rial I will go over the var­i­ous steps for cre­at­ing styl­ized char­ac­ters for film pro­duc­tions. This work­flow is in­spired by the ex­pe­ri­ence gained from pre­vi­ous Open Movie projects at Blender, such as Spring. We will start with the ini­tial con­cept and 2D draw­ing and go through all 3D cre­ation steps un­til the fi­nal pos­ing of the model and cre­at­ing great ren­ders to present your cre­ation. This is also more fo­cused on char­ac­ter cre­ation for film pro­duc­tions in­stead of game projects. The re­sult could be used for ei­ther me­dia, but there are some im­por­tant dis­tinc­tions in the work­flow.

This is a more com­pact ver­sion of the full course on the Blender Cloud called the ‘Styl­ized Char­ac­ter Work­flow’, in­clud­ing more tips on UV un­wrap­ping, tex­tur­ing and shad­ing, fi­nal pos­ing and pre­sent­ing your char­ac­ter in a ren­der.

As an ex­am­ple I will show the step-by-step cre­ation of the char­ac­ter Rain, which is avail­able as a fully rigged model for free on the Blender Cloud un­der a Cre­ative Com­mons li­cence.

Down­load the files and use the char­ac­ter for any of your projects.


The first step in char­ac­ter cre­ation is cru­cial and can bring the en­tire pro­ject to col­lapse if not taken se­ri­ously: get­ting a solid con­cept and do­ing some re­search. With re­search I of course also mean col­lect­ing ref­er­ences, but it's more im­por­tantly about get­ting a good sense of who your char­ac­ter is. It's also about the style and lim­i­ta­tions of the char­ac­ter cre­ation. Don't shoot for the moon.

Af­ter­wards you should de­velop a con­cept, which typ­i­cally in­volves draw­ing and paint­ing. This can also be ef­fec­tively done in Blender by us­ing the new Grease Pen­cil toolset and just do­ing some rough con­cep­tual sculpt­ing.


Once the con­cept and 2D de­sign is set it's time to trans­late this into 3D. With the new fea­tures from past re­leases this is now eas­ier than ever to do in Blender. Face Sets, the new Voxel remesher, Mul­tires im­prove­ments, re­worked brushes and many new tools and UI im­prove­ments make the work­flow much more smooth sail­ing. Just like with al­most ev­ery step of char­ac­ter cre­ation this should be done in­cre­men­tally with a slow in­crease in de­tail and def­i­ni­tion.

This step is im­por­tant as an early build­ing block for ev­ery­thing that comes af­ter, but also to find is­sues and chal­lenges in the de­sign.


Sculpt­ing the char­ac­ter in­forms you on the de­sign from var­i­ous an­gles, but only from one ex­pres­sion and pose. Of­ten we sculpt our char­ac­ters for pro­duc­tion in a neu­tral ex­pres­sion and pose, but it's cru­cial to try out var­i­ous ex­pres­sions and fit­ting poses to fully test the cur­rent de­sign be­fore it goes fur­ther into pro­duc­tion. Ex­pres­sion tests can be a help­ful re­source for the an­i­ma­tion style, nec­es­sary topol­ogy for rig­ging, fi­nal­is­ing the style of the char­ac­ter or even just tweak­ing some last pro­por­tional is­sues and iron­ing out any short­com­ings in the sculpt. Th­ese can be ei­ther sculpted on duplicated ob­jects, or via Shapekeys to blend be­tween them.


With all your in­for­ma­tion on the 3D de­sign and chal­lenges through the sculpt, it's now time to cre­ate the re­topol­ogy. It's the first step in cre­at­ing an an­i­ma­tion-ready as­set for your pro­ject. The snap­ping fea­ture, Shrinkwrap mod­i­fier and Hid­den Wire over­lay will be your best friends in this step.

There are var­i­ous things to look out for, like Edge Flow, which is the gen­eral di­rec­tion of the loops in your topol­ogy. This is vi­tal for any move­ment or de­for­ma­tion dur­ing an­i­ma­tion. Also try the new Poly­build tool in Edit Mode as well as the F2 ad­don for a faster re­topol­ogy process.


Be­fore the tex­tures and ma­te­ri­als can be prop­erly cre­ated we need to add UV maps, an un­folded ver­sion of our char­ac­ter to pro­ject im­ages on the model with. For this we just need to mark selected edges as seams to cut the geom­e­try into UV maps with min­i­mal stretch­ing.

En­able the Live Un­wrap fea­ture to au­to­mat­i­cally un­wrap any changes to your seams and UVS. This is also great in com­bi­na­tion with pin­ning UV points with the short­cut ‘P’, which then won't move while ev­ery­thing dy­nam­i­cally up­dates. I can also highly rec­om­mend the newly added 03

UDIM sup­port, which al­lows you to have mul­ti­ple UV maps and im­ages per ob­ject.


To give our char­ac­ter their fi­nal coat of paint we need to tex­ture and shade them. This will not just de­fine their colours but also how the sur­faces will re­act to light. It's re­ally im­por­tant to match the com­plex­ity to the style and the sort of char­ac­ter you want to cre­ate. Go­ing over­board with de­tails and grunge can make it look more re­al­is­tic, but also un­ap­peal­ing and un­be­liev­able.

If your UV maps are also very well aligned, try adding some re­peat­able tex­tures to your sur­faces for re­peat­ing pat­terns on clothes. Other steps like Groom­ing and Sim­u­la­tion tests can also be at­tached to this. Also ren­der out some turnta­bles with var­i­ous light­ing con­di­tions to test the look of your char­ac­ter.


Be­fore the char­ac­ter goes into fur­ther pro­duc­tion steps it's good to do a fi­nal pose for them. This can be used for pre­sen­ta­tion pur­poses but also to find any

re­main­ing short­com­ings that might not be vis­i­ble in the ex­e­cu­tion of the char­ac­ter. You can even aim to recre­ate a pose from an ear­lier sculpt. Us­ing Rigify or the new Pose brush and Trans­form tools in com­bi­na­tion with masks in Sculpt Mode can make this easy. Just make sure you get a pose that fits your char­ac­ter and fully high­lights all your work. Also make it work from mul­ti­ple an­gles if you want to ren­der not just one im­age.


You can do many things for the fi­nal ren­der but I rec­om­mend to keep it fo­cused on the char­ac­ter it­self. Place lights that re­ally show your work and don't fo­cus the cam­era and stag­ing too much on the back­ground. A three-point light­ing setup and rel­a­tively blank back­ground is usu­ally fine too and can still re­sult in some stun­ning im­ages. Ren­der­ing the char­ac­ter also in a sim­ple dif­fuse grey (clay ren­der) and an­other ver­sion with wire­frames over­layed will re­ally show­case your model and topol­ogy too. Make sure to ren­der some turnta­bles as well to show your cre­ation from any an­gle.


Of course this is not the last step in the char­ac­ter cre­ation process for film pro­duc­tion, but for the char­ac­ter artist it of­ten is. Dur­ing and af­ter th­ese steps the rig­ging and an­i­ma­tion test­ing will also take place to pro­vide more in­for­ma­tion on pos­si­ble is­sues and changes and to keep the pro­duc­tion go­ing. Usu­ally an un­fin­ished ver­sion of the char­ac­ter is al­ready used in early an­i­ma­tion for shots in the movie to test the lay­out and sets. Some fur­ther char­ac­ter changes might arise if nec­es­sary, but the goal is for that not to hap­pen due to all the feed­back and test­ing that will have taken place be­fore­hand. •

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 ??  ?? AU­THOR Julien Kas­par
I'm a 3D artist from Ger­many, cur­rently work­ing at the Blender Stu­dio in Am­s­ter­dam. I am work­ing on the lat­est Blender projects, and test­ing the lat­est Blender ver­sions. art­sta­tion.com/ julienkas­par
AU­THOR Julien Kas­par I'm a 3D artist from Ger­many, cur­rently work­ing at the Blender Stu­dio in Am­s­ter­dam. I am work­ing on the lat­est Blender projects, and test­ing the lat­est Blender ver­sions. art­sta­tion.com/ julienkas­par
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