Kent Trammell (theluthier)

672 replies · posted

[ENDED] BC2-1803 - March 2018 Class Homepage - Creating Stylized Characters with Blender

[FINAL, FINAL] CLASS ANNOUNCEMENT #7 (Apr 11, 2018): Thanks to those of you who have responded to the Questionnaire. The feedback is extremely helpful. If you haven't responded yet and you participated in the class - or even if you didn't participate - please fill that out and I will gift you 20 Breath of the Wild screenshots from my Switch.

[FINAL] CLASS ANNOUNCEMENT #6 (Apr 9, 2018): We've reached the end of the homework extension period and this class officially comes to end. What a month! It's been a thrill to see each of you forge your characters, learn new things, share tips with each other, and offer critiques along the way.

This thread will be open indefinitely but it's officially at the end of it's "class lifespan" meaning I won't be able to commit weekly time to it anymore and I will unpin it from the forum topics list. I'll pop in occasionally if I see activity but you all are more than welcome to keep working on their characters here if you wish!

UPDATE: Closing post on page 44 and XP has been added to each participating account.

CLASS ANNOUNCEMENT #5 (Mar 28, 2018): Week 4's stream is archived and available via the Past Events button on the Live Event page. Also a reminder that I'm extending the 'deadline' of this month and will be keeping this thread alive through the end of the first week in April. Hopefully that gives you all a bit more time to get your characters done!

CLASS ANNOUNCEMENT #4 (Mar 26, 2018): Week 3, done! Thanks to everyone who submitted by Sunday. I'm quite impressed by the neutralization and retoplogy work I've seen. It's a lot of work and I can see that effort in the WIPs and especially completed submissions.

Week 4 - the final week - dives into adding color to our model, primarily in the form of creating textures. Check out this week's breakdown a little further down in this description and see you tomorrow at the Live Event!

CLASS ANNOUNCEMENT #3 (Mar 19, 2018): Week 2 is accomplished and I'm finally caught up on submissions! Thanks to everyone who submitted by Sunday. We have some impressive character concept sculpts underway. In fact, I have yet to bestow a grade lower than an A this week.

Week 3 continues our 3-week character building production. Specifically we're going to look at pursuing an animation friendly version of our character - both how and why we would do this. See you tomorrow at the Live Event! Don't forget to RSVP.

CLASS ANNOUNCEMENT #2 (Mar 12, 2018): Week 1 is done! Thanks to everyone who submitted by Sunday. It's been a lot of fun seeing your caricature work and concept art choices.

Week 2 begins the 3-week process of building a character based on the concepts we choose. Don't forget to RSVP to the Live Event tomorrow - See you then!

CLASS ANNOUNCEMENT #1 (Mar 5, 2018): Class is in session! Today officially begins the BC2-1803 class. Please check the syllabus below for Week 1's focus and assignments. Begin watching the pre-recorded courses if you haven't already and begin looking for a cool, stylized character design for creating in 3D this month. The first Live Event is tomorrow at 2pm EST - SEE YOU THERE! 😎


Welcome to the CGCookie Class: Creating Stylized Characters with Blender! This class is designed to teach you everything you need to know about building stylized 3D characters. If you’re diligent in watching all content and hitting homework deadlines, by the end you will have a modeled and textured stylized character! It’s an intermediate-to-advanced class which means you’ll do best by having some experience with Blender and 3D modeling before committing to this class.

This is the second "Class" format where Citizen members are invited to focus together on a particular topic/skill for a month. Participation looks like this:

  • RSVP and attend the Live Events
  • Watch the courses outlined below
  • Ask questions
  • Submit homework
  • Generally be active in this thread

WHEN? The class will take place from March 5th through March 31st

✅WEEK 1: Understanding Character "Stylization" (March 5-11)

Abstract: Stylization is any deviation from realism. Thus it’s a broad spectrum from slight liberty away from reality to extreme abstraction of reality. This week we're going to sift through various examples of stylized characters, noting their qualities, and categorizing a spectrum of stylization.

Goal of the Week: Train your eye and mind to stylize your perception. Practice simplifying and exaggerating reality. Loosen up your sculpting approach (gestural sculpting).

Pre-recorded course to watch: Art of Sculpting: Caricature Chapter

Week 1 Live Event (Already happened and archived!)


  • Sculpt a caricature bust [post a screenshot, render, or sketchfab embed]
  • Choose/create concept art for your character. [post an image of your chosen concept art]

✅WEEK 2: Character Development & Sculpture (March 12-18)

Abstract: Story plays a big part in stylization. Not necessarily ‘narrative’ but background, personality, and purpose. The success of a character is strengthened by its developmental arc. The best artists create characters that are more than the sum of its pixels; more than the sum of its brush strokes and polygons; more than its final render.

Goal of the Week: Develop a story for your character; one that can fuel your creative workflow for the rest of the month. Then channel that story into the first stage of sculpting.

Pre-recorded courses to watch:

Week 2 Live Event (Don't forget to RSVP)


  • Write a background for your character at least 2-3 paragraphs long (200-300 words) [share as a Google Doc if longer with a TL;DR summary at the top]
  • Sculpt your character. [post a screenshot, render, or sketchfab embed]

✅WEEK 3: Production-Friendly Character Models (March 19-25)

Abstract: At this point a decision needs to be made about our character sculptures: A) Leave it as a sculpture or B) optimize it for ‘production’. Leaving it as a sculpture means it’s a static sculpture that can be painted, rendered, or 3D printed but not animated. Optimizing it for production means you turn your sculpture into a model that’s easiest to work with up to and including animation. If you opt for optimization, this week is mostly a technical and problem-solving task. We need to both retopologize our mesh and also neutralize it if the sculpt is posed.

Goal of the Week: Understand the concept of “production-friendly” and practice retopology.

Pre-recorded courses to watch:

Week 3 Live Event (Don't forget to RSVP)


  • Do the Robo Orb Retopo Exercise [post link to your submission]
  • If you’re maintaining a static character sculpture, just focus on polishing it to perfection.
  • If you’re retopologizing your character sculpt, retopologize and neutralize it.

✅WEEK 4: Painting Our Characters (March 26-31)

Abstract: Like Dorothy, our characters have so far lived in a black and white world. This week we’re leaving Kansas and adding color. There’s many methods for creating our character texture(s) including hand-painting, baking maps that accent the painting process (great for the less painterly character artists), as well as photo-sourcing. There's also a couple different formats: Vertex Colors and UV/Textures.

Goal of the Week: Get comfortable with painting textures.

Pre-recorded courses to watch

Week 4 Live Event (Don't forget to RSVP)


See you in March!

This thread is reserved for CG Cookie Citizens that are participating in the "Creating Stylized Characters with Blender" class. Its purpose is to serve as central communication for all participating Citizens (excluding Hobby plan Citizens) to ask me and each other questions and to post homework. As the instructor of the class, I will be monitoring this thread on a daily basis (especially Mon-Thurs) throughout the month of March to review homework and answer questions.

Free members are welcome to observe the thread but please respect that communication is reserved for Citizens.

  • Homework Submission Week 4 part A

    Oh man, what a month this was! I have to say this class was a lot of fun, but most important, really helpful. It happened at the time I most needed it. I don't think I could have cemented the look of this character without this class, so happy with how it turned out!

    Enough babbling! Here's Bianca in fully colored glory!

    The hair, tail, and eyes' textures were done in Blender hand painted! While the clothes, skin and normal maps were done in Substance Painter. I went crazy with the textures, no slot was left unfilled! No, seriously my class' folder is 10 GB. 

    Thanks silentheart00 for the greyscale workflow, it helped a lot!

    I probably should darker the hair of her back, it ended up looking too bright in Sketchfab. Speaking of it, I could have posted this yesterday, but for some reason sketchfab kept butchering her mesh! Turns out it doesn't like the armature modifier... 

    Another reason why it took longer than expected: I need to learn more about rigging, like how to deal with coats! I wanted to pose her like in the sculpt, but the coat started to eat itself. I know I could simulate it, but I will have to learn how to deal with it for real time processing!

    I learnt so much from this experience! I redone stuff so many times because of silly mistakes, but at least now I know what I should not do, ha!

    Thanks theluthier for this amazing class, and to everyone who participated! So many cool characters!

    And now, to work on that axe 😎

  • Here's a progress update. Hopefully I can finish up some more sculpting tomorrow and get to substance ... Still pretty rough.  Just didn't want to get too far before running an import check.  Seems okay ... now if I only understood what I am doing! 

  • BC2-1803 Homework Submission Week 3

    "I, King, have dealt with the gods for three generations of men, and I know that they dazzle our eyes and flow in and out of one another like eddies on a river, and nothing that is said clearly can be said truly about them. Holy places are dark places. It is life and strength, not knowledge and words, that we get in them."

    He's a real boy now:

    I was not able to retain as much detail as I would have liked, particularly in the back and arms, but am pretty pleased with it overall.  And here is the sketchfab:

    I will get to work on painting, though I harbor no delusions that I will finish this week. I will post when he is done though.  Thanks again for a great class everyone.  Wish I had had more time to participate.

    • crew

      That quote is gold. Overall your retopo is pretty good with consistent face size, uniformity. There's a bit of jaggedness in wireframe and junctions in less-than-ideal places. But overall a solid retopology. B+ in my book.

      Keep up the good work even beyond this week!

      PS: Did you do the Orb retopo exercise?

  • stonewing lhumungus pprocyonlotor Thank you guys for the kind words! Fun fact: the coat was a happy little accident, I applied that effect by mistake while playing around with materials!

  • Homework submission week 4

    Finally got the painting done. I'm pretty happy with the ending result and so proud of finishing the character. Now few more of characters like this needs to be done to learn the workflow better. This class and the homework has been so great use of time and it's hard to believe I would have got this far without those deadlines.

    I've painted the Ax model some time ago but did it again to see if there has been any improvement.

    Here's some sort of final render of Cuthbert and sketchfab:


    • crew

      Congrats on finishing swikni! It's a big accomplishment and Cuthbert turned out well. All the hard work has earned you an A 👏

      And you did the axe exercises again - Kudos for that. Looks great too 👍

      Thanks for participating this month. I've enjoyed having you part of the class 🙇🏻‍♂️

    • very good work swikni  it was a pleasure to have with us for this class!

      Cuthbert looks very good ! congratulations !

    • Nice texture detail around the eyes and in the hands. This course pushed me too, and I agree it's been pretty awesome! Good work swikni !

    • Thanks, thanks, thanks theluthier mmalhomsi stonewing 

    • How did I miss this one? Beautiful hand painted textures swikni ! Easy a 9/10!!

      Would you like to go even further BEYOND?!

      There's a few maps you can generate/make that would make your character look in Sketchfab more like in the render. If you don't have access to an specialized software to generate them, you can easily-ish create them in blender too. The possible candidates are metallic, roughness and Ambient Occlusion. There's a few more that could be useful. Here's a helpful video that explains what each do.

      For these maps you paint white where you want the effect to show up, black where you don't, a shade of grey will soften the effect. You could generate them, but they are so simple I think you can do it faster by hand.

      AO on the other hand has to be generated, in Blender you can bake it in the render tab. Use a small (512x512 or less) test texture first to be sure you are getting the desired effect, baking can sometimes take a long time to finish. 

      There's also the thickness map, it's used to make the subsurface scattering effect, but it's a little tricky: You are supposed to invert the normals of the mesh and change the ambient occlusion distance setting from the "world" tab from 10 to around 1. Then you bake an AO map but the result is supposed to be the thickness map. Personally I wasn't able to get a good thickness map in blender, I used Substance Painter to generate one and it was miles better and faster. Maybe someone knows a better way to do it.

      Anyways, the other maps can be done in Blender and shouldn't take more than an hour, and the end result will make your character pop out even more!

      If you want to get an idea on how the maps affect the model, I went nuts for mine's and filled all the map slots! It's in page 38 and you can inspect the model by pressing ( I )!

      One more thing, if you are going to do the extra maps, don't use the viewport's render mode, use it's material mode instead. Also when you are going to bake a map, first move the object to an empty layer, and be sure it's just that object in that layer. Have fun!

  • Pro (Noob) Tip: "Apply" the Decimate modifier before Smart Unwrapping :)

  • Welllll....... I left for a couple days, and then the area housing my PC decided to flood, so that is super frustrating.  Luckily it was slight, but enough that the carpet is completely soaked.  There's no way I can finish now since I have to find another space for my PC until the whole flooding thing gets sorted.  It was fun while it lasted!

  • This will be my final entry for this class. I still don't think this model is finished but I have to end this. This class was why I joint CGCookie and it was very good. I learned a lot. Now I will go and look for an other Course, there seems to be a lot of interesting topics on this website.

    • Looks pretty good. Would be nice to get study it via sketchfab

    • crew

      I love how she turned out ssilenthans! She would be so cool as pedestaled figurine. Your shading quality gives that kind of feel. Really nice job.

      Really happy to see you take her all the way to completion. A+ work, easy 👏

      Thanks for joining this class! Bear with me as I'm eager to get the next class prepped and on the calendar. A post-class survey is coming ASAP (this week sometime) which includes three options to vote on for the next class (in May likely)

      PS: Oh and did you do the axe exercise?

  • BC2-1803 Homework Submission Week 3 (part 2):

    robo orb done.

    rob bor orb bro by procyonlotor on Sketchfab

  • Homework Submission Week 3.

    Retopo took a loooot longer than I thought it would. It really took some time to get back into it, and also having the patience for it after mainly doing sculpting for a long time. I'm pretty happy with the result in the end though. The final result will have a subdivision surface modifier added, as well as particle hair, but I figured this would be better for reviewing the retopology. I've also added a link to the robo-orb exercise. Now on to painting, I'm excited to see this finished!

    • I can't provide a pro-critique, but I think that looks really good! I like how you kept the scar in the model, and in general the spacing of your quads looks appropriate to me.

    • crew

      Awesome retopo, valandrath! That time-consuming work paid off. It's very clean and uniform. And I too like that you modeled the scare into the base geo. Good stuff. You've earned an A in my book!

      The orb looks super clean as well. Another A

  • Edit: Portrait Progress shot

    Texturing Progress: I'm not really sure how much longer this forum is going to be open, so I thought I'd at least drop by and post what I've managed to get done. Trying to lean a bit more towards a hand painted style, and its getting there slowly but surely. Over the last week I made a second version of the model with around 15k tris, but opted to go with a slightly modded version of the original retopologized model, landing at 19.8k tris(down from 24k), and after several iterations of UV unwraps, I have created one that I think I'm comfortable with(until I find and obvious seam somewhere, anyway) and I am moving forward with it. Currently Adam has 5 different texture groups: Head and Eyes, Hair, Metals, Glow, and everything else. For the final iteration of the textures I plan to bake together the head, hair, metals, and glow onto one texture set. Here is a screencap of what I have right now.

    Right now I think I'm almost done with the body, jacket, and gloves.  I plan to add a bit more of my own personal touches over the generated belt texture and pants, and maybe a bit of wear and tear over the boots.  The face has been completely untouched at this time, and the hair has a stylized/hand painted appearance(not so visible from this angle).  I also might try to ease in the transition into the pockets using textures... or get rid of the actual mesh object and just paint it in.

    Edit: Removed older image as to not let this post get too big.  I've put a bit of work into the face at this point, and have come to the realization that I am missing eyelashes... Once again, not sure when the thread is locking, so here is a near complete portrait shot.  The eyes need a bit of sharpening as well as a few other touch ups.

    Any thoughts thus far?

    • crew

      Adam is progressing well, ssilver0199! Out of the gate, I might suggest that you change your background color to something other than black since the harsh shadows make the character's silhouette disappear a bit.

      Are you going for a game-res asset?

      PS: This thread will be open indefinitely but it's officially at the end of it's "class lifespan" meaning I won't be able to commit any more weekly time to it. I'll pop in occasionally if I see activity but users are more than welcome to keep working on their characters here if you wish!

  • Homework Submission Week 4

    Before of anything you guys are posting such a beautiful painted models, that I become really shy to show anything what did and have to admit to myself that this advanced class was higher than my abilities.

    Inspite of that really learnt a lot this month, was not sure whether can sculpt a relatively simple giraffe on your level, then had a little practice and understanding how those re-topology and texture painting things are. 

    Next time would like to come back stronger, it was fun to participate with the big lesson to myself that just watching tutorials and the theory are totally different things than doing it

    • No worries man. You finished the character and it looks great and ready. It's more important that you chose to make something of your own skill level than struggle with too difficult model and eventually give up.

    • Cheers Jere swikni thanks for the words, we will meet in the next class

    • so cute ! very lovely ! and really u have my respect on finishing the class even if u think it was advance for u !

      ur little giraffe is well done and u did well with ur Jackie chan !  dont shy u did well and hopefully  u learn a lot !

      sharing this class with u was a pleasure for me !

    • crew

      NONSENSE csehz. No need to be shy - It's important for everyone to respect each other's relative level, including respecting yourself. Everyone starts at the same level; there's no fast tracking.

      And besides, this little giraffe is quite the cutie and you successfully completed each week's homework. Awesome job! You've earned an A this week in my book. Thank you for participating and sharing your work this month 🙇🏻‍♂️

      PS: Did you do the axe exercise?

  • BC2-1803 Homework submission week 4 pt 1:

    Definitely still a work in progress, but closing things out for the class.  Thanks again everyone!

  • My oh my...somehow blender corrupted my file. The size seems relevant to the retopo character, but all I see now is a default scene setup and a cube... Good thing I got a backup but it's like 1,5 week old with a lot of progress lost.

    Maybe there is a way to recover the file?

  • Hello, all and Kent.

    Just a check in.  I realized that the bulk of my issues currently are big-fat-nub with little experience.  Lower poly-UV map, Higher poly normal.  Get detail lower poly count achieved. Is this thread open indefinitely?  I am finally to a point that I consider "done" with my core sculpt. He's missing some of his tech gadgets that ill work on later.  About to get to making my UV map and finally opening substance painter. Anyhoo! I'll post files and a sketchfab later.  Just introduced myself to that on Friday with my Facebook debut.

    • Discovering the true scope of the pain I am putting myself through. Wow .... substance painter is awesome .... and HUGE ... lol  ... UV's are mostly done.  Realized some procedural errors.  "Multi-mesh composed "object" good - makes substance work like loads .... easier ... lol. Check.
      Modeling a ball, make it a ball formed by at least 4 objects or "subtools" in Zbrush. lol  Anyhow, I think I am on the path now.  Zbrush also has a nifty "project" feature which I can use to transpose higher poly detail onto a lower poly mesh with the normal map. My noob failure trying to force all detail into the model itself. So I can crash systems everywhere.  I supposed this will be something else I'll have to figure out, how low is too low?  At the moment I do not know where I stand on getting a less dense mesh and maintaining the detail with science and stuffs.

    • crew

      hypester77  This thread will be open indefinitely but it's officially at the end of it's "class lifespan" meaning I won't be able to commit weekly time to it anymore. I'll pop in occasionally if I see activity but users are more than welcome to keep working on their characters here if you wish!

      Thanks for sharing about your workflow experience, both highs and lows. I hope to see your finished character at some point!

    • I'm really interested in how this character is developing, so by all means keep posting.

      A note about that Sketchfab upload though - it is highly off-center and difficult to pan around.  I'm not sure how Sketchfab determines the center of rotation of a model - whether it is the global XYZ of the scene, or the origin of the object or the parent object or what....but perhaps try applying your model's position/rotation or recentering it on the grid maybe?

    • Yeah, I'm not sure what's going on, think it just got bugged somehow, because the setting matches exactly my first upload. Only thing that is different, I made some changes to the model. Couldn't figure it out.  Was being having like it was in first person even though it was in orbit.  I started me efforts today to generate my working low and high poly models, reworked into groups for easier experiments in Substance.  Something else sort of happened ... it had been bothering me a bit more each time I looked at the model.  The fact that the head felt more like an ant ... rather than a mantis. And well, there's going to be some ant insectoids in my story .... because well .. African folk-lore. Anyhow, Here's the original SketchFab and here's today's efforts. I will need to regenerate my maps as well, I suppose ... before I hit Substance with fury.

      Low-High-and JFC-polycounts.

    • crew

      I second Jake - Very interesting character coming to life here. Keep going hypester77!

  • Homework Submission Week 4

    Poor Ulbricht had to be decimated almost beyond recognition, but he made it into Sketchfab. The texturing process took quite a long time, but that was what I thought before the rigging and weight painting. Wow! I used every bit of the class extension Kent graciously gave us. I had a great time meeting everyone and seeing the inspired creations of you all. 

    It is strange how big I made the eye texture. One of many things I learned what not to do on my next project. Another one is not to apply the Subdivision Surface modifier too soon. Shape Keys are not your friend with dense geometry. Ha ha.

    See you all next time and a big thanks to Kent for making this class happen.

    • Well even decimated Ulbricht looks great. The textures are so detailed that if you strapped them on a cube they would make it look like a viking lol

    • great work ! Ulbricht is taking life even with the decimation ! u r a very talented artist ! it was a pleasure to meet u in this class !

    • crew

      Love the texture work ullreym! Bummer about the decimation. Did sketchfab keep rejecting higher polycounts till this one? I've been able to upload much higher resolution meshes..all your poor geometric detail 😥

      Overall I'm still so impressed at how you managed to take an Ok character concept (in my opinion only!) and level up the character model to surpass it. It's been very enjoyable seeing you forge Ulbricht this month 🙇🏻‍♂️

  • Homework Submission Week 4

    so here we are...

    after a lot of effort i ve finished working on my homework , and despite technical limitations , i have to say that i m really proud of the end result!

    i have enjoyed this class very very much, and i recommend it to everybody.

    i never thought that i ll do what i have done , i'm a hobbyist , and thank to this class i done in weeks what i used to do in ages.

    thank u my dear classmates , it was a pleasure to be among u . i cant wait to see ur future projects!

    theluthier  Sensei ; thank u for everything , ur devotion ,kindness ,and patience. i owe u  a lot !

    and thank u to CGcookies !

    now it s time to take my art more seriously, and invest in a tablet and a new pc ;)

    Ps: please forgive my bad english !

    a last request Kent : can u please make a final stream to close the class ! pleasssssse  :)

    • Phenomenal =)  Quit your day job ... soon.

    • mmalhomsi You created a masterpiece. You also have a point about the last stream. The class seems to need a final live or recorded word from the instructor to have a sense of closure. It is probably the sign of a good sensei that the students want more.

    • Masterpiece indeed! Excellent work! So many details so well executed. The only small adjustment I would recommend is to lower the saturation and brightness of the rust on the knife.  This is a portfolio piece for sure.

    • crew

      MALHOMSIIIIII!!!! What a final result. One-Legged Pete turned out beauifully. Wow.

      A++ is an understatement 👏

      If this isn't you taking your art seriously, I can't wait to see what you do when you take it seriously. It's been a pleasure having you in the class and a thrill to see you forge your character. Thanks for participating mmalhomsi 🙇🏻‍♂️

      PS: Did you do the axe exercise?

    • mmalhomsi that is absolutely brilliant! 

      Yes definitely it is worth to invest in some new hardwares, because the actual ones just hinder your talent and better to eliminate that source of frustration.

      Anyway +1 for the proposal to have a final stream after the classes, in some 30 minutes for example. That would also mean a more strict deadline for the 4th week, where presumably more students would like to fit in and post also the final one.

    • mmalhomsi Amazing! You should do some commissions, or freelancing! Your equipment will start paying itself haha!

    • Holy smokes! Incredible work mmalhomsi !

    • Once again I don't know what to say. He is just perfect

    • thanks my friends for the lovely words. u r awesomes !

      theluthier  u honored me with ur words , thank u ,it means a lot ! i didnt have time to make the axe , i going to do that soon ! forgive my laziness  :) 

      i have the blues .. i already miss this class !

  • crew


    [FINAL] CLASS ANNOUNCEMENT #6 (Apr 9, 2018)

    We've reached the end of the homework extension period and this class officially comes to end. What a month! It's been a thrill to see each of you forge your characters, learn new things, share tips with each other, and offer critiques along the way.

    This thread will be open indefinitely but it's officially at the end of it's "class lifespan" meaning I won't be able to commit weekly time to it anymore and I will unpin it from the forum topics list. I'll pop in occasionally if I see activity but you all are more than welcome to keep working on their characters here if you wish!


    PS: Within the next 24 hrs I'll be posting a 'closing report' with final remarks about the class. It will also include a survey where you can vote on the next class topic.

  • Homework Submission Week 5 4, Part B

    I should have submitted this earlier, but the local climate went from 27ºC to 6ºC in one night and I was not prepared...

    Anyway, AXE!

    I made some extra maps by hand, I was tempted to bake some AO...