Overcoming challenges sculpting toony characters

A character Breakdown by Alum Robert Nasr covering the process, the challenges and exploration of sculpting a cartoon style character
Read on to find out how Robert tackled the toony character program having taken a break from sculpting for a while. He completed the program with an incredibly animated character overloaded with cuteness and likability.

Meet robert nasr

Tell us about yourself
My name is Robert Nasr, I am a 3D artist currently leaning towards character art but environments are on the horizon for me. I live in California & I’ve been doing 3D art since 2014.

I discovered Art Heroes through one of the bootcamps (workshops running over 3 days). When the Toony Character Program was released and I saw that it wasn’t a strictly scheduled course with live classes to attend, I jumped right on the opportunity.
How it started
What's the name of your Project? Where did the concept come from? Why did you choose it?
My project is simply named “Frog Knight”, or as I so lovingly have been referring to it “My little froggie boy”.

The original artwork came from an artist on DeviantArt by the name of Beyx. It was very cute and perfect for the Toony Character Program because of how simple the shapes were. But it still gave some challenges with the details present.
Character Development
What were the main milestones for you?
For this project I had few milestones:

  1. Body/Armor/Sword
  2. Head and Cape
  3. Polypaint & Pose
  4. Light & Render

My initial blockout very quickly foreshadowed what my trouble spots with this project were going to be – the head and the cape.

I was unhappy with the direction the head and face were going at this stage so I decided to focus on the body, armor, and sword.
What were your biggest challenges while working on this project and how did you solve them?
My first pass of the cape was equally challenging. I stepped away from the cape and re-visited the head trying to achieve the volumes using more primitive spheres, like my Instructor Ben was showing in the early videos of the course, instead of trying to sculpt on what was already there. The results were much better in my eyes.

After I was happy with the direction of the head I decided it was time to fix the over-detailed and noisy cape.

I tried sculpting the folds directly, I tried using the cloth dynamic brushes in ZBrush, I tried using the Dynamic sims in ZBrush and I wasn’t happy with any of the results I was getting and kept feeling like I wasn’t in control of the outcome.

To give myself a break, but keep forward momentum going, I decided to shift gears and try Marvelous Designer for the first time. I was having a lot of fun with the tools in Marvelous Designer and discovering new things as I worked on this (simple) project in the software.

The freshness of trying out Marvelous for this cape really helped distract me from the frustrations I was having with the cape in ZBrush. My time here with Marvelous was spent on “Discovery & Experimentation” as opposed to the “Results & Outcome”, doing this meant I was able to get it to a good spot without even noticing
The only downside I had here was that the cape looked too realistic and was a little jarring right next to this cartoony character with simple shapes and low levels of detail. Using the detail that Marvelous gave me for free, I started to sculpt the cape in ZBrush to return some volumes that were lost from the simulations process & push the folds into a more “Stylized” aesthetic.

Once I was happy with the shapes, posing & polypainting were the only steps left for me to do before bringing it back into Maya to light and render with Arnold.
Any tips for our community?
When creating something new to you (your first time doing cloth, hair, etc…) look for different approaches and try to find something that resonates with you.

There are multiple ways to complete a project and at the end of the day the only thing that matters is that you were able to complete it to your standards so look for the best way for you to approach your work.
What’s your biggest takeaway from the program?
I really enjoyed that the course was at-your-own-pace because of my busy schedule.
"find references for every single part of your project!"
Robert Nasr
Art Heroes Student
Final Project
Artwork: Robert Nasr

Concept: Beyx @ DeviantArt

What's Next?
What are your plans for the future?
I think my next steps are going to be making the transition from Maya to Blender and maybe some Marvelous Designer practice because I really enjoyed that program when I used it for the cape in this project!
Useful Links

Connect with Robert on Artstation: Bobbo

Follow Robert on Instagram: buttsmcpuff
check out Beyx's concepts on DeviantArt: Beyx
Learn With Us
Explore relevant programs and up your level
Make an appealing and production-fit character in 6 weeks
Learn the basics of ZBrush to bring any level of complexity on board
Editor: Hannah Barmes Healy
Artwork by: Robert Nasr
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