Character Creation

This class includes 10 unique lessons, several hours of online video lectures, and class notes- all accessible 24-7.

The Master Class also comes with several example files including a variety of full character models!!

*After purchase look for the “My Master Class Modules” button in the main navigation bar at the top of every page.

This Master Classes is now available on your schedule! You’ll have access to the entire class as soon as you sign up.

Join Zack Petroc for a rare Master Class that will give you the knowledge and techniques to take your craft and career to the next level. From cutting edge Studio work flows, to design principles that will redefine your approach to character creation, Zack’s lectures take his students through the process of designing, sculpting, and retopologizing a production ready character at a heightened level of artistic execution.

You’ll also get hours of sculpt-over videos where Zack uses previous student’s models to showcase dozens of specific techniques and design principles. This is an amazing way to improve your own design and character creation skills.

  • Crafting a “story” based character
  • Form follows function
  • Growing your art and career
  • Telling story through form
  • The silhouette
  • Creating cloth & accessories
  • Sculpt overs of previous student’s work
  • Evaluate Straights and Curves
  • Rhythms and Gestures of the figure
  • Organized Topology
  • Improving your knowledge of effective design
  • And much, much more

Online Master Classes – This class includes 10 unique lessons, several hours of online video lectures, and class notes- all accessible 24-7. It includes example files, full body .ZTLs, a long list of streaming video lectures, and detailed class notes. The information is presented via streaming videos and web posts that are available 24/7 allowing students to access and absorb the information at their own pace.

Modules –A module is a chapter of learning material. As soon as you purchase the class you’ll have access to ALL the modules.

Previously Recorded Sculpt Overs –The class also includes hours of sculpt-overs where Zack gives feedback by sculpting directly over previous student’s models. This class includes a wide range of topics from sculpting cloth, to fundamental design decisions. Example Sculpt-Overs.



Module 01– A snapshot of the present and a look into the future of our evolving Industry

Where would you like your art to take you in three years?

The course begins with an in-depth evaluation of cutting-edge work flows that continue to redefine the character creation process and new ideas about our evolving industry that can propel you to the forefront. It’s no secret that a new bridge between the art department and the production pipeline has developed. Utilizing 3D in the earliest stages of a project has become common place; offering artists compelling new ways to arrive at the best creative solutions. The ability to integrate those solutions directly into a production pipeline is an invaluable way to save time and money. Possessing the know-how to make it happen can make you a viable part of any team.

With several thousand artists graduating each year in the field of 3D, an industry evolution is immanent. This module also presents new ideas for students and professionals, aimed at making their work stand out among the growing masses. We will also discuss the impact of these growing numbers on the future of our industry and how your art can help define a new direction.

  • Where is your career headed- predicting future industry trends
  • Defining a viable path for your art and starting as soon as possible
  • The idea of finite or infinite success
  • What the hell is an “outlier”
  • Defining key roles: director, production designer, art director, visual effects supervisor, CG supervisor
  • Getting over misconceptions- real benefits of digital design, best uses, and what to avoid
  • Understanding the starting point of the character
  • Defining a design language
  • Gathering reference- what you can gain from it
  • The concept of rough-to-fine
  • Key sculpting and work flow techniques in ZBrush: setting up your workspace, hotkeys, helpful brushes, approaches to form development and interface settings

Self Guided Assignment: Understand the character you want to create, make sketches and gather references based on lecture notes. 2. Using the techniques discussed in the above lectures, tell me where you want your art and career to be in three years.


Module 02– The Concept Sculpt

Before you start, STOP!! Chose an appropriate amount of work for your level of experience – full figure, torso, or just a detailed head. If you decide to create a full character with an elaborate costume be sure you’ll still have time to take this class. You signed up for this Master Class to get an EDUCATION, not just to create one more character for your portfolio. Recalibrate what you think this course will offer- if we do this right you’ll gain a true understanding of how to open your mind to the real art of design and how to elevate what you can achieve artistically. Ideally, in six months you’ll find it hard to look back at your own work. The less experience you have with character creation, the more time you will want to allow for focusing on the experience and knowledge you can gain through the notes, lectures, example models, critiques, sculpt-overs, and peer interaction.

  • Study, memorize, research- then forget all that and create! (The necessity of internalizing your knowledge.)
  • Starting from an unorganized mesh- how it can help
  • DynaMesh
  • The “half pose”
  • “Zombies need to be killed.” If you can’t critique your own work you are destine to become the walking dead! Lacking this essential skill is the most direct path to artistic stagnancy. Lets talk about how to avoid it.
  • Define three traits of your character
  • Include an accessory: article of clothing, weapon, belt, etc. (More experienced students can add several)
  • Organize your specific reference materials
  • Beginning with a narrative- creating a story based character

Self Guided Assignment: Begin to flesh out your design and create an unorganized low poly mesh. You can use the poly modeling package of your choice, or start with DynaMesh or ZSpheres.

Module 03– Design decisions & Model Setup

In many ways, design is the foundation of all character creation. An artist’s ability to draw, or sculpt, or paint, is moot when used to render bad design. We will be discussing several design fundamentals through lectures and notes aimed at helping you elevate your design decisions to the next level.

  • The smaller is to the greater as the greater is to the whole
  • Importance of scale and model orientation in and before production
  • Achieving proper scale
  • Check your vertex point order, what can go wrong at this stage: an important production note
  • Organization techniques in ZBrush to quicken the pace
  • Using poly groups and masking
  • Select edge loops in ZBrush, crease edges
  • Subdivide cube in ZBrush and in Maya- how does it impact production when the base level vertices change position.

Self Guided Assignment: Refine your design decisions and continue sculpting. Make sure your model is in proper scale and practice taking your mesh from a poly modeling package into ZBrush and back.

Module 04– Anatomy

In this module students will be introduced to the importance of understanding anatomy through intense, high level lectures that focus on the highlights of how the underlying anatomy impacts the form development of a character. It will also present an overview of animal anatomy and the similarity of skeletal structures shared by most bipeds and quadrupeds.

  • Structure of the Skeleton
  • Origin and insertion points of the major muscle groups
  • Definitions on the surface
  • Important landmarks, muscles, and movements of the face
  • An overview of animal anatomy- common structures and skeletal setups

Self Guided Assignment: Look for areas on your design-sculpt where the anatomy can be improved. Make sure your skeletal structure supports your design.

Module 05– Rhythms and Gestures of the Figure

Capturing a sense of “life” in a character is one of the most difficult challenges facing any character-artist. A key to infusing this quality in one’s work often lies in the artist’s ability to understand and correct the rhythms and gestures of their creation. The lectures in this section will outline several different body types, their unique rhythms, and other trademarks of form development in a variety of archetypes.

  • Posture, what it says about your character
  • Leading the figure through stance
  • Male Archetype
  • Female Archetype
  • Large male Archetype
  • Large female Archetype
  • Straights and curves- form development across design styles

Sample Video– Leading Your Character

Self Guided Assignment: Evaluate the rhythms and gestures of your character. What archetype are you creating? Even creatures embody posture archetypes that help define their character. Are your decisions supporting the story driven intentions of your design?

Module 06– Sculpting Cloth

The ability to create believable cloth is an important part of any character artist’s training. From video games to 3D animation, a character’s clothing is often a large part of their design and appeal. This module will give you the foundation to interpret how cloth works, as well as specific sculpting techniques in ZBrush to help simplify the process.

  • Designing cloth
  • Anatomy of a fold
  • Capturing the illusion of thickness
  • The importance of tension
  • Straights and Curves
  • Choosing where and how to define the underlying forms

Self Guided Assignment: In addition to focusing in on the final forms of your cloth and costume, begin to focus on the refined details of your design-sculpt and make sure you are still in proper scale.

Module 07– Creating Topology for Production

The amount of misinformation that is available on topology for production is astounding. In this module we will walk through a variety of different build philosophies and examine the pros and cons of each.

  • Importance of an edge loop
  • Building meshes based on a subdivision pipeline
  • Edge proximity during smoothing
  • Defining major forms with edges
  • Continuous edge loops around flex areas
  • Leg to pelvis approaches
  • Straight lines for cloth
  • Approaches for teeth and tongue
  • Mouth sock
  • Bald for hair
  • Analyzing different production meshes
  • Use cleanup mesh in Maya (or equivalent) to check for potential problems

Sample Video Segment– Animation Mesh Specifics

Self Guided Assignment: Use the knowledge you’ve gained from this module to retopologize your mesh with proper edge loops, form development, and animation in mind. Pay close attention to your edges that define joints, the placement of “stars” in your mesh, and critique your form development using the techniques outlined in the “Mesh General Guidelines” video.


Module 08– Projecting Details, Creating Maps, and Presenting your Work.

In many studios you are only as good as your last presentation. This can refer to your reel and the first impression it makes on the recruiting department or the recurring event of presenting your work to a director once you’ve been hired. This module will examine the importance of “selling” your designs and offer a variety of tips and expert insights into crafting your reel or portfolio to improve your chances of landing a dream job.

Projecting Details

  • Project All approaches
  • Project through Rigging and Topology Tools, benefits of the Projection Slider
  • Understanding UVs
  • AUV tiles and GUV tiles, understanding limitations
  • Organized Uvs
  • Using morph target layer to project details
  • Preparing your mesh for live action or video games. Including displacements and normal maps

Design A Dynamic Pose

  • Transpose tool, creating a dynamic pose
  • An overview to lighting and rendering in ZBrush
  • Shadows and fog
  • Document size and exporting images for review
  • Turntable options
  • Presenting to Directors and Art Directors
  • Crafting your Reel (One of the most important elements in securing your fist job- or elevating your career to the next level)

Self Guided Assignment: Project the details of your design sculpt onto your organized mesh. Keep a morph target and a copy of your original (pre-subdivided) mesh. Create your final image and turntable. Use the information you’ve learned in this module’s lectures and notes to evaluate your reel or portfolio. Examine how you can re-craft it to make sure the impression it gives is inline with your goals.

For question about our Master Classes please email tiffany@zackpetroc.com.