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  • Difficulty Level:

    workshop-level-i I
  • Keywords: 3D


Online games like Diablo, DOTA, Torchlight, League of Legends, and many casual titles can have different character art needs than a first person shooter or third person action-adventure game.

Compared to over-the-shoulder or full body cameras of PS3 or XBox titles, a wider camera in many online games promotes smaller characters on screen and more of them at the same time. It is therefore the character artist's job to help ensure that players still enjoy interacting with a smaller, less detailed character competing heavily for screen space. Because many characters may be needed for online games like these, developing and testing characters quickly becomes crucial.

In this 3 week workshop, John illustrates various industry techniques and tips to quickly create fun 3D characters for online games that will "pop" on screen. Using programs such as Zbrush, Maya, and Photoshop, we will create a low-res character mesh to preview in the artist-friendly Unity game engine, used for many online and browser-based games.

Weekly Units: 3
Videos: 71
Total Video Duration: 29 hours
Webinars: weekly
Resource Downloads: 19

"John's class was an eye-opener, providing great insight into some of the workflows used in the industry, while keeping a sharp eye out for the artistic side, keeping in mind anatomy and appeal when constructing the model. I'm quite pleased with the results and would recommend the workshop to anyone..." Pedro Cabeliera, student - January 2013

"He makes sure that you drive yourself to your own high standards of perfection, but will help along the way with suggestions, references, and best of all answers. The class is jam-packed with information that is custom tailored to industry needs and practices. And it's the best class I've had in a long time. Highly Recommended!" Jana Johnson, student - January 2013

"I can't imagine packing any more detail into a three-week course. It covered the basics as well as intermediate and advanced concepts. John gave valuable feedback with explanation of why the suggestions will help improve your modeling process. I learned a lot about creating characters for online games and the rationale behind many of the pipeline procedures. I recommend the course for people serious about learning how to create better online game characters." Frank Heffner, student - November 2012

"…the amount of content really exceeded my expectations. His excellent support on the forums, experience and critical eye made me advance in the right direction with my project. I would recommend this class to anyone interested in 3d game art." Roberto Fera, student - November 2012

What You'll Learn

Taking on the role of a character artist at a game studio, you will create an animal or humanoid character geared toward online games with a wider camera.  5 - 10 hours of video lessons each week will cover the high to low res pipeline for quickly sculpting, remeshing, and painting a game character with a maximum triangle budget of 2500 tris.

As in many studios, concept art will be provided, or you can find your own, but we will not be designing a concept.  This is usually created by a concept artist at game studios.  We will certainly gather reference to support the concept and inform the sculpting and painting process though.  If you have already created strong concept art that you would like to use, let's quickly evaluate it together before moving into sculpting.

Zbrush!  We will use this awesome artist's tool to quickly sculpt and paint the character.  Next we jump to 3D Coat to use the fast remeshing toolset to create the low res game geometry. The mesh is then unwrapped and finalized using Maya.

XNormal and Photoshop are next in the creation and refinement of texture maps, such as normal, ambient occlusion, cavity, diffuse, and specular maps. Materials, lights, and cameras are then created in the Unity game engine to preview and capture the character from various camera angles. We will create a simple turnaround image to display the final in-game character.

The course is forum-based, with students receiving daily instructor feedback on posted work and questions.  We will also have a live, hour-long webinar once each week where students can ask questions for real time feedback, receive paintovers or sculptovers, troubleshoot issues, etc.  This will take place on Saturdays at the end of each course week at 5 pm GMT (12 pm EST)

Outside of the video lessons, the course will require about 5-15 hours per week depending on skill level.  Each weekly assignment is due at the beginning of the following week on Mondays at 2 pm GMT.  

Questions about the workshop?  Contact John at


Week 1 - Sculpt

• Concept art and reference
• Scale reference
• Base mesh
• Form refinement
• Detail pass

Week 2 - Game Mesh

Game Mesh

• Retopology
• Refinement and mirroring
• UV unwrap
• Normal and ambient occlusion maps
• Export and Unity preview

Week 3 - Texture

• Zbrush Polypaint
• Diffuse map baking
• Diffuse and Specular map refinement
• Unity preview
• Character turnaround image



  •  Basic to intermediate anatomy and painting knowledge is recommended and at least a beginner skillset in Zbrush, Maya, and Photoshop (or similar programs) would be helpful as well.


  • Zbrush 4R2, 4R3, or 4R4
  • Maya 2010
  • Photoshop CS2
  • 3D Coat 3.5
  • XNormal
  • Unity


  • Wacom Tablet or comparable pen tablet 



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