Character Design In ZBrush

Learn To Create Unforgettable Characters For Animation & Master Stylized Character Development With Mike Defeo!

Developing stylized characters for animation is not as easy as you might think, and infusing those characters with timeless appeal is even harder. In this 10 week live, online course, Michael Defeo will show you the techniques and design principles that have helped industry giants, like Blue Sky Studios and Illumination Entertainment, bring their most memorable characters to life.

One of the biggest challenges sculptors face is developing a fully realized character while also allowing for the art director to make significant changes to the design.

To be successful at this you need to master the maquette approach to building form in ZBrush. This is the same workflow that Mike has used to sculpt such memorable characters as Gru, Scrat, and the Minions of Despicable Me.

Using ZBrush's innovative Insert Mesh brushes, you learn how to isolate parts like noses, teeth and eyes without sacrificing a finished, polished look.

Five Things You'll Learn

  • How to understand and break down 3D forms and volumes
  • How to sculpt a stylized character for animation using key design principles
  • How to understand the concept of appeal and put it into practice as you design your own characters
  • Understanding the challenges professional character artists face and the role they play in animation pipelines
  • Tips for incorporating a character's movement and facial expressions into your designs

With Character Sculpting For Film You Get:

NEW: Character Sculpting For Film VALUE $798!)
Brand new 10-week training course for artists, character sculptors and designers. Modules release each week for 10 weeks. 

You get access to Ryan Kingslien's Unleash The Artist program on UArtsy. A program to help you unlock the artist in you and discover your vision.


Number One Myth Of Character Design

The number one myth behind character design is that it is simple. As Steve Jobs said, though, “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it's worth it in the end because once you get there."

To create appealing, clean character designs you need to increase your understanding of anatomy so you know exactly where you can create a plane breaks and how you can simplify complex shapes like the knee.

However, anatomy is it's own course and can derail many well intentioned students. The key is to learn the essential artistic anatomy at the same time that you are developing your character design abilities.

You use one skill to balance out the other skill so they keep each other in check.

What People Say About Mike Defeo

"Michael is an extremely talented sculptor. He is knowledgeable in both traditional and digital sculpting as well as drawing and oil painting. I worked with Michael Defeo for about 4 years at Blue Sky Studios where he was my Sculpting supervisor. His kindness is endless when it comes to sharing his skills/talent with others. Michael is a great leader and mentor, he helps build people up to their true potential through positive reinforcement, and his teaching techniques. As a sculptor he adapts quickly to new styles, maintains quality and pushes the envelope on each sculpt he works on. I would highly recommend Michael Defeo, for he is an amazing sculptor, a charismatic leader, and a hard working, motivated topnotch artist!" - Alena Wooten

"I recently completed the Stylized character design with Mike Defeo and I've gotta say its the best class in this specific area i've had in years, incredibly rewarding when it all comes together at the end. Equally matched with amazing and speedy technical support for every question I had." - Steve Woodhouse

"What I really liked about his class was that we were able to watch Mike doing a maquette from start to finish in realtime. He didn't skip any parts, and the pacing was excellent. He also didn't use any fancy external tools, everything was in ZBrush, which is key for a hoobiest like me who maybe doesn't have access to each and every application. At first I believed that doing stylized character work would be a lot easier than doing real-life characters. I mean, everything is smooth with very simple shapes and you don't have to take care of all that anatomy. Boy was I wrong :) You have to really think about what you put in and what you leave out in order to make your character believable." - Patrick Eischen

"It's really awesome and it's magical seeing shapes coming out of imagination of sculptors using this super soft that's ZBrush." - Christophe Nadeau


Project 1 : Creating a Concept and Begining a Block Out
Use whatever program you'd like to generate a concept image for your sculpt.

Project 2 : Finishing the Block Out
Continue working on your character block out.

Project 3 : Creating the Head
Sculpt your character's head.

Project 4 : Sculpting the Hair
Sculpting the major hair forms.

Project 5 : Adding More Detail to the Hair
Adding individual strands and adding variation to the hair.

Project 6 : Sculpting the Dog Head
Sculpt your character's companion's head.

Project 7 : Creating the Dog Body
Create your character's companion's body .

Project 8 : Sculpting Clothing
Sculpt basic wrinkles and add other clothing details.

Project 9 : Posing the Final Sculpt
Finish up your sculpt and pose it.

Project 10 : Prepping for 3D Print
Prep your model for 3D printing.


When does class start?

  • The first class is June 10th.

How often does the class meet?

  • Every week at 1 PM Pacific Time, 4PM Eastern on Saturday for ten weeks.

What are the requirements?

  • You will be connected to audio using your computer's microphone and speakers (VoIP). A headset is recommended. System Requirements: Windows(R) 8, 7, Vista, XP or 2003 Server; Mac OS(R) X 10.6 or newer; iPhone(R), iPad(R), Android(TM) phone or Android tablet Read our Audio Checklist for tips on using your computer's microphone and speakers with GoToWebinar at

Who should take this course?

  • This is an intermediate level course. As such, a basic understanding of ZBrush is recommended. No prior knowledge or experience with character design or 3D printing is required.

What if I miss one of the live sessions?

  • No need to worry. We realize that not everyone is able to make it to a scheduled meeting with the instructor. That’s why we record all live sessions and post them on the course platform, along with all your other course materials. It’s all there for you to access whenever you like!

Can I download the lectures?

  • Absolutely. You have lifetime access to all your course content, which includes both streaming and downloadable course video lectures.

No Risk!

So, if you're serious... if this is your thing... there is, literally, no better teacher that Mike Defeo. None. That's why I work with him. He is one of the best sculptors on the planet and this is your opportunity, your chance to struggle alongside someone who has been where you are and done what you're are doing... and succeeded.

Make sure you choose a payment option to the right and get signed up today.  If you're not happy, if life just hands you a bad deck you have 30 days to get a refund.  Just email us and we'll return your money no questions asked.

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