Tips for creating a Stylized Character with Aaron Rugama

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Aaron Rugama takes us through the steps he took to design his Stylized Character, inspired by Overwatch.

About the Artist:

Hello there! I’m Aaron Rugama, a 20 years old undergraduate Technical & 3D Artist.

Currently I’m on my third year of University, but I really began with 3D last year. Since then, I haven’t stopped for a single moment. I have done a lot of internships, University and professional programs, and specially personal projects.

I’m always stepping outside my comfort zone, experimenting new ideas and making every project with creative techniques. That’s why I decided to improve as a Technical Artist. In my understanding, the gap between art and coding is the most exciting connection in video game development. One of the most innovative, fresh and full of possibilities for any artist or programmer.

The Idea

I came up with the idea of Blair Morgan this Christmas.

I’m going to send this entire project as a submission for next years Blizzard Internships, So I had to make something higher quality than just simple fanart and create a game ready character as the Blizzard team would do.

To achieve this, I had to design and develop mechanics and gameplay proper of Geoff Goodman, a design and look that Renaud Galan would obtain, and storytelling to the level of Michael Chu.

Choose a workflow (Stylized Character)

To achieve an Overwatch worthy work, playing the game and watching cinematic trailers wasn’t enough, so I began to inquire and look up a lot of references to fit the character into Blizzard’s identity.

As my first stylized character creation, I had to deep dive into Blizzcon Art Live’s and a lot of tutorials. I literally began to eat, drink and dream Overwatch.

I specially based my art pipeline on the Timothy Bermanseder article from Polycount, which describes a lot of interesting technical details from the Overwatch beta.

It gave me an idea about tricount, type of textures and techniques that I could use to achieve the look and feel of the environments and heroes.

Every project starts with a bunch of concepts… so that’s what I did!

I started to make sketches of 4 or 5 minutes, to guide the original design from Blair. Getting this final result:


I began to sculpt the character using the shapes of Soldier 76 and Reaper as main references, making a hard face expression but always thinking about his own outgoing personality.

I also learned to take special care into making the character recognizable from every point of view, because every hero from Overwatch can be recognized just by their silhouette.

The principles of this technique are specially important when defining the design of a stylized asset, setting aside small details and focusing on large shapes.

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Retopology: 3ds Max & Zbrush

At this development stage, I used a mix between ZBrush retopology tools and 3ds Max traditional modeling.

Every game of Blizzard is really well optimized, and Overwatch is no exception.

I had to reduce my body mesh to an average of 32000 as Timothy said in his article. Also, the reason why this character has a few more triangles is because his Jetpack. Blair is an special character like Junkrat. Both of them have an extra object on their backs.

First step: get a basic mesh with Zbrush retopology tools.

Second step: improve the quality and optimization of the mesh according to your goal.


Again, the “optimize everything” pipeline was my main concern. I tried to make the cleanest and largest projection possible. During this process, I had always been testing pattern textures to achieve invisible seams.

Taking your time with UV’s will save a lot of time for your future self.

I had to divide the model into different materials to achieve what I wanted for the engine and keep following the requirements of Overwatch optimization.

It ended up like this:

I split the character as shown because of the shaders.

The eyes require special treatment to shine and increase the character personality.

The jetpack and the body have the same values in the engine, but I decided to divide them into two maps to obtain a better resolution, as the weapon is a special asset that appears in third and first person camera.

Finally, I made the hair in another map, with each of them following the same direction because of the anisotropic shader.

Substance Painter(Texture)

Painting and making the textures in Substance Software is almost as cool as sculpting in ZBrush.

I took the high poly pieces and directly began to bake the maps in Substance Painter. It was a slow process due to the heavy tricount, but there are some techniques to speed up the work, like decimation or dividing your bakes into small pieces and then putting it together again in Max.


I did a basic rigging with CAT to bring my character to life.

It was a simple structure of body and facial bones, with some extra parts for the Jetpack, hair and cloth physics.

I like to make this process at the same time that I begin to export the character to the engine, because that is when one begins to know what requirements this specific character needs.

Unreal Engine

The art is almost done, but I still have a lot of work to do in the engine. The idea is to replicate the Overwatch Hero gallery where Blair will be and a test field where you can play with him.

I hope you liked Blair and learned from this breakdown, as much as I did. If you are interested in the character development, don’t be afraid of asking me as much as you want at:


I hope you liked Blair and learned from this breakdown, as much as I did. If you are interested in the character development, don’t be afraid of asking me as much as you want at:


Check out my other projects and give me some love:  



Thanks for reading and hope you like it 🙂

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