Hard Surface Modeling for Characters

A 6-week course focused on designing and building complex hard surfaces for characters

Course overview Course overview

Course Overview

Build and design hard surfaces for characters

Throughout this course we are going to take a look at the techniques and challenges of designing and building hard surfaces for characters. This does not only include design, sculpting, and modeling, but especially the focus on creating character hard surfaces with animation in mind from the very beginning. The goal is to get students to look at the subject matter from a new perspective and to take away as much knowledge, tips, tricks, and techniques as possible for use in their own work.


Course Format:   Standard
Lecture Type:   Pre-recorded
Feedback:   Individually recorded
Duration:   6 weeks
Assignment:   Due each week. Expect to spend 10-20 hrs/wk viewing lectures, q&a, and time on assignments
Q&A:   Once a week
Materials:   ZBrush and 3D packages such as Maya, 3Dsmax, Modo, or else should be known to follow along
Skills level:   Intermediate
Prerequisites:   Knowledge of ZBrush and 3D packages such as Maya, 3Dsmax, Modo; some basic but solid anatomy knowledge is a plus for having a base body model to get started

Environment design WHAT YOU’LL LEARN

What you'll learn

The more you know, the better.

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Taking a look at the difference between hard surface modeling and organic modeling (deformation) | Design principles and challenges when building hard surfaces for characters | Have a look at the character concept (background story, design breakdown, reference used) | Evaluating design for required range of motion
Quick intro to Dynamesh to use it for the basic hard surface blockout | Blocking out the basic/primary shapes of the hard surface and clothing | Designing the back of the character during blockout (on the fly design without 2D concept) | Explaining ZBrush workflow, tools used and design decisions while sculpting the concept
Using ZRemesher to create a low res version of the base body | Building a ZSphere Rig to test the range of motion the hard surface parts can provide | Taking a look at extreme and key poses | Talking about feedback from the rigger | Working out improvements / design changes to improve motion range
Applying necessary design changes to the armor sculpt for better motion based on previous motion tests (reducing limitations and intersections) | Building and using custom brushes for hard surface detail | Sculpting smaller shapes, details and bringing concept sculpt to final stage for remodeling
Exporting 3D concept to 3D modeling package (here: Maya or Modo) | Topology guidelines for game mesh / real time geometry | Remodeling hard surfaces for real-time rendering
Topology guidelines for high res / Sub-D modeling | Remodeling hard surfaces for Sub-D

Igniting your imagination

Lectures by Ben Erdt

Ben is a character / creature artist and modeler currently working at Guerrilla Games and has been in the industry for over five years now. He is at home with many styles and techniques, from organic to hard surface, realistic to imaginary. As a character artist he has worked on the games Kill-zone: Shadow Fall and Horizon Zero Dawn, and has also worked for Blur Studio as a freelance artist.

August 6th - October 22nd

fall TERM Registration




January 26th!

Pricing & Schedule

Even though our courses are the most affordable for the quality of education.

These Finance Options allow you to focus on your goals instead of the barriers that keep you from reaching them.

Employer Reimbursement

Animation Guild CSATTF

Payment Plan

Companies that hire our students

  • Naughty Dog
  • Luma Pictures
  • Google
  • EA Games
  • DreamWorks Animation
  • Blizzard Entertainment

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