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Stages of production – Building a 3D soldier character from scratch

Stages of production

I had a lot of fun creating this character and I wanted to share the various stages of production I went through. I made many mistakes and there are definitely better methods out there but this is the route I took. I really hope it helps you with your own project in some way.

stages of production


It all started here

“I want to build a cool sci-fi soldier” Those words in mind translate to a vast array of initial questions; Is it humanoid? Is it Male/Female? Does it have huge over-sized armor? What kind of  weapons would it use? Is it going to be Realistic?

You have to start somewhere, even if you don’t fully understand what it is you want to build. Of all the stages of production, this was the most fun because it resolved those questions and also hinted at answers to new, more detailed questions of the characters form. Even as a rough scribble, a few shapes actually made it through to the final model.

Stages of production

Reference Time

Using reference images is key for obvious reasons but one thing I personally need to remember when using them is not to compare my current rough work to them. It is very difficult to see a finished product from such an early stage and If I am looking at a final posed beauty shot of Ironman or a Halo Spartan it is very easy to become discouraged instead of inspired. I had to keep telling myself that sticking with it is my only option if I really want to finish it.

Stages of production

Basic forms

Before any of the details could be added I really had to have all of my big “form” questions answered. Rebuilding a leg or a piece of armor happened many times and continued to do so until I was at least 90% happy with it. I split off the hands and ignored the head design for now because they needed their own focus time.

Stages of production



Here is where it took a large leap. Progress was most apparent which really ignites the motivation to continue on, however, finding a nice medium between looking cool and looking functional was tough. It is so easy to get lost in the details.

Stages of production


Even though the final product was mostly all white, adding color at this stage really helped me break up the forms and identify problem areas.

Stages of production


I was happy with the hands and considered them final after my first attempt but after returning to them with “fresh” eyes I realized the fingers were too skinny and there were many other proportion issues I needed to tweak. These flaws became even more noticeable once I reattached the hands to the body. Building the hands in a separate scene was helpful in some ways but ended up being more trouble in the long run so I don’t recommend it.

Stages of production

The head is so important

Obviously the head is important, it is what we identify with. I spent more time on the design of the head than the rest of the model combined. I started here, ripping off any cool head design I could find online and playing with it in Photoshop. It gave me a place to start but nothing really stood out to me.

Stages of production

Just not working

I tried so many head roughs but nothing was working at all, these were my best two but they felt too “Halo” and lacked the feel I was going for.  Of all stages of production, this process was the longest and most frustrating – I almost quit many times.

Stages of production
Stages of production


I realized it needed more identity than the previous designs so tried something interesting by slowly hinting at human facial features to try to bring it to life and give it some personality. I sculpted in a low brow, high cheek bones and a stern bottom lip which quickly advanced into the final helmet design.
Stages of production

Stages of production

Paint it!

My initial paint test, I really liked the plain white color of a storm trooper so I started with that. I went through many more color tests but ended up returning to my first choice.

Stages of production

Final Look

A few shots of the final result. Not perfect by any means but it is something I am proud of.

Stages of production

Stages of production

Stages of production
Thank you for checking out the stages of production I went through to build this character and I hope it has helped or inspired you to create something!

Check out the Demo Rig

Here is the Soldier Demo Rig for anyone who wants to check it out. The rig details are covered in the video so check that out too! If you decide to take a look at the rig, consider leaving a constructive comment below or on my youtube channel.
Thanks guys, I hope you enjoy it. Lots more soon so Subscribe/follow me!

The Soldier Demo Rig is available here on my site

The Full version is available here on Turbosquid

Maya Rig

3dsmax Rig



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