Character Breakdown

Fabio Cazzador


Fabio Cazzador

Character Artist


Hi everyone! My name is Fabio, and I am a Character Artist from Verona, Italy.
I have always been passionate about 3D modelling, but lately, I have become fond of Character Art.


The main goal of this project was to translate the character Loki from the stunning illustrations created by Esad Ribic to a realistic style while keeping his identity and his most characteristic traits.

I wanted to achieve the highest quality possible; maintaining a low polycount was not one of my priorities.


  • PureRef for references.
  • ZBrush, Maya, and Marvelous Designer for blockout, modeling and sculpting.
  • Substance 3D Painter for texturing.
  • Marmoset Toolbag for lighting and rendering.


In researching reference images, I tried to be as faithful as possible to the work I was inspired by. Starting from Esad Ribic’s artworks, I researched Norse culture to find out which materials were used and how they were manufactured, focusing on their appearance and details.


Reference research is critical; taking the right amount of time without rushing to finish this phase allows you to get a more accurate picture of the final result. This phase does not end until the end of the project.


Blockout, Modelling & Sculpting

During the blockout stage, it is crucial to define the main shape of the character and find balance in his proportions.

It is relevant to determine what props are needed and how they contribute to the silhouette through their position and where they are attached to the body.

This blockout phase defines the character’s appearance; this should not represent a restriction, but it keeps changing and adapting as the work goes on.


After working on Loki’s body, defining the volumes, and his height and build, I proceeded to block out the clothes in Marvelous Designer and retopologized the result.

I focused, then, on the armor, adding different metal and leather parts going back and forth between Maya and ZBrush, trying to keep the polygons in a good flow and their size as equal as possible.

During this process, I gave the character my own personal touch, reinterpreting some aspects of the original design.


After defining all the parts, I proceeded with the high poly modeling by adding details, damage, and wear to the surfaces. I went for a forged metal look for the shoulder pads and wrist bands, aiming for a worn but still in good condition material.

I proceeded by working on the leather and the textile materials following the same principle, focusing on one material at a time.

After finishing the high poly model, I posed the character by taking inspiration from a scene of the comic book and reinterpreting it.



I defined primary and secondary shapes following the original design of Esad Ribic’s comic. I focused on his particular traits: the weathered face, sharp cheekbones, and iconic facial lines, lending him a vile and dangerous aspect.

I then baked the scanned textures from VFace of TexturingXYZ on my model with Substance 3D Designer, obtaining new displacement, albedo, and utility maps.

I transferred the finer details, such as pores, moles, and micro wrinkles, through the displacement channel in ZBrush, subdividing the displacement map into three different channels.


I kept the albedo map as a base while creating my new color map in Substance 3D Painter. I decided to give a pale look to the skin, emphasizing the dark circles under the eyes and creating contrast with some reddish and bluish areas.


I increased the detail amount by adding eyebrows, eyelashes, and peach fuzz in XGen, improving the quality of my closeup renderings and I added tear lines to give a sheen to the eyes.



Regarding the texturing process, it is essential to look for specific reference images to analyze the deterioration of the material. I realized the textures in Substance 3D Painter, focusing on the metallic parts of the armor and trying to improve my texturing skills.

As said before, I wanted to achieve a worn but not too damaged look, paying a lot of attention to the surface’s imperfections


I started this process by asking myself specific questions about each object, trying to define their aspect through their backstory, and characterizing them by their usage.

For example, I tried to imagine how the armor’s usage characterized its appearance, defining where the dirt settled and which parts were mostly damaged.

For example, I added some roughness and metalness variations, especially in the most damaged areas of the armor; I also added some lime deposits using some grunge maps, picturing the armor exposed to bad weather.


For the belts, I created contrast between areas where the leather was still intact and damaged ones by adding rubbing and folding wear through strong roughness and color variation.

Lighting & Rendering

I realized the lighting and rendering phase in Marmoset Toolbag. I did not have much experience with this software, but I immediately fell in love with it! I think it has the perfect compromise between quality and speed in rendering, allowing you to test different lighting sets very quickly.

I used the HDRI of an exterior scene as a fill light and a rectangular omni light, positioned high and frontally about the face as a key light, thus creating a shadow on Loki’s gaze, giving him an ambiguous and sinister aspect.

I focused most of the lighting on the top part of the character to bring out more details on his face and armor.

In addition, I added two rim lights with a warmer color positioned opposite the key light, creating more contrast to the shadow areas and helping the character pop out from the background.



I had a lot of fun working on this project. I found the subject, and especially Esad Ribic’s design, particularly inspiring. I worked on improving my texturing skills, drawing inspiration from the artists I consider to be the best.

I thank Games Artist for giving me the possibility to write this article, and I hope you can find it helpful!