The Red Queen

Character Breakdown

Manuel Sierra


Manuel Sierra

Character Artist


My name is Manuel Sierra. I am a 3D Character Artist/Generalist with over 10 years of experience in the VFX industry. Character art is my passion.
I have dedicated the past two years to refining my expertise in character art for games.


The “Red Queen” is a project I worked on during a course led by J Hill. In this class, we chose a concept and spent eight weeks going through the entire gaming pipeline.

I chose a concept by the great Miguel Iglesias.

It was a great character design with a rich color palette, which also provided the opportunity to showcase a wide range of materials such as armor, gold, leather, cloth, hair, fur, and skin.

Goals and Vision

My main goal was to put into practice all that I have learned over the years and add a great piece to my portfolio.

I wanted to follow the concept as closely as I could and create a real-time character in Unreal Engine.


  • Zbrush
  • Maya
  • Substance Painter
  • Unreal Engine 5
  • Marvelous Designer
  • Marmoset Toolbag


I collected all of my references in a PureRef file, looking for images based on each material type.

I also gathered skull references, since most of the jewelry and weapons had a skull theme. I had a blast sculpting all the skulls, which took me back to anatomy class.



In my blockout stage, I focused on proportions and silhouette. I quickly created rough geometry for all the pieces, including the hair and fur, and blocked out a pose to see where I should spend my time.

There was no concept art for the back of the character, so the blockout stage helped fill in all these missing gaps.



I sculpted and polished all the objects created during my blockout phase. For most pieces, I rebuilt them using clean geometry, then refined them until I was satisfied with the results.

Additionally, I established some surface properties, with the understanding that I would add more detailed surfacing during the texturing stage.

Hair & Fur

I created fur strips using Xgen, then baked them into cards and placed them using the GS CurveTools plug-in. During the placement process, I exported the groom to Marmoset Toolbag, which helped me see how the groom looked in real time.

I learned this hair-creation method from the great Hazel Brown. She has a fantastic tutorial series.


I created basic cloth garments with Marvelous Designer, mainly using it as a reference to see how the cloth would drape on this body type.

I spent most of my time in Zbrush adding folds and enhancing what I got from MD.


I started the head from a base mesh and built it up there. I used a lot of references to get an older woman’s look.
The main goal was to have a very regal expression, as if she was better than everyone, almost as if she was looking down upon all her subjects.

For all the pore detail, I utilized scan data from the 3D Scan Store. I projected all the details to a layer to have full control.


Topology & UVs

After decimating all of my high-poly objects and exporting them to Maya, I utilized Quad Draw to generate a clean topology. The UVs were crafted in Maya using its UV unfolding tools, and I arranged all the UV islands manually.

I find this method most efficient for me. I tried to get the most out of stacking UVs. There were 75 individual spikes, but only four were unwrapped; the rest were stacked.

The same system was employed for all the chain links.


All of my texturing and baking were done in Substance Painter. This is where all of your hard work starts to come together, and it is also where you can start to tell a story through texturing.

Make sure to export some basic textures and start putting together a look dev scene in the engine.

it is really important that you base your critiques on what you see in the engine since that is your final output.

Lighting and Rendering

For my main render in Unreal Engine, I implemented a three-point lighting setup: two key lights, two rim lights, and an HDR as my fill light.

The HDR also helped with all the metallic reflections.



I learned a lot from this project. I hope that sharing my journey with this character helps you as well. I want to thank J Hill and his team, Hazel Brown, and my classmates for helping me with this project.

If you are interested in my work, please feel free to contact me.

Thank you!