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Mechanical Character Design

with Joe Peterson

Sample Clip

In this tutorial, concept designer Joe Peterson breaks down the process of creating a mechanical character using only a story outline as the starting point. With the initial premise being a believable sci-fi future world, Joe sets out to design an appropriate mechanized unit for a high-tech SWAT team. He begins by discussing how this initial idea influences the entire design process, beginning with reference gathering and following all the way to the final detailing and rendering phases. Joe demonstrates how, once a level of technology is decided on, the appearance and features of the mechanics are much easier to design. Throughout the tutorial, he discusses the balance between using imagination over using real-world design elements and the importance of building up a visual design vocabulary to help make informed design choices, leading to appropriate mechanical designs. By walking through every step, from initial sketch, to refinement, detailing and final rendering, Joe shows his process of balancing imaginative features with real-world design to deliver a convincing, yet unique and creative mechanical design. He also discusses how to frame your mechanical design around the needs of the story or setting, ensuring that the context will help drive your creative decisions along the way. This tutorial offers various techniques and processes for creating and refining a mechanical design that is intended to not only look cool, but also communicate its function at a glance.

  • Mechanical Design
  • Concept Design
  • Importance of Reference
  • Digital Painting
  • Communicating Function
  • Shape Refinement
  • Correct Proportions
  • Story Driven Design
  • Decal Application
  1. Plan and Reference
  2. Rough Sketch
  3. Adding Limbs
  4. Mechanical Details
  5. Bringing the Sketch Together
  6. Refining the Sketch
  7. Adding Modules
  8. Adding More Modules
  9. Basic Colors and Shading
  10. Beginning Details and Cleanup
  11. Changing Colors and Additional Detail
  12. Ammo Belt Detail
  13. Additional Cleanup and Refinement
  14. Proportion Check and Final Tweaks
  15. Decals and Stickers
  16. Finishing Touches

  • Product Code: JPE01
  • ISBN: 1-59762-736-4
  • UPC: 805366018283
  • Duration: 200 minutes
  • Formats: DVD-ROM, Digital Download, Online Subscription

DVD-ROM Requirements:

  • 1GHz or faster processor
  • 512 MB RAM
  • 64 MB Video RAM
  • DVD-ROM Drive
  • 5 GB of hard disk space
  • 1280 x 1024 display

DVD-ROM and Digital Download Requirements:

Minimum Operating System:

  • Microsoft® Windows® Vista®
  • Microsoft® Windows® XP Professional
  • Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional
  • Apple® Mac® OS X 10.2


  • QuickTime Movie Player (Version 7.0 or higher)
  • Acrobat Reader (Version 5.0 or higher)

For more information on DVD and Digital Download policies click here here.

  • Software Used:

  • Adobe

Joe Peterson

Concept Artist

Joe Peterson is a senior concept artist at Blizzard Entertainment, with over 9 years of experience in the field. For most of that time he has worked in the Blizzard Cinematics department, contributing to various character, set, and hardware designs. Prior to working at Blizzard, Joe worked at Red 5 Studios during the early stages of their online shooter project, where he helped develop a visual style for the game's sci-fi look.

Watch this tutorial now with an Online Training Subscription.

"I know few artists who are not only extremely talented but also passionate about what they do and are constantly pushing themselves. Joe Peterson is definitely one of them. I had the pleasure to work with Joe on many projects and I was very fortunate to able to exchange processes, techniques and knowledge in general which I truly believe has made me a better artist."

- Fausto De Martini
Freelance Digital Designer

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