Mechanical Character Design

with Joe Peterson

Chapter List


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.

Duration: 200 minutes

Format: SD 1024x768

Chapter List

  • 00. Preview
  • 01. Plan and Reference
  • 02. Rough Sketch
  • 03. Adding Limbs
  • 04. Mechanical Details
  • 05. Bringing the Sketch Together
  • 06. Refining the Sketch
  • 07. Adding Modules
  • 08. Adding More Modules
  • 09. 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


Software Used


  • Mechanical Character Design
  • Mechanical Character Design
  • Mechanical Character Design
  • Mechanical Character Design
  • Mechanical Character Design
  • Mechanical Character Design
  • Mechanical Character Design
  • Mechanical Character Design
  • Mechanical Character Design

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.

  • "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