Rob Stephens, 3D Character Designer/Illustrator

3D character designer
3D character designer

This week we sit down with artist Rob Stephens. Rob uses Strata 3D CX for a wide range of  3D modeling projects  including package design, product renders, and promotional graphics. But when you look at his portfolio, it doesn’t take long to realize that his forté is character design. With the path to 3D design never being a straight one, we wanted to see how Rob got into the field, and what pushes him forward.


Tell us a little bit about yourself, where are you from, and where are you now?

I’m from Kingston upon Hull in the UK and have worked within the design industry for over 30 years, I was a traditional graphic designer (before the Apple Mac). I have worked all over the UK and Europe for design agencies, reprographic companies and as a self employed magazine designer. I now work for KAD Group who own a range of companies and I have a very diverse range of projects. Companies I have designed for include Procter & Gamble, Elida Faberge, Allied Domecq, Marks & Spencer, Vileda, British Antarctic Survey, The Body Shop, Harley Davidson, Waterstones to name a few.

Do you freelance full time, or do you use it more of a side hustle?

I only freelance for friends and colleagues unless a really interesting project comes along (freelance customers include, Tricity Vogue, Professor Elemental and MrB The Gentleman Rhymer).

Who are your creative influences?

I am influenced by many things, my early influences include Hergé (TinTin), Albert Uderzo (Asterix) and Vince Ray. I love old masters such as Rembrandt, Frans Hals and Abraham Bloemaert. Probably my biggest influences that I always go back to for inspiration are Disney and Hanna Barbera plus a special mention to Brian Kesinger.

How’d you get into 3D design? 

Completely by accident, I worked for a major packaging firm and we would make physical pack mock ups and photograph them for our clients, I was playing around with Strata 1.75 whilst in a hotel the night before a customer presentation and created a very simple 3d pack shot of a number of Procter & Gamble products, after that there were no more physical mock ups made, 3d had wowed our clients, this was around 1994.

What are some client projects that stand out? Do you have a favorite?

The very first (paid), was a 3d mock for a range or deodorants and shower gels for Elida Faberge, my favourite is Victorian Gentleman Pastimes created for a range of postcards

What does your creative workflow usually look like?

Lots and lots of pencil sketches, when Im happy, then straight into Strata. The finished model is usually very similar to my sketches, I’d rather spend 30 minutes more doodling than having to start remodeling.


Why do you use Strata, and what are your favorite features?

It was the first 3d package I had used and I think the renderer is amazing and very easy to get to the finished look, plus it’s not too CAD-like which for an illustrator makes it much more friendly and doesn’t have the engineering feel.

What projects are you currently working on, and what goals do you have for yourself in the future?

I have just finished creating a character called “Uey” for a company called, in my spare time I am looking at creating some animated shorts featuring Professor Elemental and his ape Geoffrey.

If you could give one piece of advice to anyone hoping to get started in 3D design, what would it be?

Don’t let the software put you off, keep at it, read the manual and tutorials and when it comes to rendering study basic photography techniques as this really helps.

You excel at character design. What are some actionable steps designers can take to make their characters feel more alive?

Don’t have them too shiny (reflective) when i first started out nearly everything i created reflected and they looked awful. Add dirt and imperfections to your textures and keep them bendy, or give their hands something to do.


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