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So I've been interested in making characters for a while, and I feel I want to do it in 3D. I do have basic knowledge around 3DCG, i.e. I'm at least above donut-level (hopefully). Sorry for the long post, I know this could have gone into the questions thread but I feel it's open-ended enough to warrant its own thread, plus anons can contribute their own organic resources and I'd like to see a discussion in general as well.

What's the best approach for this?
Considering this isn't going to be for a game, just for "cinematic purposes", would it be better to do box modelling or sculpting?

If it's the former, is Blender sufficient for the entire pipeline? I have several hundred hours tinkering around in Blender, so I'm able to navigate it with ease.

For the latter, I'm thinking of "getting" ZBrush, and since I'm new to sculpting I'd really like to know what tutorials would be best for someone getting started. Also, what benefits does sculpting with a tablet have over sculpting with a mouse, especially at such a beginner level? I do own a shitty old Wacom tablet, so I'm hoping I can get some use out of it too.

Final question: would Substance Painter be a good addition to the pipeline for texturing characters? What other software would you guys recommend for character texture painting?

I know, long post and all, but I really don't want to fly blind into this and waste more hours like I've done getting started with Blender, so I'd really appreciate all the help.
it mostly depends on what level you want to achieve.

if its simple lowpoly characters that have most of the detail in the texture (lets say ps1,ps2 etc) then your best bet is just using blender and something like bodypaint 3D/photoshop for texture detail.
for more detailed sculpts and such, you can STILL use blender. but the problem is many people struggle with dynatopo which is the tool you make characters with so i don't want to recommend it.

i would say Zbrush,3Dcoat,Blender for the full toolset.
i think redbeard have good sculpting tutorials with zbrush. you can find them on gumroad
alternatively, if you want to continue with blender you have yanalsculpts in youtube. which is mostly focused on high level sculpting with dynatopo

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