Uryū is generally shy and quiet, but tries harder to act cool when other people are around. For example, during the Soul Society arc he wears a mantle that serves no purpose other than to make him look cooler, despite the fact that it hinders his movement. He even keeps a spare to that effect. In addition, he also has a tendency to say things with characteristic drama.
Uryū operates on a moral ethic known as the "Pride of the Quincy" and has a strong sense of justice. He has also shown to be very chivalrous, stating that he enacts justice on men who abuse or treat women badly. He demonstrates this at multiple points throughout the series, such as when he tried to defend Rukia Kuchiki from Renji Abarai when he and Byakuya Kuchiki came to the real world to take her, or when he defends Orihime Inoue and Nemu Kurotsuchi at various points throughout the Soul Society arc. Uryū also has a tendency to not use lethal force in battle unless thoroughly provoked, especially if he can win without doing so. Instead, he will simply incapacitate his opponent.
Uryū has low blood pressure and hates procrastination. The other things he hates are quite odd: buttons (despite being an expert in sewing) and the word "haphazard." His favorite food is homemade mackerel miso stew. The television program he likes is Don Kanonji's "Bura-Rei". The shadow that jumped out of the crowd at Kanonji's first appearance was in fact Uryū. Like his grandfather, Sōken Ishida, Uryū is left-handed, and he is also a great archer, capable of great feats of archery.
As a child, Uryū mostly interacted and trained with his grandfather, Sōken Ishida. His father, Ryūken Ishida, was less than enthusiastic about being a Quincy, claiming that it wasn't a profitable occupation. They don't appear to be on very good terms as a result, given Uryū's casual use of his father's given name, which is considered very rude in Japanese society. Sōken understands Ryūken's reasoning, since being a Quincy is more about justice than material rewards and Ryūken has a family to support. Sōken told Uryū that he would someday understand his father's motives, but thus far this isn't the case.
At a fairly young age, Uryū's grandfather was killed by hollows right in front of him. This is one of the reasons he hates Soul Reapers, who, despite keeping the old man under near-constant survellance, didn't come to rescue Sōken in time. He long believed that the Soul Reapers were merely taking advantage of circumstances to be rid of him. It was later revealed that the current captain of the 12th Division, Mayuri Kurotsuchi, was behind the delay so that Sōken's soul could be collected for study.
Wanting to go and save Rukia, Uryū trains to better equip himself for the next time he needs to battle a Soul Reaper. To this effect, he masters the sanrei glove, and joins the rescue team going to Soul Society. Their group is split up soon after their arrival, and Uryū ends up partnered with Orihime Inoue. Though the pair manage to avoid detection for some time, they are eventually found by 12th Division captain Mayuri Kurotsuchi, who quickly takes an interest in Orihime's abilities. Uryū sends her away to remove her from harm, and battles Mayuri in order to buy time.
As their battle progresses, Uryū proves to be no match for the captain. Nevertheless, Mayuri comments on Uryū's impressive Quincy abilities, noting that the thousands of Quincy he has studied over the years fail to measure up to Uryū. When Mayuri shows Uryū a picture of the remains of his most recent test subject, Uryū's grandfather, Uryū decides to defeat Mayuri at all costs. He removes his sanrei glove, greatly increasing his Quincy powers and allowing him to beat Mayuri. However, Mayuri is able to escape and Uryū, robbed of his Quincy powers by the long-term side effects of removing the glove, is easily captured by Kaname Tōsen. He is soon reunited with other members of his rescue team that have also been imprisoned, and they are freed by Kenpachi Zaraki. Upon reuniting with Ichigo and saving Rukia, the rescue team returns to the human world.
With his Quincy powers gone, Uryū is of little use during the initial stages of the Bount invasion. He accompanies Ichigo and the others from battle to battle, but is unable to make any major contributions. Needing access to his former abilities in order to help his friends, Uryū strikes a deal with Mayuri; if Uryū lets the Bount into Soul Society, Mayuri will briefly restore his Quincy powers. Uryū complies, giving the Bount access to the Soul Society, and receives a Quincy artifact for his troubles. Though inexperienced with it, Uryū is able to use the artifact to kill Yoshi. He later assists Ran'Tao in her battle with Jin Kariya, though the Quincy artifact is destroyed during the fight. Once Kariya and the remaining Bount are defeated, Uryū returns home.
Back in Karakura Town, Uryū is attacked by two incomplete arrancar. He attempts to use some Quincy equipment to defeat the two, but is ultimately unsuccessful. It is not until the arrival of his father, Ryūken Ishida, that the arrancar are vanquished. Disappointed by Uryū's weakness, Ryūken offers to restore his Quincy powers on the condition that Uryū never associate with Soul Reapers again. Uryū agrees and trains with his father whilst arrancar continue to attack Karakura Town. After the third arrancar invasion ends Uryū regains his powers, ending his training.
After learning that Orihime has been captured by the arrancar, Uryū joins Ichigo and the remainder of a rescue team organized to save her. Because the group believes that Soul Society has abandoned Orihime, Ichigo is technically not acting as a Soul Reaper, giving Uryū a loophole with which to accompany them. After they arrive in Hueco Mundo and their group splits up, Uryū is joined by Pesche Guatiche. Though Pesche continues to annoy Uryū, he proves invaluable in defeating Cirucci Thunderwitch. As they continue on their way they meet Renji Abarai as he is about to be killed by the eighth Espada, Szayel Aporro Granz. Uryū intervenes and is briefly able to drive Szayel off, but Szayel soon returns and forces Uryū, Renji, Pesche and Dondochakka into a corner. Just as their last hope of winning fades, Mayuri arrives and rescues them. He even heals the two of them using regenerative serum, despite vocal protests from Uryū.
Having undergone formal training and possessing prior experience in combat, Uryū is one of the strongest protagonists in the series, with his victories roughly paralleling Ichigo's throughout the story. As a Quincy, Uryū's main weapon is a bow, but he is also able to use many Quincy techniques and items to augment his abilities, including some high-level techniques such as ransōtengai, which are rare enough that even Mayuri Kurotsuchi, who had studied over 2000 Quincy, had never seen them in person. Uryū's trademark finishing move involves shooting spiritual arrows at his opponents through their soul chain and soul sleep, depriving them of their powers and allowing him to win a bloodless victory.
Aside from his Quincy powers, Uryū is well-trained in both mind and body, having substantial athletic abilities and a genius intellect. He also possesses some knowledge of Spanish, as he understands the Spanish terms used by the arrancar.
When first introduced, Uryū uses a bow named , which has a basic (albeit exaggerated) form and a luminescent, translucent blue quality to its appearance. Being made of free-flowing spirit particles, its size can be affected the amount of spirit particles and spiritual pressure available to it, as seen in his interaction with Ichigo during his first encounter with a Menos Grande. With this bow, Uryū is able to kill most hollows in a single strike.
As preparation for his travel to Soul Society, Uryū later masters the sanrei glove, greatly increasing his abilities via a form of resistance training. In this state, Uryū's bow is solid and covered in an intricate pattern. It is attached to his glove by a series of thin struts. This new bow allows Uryū to fire several shots simultaneously. By removing the glove, Uryū attains the Quincy Final Form. The Quincy Final Form gives him a vast increase in power, enough to defeat a captain-class shinigami with ease. All the extra energy collects on his right shoulder, much like how a quiver is worn, and resembles an angel's wing. As a result of removing the glove, however, the Quincy Final Form uses too much power for Uryū's body to handle, causing his body to block his Quincy powers completely after it wears off.
In the anime's Bount arc, Uryū recovers his powers for a short period through an ancient Quincy artifact which mimics the natural powers of a Quincy. The artifact produces an appropriate Quincy uniform on demand and creates a new metal crossbow mounted on Uryū's wrist. The artifact is unstable, however, firing arrows in odd arcs and with inconsistent power levels when first used. Additionally, it is fragile, eventually breaking after repeated use. Uryū eventually is able to use the artifact at its full efficiency, though it is soon destroyed.
After Uryū regains his powers with the aid of his father, he uses a new Quincy cross, this one resembling a pentangle, and a variant of his original bow called . Unlike his original bow, this bow is shaped like a spiderweb and can fire up to 1,200 shots at once. Uryū also steals a set of , special arrows which can be used as swords.