Character Illustration: Create a Creature from Real-Life Inspiration | Masholand | Skillshare

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Character Illustration: Create a Creature from Real-Life Inspiration

teacher avatar Masholand, Artist & Designer

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

9 Lessons (35m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Tools & Materials

    • 3. Finding Inspiration

    • 4. Defining Characteristics

    • 5. Simplification

    • 6. Coloring & Details

    • 7. Digitizing Your Artwork

    • 8. Practical Applications

    • 9. Wrap Up

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About This Class

If you are wondering how to create a character illustration based on someone you know, this class is for you.

Follow me on a journey of turning human portraits into creature designs. I will teach you simple tips and tricks for making fictional characters. The step-by-step process of the class will make it easier to create wonderful drawings of your inspiration. 

We will start by picking a photograph, and on each step, we will turn an actual person into a character illustration by using digital and analog tools. At the end of this class, you will learn how to apply your creations to different designs.

The class is for beginners wanting to learn simple ways to illustrate or creatives wanting to find easy ways of coming up with the character design. 

Skills you will develop are imagination, illustration, conception, and decision-making.

Here are the recommended tools for the class:

  • A4 Transparent and Non-transparent Papers
  • Printer (if you work in analog)
  • Pen / Pencil
  • Eraser
  • Nice to have tools: Colorful Paints/Markers/Pencils

This class is the continuation of our first class on Skillshare: Character Illustration: Designing from Concept to Creature which shows students that it’s not necessary to have a big idea to be creative. The illustration process and the approaches demonstrated in the videos can serve you as a new tool, which you can apply to different projects. 

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1. Introduction: Welcome to my fifth class on Skillshare. It's going to be about character design, how to illustrate a creature based on real-life inspiration. My first class on Skillshare, which was about creating fictional creatures based on real animals was so inspiring that I decided to do another volume. My name is Masho Margishvili, I'm an artist, designer, and founder of a parallel universe called Masholand. Masholand is a space filled with different creatures, places, and stories. I spend most of my days in an attempt to tell the stories of Masholanders to other people by using different media such as illustrations, graphic design, painting, murals, animation, and much more. It's always super fun to create the illustrations of Masholanders based on real people so I decided to share this experience with you. Today, we are at Cafe Gallery in Philly sea see ready to roll. This class is for everyone interested in creating fictional characters based on the people they know. We will go through easy to follow step-by-step process, which will make it super easy to complete the class. The character design, skills, and tricks you will learn throughout the class will help you to not only expand your imagination, but also to make artworks that can be used for different purposes. If you're ready to travel with me to discover new creatures, let's jump right into the next video. 2. Tools & Materials: Thank you for joining. This class is for expanding your imagination and knowing that it is not necessary to have a great, big idea and years of experience in order to create something fun and beautiful. At the end of the class, you will have at least one character design and you will know the multiple ways of how you can use this character for multiple purposes. The tools you're going to need for the class are as simple as pencil and pen. I usually use these black ink pens, and they are really nice to make the image more vivid. Transparent paper, it's better to have at least three of them. You will also need some colors. You can use watercolors, acrylic colors, or I usually use markers. Those are acrylic-based markers and I have couple of colors, and it's also good to have a printer, but you can also use digital forms to make your character illustration. We will go through that as well during the class. As for the digital software, I'm going to be using Procreate app on my iPad, but feel free to use Photoshop or any other software tools that you might have at home. At the end of the class, you will get a chance to share your project with other students and me. Feel free to do so at the Project and Resources page, and I'll see you in the next video. 3. Finding Inspiration: In this video, we're going to decide whom you're going to illustrate and your main inspiration that you are going to base your character on. At first, think about the person that you would like to illustrate. It could be any of your family members, or it could be one of your friends. It doesn't matter really. As an example, I chose the stock photos that I printed out and you can find them at the Resources page. There are a couple of points you should consider when you are choosing the photo. At first, you should consider the clarity of an image, clearer the borders are, easier it is for you to outline the image. Second, you should consider that the background should be solid because more complicated the background is, more difficult it's going to be for you to illustrate. Considering all these points, you can choose the photo, you can print it out if you have a printer if not, you can always use a bright screen to draw on top of it. For the next video, you're going to use transparent papers like those. You will use the printed-out forms of a portrait photos. Also, you should use the pens or pencils to outline the images. Get ready and see you in the next video. 4. Defining Characteristics: Before we go on and start illustrating, I would like to talk to you about a couple of characteristics that might affect your illustration. First of all, before you start thinking about the character, let's think about main face features that will tell us the story of the character, itself. There are a couple of templates that I prepared for you that you can find at the resources page. On the first photo, you can see the portrait of the girl that I showed you in the previous video and I outline this girl and I use different characteristics to tell a story about her. So let's go through all of the points and you will see what I'm talking about. On the first image, you will see happy and friendly face of the girl and usually dimples and bigger cheeks, talk about friendly and fun, loving personalities. On the second page, you will see more critical and sarcastic version. The eyebrows, which are high arched, tell more about critical personality and usually, the faces are thinner and the hair is tidier as well. On the third example, you will see more expressive personality and the hair is more wavy and short with a special hairstyle, this girl has bigger earring and the smile is bigger. On the fourth page, you will see more sentimental and romantic personality. These more rounded eyebrows and thinner lips and wavy hair talks more about her characteristics. On the fifth image, you will see strong personality and usually people who have thicker eyebrows, they have more intense personality, not in a bad way, but usually, this is what happens. She also has darker hair, thicker hair. Let's go on to the sixth example. She's more caring personality, her bigger cheeks talk about friendliness and she has more rounded eyebrows which talk about a more harmonious relationship with the environment. If those examples are not enough for you, you can also think about your favorite animation characters or characters from the books, and look at their face feature and observe what personalities they have and what face features they have. It might give you a better idea of how to construct your own character design. To help you out with thinking about the characteristics of your creature or character, I prepared another template and you can fill-up the form and it will give you better idea of what to do next. So let's do it together so it's easier for you to follow. Let's start with the personality type. Think about your creature. Is he or she optimistic, sentimental, aggressive, or what kind of creature it is? I would like my creature to be positive and to be dreamy. Actually, I would like to add here that I would like my creature to be female, but it's up to you what gender you would like your creature to have. Her favorite activities. You can think about daily routine as well and what hobbies your creature has, running, swimming, singing, etc. For my creature, I would like her to be a reader. Reading is her favorite activity, riding a bike. Also, hang out with friends. I want her goal to be traveling at least in 30 countries before she turns 30. Her relationships, here here can talk about friends circle, family situation, or any other relationships she might have. I want her style to be more carefree. Here, you can talk about likes and dislikes of your creature. It could be as simple as liking a candy and is more complicated as loving astrophysics. Her dislikes are rude people and she doesn't like rats. In terms of the profession and how it can help your creature, is that some professions have their distinctive style or distinctive personality type. For example, scientists are very observative and their profession might affect their look. But also the cliche thinking is that artists are not very tidy and they are more carefree in a way. I don't think that it's true, but we can just go to these stereotypical types of personalities which will make it easier for us to distinguish our character. Profession for her, I think she doesn't have a profession yet. She's still studying, but she's a bookworm. I'm going to write bookworm here and the last, ways they spend time, partying with friends, walking outside, traveling, etc. She loves watching movies and also taking photos. We have our basics of character personality. This will really help you to think about their look and their lifestyle and what vibe your character should have. Now we will start drawing and keep all these characteristics in mind. Or you can also put this paper in front of you and look at it from time to time so it's easier for you to remember them. 5. Simplification: Now it's time to start illustrating. I chose this image. This is a stock photo from and you can find the link in the resources page as well. Then we're going to use this transparent paper that I hope you already have and you have to put it on top of the image. Now what we're going to do is to outline the main shape of your portrait. Before we do it, keep it in mind that if you make any mistakes, it's okay. You can redo it as many times as you want. Don't worry about it. Don't mind the small details. Outline the main lines. As I mentioned, if you make any mistakes, don't worry about it. In terms of the teeth, I always try not to outline them because they look super creepy sometimes. I'll leave it without outlining and I'll continue with eyes. With hair, I will outline the main shape because she has many curls and it's more difficult to outline in this short period of time so try to outline the main shape. You can leave out the shapes you don't want to outline. This way is really, really easy to follow. It's not necessary for you to be a professional illustrator in order to be able to do this. Everyone is capable of following those steps. But trust me, there are many artists who follow those steps and they never say it. If they can do it, you can do it too. We're done outlining the main shapes. Here we have this beautiful girl. If you think that we're done, we still have a long way to go, but nothing scary. Let's take another transparent paper that you have, the second one, and put it on top of the previous image. Actually, the outlines are not very visible anymore. In order to make the image sharper, I'm going to use my iPad and it will make everything more visible for sure. On this stage, what I'm going to do is to take my previous template, look at the points and think what I want to keep and what I want to lose. In her case, I want her to be positive and dreamy so her eyes and mouth will probably stay more or less the same. I want her to be carefree so her hair should be curly. But the rest can be changed. Now, we already have outlined image and we're going to simplify it even more. I'll try to make shape of her head and the jaw simpler. Maybe like this. I want her ears to be bigger, so she's more attentive. She doesn't have very strong personality, so her eyebrows should be thinner. I'm going to keep her dreamy eyes, but I'm going to close them, so she's even more dreamy. She's not stubborn or anything. I want her nose to be smaller and more cartoony, and I want her mouth to still smile. But I will leave the lips. I don't want her hair to be that long. I want her to be younger and funnier in a way so I will still make them curly but maybe a bit shorter and less detailed, and I'll continue with her clothes. For now, I'm going to keep her clothes. I like how they look, but maybe I'll change it later. As I mentioned earlier, you can make as many mistakes as you want because you can always redraw on top of your image and you can always refine it. This is what we had before, and this is what we have now. I'm going to redraw it once again, but I promise this is the last one. I'll continue with the same small nose, but I want to move the mouth a bit higher, so it's cuter. I want to add the freckles because it will emphasize her friendliness. I will keep the eyes, but I will make the arch a bit curlier. I will straighten the face curve because now it's not even. You can correct anything that you didn't like in the first image, especially if you are using pencil to draw. Now I want her to wear something even more fun. Maybe I'll add some details to her shirt. Maybe instead of this collar, it'll be a funnier one. Instead of that kind of button, it should be shaped differently. Maybe there's going to be different [inaudible] characters out of her pocket, like [inaudible] As she's a bookworm, maybe I will draw a small worm out of her ears. As she likes to travel a lot and her dream is to travel as many as 30 countries before she turns 30. Maybe I'll add a new fictional feature to her characteristics and it's going to be a tail. Maybe she can have a long tail that she can use to fly and faster she'll wiggle the tail, faster she can fly. For the second turn of outlining, what we had before was this. Now we have this beautiful fictional, human-like creature. For the next video, we're going to add more details, add colors, and name our creature. Let's go to the next video. 6. Coloring & Details: In this video, we're going to color our creature, we're going to add some details. Finally, we're going to name our character. Are you ready? Let's start. As my creature is very fun-loving, I'm going to use really bright colors so it can emphasize her look. With coloring, I would like to say a couple of things. If you look at the different animation characters, you will see the main pattern of how they look, what are their colors, and what's their personality like. For example, most of the villains wear black, which is very intense color. Also, superheroes wear very radiant colors which are also strong, but more energetic colors. Some wizards usually wear something with purple or magenta colors. Most of the princesses usually with soft personalities, they wear pastel colors. Colors are affected by culture, by different characteristics, and by different personalities as well. You can think about your current image and think about what color you would like to use to emphasize their personalities. In my case, my character is very bright and positive, so positive and creative color is yellow. blue colors are usually used for sentimental purposes, but I still would like to use both, so they complement each other. For the details, I will use chalk based marker. I will outline her face features with it, but I will use it only for the details. There are also a couple of colors that I might use to put some dots and lines, so my image is nicer at the end. Of course, talking about color theory is a deep topic. I'm just oversimplifying everything so it makes sense for you. But if you would like to know more about colors and color psychology, there're plenty of resources online. Also, you can find them at the library in different books, but it's not obligatory. If you don't have any markers, feel free to use any colors that you have around, it can be water-based colors, acrylic base colors, or anything actually that you have. You might also want to have black and white image. It's also okay. In that case, you can skip the coloring lesson. Let's start painting. I finished coloring. We have this bright happy creature, but at the end I'm going to outline the main image, so colors are sharper and image is clearer. We finished our creature. I'm really interested in seeing your creatures, so if you have some time, please share your creations with me and upload them at the projects and resources file. But for now let's talk a bit about naming. Look at your creature and think if this creature reminds you of anyone, or maybe you have some name in mind. This creature reminds me one of my friends. Her name is Anna. It's not super creative, I know, but it's okay. You can come up with your own name. Something like a combination of different animal and human names or anything. That's it. For the next lesson, what we're going to do is to create two versions of digital illustration of your character. The first one is going to be the character that we just created. We're going to take a photo or scan the image, and we are going to change in digital form. The second version is that we're going to do every step from the beginning till the end and create entirely digital illustration. It is going to be helpful, especially for the students who didn't do analog form. Finally, we are going to take our images and try them for different design purposes such as making stickers, designs for a T-Shirt or tote bag, making posters, postcards, and more. See you in the next video. 7. Digitizing Your Artwork: In this video, we are going to do two different versions of digitizing your illustration. At first, we are going to take the picture of the illustration that you already made, and then we're going to do the character illustration of this image from the beginning. At first, let's take a photo or you can also scan your image. But right now I don't have a scanner, so I will just photograph it. I took a photo of the illustration and now I'm going to transfer it to Procreate app and I will work on each digitally. If you do not have Procreate or iPad or any other graphic tablet, feel free to use any digital software that you might have, like Photoshop, Illustrator, or anything else. I will insert a photo, the image that I took a photo of, and I'll try to make it look like as it was in analog. I'll use curves, then I will move the image. I will erase the contours in places that I don't need. I will use the mask and delete the sides that I do not need, so the photo is more beautiful and nicer. If I don't like any of the features, I can remove it, erase them. Or I can also emphasize the places that I like. For instance, some of the lines are not very visible, so I will emphasize them with pen tool. I usually use script brush, which is more solid and easier to use. We have our image ready. It looks almost exactly as it looked in analog. Before we move on and try different design forums, I'm going to digitize different portraits and then at the end, we're going to use those illustrations to make different design objects. I'm going to repeat exactly the same steps as I did for analog version. Instead of using transparent papers, I'm going to use different layers, but the opacity is going to be turned down. I'm going to turn down the opacity. I'll open the new layer, and I'm going to outline the image as I did in the previous exercise. Don't mind the details, just outlining the main object. I didn't need the mobile phone, so I didn't redraw it, but I simplified the first step. Then I will remove the layer beneath the outlines because I don't need it anymore and I will turn down the opacity of layer with outlines. Now, let's create a new layer on top of it, and let's draw more simplified version. This time we don't need to repeat every step, so I will do the final simplification right now, and I will add the fictional touches now, instead of doing it on another layer. Now, I will color this illustration and I will add some details. For this, I will use different layer and I will use the multiply filter instead of normal, because it's easier to color like that. This is a strange creature that I created. It's a combination of a human and an animal. As we have two main images right now, one is this new creature completely digital, and another one is the analog version that we have. Now it's time to prepare those designs for different design purposes such as tote bag or t-shirt designs, stickers, posters, or postcards. 8. Practical Applications: There are plenty of stock images and mockups online, and you can use the source from, and you can find t-shirt, and you can download any white plain t-shirt, because it's going to be easier to put your design on top of it. Maybe I'll use this one, and download the file. You can also print those illustrations at your local printing house. You can put your illustration on different sizes of paper, and ask them to print posters, and postcards, but I will show you an example how you can put it on a t-shirt mockup. Then you can take this mockup together with your file to the printing office, and they will do the magic. Let's insert a new image of a mockup. If you have Photoshop, it's much easier. You can just replace a file with your image, and it will do the work. But in this case, we're going to do everything by ourselves. The file that we had, the layer of our first character, Anna is here as well. We will change the filter from normal to multiply, and then we're going to transform it and put it on t-shirts in a smaller size. This is what we have, Anna is on the t-shirts. We can do the same about the second illustration that we did. I combined the layers, and I will bring the image on top. I will change the filter from normal to multiply here as well, and we already have two t-shirt designs. This is the one, this is the second. Here are some examples of what you can do with the illustrations that you just created. At least you can print them out, and you can gift it to the person that inspired you to create those illustrations at first. Congratulations, you just finish your own character illustration, and you have at least one illustration, and you know how to use it for different purposes. Let's move on to the next video and see what we have created throughout this lecture. 9. Wrap Up: Congratulations, you've just completed the class. I'm very proud of you. Now we can look at what we have created throughout the class. At first we chose a portrait photo of somebody that is inspiring for us, or we just took stock photo from the Internet. Then we outlined the image, then we simplified it, and at the end we added fictional elements, color, and we named our creature and finally, we took the images that we had. We digitized them, and then we saw how we could use those images for different purposes, such as t-shirt design. I'm very happy that I had this experience with you. Please feel free to share your creations with the class in the Projects and Resources page. I'm really looking forward to seeing all of your creations. My name is Masho Margishvili and you have just watched my class about character illustration, how to create fictional creatures based on real-life inspiration. Now you can use the tips and tricks that we have just learned to spark up your creative process and create even more illustrations. See you next time.