Design Characters Inspired By Ancient Cultures In Adobe Illustrator | David Miller | Skillshare

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Design Characters Inspired By Ancient Cultures In Adobe Illustrator

teacher avatar David Miller, Multimedia Artist For Primordial Creative studio

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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

8 Lessons (21m)
    • 1. Intro

    • 2. The Importance of Research

    • 3. Working In Illustrator

    • 4. Shadows and Reflections in Photoshop

    • 5. Adding Textures

    • 6. Creating Modular Parts

    • 7. Color Matching

    • 8. Wrap Up

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About This Class

What goes into characters with real history behind them- people of the past, of legend, from mythology?  In this class, we'll explore how to approach a character based on an ancient culture - learning about their unique fashions and lifestyles - and create our own character through Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop which can be used in design and animation.  

Meet Your Teacher

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David Miller

Multimedia Artist For Primordial Creative studio


I'm David, a multimedia artist in Phoenix, and my studio is Primordial Creative.  


I have always been interested in the visual arts from an early age- drawing, painting, and clay- but around my high school years I became interested in photography for the social aspect of involving other people, the adventure inherent in seeking out pictures, and the presentation of reality that wasn't limited by my drawing skills.


One thing in my work that has stayed consistent over the decades since then is I have an equal interest in the reality of the lens next to the fictions we can create in drawing, painting, animation, graphic design, and sound design.  As cameras have incorporated video and audio features, and as Adobe's Creative Cloud all... See full profile

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1. Intro: hello out there. I'm David Miller, a multimedia artist in Phoenix, Arizona. Today we'll be designing characters in Adobe Illustrator that are based on ancient cultures . I will be working on a character from pre Columbian Mayan culture roughly 1000 years ago, but you are welcome to work on whatever culture your heart desires. Our goal is to be inspired by the past to make use of our rich body of knowledge. These past cultures. We'll be working in both Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshopped to creator figures and have them segmented so they could be ready to use in an animation program. Even the most fantastic characters of film and books have some basis in ancient cultures. I got any costume design from Star Wars or Lord of the Rings, and you'll find some parallel to real life. Finding out how the past informs the president is a great source of inspiration for me, and I hope it is for you as well. Your project is simply to create your own character through specific culture of your choosing, designed the character with textures and shading, added and post the results of the sculpture project page. So let's begin 2. The Importance of Research: so the main thing that is different when you're creating something with some basis in reality rather than something straight from your imagination is that you can actually do research on the topic. We do research to find out what people look like, where they lived, what they wore, what material was made of, why they wore it, how they interacted with each other, what hairstyles existed, what colors existed in any other cultural signifiers. Through this process, we answer the basic questions of art and design, which are color, pattern, shape, texture and so on. I'm working on an ancient Mayan character, and through research I've learned the material or close remain of the use of shells as ornaments, bundled hairstyles, flattened foreheads and so on. I've been able to look at a lot of sculptural figures and use those as starting points for my illustrations. There is an amazing amount of historical data and imagery for meso American cultures or, for that matter, aboriginal Australians, Hellenic, Greeks, Egyptian kingdoms, fetal Japan and hundreds of other civilizations. And that information helps inform rich and vibrant worlds in our art and storytelling. One thing to be careful of when we were dealing with cultures outside of our own. There's always a question if the artist is involved in negative cultural appropriation or stereotyping, my take is it doesn't matter if you have a personal history with the culture, as long as you respect that values and strike to be as authentic with your representations as possible. It's not uncommon for artists to appreciate a culture without doing the research reading. Talking to people, visiting the land, etcetera and where they go wrong is they present a skewed view with incorrect details or make basic judgment errors of the cultural mores based on today's mores. 3. Working In Illustrator: Okay, we're going to be working in Adobe Illustrator now, and this is a process that took me 45 minutes to do so. I've spent it up 900% because it's quite boring to watch somebody working illustrator for 45 minutes on. I will just describe the basic tools I'm using. There's only five here in case you're not very familiar with Adobe Illustrator. So Number one is the pen tool, and the pen tool on my illustrators set up is third down Second column. So there to pen tools. One gives you more of a straight line and one defaults to curb lines. And that's the one I'm generally using to draw the outlines of all of these objects. Do you see me dio when you double click on a vertex? It either converts your curved line to a straight corner or a street corner to a curved line, and the majority of my characters are filled with curved lines. But there's always got to be some pointy vertex. Otherwise, they're going to look like amorphous blobs, and that's pretty unnecessary. So that's the pencil. There is a pencil tool, which is located six down in the first column. I use that to draw the more organic shapes, such as the eyes. Now, when you create a shape, there is a fill to the shape, and there is a stroke to the shape. The stroke is the outer line that Phil is thean her color, and my particular style of working is almost entirely filled. As you can see in the past, when they created cartoons and comics, they always had to have an outer stroke because that black line was the definition of where they could fill the color. But in modern animation and modern comics, it's not necessary anymore. So my current style of working just defaults to no stroke. The few exceptions, and you can see on the upside down face on, um, on the characters necklace piece, I used a stroke from the pencil tool and gave it a stroke of something like five pixels. The fill in the stroke are the color palettes you see on the lower left. Yeah, currently, it's brown in the Phil, and the stroke is no stroke. And if you see those three tools right below it, you have a whole fill. You have ingredient and you have a no stroke or no film. The last area to note an illustrator is the layers palette, which I have in my lower right corner. I'm working on individual layers for the majority of these pieces. And if I want to make sure my pen tool doesn't click on, say, another shell or another piece of armor or cloth that this guy has, its a good idea to lock the layers using a little locked tool when you are not going to be using them? No, Another method besides locking the tool is to draw your shape away from everything else that you have strokes and feels on and then drag and drop it in. But here were adding strokes to his beard. We're using the pen tool to refine his mouth pieces. Make sure his lip looks like, uh, something a little more in proportion to the rest of his face. Does look like a lot of work, and I'll be honest. It felt like a lot of work, but it does look like a lot of work, and to be honest, sometimes it felt like a lot of work. But there are a few workarounds for example, on doing those shells or these ribbons around his waist. I can draw a couple of them, copy them with control, see or hold olds and drag with the mouse. And then I have multiples of the thing I drew before, which I can then tweak with the pen tool or scale them down by dragging the corners place behind other objects, etcetera. And, um, it's these details that make your character feel like they actually have a history to them and make it a little more authentic to the original artwork piece that this is based off of . 4. Shadows and Reflections in Photoshop: Okay, we have opened our figure in photo shop, and now I'm going to go through the process of adding inner shadows. So our character looks like he has the right dimensions going to do a little bit of quick cleanup here, renamed Things that I didn't name in Illustrator, so I couldn't see what I'm actually doing Now. I'm picking a layer and adding the inner shadow, using either the FX button on the bottom of my layers palette or right clicking and but choosing blending options. And once I have placed my inner shadow like you need trick called copy layer style that is a right click on the layer that you have your shadow on copy layers style. Then you can highlight the rest of the layers. You want to play shadows on right click paste layer style that gets me and my shadows and consistent places, and the size of the shadow should be determined by the size of the object replacing it, so you'll notice that I'll have to do a little bit of re sizing on some individual pieces to make them look consistent. Also, it's a good idea to set your shadow to a color that is basically a darker version of whatever you're applying on. So if I was applying a shadow to the large tan area of his body, the cholera I'd pick might be a darker tan or a brown. It just feels a little more realistic that way than having a black shadow across everything . There are other effects you can imply. You notice the round object on his left shoulder, his left shoulder right to us. I applied satin do that because I've seen the satin finish have a shiny look. And, um, I'm not trying to be 100% realistic, but I want everything to feel like is made out of unique material later on allowed textures . But you can make something shiny through on FX mode. It'll probably work better than if you just pick something shiny. To overlay is a texture 5. Adding Textures: okay, we're going to add some texture to our character. I'm going to drop in material that I find these do Google image searches. I find these in my daily life, and I photographed them and keep him as a catalogue. But this one definitely was a Google image search. When you drop your image on, want to have it size to the size you need it, you need to rast arise it, which I did about 10 seconds ago on the screen that his under layer and Rast arise that allows your image to be edit herbal. I'm going to reposition it above the layer of clothes I wanted to effect. The question comes up a lot. How many textures should you have? And I think the answer is Aziz. Many things in your artwork that genuinely needed texture, which could be a lot I selected around the close layer, and when I had that glowing selection, I went back to my texture layer and hit Delete that cut out Onley the shape I need. You can see the marching and surrounded. I'll use a blend mode. Currently, is that soft light? Um, I don't want my textures to be overwhelming because it can look incongruous. Toe. Have a photo realistic texture, something that's a photograph on top of your illustrated artwork, so I'm gonna mix it kind of low. But it's a lot of trial and error in one piece of clothing. Soft light at 50% will look good on another piece of clothing or an accessory it might be multiply at 10%. You develop a taste for these things as time goes on, but you've got to do a lot of artwork to develop the tastes. Sometimes I might mix the same texture on multiple areas but makes them differently. So same material go to multiply, select around my clothes, deleted again. 6. Creating Modular Parts: my original model for my Mayan figure had no arms and legs. And in the culture that I'm referencing, they did have bracelets. They did have sandals. I'll show you my designs for those, but the general arms and legs are uncovered. So what I'm doing here is creating a set of generic legs in Illustrator. It's really no different process than any of the other stuff up we've already discussed in our class, but I'm giving a thigh on one layer and neon another layer and a shin on another layer. I'm using the draw tool for my purposes, and then I'm doing some cleanup with the pen tools, removing some of the A needed, uh, pinpoints, making sure it looks kind of smooth. Size is right. When I'm done with this process and I have my single generic leg. I'm going to export it as a PSD file, much like I did with my characters body. And then I'm going to show you something in photo shop, which is called Puppet Warp, and that allows you to stretch out sections of your drawing in ways that affect the other sections and make you look really believable. So let me finish up here The leg export photo shop. If I save it as a c M i k. I have the option of writing all layers. If I save it as an RGB, it doesn't allow me to do that. This is important to know because in the future, if you're going to animate any of these pieces, you're going tohave to use RGB mode. But the software that I used to animate, which is adobe after effects only works in RGB not see him like a so like to open it. No, this leg could apply to possibly any character I have. If it was a man or a woman, I'd want them to look different. And if the character has a different skin tone on their face or their arms, I want them to look consistent within the characters. So first, let me change the mode. I think I mentioned earlier Don't emerge layers. I'm going to stretch the cannabis a little bit. The canvases that blank area around your drawing because when I animate this, I want to make sure that I have space for objects to move around. And if you don't give space for your objects to move around and then your leg won't move anywhere. It'll cut off at a frame. This is puppet warp. It's under edit in Puppet Warp. I place pins in the areas I want to stay hard or the areas I genuinely want to move. And I'm showing you this because I'm showing you how you can easily reshape or retool your generic leg once you have it saved. So if I wanted to make a more feminine leg could be done. If I wanted to put this on someone with a bit more weight, it could be done if I wanted to show someone was skinny or had a weaker muscle could be done. Puppet warp is really fun to use. I'll probably do a future class exclusively on the potential of puppet warp, but you can see the difference here. If I checked the history, that's what I started with. That's where I ended up, and that's only working on the shin section. So let's try this on the thigh. Each time you make adjustments to your generic a leg, you save it as a new version and maybe look at some anatomy books. See if you want? If you're going for realism, if you're going for cartoony like me, then it doesn't really matter. But if you're going for realism, look at anatomy books. Look at what famous athletes actually have on their arms and legs or famous models, whoever it is you're trying to emulate. Now I'm only working on one leg, and the reason is the way this is set up this leg could be the left or right leg. It really doesn't matter. You can flip things around and transform, and you can resize them toe look like they're a little further away in perspective. 7. Color Matching: the last bid I'm gonna do here is I am going to sample the color on this kid in my priest, and I am going to apply that color to the leg. It's a super easy process. Use your color picker. Select the color of the skin. Go back to the leg. Switch to the paint bucket tool painted in where you need it and four completions sake. I'll go ahead and show you this sandal I designed. Ah, lot of my figures are going to be wearing similar kinds of shoes. In my research, I did not find a huge variety of shoes. And rather than having people where totally different things, I'm just going to stick to a basic sandal and change the colors to Ping on which character is wearing them also resize the feet a little bit, using the puppet warp tool. This is a bracelet, and I found more than one type of bracelet, so I've designed more than one type. But the shoes, the bracelets, it's all in the same method 8. Wrap Up: So here's a few other character designs done with the same process. When your world building and populating story you want to tell, it's easy to be inspired not just by the culture but by what you've already done. Adding variety by having different ages, sizes, genders, social status is and so on your product. Just do select a culture of the past that interests you and design and character based on customs, unique physical attributes and any available fashions of the day. Posted image of your character and let us know what you learned about the culture as your major creation. This was the first of my concept Art Siri's and I hope You enjoyed it. Future Installments will feature animation tutorials and basing our designs off of other criteria, like collaborating with Children working from modern life and creating robots from appliances. Thanks for watching