Idea Generation and Sketching: Part 1 of Environment and Character Design Illustration | Brianna Gilmartin | Skillshare

Idea Generation and Sketching: Part 1 of Environment and Character Design Illustration

Brianna Gilmartin, Illustrator, Cartoonist, Comic Creator

Idea Generation and Sketching: Part 1 of Environment and Character Design Illustration

Brianna Gilmartin, Illustrator, Cartoonist, Comic Creator

Play Speed
  • 0.5x
  • 1x (Normal)
  • 1.25x
  • 1.5x
  • 2x
6 Lessons (23m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Idea generation

    • 3. Thumbnailing

    • 4. Initial rough pencil sketch

    • 5. Digital Sketching

    • 6. Closing

  • --
  • Beginner level
  • Intermediate level
  • Advanced level
  • All levels
  • Beg/Int level
  • Int/Adv level

Community Generated

The level is determined by a majority opinion of students who have reviewed this class. The teacher's recommendation is shown until at least 5 student responses are collected.





About This Class

In this class, we will be going over how to plan out an illustration from thumb-nailing, gathering reference, rough initial sketch, to final sketch. This is part one of a series of classes that will lead to a final full color illustration using my methods of working. You can start here and follow along all the way, or you can just complete the parts of the series that covers what you are interested in learning! Each class will be posted in order from the beginning phase to the final, a few weeks between each class. I can't wait to see what you create along with me!

Materials needed for this class:



-Photoshop (optional)

-Drawing Tablet (also optional)

-Your brain!

-Reference materials

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Brianna Gilmartin

Illustrator, Cartoonist, Comic Creator


Hello there! My name is Brianna Gilmartin and I am a freelance illustrator living in South Jersey, USA, about 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia. I live in the woods where I have adventures with my muppet creature-like dog, Laika. I love to create fantasy illustrations based on the inspirations I get from my life and the world and creatures around me. My expertise lies in character designing, artwork based around fantasy and magic, traditional inking with brushes, nibs, and pens, texture creating, watercolor, and digital painting with photoshop. I'd love to share any wisdom I can offer to others through teaching, so check out some of my classes and see what strikes your fancy!


I have added to my profile a few of my illustrations, but please feel free ... See full profile

Class Ratings

Expectations Met?
  • Exceeded!
  • Yes
  • Somewhat
  • Not really
Reviews Archive

In October 2018, we updated our review system to improve the way we collect feedback. Below are the reviews written before that update.

Your creative journey starts here.

  • Unlimited access to every class
  • Supportive online creative community
  • Learn offline with Skillshare’s app

Why Join Skillshare?

Take award-winning Skillshare Original Classes

Each class has short lessons, hands-on projects

Your membership supports Skillshare teachers

Learn From Anywhere

Take classes on the go with the Skillshare app. Stream or download to watch on the plane, the subway, or wherever you learn best.



1. Introduction : Hello. My name is Briana Gilmore in and I'm an illustrator. Welcome to my first skill share class. This is going to be a series of classes. You can either watch one section off the class that appeals to you, or you can follow along with all of the sections and that's like a beautiful chair. You can find examples of my work on Lee Skill share profile that I have. But you can also find examples of my work on my website and my instagram that will help to inform you whether or not you are interested in taking these classes. This series is going to be walking through how I create illustrations. So the first class is going to be conceptualizing and coming up with an idea and working through that idea to a workable, usable sketch that you can then turn into a final peace 2. Idea generation: There are many ways that you can come by an idea whether it be how I came by this idea with things that are around me and my dog. I'm influenced by people around me, things around me, video games. I'm playing comics that I'm reading. Sometimes I'll just see something. This illustration. I kind of came up with this idea because I would always see this one area when I take this one for a walk, and it's kind of like a cool areas like Woody and there's a creek there. And one of the trees has this, like, little nook cave type of thing in the routes that almost looks like, you know, something could live in there. So I kind of have been like having that spin around in my head for a little bit. There is also this tree in the yard of where I live right now that has like these eyeball looking shapes in it. That's one of the ways that I get ideas is I will see something a lot of times in nature just because personally, I'm really inspired by nature, this particular illustration I really wanted to do a human Iliad version of Hlinka because I just Lined will be fun to bring her personality into a more human kind of character. Um, because she really is a very unique dog. She's more like a creature. That's what I always say. I like to create a story behind my illustrations. One thing you can do to generate an idea is you can Google promise? Sometimes maybe an artist you follow will post prompts. And usually it's like a list of different ideas and words or characters. Lists like that are good because it kind of gets your wheels turn in a little bit. I would love to see your sketches at the end, and I would love to see other people's ideas and things that they have made. Because this illustration is supposed to be kind of a character design illustrations, They were designing your own character and the environment that they exist in. And the back story behind this character is life. At least a snippet of it 3. Thumbnailing: here. I'm starting with. I just right Some notes. I don't necessarily always go by the notes. Psychologists helps me get thinking and kind of like, Let's things flow and helps me figure out exactly what I want to dio I'm going to be taking the real life seen. It's kind of like a cool tree that has this little like nook in the bottom. That kind almost looks like a little cave that something could be living in. So the trees I want to be gigantic. I also am pulling inspiration from a tree in my yard that looks like it has eyes on it, because I think that's a cool thing to bring in tow like a magical world. Um, and I know that I want, like, the Little Creek kind of thing from the area on the walk in it as well. So I kind of figured out what I want to dio. I want toe do like of the shaman, which character, and she's going to have an old woman who's just like hanging out behind her. Um, that is kind of like her companion. She's not really the one who's doing anything, but she's just chilling there with her. And I want to have characters who are visiting them who come to them for help. Um, so I'm kind of trying to create this back story like a snippet out of what might be happening with these characters. The first step is to do thumbnails from nails I think are a great way to get your brain working and thinking of composition and the layout of your page. And here I'm using a large sketchbook because gives me lots of room to move around. Here is another page of from Nails that I started to dio. I'm gonna go ahead and do some more phone nails here. Your thumbnails. You just want to keep things as loose as possible. You're just trying to get a general idea of composition. You're using basic shapes to get a feel of the layout. As you can see, these basically look like scribbles. But I know what's going on in these thumbnails enough to know what lay out what composition I'm leaning towards. You're just trying to keep things loose, let things flow. This is why sometimes people like to use a pension attempt. I will use a pen because it keeps you from the urge to erase. Okay, So that about 15 thumbnails here and I'm stopping because I think I know what I want to dio . And I actually ended up kind of liking the vertical format a little bit more now that I've been doing some faux nails because I feel like it gives a really good, um, intimidation kind of thing with the trees like that Really kind of bring emphasizes the size of the trees and that they're huge and that this is, like, kind of, ah, beginning of a deep would area. So right now, I'm kind of between these two. Um, as you can see, I flipped the tree to this side, Um, and before and some of these thumbnails, I had it. So these characters are already at the shaman in which character, which would make the character, is all about the same size. I want the shaman. Which character? We kind of like a medium like a smaller kind of person. But as I went on with the thumbnails, I started to put them a little further, Like in this one where I took a vertical. This is supposed to be the shaman character. This is the human old woman character of Hangs out with her who's like sitting here and in , like, the mid ground. Is the father bringing the girl, which I think kind of makes it mawr interesting because then there will be multiple planes and it'll bring you want your eye to the move throughout the piece so it would bring your I throughout the piece, like, from here to the mid ground. And then you could look at the city in the distance in the background. Um, but here I have the tree on the left, which I think is okay. Um, but now that I in these thumbnails moved it to the right, I'm kind of mawr into that. I think I'm gonna go this on, though, because I feel like this one, your eyes coming from these characters, and I like the angle of the trees. I like that. The tree would be covering them a little bit, So this is the moment right before they're approaching these characters. And maybe these characters don't know that There there yet. Um, so it all depends on what you want to do. Well, kind of scene you want to capture if you want to capture them interacting if you want to capture them right before they're about to interact and they're going to be coming to them about till across this, like tiny creek. Or maybe they're over the tiny creek. I'm gonna work that out low, Whitmore in the tighter sketch. But I'm gonna go with this one. I think this one will be the most fun. So let's move on to the sketch using this thumbnail. 4. Initial rough pencil sketch: So I'm starting here with roughing out the dimensions of the sketch, trying to get as close to the dimensions that I have in the from now as possible. If you're having a hard time getting the same feel of layout as your thumbnail had, please feel free to scan it and blow it up and print it out and sketch right over top of it using a light box. Sometimes it's hard to replicate the same feeling you got in the thumbnail when you were keeping things nice and loose and small, so I'm just keeping things really light. I'm using my pencil very lightly. You don't wanna really grind your pencil into the paper. You want to be able to keep things loose, sketch over top of things. Hold your pencil really loosely in your hand. As you can see, I'm moving around the page. I'm not focusing on any one particular part of the page right now. I want to make sure that everything is working together, still keeping things really loose. I haven't even really started to flush out figures yet. I just want to get the skeleton of the figures. This could almost be, ah, more refined, larger thumbnail phase. After this, I'm going to take it into Photoshopped. This is something I usually do. My process usually starts traditionally with pencil and paper, and I refined the sketch in photo shop just about getting to the point where I bought a ticket in the photo shop. I'm not already to take this initial pencil sketch into Photoshopped to finish up. I use my sin teak tablet to draw digitally. You can also use Awaken Tablet or any other drumming tablet you have, including an iPad to finish out the drawing digitally. Or you can feel free to finish your sketch on the paper with pencil. I like to use Photoshopped to finish out sketches because I can easily move elements around if necessary. I can resize things I can redraw over and over a figure in a certain pose. I can move an arm and a pose. It really just makes it much easier for me to figure out and make the sketch work 5. Digital Sketching: So I have scanned in my sketch using my scanner and brought it into photo shop. I'm using this pose that I found of a man using of giant mortar and pestle as a starting place for Michael's. But then I took my own reference of myself, and I'm just trying to flush out the pose. As you can see, I'm really working and working, trying to get the pose to be more believable. I'm also trying to create this character. Here is supposed that I used for initial reference for the other figure. As you can see, I'm having a hard time with this pose. I'm working and reworking. This is why I like to use photo shop. It allows me to erase and re size, as you can see, because I made it a little big. I can move my figures over. This was a really challenging pose for me, as you can see. So I'm moving on to figuring out some of the landscape. Sometimes if I'm having a hard time with something, I just have to move on to something else and come back to it later. I also want to make sure that my figures air fitting into the landscape. Well, for the brushes that I'm using. I'm just using Kyle to you. Webster's brushes. I have a lot of his brush packs downloaded, and for this I'm just using the pencil brush that he had us. At this point, I decided to that it was time to take my own reference of myself in this pose. This gives me good reference for the hands, Buffy everything. I'm not really focusing on clothing or anything right now. I just want to get the rough shape of the pose that I can build clothing over top. I'm moving on to the figures in the background, moving things over so you can actually see them. I used a few different references of tourism's, and I really liked this kid's pose on the tortas. I like how it seemed more relaxed, like this kid has been writing turtles for his whole life. For the bird cages, like just generally in Google, imaged unique bird cages and kind of kept it open so that I could look at it as I was making me burn Cajun's just working out more or cages here as you're sketching, you want to make sure you're moving around the piece. You don't want to focus on any one piece at one time. It really helps you to make sure that you're elements of your illustration are working together. So I'm going back to this figure and working it out a little more, adding some birds moving cages around, re sizing. This is why I like photo shop once again going back to this pose that's really giving me a hard time. I'm adding in some more detailed elements, some string lights that he's magical beings would have in their area, and I need to move this cage out of the way, adding, Somewhere down here in the tree. Now I'm roughing in the eye texture that will be on the tree, which will be really fun when I'm in the inking craze. But for now I'm just getting a general idea of the shapes, trying to add some dimension to the tree with these carved lines here, adding some more detailed roots in the back, adding in the city in the back. Now here, I unfortunately thought that I was recording with quick time, but I was not. I was having some technical difficulties. So unfortunately, don't get to see where I was working out the costumes off the characters. And here I also added some elements into the tree and in a rough value sketch to know how I'm going to approach it in the coloring things with value. So once again, these air just over top of these layers. Unfortunately, you don't get to see where I was working out the costumes, but you can see that I pieced this together. Here's the environment, the figures, some of the elements, details of the tree, details off the environment, the lights and the costumes over top, as well as the elements inside of the tree area. So this is a pretty good place. I like to keep it. Still. It's not totally flush out. I will be able to do more of that detail ing in the final. I like to keep things a little bit rougher so that I get to have fun in the final. I don't want everything worked out exactly, because if I work it out exactly and then have to redraw in the final, it tends to lose a bit of its life and spontaneity. 6. Closing: Okay, so that completes our first class. Hopefully, you have a really nice sketch that you can now take to finish. If you choose to, you can come to the next class where we will be thinking, or you just have a nice sketch that you can move on from. If you just want to leave it at a sketch, that's totally fine. The last part of this class will be I am. Since I finished my sketch digitally, I will be printing it. I'm doing my final piece because my sketches the size nine inches by 12 inches and I have a really nice large format printer that can print up to 13 by 19. So I'm gonna go ahead and print that on. We are bottles on. Thank you for taking this class. I hope you learned a lot. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope you have a really nice sketch that you're proud of. I'm really looking forward to moving on to the next phase of this piece. I'm really looking forward to thinking it. It's gonna be a fun one. So if you'd like, you can end here on move on or you can come to the next class, which I will be posting in a few weeks time where I will be talking about how to ink a piece. Traditionally, once again Thank you for taking this class. I have a lot of fun. Have a good one.