Character Design Crash Course: Designing Kids | Melissa Lee | Skillshare

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Character Design Crash Course: Designing Kids

teacher avatar Melissa Lee, allow yourself to fail before you succeed

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

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

    • 1.



    • 2.

      What Makes a Character Look Young?


    • 3.



    • 4.

      Drawing a Baby


    • 5.

      Drawing a Teenager


    • 6.

      Thank You + Class Project


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About This Class

Welcome to Character Design Crash Course, a series of illustration classes meant for beginning cartoonists or intermediate character artists looking for a refresher. In this course, I focus on how to draw kids of all ages, from new born babies to young adults. I’ll go over some of my greatest inspirations, all of the different tips and tricks I use to age a character up or down, what qualities in kids make them look young and which of these qualities you can exaggerate in cartooning, and finally, I’ll demonstrate my process for designing and illustrating a young character.


A couple of things before you start...

If you’re a beginner and you haven’t taken any of my other Character Design Crash Courses, I recommend that you at least check out Dynamic Design in Four Steps before watching this class. I go over the fundamentals of character design in a lot more detail in that course, whereas in this one, I really focus on taking those principles learned previously and applying them to designing kids. (My course, Constructing the Face would also be helpful for beginners!)

You can do everything I'm going to demonstrate in this class traditionally, but if you do want to work digitally (I use Procreate in this class), some beginning knowledge and experience with the digital drawing program of your choice is likely necessary.

Meet Your Teacher

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Melissa Lee

allow yourself to fail before you succeed

Top Teacher

Hi! My name's Melissa Lee, and I'm an illustrator and surface pattern designer living in the hilly forests of Northern California. Alongside doing freelance and art licensing work (I am a proud Riley Blake Designs fabric designer), I've spent much of my time cultivating my love of sharing what I know and encouraging others to nourish their creative side through teaching online art courses here on Skillshare. I love making patterns, character art, and watercolor paintings. I'm endlessly inspired by animals and nature (whether living today or extinct), science fiction and fantasy, space and astrology, witchy things, and bees.

Always bees. 

The classes that I teach on Skillshare focus primarily on surface pattern design, watercolor techniques, and ... See full profile

Level: Intermediate

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3. Inspiration: I talked a bit about this in my dynamic design and four steps course as well. But I wanted to quickly go over it here because I think it's always just a really good reminder. I think it's really important to look to other artists for inspiration and to learn from them. The only time that I would advise against this is if you're feeling overwhelmed by looking at other artist's work and comparing your own work to it. If that is getting you down, then I would suggest backing away and taking a break from that because it's really hard not to compare yourself. Even though one of the number one pieces of advice that I give and that I've received is to try not to compare yourself to other artists because it's really never fair to do that to yourself. You don't know how long the other artist has been drawing and they most likely have a lot more experienced than you do. That's much easier said than done though. It's good to give yourself breaks from looking at everyone's gorgeous, amazing work. But overall, I do think it is extremely valuable to look to other artists for inspiration, and I say this from personal experience. I cannot tell you the number of times I've gone to Pinterest to look at reference or other people's work and it helped me get unstuck from whatever design problem I was facing. You want to analyze and study their use of shape, what makes their style consistent, what elements and stylistic choices you like and can draw from literally, all that sort you can pick up from studying other people's work. That said, it is super important to be influenced by more than one artist because you really don't want to run the risk of emulating one person's work too closely. As ideally, you want to develop a style that is uniquely your own. I still feel like I'm developing my own style and I'm not sure if I'm ever going to stop feeling that way to some degree. It takes a lot of practice, a lot of experimentation, and trying different things including styles and a lot of time, and dedication. I still feel like I'm constantly trying out different style choices. But that is okay because I have learned to embrace the process and enjoy the experimentation. I think that is something that we all have to do because the main reason we're doing this is because we enjoy it or else, why would we be doing this to ourselves? It's really hard. Now that that's been said, I want to quickly show you some of my own inspirations, people who I think draw kids specifically really well. A huge influence on me and someone I mention a lot throughout my classes, is Stephen Silver. He's a wonderful art teacher himself and so much of what I know, I've learned from him. I don't think my style is similar to his at all, but I can still see the influence in certain choices that I make. I just think that he's so good at really conveying age with shape and attitude, and clothing, etc. The next person is Shaun Bryant. I really love this line up of boy scouts and how it's super clear that they're all young. I love how the general proportions are pretty similar, like they've all got big heads in relation to their bodies, big ears, all that good stuff. But there's still so much clever variation in body shape and head shape. None of these little guys are boring to look at and no two look the same. The next artist is someone I recently discovered named Luigi Lucarelli and I just think her work is amazing. The two lineups on the top and the bottom right are the students in this magical school world. The bottom left is a lineup of some of the adult professors. I wanted to include them to compare it to the kids because I just think these are so successful conveying age across not just humanoids, but non-humanoids and animals, and rock creatures. I just love that. A lot of the things that I've been talking about are so evident here, like attitude, proportion, clothing. All of those things combine to sell you the illusion that you're looking at a child monster. I just think you can learn so much from looking at these and comparing the differences between the kids and the adults. It's just so great. I love it. I love it so much. I have two slides of his work because I also thought this was really cool, because he's got one character at different ages in her life. Looking at the differences there is really interesting and helpful. Then on the right, there's one character drawn in different styles. I think that some of these look younger than some of the others. The one on the bottom right to me looks the youngest and I think that's because of her relatively large head and the fact that she doesn't have a visible neck. Her ears are pretty large in all of them, which helps her look youthful in every version. But in the bottom right, they're even larger. Once you are able to recognize these things, you can better analyze the drawings you see and understand why these illusions are being sold to you, and hopefully apply that knowledge and understanding to your own drawings. The next artist is Claire Keane. I just love how expressive these drawings of Rapunzel are. You've got little-round pudgy baby Rapunzel. Then taller Rapunzel has almost the same head and face shape, but her body is a little longer. The next artist is Karly Jade Catto. The cat here to me seems pretty young because of her big head and large eyes, I think. It just goes to show that you can apply these same ideas to animals as well. The next is the one and only Milt Kahl. What even is there to say? His work is just amazing and so inspiring. Next is Anoosha Syed. I wanted to include a variation of styles. I think that Anoosha has such a strong, unique style. I think it's interesting that there's really not too much difference proportionally between the infants and the older kids. The bodies of the older kids are just a little bit longer maybe and a little bit less rounded. I think the main indicator of age difference is in their clothing though. That's something to keep in mind. Sometimes, it's as simple as that. Then the cats here to me, look like teenagers, largely because of their attitudes and clothing. Although honestly, I would wear both of those outfits. The final artist I want to show you is Ryner Alencar. Look at the difference between what looks to me like nine to 11-year-olds, give or take, versus the other kids who look about 13-16, maybe. The differences are pretty subtle honestly, but they're there. I think for the most part, the teenagers are a little bit longer, taller. Some of them are a little bit ganglia, more awkward proportions. It can be hard to spot, but they're there if you look hard enough. These are just a few of the countless other artists that I'm inspired by. But hopefully, they've got you feeling inspired and ready to jump into creating some drawings of your own.