Design a Webcomic Protagonist | Mary Marck | Skillshare

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Design a Webcomic Protagonist

teacher avatar Mary Marck, Comic artist and writer

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

    • 1.

      Introduction and Materials


    • 2.

      Context and Personality


    • 3.

      Shape and Silhouette I


    • 4.

      Shape and Silhouette II


    • 5.

      Color I


    • 6.

      Color II


    • 7.

      Tying It All Together


    • 8.

      Recommended Reading


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About This Class

Use basic shape and color elements to create a protagonist that is both iconic and memorable.

Meet Your Teacher

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Mary Marck

Comic artist and writer


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1. Introduction and Materials: Hi, my name is marrying Mark. I'm a freelance designer and illustrator. Welcome to my first ever skill share class. Designing a Web comic protagonist. I've worked as a freelance designer and illustrator for Chest over five years. Most of my work has consisted of logo on graphic creation as well as, like Page lamb. However, in the last year or so, I decided that I really wanted to approach Web comics to tie in more storytelling. The narrative, my work. The cool thing about Web comics is that any style goes, you don't have to draw in the mainstream styles that you marry. Maybe are used to reading, like the Japanese style or the more Western superhero style or things that you would see on the shelf in most stores with Web comics, you can draw in any style that's natural to you for this class. These are some of the tools and materials I recommend as far software's concern. I use auto desk sketchbook, but pretty much any digital drawing software work. I'm not going to use any special effects or any special filters or tools or anything like that. Everything is going very, very basic. As far as hardware is concerned, you're gonna need a tablet. I use a Wacom tablet, and personally, I used the into its pro medium, but pretty much any of the tablets. As long as it has pressure, Sensitivity will work even a mobile device like an iPad. Throughout this class, you'll see me developing a single character trust like you'll be doing in your project. My character's name is Eisen, and it's a redesign of an old character I've been working on for a while. I never really came up with a design for her that it was very sentenced by with. So I decided to use this glass as an opportunity to really address what makes an effective character and make her an effective protagonist. The point of this class is not to learn how to draw. It's of all about design. So it's OK if you're not very experienced with anatomy or portions or perspective. We're gonna talk about basic design elements that go into character design. And even though this class is titled designing a protagonist, everything that we cover will apply to any character. The reason I decided to focus on Protagonist is that that's kind of the heart of your story . That's the one we really want to care about. The main goal of your project is to design a protagonist who is iconic and memorable. They need to be possible to draw over and over again because you'll be drawing on every page like 5 to 7 times. At least they need to be an effective lead for your story. By that I mean visually speaking visually, they need to stand out. They need to be the one that people remember first, because they're the ones driving your story. Lastly, they need to be fun to draw. You want to enjoy join this character because you'll be drawing them a lot. Your actual project will be a good portfolio piece that shows your design skills is not just going to be a single drawing. It's also going to serve as a reference for future work on the Web comic so that you can remember what their shape is, what their silhouette looks like, what their color palette looks like. The project that your upload should be the entire evolution of your character, not just the final drawing you come up with. In other words, when you start uploading artwork to your project here, we want to see all of your sketches, the whole development of it. In addition, this project is gonna be a stepping stone towards designing any other characters that you might have in your Web comic. The protagonist is obviously the most important part because that's who your readers will care about. But all of your other characters can be designed using the same steps we're going to cover to start your project to scroll down and click the orange button that says, Start your project When you pick on a title, make sure it's something interesting, something that your classmates will want to look at and provide feedback on. So avoid calling my character or Web comic character or even just character. Pick something descriptive and intriguing after you title it. Just write a sentence or two about what you hope to learn from this class. That's gonna help me as well as your classmates, provide feedback this custom to you in the next video. We're going talk about how to make a design checklist for yourself so you know what? Your design There won't be any joy in the next video, but you may want to have something to write or type on. See you then 2. Context and Personality: this lesson. We're gonna talk about the background that you need to have before you start designing your character. I'm not gonna talk about background is in the back story so much, or how to write your comic or anything really having to do with this script or the actual composition of your story. What we are going to talk about are the personality in the context that your character is in. In other words, on Lee were only talking about things that affect your characters design. So, first off to talk about personality. I kind of consider this the internal attributes. These are things that happen in your character's mind and heart characters. Feelings will influence their attitude, their stance, their clothing, the way they walk, the way they interact with other characters, the way they interact with their environment. Everything. So it's really important for you as a designer to know what's happening inside your character so that your viewers and your readers can see it when your characters on a page. The context for the external attributes are parts of the environment and world that affect your character. So this could mean the time period that location or events taking place in this story like ah, war or social movement, or whether or anything like that. What is your kid? What world is your character living in? And how do they adapt to live there? The questions I'm asking about personality context are centrally creating a style guy that you can use to refer to when you're designing your character. So for your first project assignment, all you need to do is create a list of internal and external attributes. In other words, a list of your personality traits as well as a few items about the context of living in. Keep each of these lists brief and concise. No more than five items on each list. The reason for this is I really want you to think about what describes your character if I limit you to five attributes on each list that you really have to think about what the most accurate descriptive word is, and that's really what I'm trying to get you guys to do. So, for example, the personality of my character, Eisen is simply determined, precise, efficient and hardened. There are a lot of words I could put on here that would also describe her and embellish a little bit the's for a kind of the court attributes for personality, for the external or her context. She's a desert nomad, She's an on Lee child and she's about 100. She's not really, um, someone who was within society more like on the outside of it. Obviously, the external elements will influence the internal and vice versa. A person is affected by the worldly living, and they change the world around them. So this list is may not being trust black and white. I find that it is helpful to divide up these two things to describe your character. If you're having trouble doing this for your own character, try doing it forth. An existing Web comic character just looking at them. How do you know what they do and where they live? In the next video, we're gonna talk about creating a shape for your character. You'll need your list of attributes to refer to, so make sure you got done before you start the next lesson. You'll also need your materials because we will actually be drawing. I'll see you there 3. Shape and Silhouette I: in this video. I'm not talk about shape and silhouette, basically, how to give your character form. For a lot of artists, shape is something that is often overlooked because artists in the jump for the formula or anatomy or proportions that they learned. So, for instance, with the superhero genre, there's the kind of default you know, a person is so many heads tall, like six heads. Tallet of My Bat three has wide, Um, a lot of ours artists learned this formula, and they don't really try to branch out from it. So in this section, when I try to do is show you guys have a branch out further and be a little bit more creative with your character shape. I'm not saying that the styles of mainstream genres like superhero comics aren't allowed. If you have a superhero character, that's fine. But we're gonna talk about how to make that character something new and fresh, at least a new twist on the old concept. A good shape is something that catches your eye and then stays in your memory. It's something that doesn't need details, colors or textures to be recognizable. Although these things help, we all recognize silhouette of iconic characters, even if we don't see their logo's or their faces. But how do these shapes become iconic and memorable? These are the three things that I decided to focus on for this video. As far as making a shape iconic unless you're trying to deliberately create something that stiff or rigid, which can sometimes be a case, you want to shape that convenient move. Try to get away from creative Siris of geometric shapes that build up a character instead, focus on their body as a single shape. How does that should move for repetition and rhythm? Find a former equal repeat to create a rhythm for your character. This isn't the same thing. Is using a series of geometric shapes. This is finding a body type for your character, figuring out what shape that body type is and then making it consistent throughout. Lastly, try to find ways to contrast parts of the shape. For instance, if your character is really bulky and muscly on top, try a little feet than legs. Your character is small and petite. Try given the massive boots or massive gloves. These kinds of things help your character from me, too predictable when people look at them. This is not a checklist of things that must be in your character. However, if you're having trouble coming up with a shape that is unique, you can use thes three elements to start tweaking your work towards a more creative direction. The next video in this lesson is going to be a drawing demonstration. Like I said in the first video, I'm using auto desk sketchbook, but pretty much any drawing software will be able to do what I'm gonna dio we'll see in the next video. 4. Shape and Silhouette II: My first step in creating a shape for my character is to start with loose, gestural lines. My goal here isn't to create a figure that's correct or anatomically accurate. My goal is to figure out what shape she's going to have, what her silhouette is gonna look like. So my lines are very loose and very messy, and I'm keeping the camera zoomed out. So I'm not working on any details or any specifics yet. The key with jester drawing is toe loosen up and get comfortable with messing up or exploring false trails and trying different things that you might not normally think of. Eventually, you want to start thinking more like a designer and being more intentional with your shapes . That's what I started doing with the Cape. I started thinking how I could use that to make a more interesting silhouette. But in your first stages, it's okay to be loose and kind of not think too much about it. One of your first priorities when you're creating a character shape is to think about the overall silhouette, not any of the details inside. So for me, I'm mainly playing around with the shape of her pants and her cape. I'm trying to create a silhouette that even if it was all black down, you couldn't see any color or details. He still might recognize who it is. The point of creating a memorable silhouette is the kind of the same reason that companies have logos and graphics that to find them a memorable silhouette could go a long way to making people remember and think about and identify with your character. In addition to thinking about silhouette, you also want to make sure that you really play around with lots of different ideas. So the only thing that I kept constant nous is the idea that she should have kind of baggy loose pants and the hooded cape. Other than that, I really wanted to play around with what the Cape looked like and how it influenced her overall silhouette. If you really want to make a character that's a unique, you really want to be careful about going with your first idea. You may use it in the end, but chances are you need to do several drawings before you really come up with an idea that solid and effective remember at this stage don't worry about details or specifics too much . Our goal right now is not to create something realistic or detailed. Our goal is to create something that is simple but iconic. We'll add some details, but towards the end of his class. But for right now, let's just stick with the general form. If there are any accessories or weapons that your character has, like a lecture, large sword or a battle axe or a gun or something like that that will affect their silhouette, you definitely want to add that. But if it's not important to their overall shape, don't worry about it. Now that I have her overall shape and civil up figured out, I decided to just kind of test out her her cape in a few different poses. What I'm trying to do now is not get more specific. Really, so much as dressed familiarized myself with her style with your shape with your silhouette . When you're designing a Web comic character, you really want to know them inside and out. You want their shape, their lines to be part of your muscle memory so you could draw them with hardly any thought . This will make it a lot easier when you start doing thumbnails and rough drafts of your comic. After establishing her basic shape, I decided to experiment a little bit with the hood and the scarf that she wears. I'm still not getting very specific with her, um, her face or her facial expressions, because at this point I'm still thinking about the big picture. In other words, her overall shape and silhouette. However, when you're designing this character, it is important to make sure that their head, their hairstyle and anything that they wear on their head still fits in with your overall design for your character. So for her, basically just decided to play around with the shape of rise and her eyebrows to kind of get that same narrow, slanted, kind of angular look. In a certain sense, I'm trying to make her face look of agile and precise as the rest of her shape and silhouette look. The other thing that I'm keeping in mind as I designed her hairstyle in her scarf is how well it'll contrast the rest of her shape. So I decided that her scarf will have to be different, will have to be darker in order, contrast or cape. Likewise, I decided that her hair should be dark to kind of contrast her already lighter skin. So if you look at her from top to bottom, she's got the dark hair, lighter skin, a dark sky lighter cape, then the dark pants and then even darker boots. This kind of contrast really helps. Break up your characters shape and make them a little bit easier to recognise. Instead of making it all one color or all one value, here's your second project assignment. Make sure that you have your list of attributes and personality traits from assignment one . First, create 7 to 12 sketches. Why you're sketching your character. Keep in mind that your sketches should have movement, some repetition or rhythm, and then some contrast or some balance. Make sure that you really explore different ideas. Don't just go with your first instinct. After you get these sketches done, upload them individually or as a single image to your project. Then tell us what you'd like feedback on. What did you have trouble with? What do you the most proud of? Make sure that two or three of your sketches are clean enough to color because you'll need that in the next assignment. Have fun sketching and I'll see you in the next video. 5. Color I: The next thing we're on talk about is color palettes colors often overlooked as a step in the design process. A lot of artists just kind of pick out their favorite colors or colors that are typical in the genre or style of drawing in. However, if you're more conscious and deliberate when you're picking out colors, you can create a subtle book. Cohesive palette for your whole comic colors are really important. If you just randomly pick them out, you run the risk of creating something that is unpleasant or confusing, or just the colors might clash. To avoid this, I'm gonna just talk about some really basic guidelines you can use to always make sure your colors work well together. First thing we need to look at is the color wheel. Color could be a little tricky with Web comics because all monitors and screens look a little bit different. However, all you really need to know from the color wheel are your compliments and what colors are analogous? Analogous colors are colors are next to each other on the color wheel. A lot of times you'll see these groups as warm colors or cool colors or various shades or values of a single color, like light red, dark red, pink rose, magenta and so on. The only risk you have with an analogous colors game is becoming too bland. If you use all the same colors, like all reds or all blues or all greens, your character could become kind of boring or predictable. So so it was helpful to make sure you have some accents, either a lighter color, that kind of contrast. Dark colors or vice versa, or maybe even a color from the opposite side of the color wheel. To kind of contrast the color scheme. Complementary colors are colors that are across each other on the color wheel, their opposites. This is a really great way to create a uniform look that isn't boring or predictable, not just direct compliments like yellow and purple here, but even complimenting. And now these colors, like warms with cools with compliments, you have to be careful to pick colors that don't clash. In general, colors tend to clash when they're at their full strength and right next to each other. So if you have a full red right next to a full aqua color, they're gonna look really weird together. It's gonna come uncomfortable to watch. So as a rule with your compliments, pick one compliment color to be it's Max saturation and the other compliment to be a little bit less saturated. Granted, there's all kinds of in betweens on this. This isn't a standard rule, but it is a good guideline to get you started and make sure that you're safe with your colors. The next thing to consider with your colors is their actual value. If you turn a color picture to black and white, you'll be able to see the value of the colors. So with my character, I just want to make sure that it wasn't all the same shade of gray. The next thing you want to do is make sure their colors look good together, even without the lines. In my case, I'll eventually paint this that aren't lines. But even if you are going to keep mine work in your comic, it's important to make sure that your colors can sit next to each other. If the black line is the only thing making your colors work, then it's probably a sign that you need to change a color palette. In the next video, I'm going to demonstrate how I picked the colors and how experiment a little bit with putting them next to each other. I'll see you then. 6. Color II: in this video, I started picking out the colors for my character because she lives in the desert. I kind of already had color palette in mind. She's basically kind of inspired by desert ease, sandy, kind of dirty, rusty colors. I just picked out a couple sketches that I particularly liked. They're not necessarily clean or polished, but they're just functional enough for me to tell What is what. The reason I picked out multiple sketches is because my characters colors will change based on the angle of the viewer. For example, from the front, her tunic and pants will be the dominant colors, but from the back, her cape is the dominant color. So I try to make sure that the colors will work from all the angles, because in a Web comic, you never know when you have to draw something from the side from the back from the top from the bottom, whatever. So make sure that your colors look okay front and back. To help balance the overall warm kind of color palette I was developing, I decided to give her a blue sash. I consider different shades of orange or red or yellow to keep her whole pallet analogous, but it really kind of looked a little bit too uniform. The blue sash helps break it up and kind of gives it the I something else to focus on. That's also the reason I made her scarf so much brighter red. It kind of helps contrast the more dull colors over cape in her flesh tone. For project assignment Number three, you're going to create a color palette for your character. Make sure you use a specific color scheme, not just for in colors. Think about compliments and analogous colors. After you pick out some colors that work well together, make sure you have it for future use in your comic. You're going to be using it a lot. In the next video, I'm going to demonstrate how I tie together shape and color to create a more finished illustration for your character. I'll see you then 7. Tying It All Together: In this last video, I'm gonna show you what it looks like when shape and color come together to make a more finished designed for your character. What I'm really doing in this stage is trying to familiarize myself with my character. So I created the shape, and I've created this color palettes. But I need to really know it inside and out and kind of memorize it so that it's easy to sketch and then color without having to constantly refer to a reference sheets. The sketches that I picked out for this last step, where sketches that allowed me to experiment with color as well, is kind of her overall shape. I also picked a sketch that allowed me to color her face in this class. I didn't talk much about facial expression because I was more concerned with the overall design, an iconic look of your character. However, I felt it was important for me to kind of get to know her a little bit by painting her face . What's really important this video is how I treat the design. It's not important what brushes I use or how I know control highlights and shadows that could all be in a separate video by itself. What's important is that I took my iconic design that I created the overall shape in silhouette, then my very basic color palette, and I combined those two make something that's still pretty simple, but also very recognizable and something that could easily become an iconic Web comic character. The other thing that I'm doing here is also establishing the style that my comic will be drawn in. My natural drawing style doesn't look like mainstream comics at all. It's much more painterly because that's how I was trained before it became a designer, I learned painting the traditional way on canvas with really acrylic paint, so my digital drawing style reflects my more impressionistic, traditional kind of classic looking painting style. But the really cool thing about wet comments is you've been draw or paint or even photograph in any style that you want, and it will. Still, it's still fine. It's all up to you. So in these sketches, what I'm doing is also seeing how my painterly style works with this comic character ends up working pretty well, eventually at the end. So here is the fourth and file project assignment for the class. Pick 123 sketches to finish and by finish I don't mean that they have to be completely polished, but just make sure that they're clean enough so you can really show the specifics of your character and kind of the style that you wanna have for your Web comic. And remember, since these air Web comics and not part of some big industry or publisher, you can experiment with the style technique. Try coloring in different ways and definitely share your final results and your project and skill share. We're all excited to see it in the last video. I've provided some recommended reading for you. It's a few Web comics that I really enjoy, as well as some books that really helped me on my own artistic growth. Thank you so much for taking this class and sharing your art with me. I look forward to looking at your projects and here in any feedback that you provide. If you're interested and follow up courses to this or classes that are maybe more specific , definitely let me know. I look forward to hearing your ideas Thanks and good luck 8. Recommended Reading : in this video, I'm just briefly going to recommend a few Web comics and books that really inspired me. The first is Plum by Kalen Smith. Plume has a distinct, unique graphic style. The characters in the page layout are practically graphic logo's themselves, which really helps the comics stand out. The next is on sounded, Ashley Copes. Comic might seem a little bit simple when you first look at the pain. When you look at the first few pages, however, it's really her understanding of color and Shane that allow her to do something that's very simple, but the same time very sophisticated, very precise and definitely very deliberate. Stand still, Stay silent. I mean, assume Berg has some of my favorite characters. All of the characters in this comic are so alive and so distinct, it's very easy to get attached to all of them and remember each of them by heart. Lastly, there's lack of daisy, which is proof that you can do anything with Web comics. It's a prohibition era that set with characters that are cats. It's a perfect balance of whimsical and dark, something that you wouldn't see very often in mainstream comics. Book that argument is the Art of Journey. Journey is a video game with the character that is essentially a triangle with a scarf in lakes. But despite this very simple character design, a lot of thought went into the character. Really recommend Chicken. Checking out this book, as has many, many pages of character development. The next book you recommend is The Art of the Incredibles. The reason I recommend this book of all the Pixar books is because of the very abstract way that they approached characters. They show the abstract colors and textures that they used when developing these characters , not just lots of drawings. This is really helpful when you're trying to think about the big picture behind your character, not just Thean drawing. I also recommend Okami official Complete Works. This is art of the video game Oconee. The reason I recommend this one is simply because the game has so many characters, and this book goes through each one and describes briefly the process behind each character . Lastly, drawing ideas. If you only ever purchase one art book in your lifetime, make it this one. This book has been one of the most influential books I've ever purchased. If you're looking to become a more effective visual communicator, whether it's through design through Web comics, the illustration fine art, whatever this is the book to own, it goes from technical perspective as well as how to brainstorm how to present idea that clients in so one it's definitely the most valuable book I own.