Introduction to Character Design: Drawing a Unique Cast | Rai Fiondella | Skillshare

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Introduction to Character Design: Drawing a Unique Cast

teacher avatar Rai Fiondella, Freelance Illustrator

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.



    • 2.

      Basic Human Anatomy and Proportions


    • 3.

      Diversity Through Shape and Silhouette


    • 4.

      Expression and Body Language


    • 5.

      Constructing Character Sheets


    • 6.



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About This Class

Those successful, dynamic characters that exist in your favorite comic books, video games, cartoons, and animated movies were born from the imaginative minds of creative people—like you! Anybody can illustrate their own unique, original characters once the fundamentals of anatomy, shape, gesture, expression, personality, and silhouette are understood. 

Whether you are a professional illustrator or are just getting started and are looking to expand your skills, this class will ensure that you acquire the necessary expertise in order to begin bringing your original characters to life on paper. You will learn what it takes to guarantee your story's cast is interesting and diverse, as well as the do's and don't's of designing a successful character. 

Rai will teach you the following:

  • The basics of anatomy and proportion, and how to simplify it for successful stylization of features
  • How to make your characters exude personality through expression and gesture
  • Tips on how to keep your cast of characters diverse through shape and silhouette
  • How to construct character sheets, expression sheets, and cast sheets

You will leave this class not only confident in your ability to conceptualize characters for your own original stories, but also being able to distinguish what makes a character in media successful or not.

For more information, check out this class outline!

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Rai Fiondella

Freelance Illustrator


Hey there! My name's Rai.

I'm an illustrator and avid storyteller who specializes in character design, concept art, storyboarding, and comic-making. I especially love working with mythology, medieval times, and fantasy-adventure.

Since I was a kid, I've wanted to make my own comic books and cartoons. Reading the stories of my favorite heroes allowed me to grow up in a world where I could follow any path they inspired me to go. Now I am here making my own work with the goal to give the same opportunity to my audience--you!

My classes focus on taking aspiring illustrators through the necessary steps to develop their imaginative and physical artistic skills to a level where they can create characters, worlds, and pieces more confidently, and closer to their visions.See full profile

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1. Introduction: Warriors, superheroes, mystical creatures, wizards, human beings. There are so many core, easy, awesome characters out there in our favorite movies, TV shows, cartoons, books, all made by people like us. If you've ever had the desire to tell a tale with captivating characters, it's important to understand the fundamentals behind making a successful character design anatomy in proportion. How to style eyes, diversity through shape and silhouette, showing personality through expression and gesture. All of these things come together as a sort of formula for many professional studios. When designing a set of characters. Whether you're a professional illustrator or just getting started on your very first sketchbook, I will teach you the basics behind every step needed to take to bring your character ideas toe life on paper. You'll be surprised at just how easy it is to start making designs that do those intricate visions of years justice and just how easy it is to push diversity into your cast. The only way to get good a character design is to do it. You will hold your newly learned skills. Three fun project I've made for this class, meant to bring your imagination to its fullest potential your job will be to design four diverse characters based on any four planets in our solar system. Sounds cool, right, Hecky at does. And I bet your mind is swimming with a bunch of ideas just waiting to show off to the world . And I'm excited to see them to To give you the best understanding of these concepts. I will be going through the planet character design challenge with you using it to teach this class. This will provide you an example of my own processes throughout this assignment, and we'll give you a sort of base toe. Work off with that said, always be curious and always ask questions. I'm here to help you and to make your learning experience as smooth as possible. I hope you'll join me, and I look forward to seeing your character ideas come to life. 2. Basic Human Anatomy and Proportions: in this first class, I will be teaching you about the basics of human anatomy and how you can simplify it when designing your characters. The most important thing to note as a character designer is that if you don't understand how the bodies constructed, it's impossible to stylized it accurately. Drawing from observation. Life is key. This goes for humans and animals alike. Take, for example, my comic in the Making. The Allotted Chronicles the character casts body types are all very different, but they weren't just created thoughtlessly. Each follows a similar formula and mimic very real body shapes that we see in everyday life . I emphasize different features in them to convey what kinds of characters they are and to play up the fact that they are all very different from each other. Before I get into what makes these characters so different, I'm going to show you the basic anatomy formula. The average adult is eight heads tall. The height of the torso is about the height, from the hips to the knees and from the knees to the bottom of my feet. The elbows rest at the waist slightly above the belly button. When at rest your fingertips. Align midway between the hips and the knees on the size when weight bearing on one foot, the line of your shoulders is opposite from that of your hips. You can fit four fingers horizontally between the brow and the hairline, the size of your ears and where they are in your head. Follow the line of the brown to the bottom of the nose. Length. Between your eyes is another I. The length of your mouth at rest reaches from one iris to the other. Female bodies don't have pronounced Adam's apples, while male bodies do. Typically, female bodies air softer and rounder and have wider hips, while male bodies are more square and angular with broader chests and shoulders. Children are also softer and rounder looking and much more neutral and similar regardless of gender. Their proportions air slightly different from adults. The younger a child is the more scrunched together. The features of the face are the larger their foreheads, eyes and ears are, and the smaller their hands and feet on the same note. Older characters are more wrinkly, more not be at the joints have more hair, and more places have stretched skin, perhaps in the ear lobes or the neck for the arms. They often have more prominent bones and veins and their prosperous slightly slept. Now that you know some of the tricks that artists use been dealing with anatomy, let's get back to the Allotted Chronicles cast and take a look at one of the characters and see how the features exaggerated in the character affect our perception of them. Here's a copy. Even if we haven't read the comic just from looking at him, what can we conclude about it just by the features that I have exaggerated on his body? Weaken? Take a guess on what he's like as a person. He is young, maybe a teenager based on his matured but rounded proportions, his wings air big, round and fluffy in comparison to his body and totally not intimidating. He's Kirby and effeminate and his Harris style. Perhaps he cares about the way he looks. What you choose not to emphasize in your character also makes a difference. For example, I could have chosen to give a copy large muscles and a square sharper jaw to make him look manlier. However, his femininity is essential to the kind of character he is and how I want him to be perceived. So it kept those features soft. Now that you know the basics of anatomical construction and how emphasising certain features in a character affect our perception of them, we can move on to shape and silhouette in the next lesson and will be teaching you how to utilize your new knowledge about anatomy to simplify the building of your characters of shape in line and just how important that is when making your cast diverse. 3. Diversity Through Shape and Silhouette: in the second video lesson, I will be teaching you how shaped silhouette and gesture convey personality and a character and why it's so important to push diversity into your cast. There are many ways that one can approach character design, and you can base it off of many things. Their nationality, their race, their gender, their personality, their career, among others. Body language can say a lot about a person, as can the things they wear in their features. When looking at a character cast as a whole, you can tell if it's successful by asking the following questions. Do they all look the same? Do they have the same faces? The same body? Build every person on this earth is different from each other, and you should embrace that in your designs, a great tool to use when judging your own character. Cast is the silhouette Test Silhouettes are supposed to highlight the outline of your characters and spot unique features that single amount from the others. By shading the men completely and comparing them all in a character cast sheet, you can judge whether or not you can differentiate between them enough or if you need to push your casts diversity when you can't tell two characters apart from one another, one looking at the civil, Let's then it's time to kick it up a notch. In terms of conveying personality, you can really tell what kind of person someone is, just by the way they hold themselves and their expressions. A gesture is a simplified sketch of a person meant to portray a lot of movement. Think of it as a glorified stick figure. Different postures say different things about a person. It's useful when you're preparing to sketch your characters to consider how your own body responds to certain emotions. What does your body do when you're happy, sad or scared? Look in a mirror. You can translate those things into your designs to really show who your characters are. Because this class is Project has to do with designing and character based off of the planets in our solar system. I'll teach you more about these concepts by making one of my own. I'm going to be making a character design based off of the planet Neptune, my favorite besides Earth. Of course, the first thing you should do before starting your sketches is to list out prominent features about the character that you want to portray. From my research. I've gathered the following key features about Neptune that I want to show through my design. It's giant and blue. It's the coldest planet in our solar system. And it's the windiest, too. What kind of character could I designed with these in mind? In media, the cold is often used to represent a lonelier atmosphere, draft unwelcoming, and when paired with extreme winds, it only makes the visual more unnerve. Ing even violence blue could be associated with many things ice, the sky, the ocean, even royalty in my head, I can start to picture how it won't wind up to be tall and intimidating, deadly yet beautiful, wispy like the wind all fit for a villainous queen. With this in mind, I can start to map out her features through quick sketches, using the basic shape and gesture of her body. I want her to appear tall in linking almost alien, lacking sensuality and warmth. Therefore, I will not emphasize her curves but emphasized more odd qualities like long limbs, a sharp nose and big eyes. To do this, I use long rectangles, ovals and sharp edges. Her hair will be tussled and unkempt, based off Neptune's winds, perhaps frosted at the tips to indicate her icy nature. For this, I use scraggly wild lines because I want her to look like a dark queen. I will have her wear something extravagant, like Unicycle crown and a royal cape, the same color as the planet itself. While a big wide dress might seem fitting for most queen designs we've seen in media, I want her almost skeletal form to stay visible because it emphasises her harsh nature. So I will make her dress hug her body. In addition to all of this, I could always pick a color palette that I feel suits her too cool and pale colors such as the blue and the planet itself. Grays and purples seem the most fitting for Neptune. As I said earlier, blue could be used as a tool to convey cold and eerie feelings in a piece on the opposite spectrum, Warm colors like red, orange and yellow could represent things like auto, some light and heat. Consider the entire spectrum when choosing a pellet for your character and how different colors affect how we perceive them. However, approach tip would be to limit yourself to 5 to 6 colors in total, so as not to overwhelm your peace with the confusing rainbow. Okay, now you understand how to exaggerate certain features in your character with shape in line and why diversity is so important in your character cast. In the next lesson, I will delve more into expression and body language and show you how they work to give visual cues about your character. 4. Expression and Body Language: In this third video lesson, I will teach you how to explore expression in your characters in different ways. By making things like expression sheets and gesture sheets for your characters. You can really get to know who your characters are again. I encourage you to look into a mirror when experimenting with sketching different facial expressions and body language. To really nail those visuals and make them believable, we'll start off with exploring various character troops. Let's say my character, Neptune is actually a timid, sensitive person, someone who is more closed off and shy, maybe more curled in on themselves. They fiddle with their hands a lot and might always be watching their back here. Not only do I play with the way her facial features might respond to her nervous nature, but I also play with how her entire body responds as well. I furrow her eyebrows up and make her eyes wide, her brow wrinkle, her lips purse. Her shoulders are shrugged up, her hair even more ragged than in my original sketch, just to emphasize that feeling of something being a miss. On the other hand, let's say Neptune isn't timid at all, but a smug, excitable, extra Bert. Someone who is outgoing and confident may push their chests out to show off, standing tall with a cocky grin on their face here, Neptune welcomes attention by raising her head up high and putting her hands on her hips to tell the world who's boss. She rests her weight on one foot, telling her audience that she's relaxed and comfortable with herself and her surroundings, comparing the two gestural drawings. We can already see how much of a difference body language can make in terms of our perception of a character, even though they are wearing the same things and have the same build. They look like two completely different people, don't they? Despite these experimentations with the character, Neptune has never really struck me as timid or extroverted, something a bit abstract to consider when designing your character expression sheets is this. What is your character telling you about themselves when you picture them? Don't try to force a personality onto your character, but rather let it come to you naturally. Allow yourself to be inspired by the things that help you to picture and design your character in the first place and see where those visions take you from there. After having learned about the planets facts, my mind automatically set Neptune as an elegant, dark queen who feels she is above others. Stone faced an anti social to convey that in my sketches, I imagine myself in her shoes. I feel my posture straightening my chin, braising limbs tight to the body, attempting perfection. This will be how I sketch her posture through a gestural drawing. Now, just because I see Neptune as a cold character doesn't mean that she lacks a range of expressions. In order to explore how Neptune's face and body respond to certain emotions and situations , I will make a character expression sheet. A character expression sheet is made of a variety of busts, sketches of a character and the many faces that they make not only doesn't highlight simple and typical emotions like happiness, sadness or anger, but it could also show how the character reacts to a specific situation. Neptune's reaction, her crown being stolen could be something like this, for instance, or what if Neptune caught a cold as you make your own character expression sheets? The most important thing is to have fun with your audience. Comptel. If you had fun during your sketching process, and it makes the drawings much more captivating, be encouraged also to continue exploring body language. In addition to just character faces, you could add gestural sketches to your expression sheets or even make a separate one. Just for that. Remember that the face and body are gateways to understanding emotion into getting a first impression of a character. So don't be afraid to push it. And don't be afraid to make them look ugly. Nobody's perfect and making them look pretty all the time is just not as interesting. Cool. Now you know how to show your audience who your characters are, your expression and body language and how to make expression sheets. In the next and final lesson, I will teach you how to make your official character turnarounds and why having them as reference is so essential in visual storytelling. 5. Constructing Character Sheets: In this final video lesson, I will be teaching you how to construct a basic character turnaround sheet and explain to you why they're so important for professional illustrators as reference and visual storytelling. You may be wondering how cartoonists and comic artists maintain consistent character designs throughout an entire Siri's character. Turnaround sheets function as references of your characters so that when you're drawing them over and over again, you always know where certain features go. They show multiple angles of a character and key items that they may carry, or where making it easier for the artist to know where things are supposed to go and how things air colored, etcetera, a key component and successful character sheets is the use of guidelines. In order to make every angle of your character consistent, you must use lines across your page to indicate where different parts of them start or end once you finish drawing the frontal view of your character, putting these lines down will help you to make sure that the other angles match, for example, for my comic, the A lot of chronicles I made a turnaround for my character, Eddie, most after the frontal view of him was drawn out. I set guidelines down where it was essential to know feature placement for every angle. This line tells me where the top of his head should end. This line told me where the bottom of his head should end. This line tells me where his shoulder armor ends, this one where his chest ends, this one where his elbows rest and so on. Having these guidelines made it quick and easy for me to draw his side and back while keeping these important attributes in the right places. Additionally, even though the front of his toga looks different from the back, I am fully aware of how it falls over every side of his body. And where those changes begin. Character cast sheets are just as important as character turnaround sheets. If your cast of characters interacts in your comic or cartoon, you need to know how they look in relation to one another so that you can keep it consistent In every new scene. A character cast sheet functions as a reference of the height and feature differences of the characters in your cast when standing side by side, as with character turnarounds, guidelines are essential. However, rather than showing where certain features should go on a single character on a cast sheet , they mark where those features fall on another characters body. Here are a few characters from The Allotted Chronicles placed in a cast sheet, I place guidelines down again to indicate where certain parts of each character end compared to another. The top of any Moses ears are in line with key Atos Collarbones. His elbows are in line with copies. Chest his knees are in line with the bottom of the lettuce fingertips. I can continue to make guidelines like this for anything I feel is necessary. Now, when I draw them and scenes together, I know the general placement of their features in relation to one another. All right now you know how to construct different kinds of character sheets and what professional illustrators use them for. In the next video, I will summarize everything that you've learned through this class and give you some tips to end on before designing your own characters and participating in this class is project 6. Conclusion: Hey, everyone, I'm sure you're all super pump to get started sketching out the visions of your very own character casts before you dive in. I'm gonna give you a summary of each of the key concepts that you've learned in each lesson to make it easier for you as you move on. Here are the things that we've talked about so far. Basic human anatomy for artists, diversity through shape and silhouette, character expression and body language. And constructing character sheets in terms of basic human anatomy. Just remember that you don't have to be a doctor or an expert to draw a person accurately. Comparisons and measurements are your best friend. Use your own body as a tool for understanding proportions and especially used references. Nobody, not even professional artists, can just whip out a perfect sketch of a person from their head. Just keep it simple. You don't have to know that the elbow falls of the fourth inter vertebral disc. It's above the belly button. That's it. Remember that shape in line can say a lot about a character. Think about how the features of your favorite cartoon heroes and villains are exaggerated. To emphasize certain personality traits round face, cute, angular face. Intimidate. Diversity of silhouette or outline is key in a successful character cast. Remember to shade your characters in next to each other and judge whether or not they could be differentiated from each other quickly. Expression and body language can say a lot about your character about your designs. Don't already. How did they respond to certain emotions in situations making expression and gesture sheets ? Helped to tell your audience who your characters really are. Character turnarounds help you to maintain consistency in your characters at all angles and in every senior drama character cast sheets are used to show where your characters features fall in relation to one another. Both are used by professional illustrators when drawing the characters over and over again . And when they interact with all of this information in your head, it's time to get started on the class project. Your job is to design four diverse characters based on any four planets in our solar system . The goal is to use the properties of the planets of your choice, personify them into unique characters using what you've learned. By the end of your project, you have a fully fleshed out cast design sketches, expression sheets, turnarounds, cast sheets and anything else you want to add to the mix throughout your process. If you have any questions, whether it be about what you learn in this class or about the project itself, feel free to message me in the discussion boards, and I will respond as soon as possible. Thank you so much for taking introduction to character design, drawing a unique cast. I hope that it helps you to better organize your character designing process and make it less daunting to tackle. I'm looking forward to seeing your visions come to life through your projects, into giving you feedback along the way much love and see you next time.