Building Character 1: Design and Sketch Your Character | Jesse LeDoux | Skillshare

Playback Speed

  • 0.5x
  • 1x (Normal)
  • 1.25x
  • 1.5x
  • 2x

Building Character 1: Design and Sketch Your Character

teacher avatar Jesse LeDoux, Illustrator, Artist, Designer

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.



    • 3.



    • 4.

      Character Attributes


    • 5.

      Basic Shapes


    • 6.

      Physical Features


    • 7.



    • 8.



  • --
  • Beginner level
  • Intermediate level
  • Advanced level
  • All levels

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

This is the first class in the 3-part 'Building Character' series on creating a unique character! Join artist Jesse LeDoux — former Art Director of Sub Pop Records and character designer for Disney, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network — as he designs and sketches a character based on 3 personal attributes. This 28-minute class will open your mind to endless possibilities as you'll explore Jesse's style and watch him create a character.

You should take this class if you're interested in character design and exploring the inner depths of your imagination. Designers, artists, and illustrators of all skill levels welcome. By the end, you'll be ready to sketch and share your own unique character with the class for feedback, inspiration, and encouragement from fellow illustrators! 

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Jesse LeDoux

Illustrator, Artist, Designer


Born in Portland, Oregon, Jesse LeDoux worked for many years as an art director for Seattle-based Sub Pop Records where he created iconic album and poster artwork for such artists as the Shins ('Best album packaging' Grammy nominee for Chutes Too Narrow), Iron and Wine and Death Cab for Cutie before leaving in 2004 to focus on his client-based and personal work at LeDouxville.

Parallel to working on commercial illustration and collaborative projects for such clients as Starbucks, Nike, Disney, Giro, Rapha, Penguin UK and Target, he has exhibited internationally. His work was included in the Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial (2007), an installation at the University of Maryland (2008), and has work in the permanent collection of the Experience Music Project (Seattle, WA), R... See full profile

Class Ratings

Expectations Met?
  • 0%
  • Yes
  • 0%
  • Somewhat
  • 0%
  • Not really
  • 0%

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: Hi, my name is Jesse LeDoux. I'm a designer and illustrator based in Seattle, Washington. This class is the first in my three-part building character series, and it only makes sense for this first class to be about character design. Characters are a frequent element in my work. I like the escape as quality inherent in characters and the ability to create and explore new worlds through the characters and simply, they're just fun to draw. So with this class, we're going to start out by choosing three character attributes in which we can build the characters around. These attributes will help to define who the characters are, and what they're about and what makes them tick. Once we establish those attributes then we just start drawing. Really the only thing you need to take this class is a couple sheets of paper, a pencil and an eraser if you plan to mess up. So this class will be quick, it'll be fun, it'll be easy and not much to overthink. Let's dive in. So enroll and let's get going. 2. Reference: Before we get started working on our personal projects, I'd like to talk about character designs that I think work really well and the reasons behind them. What better place to start than with Mickey Mouse, probably the most famous character ever. He was created for animation, but he works well in pretty much any medium which I think speaks to the strength of him. Just seeing a portion of him, he's iconic and I think that one great thing about him is that he can just have this large range of emotions from angry to happy, to excited to scared. He's great. One interesting thing about him is that, when Iwerks created him for Disney, of course, they realized that the ears could always be in the same silhouette. So you're always seeing two ears which defies the laws of reality but it makes for a really interesting design and makes the character really memorable when you can do something like that. I feel like it's pretty rare but it's really worked out well for Mickey. Next is not necessarily a singular character, but is just the way Ryohei Yanagihar draws. I think that it's just the way he is able to draw characters. They have a range of emotions and a range of styles even though it's the same character over and over in these various situations and scenes. But I think his work is just great. Without changing too much stuff, he can go from angry, to surprised, to stern looking and I think that's really cool. I just love the simplicity of his work and I'm a huge fan of his. Next is Moomin by Tove Jansson. Moomin, it was made as a comic strip originally and I feel like Moomin really succeeds well for the comic strip form. For animation, I think it would be a little more difficult to animate just because the body is so contained as one piece, but he's still a very iconic and simple character which I think is ultimately the goal. You can't think of too many characters that, at least I can't think of too many characters that are overly complex. Most strong characters are pretty simple in their form and Moomin definitely exhibits this. Next is a series based on traditional Japanese folklore. The series is called, GeGeGe no Kitaro and it's by Shigeru Mizuki. I think that his work is just fascinating. It's just really cool and really weird. The main character is this guy, he's only got one eye and so his hair just parts and so you only see one eye. His other eye is actually his father, it's weird. Then you have this weird sheet ghost and this big toothy toast and his work it's cool. It's just really cool. I haven't ever seen it in the US. It wasn't until I lived in Japan for a year that I saw his work and he's huge over there, he's super famous. But it hasn't seemed to jump over the ocean. But yeah, I highly suggest checking his work out because it's awesome. It's really cool. Then lastly, I felt like I should probably include something of my own. I've always been happy with this guy that I did for my friend Thomas Campbell's surf film called The Present. I see him as being the most perfect surfer. So he has sunglasses that never falls off his head and then he's just got these powerful arms that are able to paddle, to catch waves perfectly. I don't know, I drew him, I think he's funny and other people seem to like him too. Those are five examples of what I feel is strong character design. From here, we can start talking about you making your own character. Let's get into that from here. 3. Tools: Let's start off with talking about the tools you will need. This one's easy. Pencil, paper, eraser. With pencils, I have three thicknesses 0.5, 0.7, 0.9. In the 0.5, I have light blue or the blue lead in and that's great for sketching super light. Then, once I figure out the shapes, then I can go in with the actual lead pencils and typically, finish things up with the 0.9. But that's the tools. I'm sure you all have them already, so onward. 4. Character Attributes: Now getting into your personal project, let's start by choosing three adjectives that describe you. For me, I've chosen goofy, but not silly, just goofy, exploration, because I love exploring and balanced just because it's just everything in the world I feel is a balance. You know, you can't have too much work, you can't have too much play. With happiness, comes sadness, and so balance is an important part of my life. So the first step is for you to choose three attributes that describe you, and those three attributes is what we will design our character around, and then from there, we will go into, what target age or demographic you want the character to have? Is this going to be for adults? Is it going to be for kids? Is it for teenagers? Where on that spectrum does it lie? Is it for men? Is it for women? Is it unisex? Then, also determine whether you want your character to be primarily male or female or kind of genderless and its relative size, do you want it to be something small or you want it to just be this big, massive monster? Yeah, so those are the things that we will start by talking about. 5. Basic Shapes: Finally, it's time to start drawing. Let's start out by blocking in our basic shapes. The first thing we'll want to do is determine the target age that we want our characters to appeal to. A good rule of thumb is the bigger the head and smaller the body, the younger the demographic, whereas the smaller the head and the larger the body, the older the demographic. This is essentially the same drawing, but this definitely looks like it's for younger kids. I'm personally a sucker for big heads, which is probably why I do so much work for kids' projects. Just because that's how I like to draw and that's what I end up drawing. Again, my character is goofy, exploration, and balanced. Those are my three words that I need to keep in mind when creating my character. I typically like to start out with just a big round head. I like them oblong just because they're, I don't know, it's funny, having big oblong egg heads are appealing. Yeah, big head, a small body. That's my basic form there. It's really as simple as that. You could do a triangle head and a diamond body, if you want, or do a peanut shape and an oblong body, or not have a body at all and have the body just run into the head. One thing that you'll want to think about when starting with this is what your end purpose will be for. If it will be for animation, it's good to have segmented body parts because those can be easily pulled apart to be animated. Whereas if it's going to be for a t-shirt design or a comic book or something, having one unified peanut or wiener body is totally doable. Once you've established your basic shape, it's time to start moving onto the features of the character. 6. Physical Features: Because I scribbled all over my basic shapes portion, I redrew it onto a new one. So from here, this is the framework. Then we will start adding the physical features like his face, and clothing, and all of that stuff, making sure that we remind ourselves of what our three core attributes are. It's good to keep checking in to make sure that we're staying true to who we've decided that this character will be. So mine's goofy, exploration, and balance. Start out with exploration. It makes sense that he would be wearing a backpack, so I'll put a backpack on him. Again, sketching really light is good. Typically, I sketch with a smaller pencil and then go in with the bigger pencil. It's good to experiment with where you place eyes. You can place it high up on his head, low on his head, just try a bunch of different options to see what makes the most sense to you. Low doesn't seem well because I want my character to be goofy and he doesn't seem very goofy. Huge, he seems more eager than goofy. So just try out a bunch of different things. I like it up at the top. Once you get it to a place you like it, you can feel free to darken it. Since my character is goofy, he should have some dumb teeth to him. What next? He should should have a bow tie and maybe a cardigan sweater. I'm not following my own advice. I'm drawing very darkly and not sketching. Sometimes, that is how I draw but just keep things moving along. Because if you draw it dark, it's always harder to erase. That's my basic character right there. You don't have to spend long on it. I feel like he's goofy. He's obviously an explorer with this backpack and there's a balance to him. I could have made a character that feels really off balance, like eyes on either side of his head, but he's a pretty well-balanced character. So I feel like this achieves my three core attributes. From here, we will get into adding some more detail and just flashing out all the details and making sure that he feels right for our character. 7. Details: Once you have your character figured out, you can go in and add small little details. This is just the icing on the cake. Yeah, you can do little, maybe a pocket on his backpack, and every sweater needs buttons. Just go in and fine-tune it. Some stripes. He's been exploring, so he needs a beard, a scruff. This is your opportunity to just fine-tune and finesse your design. It's just a mess. There you go. Yeah, I feel he's done. Once you get this, pretty much there. You don't need to overthink it much. 8. Conclusion: So that's it. We're done. From here, upload your character to the project gallery so that we can all see what you've been working on. My next class in the building character series is going to be on inking. In that class, we will take the character that we created in this class, and work on different ways of inking it. So stay tuned on that and thanks for enrolling in this class, and I hope you had fun.