Character Design Crash Course: Develop Expressive Characters Through Caricature | Melissa Lee | Skillshare

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Character Design Crash Course: Develop Expressive Characters Through Caricature

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

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.

      What is Caricature?


    • 3.

      The Masters of Caricature


    • 4.

      Exercise 1: Changing the Spacing of the Eye, Nose, and Mouth Lines


    • 5.

      Exercise 2: Caricature/Cartoon Yourself


    • 6.

      Exercise 3: Traditional Caricature - Amanda Seyfried


    • 7.

      Exercise 3: Traditional Caricature - David Tennant


    • 8.

      Exercise 4: Caricature a Live Action Fictional Character


    • 9.



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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 all things caricature and how it relates to character design. Spoiler alert: you can’t have character design without caricature. The principals and ideas overlap so much that I believe it is absolutely necessary to study caricature in order to become a great character designer.

I’ll take you through my process for creating a traditional caricature of a real person, as well as share some exercises that should, hopefully, help make starting a caricature a little less intimidating, and which can help you apply the principles you’ll learn to your own original characters.

What You'll Learn

  • What is Caricature? I explain what exactly caricature and exaggeration is and why it is essential to understand in order to be a good character designer.
  • The Masters of Caricature: I share some of the all stars of caricature, how studying their work helps you build your versatility, and talk about the importance of being influenced by more than one artist.
  • The Sections of the Face: I demonstrate how identifying the spacing of the different sections of the face helps you determine how to exaggerate successfully.
  • The Process of creating a traditional caricature. Hint: Use lots of reference!

What You'll Make

It's up to you! You can choose to make a traditional caricature portrait, turn yourself into a cartoon, or cartoon-ize a live action fictional character!

Note: You can do everything I'm going to demonstrate in this class traditionally, but if you do want to work digitally (I use Photoshop and Procreate in this class), some beginning knowledge and experience with the digital drawing program of your choice is likely necessary. If you want to learn more advanced digital painting techniques, I have a couple of classes on Adobe Photoshop in my channel.

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 character design. See full profile

Level: Intermediate

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1. Introduction: Hello, welcome to character design crash course. My name is Melissa Lee, and I'm a designer and illustrator based in Northern California. Character design crash course is a series of illustration classes meant for beginning cartoonists or intermediate character artists looking for a refresher. In this course, I focus on all things caricature and how it relates to character design. Spoiler alert! You can't have character design without caricature. The principles and ideas overlap so much that I believe it is absolutely necessary to study caricature in order to become a great character designer. I'll take you through my process for creating a caricature of a real person, but I'll also share some exercises that should hopefully help make starting a caricature a little less intimidating and which can help you apply the principles you'll learn to your own original characters. I'll also talk about the importance of using reference and learning from other artists. You may be wondering, what credentials do I even have to teach caricature or character design? The truth is, I don't really have any besides a huge passion and love for the art forms. I love sharing what I've learned from people who are far more qualified than I am, as well as what I found works for me personally. The thing that I love about Skillshare is that it allows us to share what we know with each other, whether we're technically qualified to teach it or not. I think that's pretty awesome. With that said, I hope you join me, a fellow novice and lover of caricature, and we can improve our caricature skills together. 2. What is Caricature?: As I said in the introduction, I am by no means a professional caricaturist. I love caricature, but I'm a hobbyist more than anything. However, I have taken quite a few classes now from professional caricature artists, because even though it isn't something that I'm pursuing professionally, it's still an art form that I really love and appreciate, and I wanted to share what I've learned with Skillshare. The two people that I've learned the most about caricature from are Stephen Silver and Court Jones, who are both professional caricature artists. Technically, Stephen Silver is primarily a character designer, but he started out as a caricaturist at amusement parks, and still uses the principles regularly in his current work. Their respective styles are on the opposite ends of the spectrum. Silver's work, is very stylized and for lack of a better word, cartoony, while Jones's work, is on the hyper-real super rendered side of the spectrum, so more along the lines of what you tend to think when you hear the word 'caricature.' Both styles are applicable to character design, and I think it's helpful to study both in order to become a well-rounded caricaturist. If you've taken my other crash courses, then you know that I like to bring up my various teachers and influencers, and Silver is one of the people I bring up a lot, because he's one of my favorite teachers. I like to be honest and upfront about my influences, and I also like to share the various different learning resources that are out there. I assume that since you're here, you're interested in character design. There are certain people in the industry that I think everyone who's serious about character design should be aware of. Silver and Court Jones, and Aaron Blaise, and Chris Oatley, and all these people that I bring up in my classes, are on that list. So that's why I like to talk about them. As always, I provide links to the various resources I mention throughout the class under the Projects & Resources tab. So what is caricature, and what does it have to do with character design? The dictionary definition of caricature is, "exaggeration by means of often ludicrous distortion of parts or characteristics," but I like this definition by caricature artist Court Jones much better. "Caricature is a portrait where the proportions are changed to highlight what makes a person different from everyone else, or what makes them different from the average." What is exaggeration exactly? Essentially, exaggeration is a deviation from the norm. Take a square, for instance. A square is the average of all rectangles that have ever existed. This perfect square is labeled A for 'average.' If I were to draw a caricature of rectangle B, I would just need to observe how it differs from the average of all rectangles, which is our square. We can see that rectangle B is slightly taller than the average, so in order to caricature it, I'm exaggerating how it differs from the square by making it even taller. So rectangle C, with its stretched proportions, is a caricature of rectangle B. This concept is a lot more complex when applied to a human face of course. Seeing as faces have a lot more going on in them than simple rectangles do, but the ideas behind it are the same. Just as with character design, caricature is all about careful observation. When you're looking at a face that you want to caricature, study all of the subtle and often unsubtle ways in which that particular face deviates from the average. Let's look at some faces with obvious deviations from the average, and some with not so obvious deviations. Mr. Barack Obama has some pretty obviously protruding ears, so in his caricature, Court Jones exaggerated that even further. Sir Ian McKellen has a larger than average nose, so in his caricature, his nose becomes even larger. If you take someone like Mila Kunis, you'll notice that she has these big, beautiful, striking eyes, so in her caricature, they dominate a good third of the space in her face. Finally, we have Ryan Gosling. The traits that set him apart from the average are a little less obvious. His eyes slant downward more than the average, so that trait is exaggerated in the first caricature. I've been pointing out only one feature per person so far, but keep in mind that you need to pay attention to all deviations from average proportions in order to make a good caricature. With Ryan Gosling, for instance, there's also the fact that he has wide high nostrils and a long face with a pointed chin, both of which are really taken into account in these caricatures. Not only do you want to pay attention to physical traits, but you also want to pay attention to behavioral ticks. Mr. Gosling, for example, often quirks one eyebrow up, which you can see in the caricature by JM Borot. He also has a crooked smirk, half smile thing that he does, which is evident in Jacob Greenawalt's drawing. "If you change the proportions incorrectly, without intention, you'll lose the likeness, but when it's done correctly and intentionally in a caricature, the likeness will be even stronger than the photo," Court Jones. You may have figured out by now that in order to understand how to caricature, you need to understand an average proportionate headfirst. This is something that I repeat ad nauseam in my character design classes as well. I'm sorry for the repetitiveness, but it's a really, really important lesson to learn. You won't know how to exaggerate with intention from the average unless you're already familiar with that average. Here's a diagram showing the standard proportions of an average adult head. The average proportions of details like the eyes, nose, and lips, may differ somewhat, depending on where in the world you're from, and what the dominant facial type is there, so keep that in mind. It's also important to remember that there are differences between typically masculine and typically feminine features and head shapes, but the overall proportions are going to be the same for all facial types, regardless. Check out my class on constructing the face for more details on this. It's only about 10 minutes long, and it's imperative that you understand basic construction before moving on to caricature. "Once you have committed these proportions to memory, you'll be able to draw upon that knowledge to help inform all of your exaggeration decisions," Court Jones. So how do caricature and character design relate? Caricature and cartooning go hand in hand, because both deal with the exaggeration of proportions. With traditional caricature, it's about taking a real person's face and exaggerating or pushing their features in a way that doesn't lose the likeness of that person. Whereas with character design, it's about taking the traits that you want to emphasize in a character that you create, and exaggerating them. You have a little more freedom in character design, since you're not necessarily trying to stay true to someone's likeness, but the principles and thinking behind caricature and character design all overlap. In this Stranger Things print by Stephen Silver, Silver has designed cartoon versions of each of the live action characters by caricaturing each actor. For example, sorry, the image is pixelated, it's because Silver uploaded it at a low resolution for the web, rightfully so, but that's okay. We don't really need it to be super clear fortunately. Anyway, with Nancy or Natalia, she has a really sharp square jaw, giving her a very square face shape overall, but then she has this delicate round chin. Silver didn't really exaggerate her face shape that much honestly, aside from giving her a more geometric shape rather than an organic one, and then she has a petite, slightly upturned nose that he chose to make super upturned. Her eyes always seem to be open fairly wide, so he used that in the design as well. Moving on to Dustin, he has a very round head shape, so that's implemented in the design. The great thing about his face is that it's so expressive and unique that Silver barely caricatured it at all. He just simplified it, really, and made his mouth a little bit wider. Hopper has a large oval-shaped face, and a really prominent brow ridge, so Silver exaggerated his brow ridge quite a bit. His eyes seem almost like they're half hidden under his brows, so Silver drew ovals under the eyebrows to emphasize that. Finally, he took his long rectangular head shape and made it a little bit larger in proportion to his torso than it actually is. He also exaggerated the size and shape of his hair. So there's a clear indication that there was a lot of observation of form and expression that went into these designs. The point is, you really can't have character design without caricature. If you understand caricature, you are a character designer. A great caricature can appear highly realistic and dimensional, can be done with just a few simple lines, or even be more abstract. The main goal is to capture the likeness of whoever you're caricaturing in a fun and eye-catching way. In the next video, I'm going to recommend some more awesome artists for you to check out and be inspired by. 3. The Masters of Caricature: Before we move on to the exercises, I wanted to recommend some really awesome artists to check out. These are the people that you'll want to study to give yourself ideas for how to solve design problems you may come across, or just to get you fired up and inspired. As I mentioned before, Stephen Silver, I just really love his caricature. He has this incredibly distinct, clean, smooth shape language that he uses, that he somehow able to apply to caricature in a way that's really fun and appealing. Anyway, I love how these super cartoony characters look so much like the actors they're are based on. Then once again, Court Jones. The way he's able to render out these exaggerated forms in a realistic way is super cool to me. Now this is someone who does something completely different. David Cowles is probably my favorite abstract character artist. I loved everything super textured and almost looks like paper cutouts. I really don't know how Mariah Carey looks so much like Mariah Carey. When all of his designs are so simple, he's got the shape of her nose and face. Then the behavioral observation of how she sometimes wears her hair in front of one of her eyes. I can pick out the things that support her likeness, but at the same time, it still just boggles my mind that it looks so much like her. Anyway, Ramón Nuñez isn't really primarily a caricature artist, but he obviously uses caricature in his designs. The eyes are my favorite. They're drawn really similarly, and actually if you look through his work, he draws eyes pretty similarly across the board. It's more of how the rest of the features on their faces compliment the eyes, and then of course, the overall shape of their heads that informs the likeness rather than the eyes themselves. But then the eyes are also extremely striking. It's just interesting. Another awesome abstract artists is Pablo Lobato. All these people are so clearly who they are. You know? That is clearly Susan Sarandon. That is clearly Julia Roberts, Ethan Hawke, Amy Adams, Piwi. The shapes are all so geometric and so simple, and yet the likenesses are so clear. It really goes to show that you can do a lot with very little. He just has a masterful understanding of how the minute differences in a face can convey a likeness. That's amazing to me. Moving on, Jan Op De Beeck, I think is closer to the right pronunciation. Sorry if I've butchered it, but he's another example of a contemporary realism caricaturist who primarily uses pencil. That's pretty cool. My favorite of his is the one of Angela Lansbury. I just think it has a lot of character and is super cute. Sebastian Kruger...I have to say the one on the right is supposed to be James Dean, and I don't actually think he achieved the likeness very well. He looks more like Benicio del Toro to me. But it's so cool that I almost don't care and I included it anyway, but yeah, the rest of them are incredible and they have the likeness down to a T. So it's just kind of like an artistic choice that I think he made that that...some of it has to do with subjective taste as well. Others might feel differently and feel like that does look a lot like James Dean, but I just wanted to point that out because I think it's still a really wonderful caricature, but sometimes people can just have differing opinions on something, it's not all objective. A lot of it is subjective. Anyway, the next one is Achille Superbi, yet another awesome realistic caricaturist, and then there's Mort Drucker. Mort Drucker is most well known for being the primary artist for Mad Magazine. It's just another amazing example of someone who clearly knows how to manipulate and exaggerate with intention. These last two artists aren't contemporaries. Miguel Covarrubias is a lesser known master of caricature, at least compared to the last person I'm going to show you, Al Hirschfeld, but Al Hirschfeld actually studied under him and shared a studio with him at one point. AI Hirschfeld is one of my favorites because honestly, how could he not be? I think he's one of everyone's favorites. At first glance, you wouldn't think to compare his and Covarrubias's work, but if you take a closer look, you can see the influence that he had on Hirschfeld through the shape language that Hirschfeld used. He chose to explore a far more minimalist way of executing his work. There's no rendering, it's just line, but the shapes are really similar. If you look at the line drawing that Covarrubias did and compare it to Hirschfeld's work, that influence is a little bit more obvious. My point in bringing this up is to show you that even the masters had influences. What Hirschfeld did was he took those influences and made his own unique thing out of them. For this last slide, I wanted to recommend a book that I'm sure a lot of you have heard of or read even, but I know many of you haven't. I think that every single artists should read it. It's called Steal Like an Artist and it's by Austin Kleon. In it, Kleon talks about how nothing is truly original. That when people call something original, 9 times out of 10, they're just not familiar with the references or the original sources involved. I want to quote an excerpt from the book that I think sums up the whole idea really will. Quote. "What a good artist understands is that nothing comes from nowhere. All creative work builds on what came before. Nothing is completely original. Some people find this idea depressing, but it fills me with hope. As the French writer Andre Gide put it. 'Everything that needs to be said has already been said, but since no one was listening, everything must be said again.' If we're free from the burden of trying to be completely original, we can stop trying to make something out of nothing, and we can embrace influence instead of running away from it." End quote. Kleon goes on to clarify that, of course, this doesn't mean that you should literally plagiarize word for word, plot point for plot point, or trace someone else's drawing or photograph and claim it as your own, but that a healthy amount of influence from the artisans that you admire is normal and necessary. Even Picasso, who was painting hyper-realistic paintings by the time he was 15, was influenced by the artists who came before him. I used to worry a lot about finding my "style" and being too influenced by the artists that I admire, but what I've found is that my hand organically draws in a way that is unique to me no matter what I'm drawing, and that since I'm influenced by many different artists, I don't emulate just one of them too strongly. Your unique style will happen organically. All you have to do is study the work of multiple different artists and develop a regular art practice. Through the joy of just creating for the sake of creating, and for the sake of improvement, you'll start to see various patterns and common stylistic choices that you just make naturally because you're drawn to them, because of a combination of your various influences and your own unique hand. The point is, you don't have to force it, it will just happen. If you're a beginner, you need to focus on the fundamentals rather than trying to force a particular style. With that said, let's move on to some exercises. 4. Exercise 1: Changing the Spacing of the Eye, Nose, and Mouth Lines: One way to approach caricature in a less intimidating way, than the traditional process of just starting with thumbnails and going from there, is to change the position of the eye, nose, and mouth lines to try out different caricatures. Then finding which version of exaggeration works better for the subject you are caricaturing. So I'll show you what I mean. I'm using the artist Salvador Dali for this example, and I've marked on his face, the spacing that you need to get in the habit of paying attention to. It can be helpful to first draw your subject without trying to caricature them. So that way, you can get a feel for the realistic proportions and spacing of their face. So just to reiterate, the main things you need to consider when you're caricaturing someone are shape, spacing, placement, and contrast. Caricature is basically the end result of playing around with these things. A successful caricature exaggerates shape, spacing, placement, and contrast in such a way that the likeness of the person is still there. For this exercise, however, we're going to simplify things a little bit so that I can hopefully gently ease you into the process. So we're only going to be paying attention to the eye, nose and mouth lines, and keep it as simple as we can. You always want to start by identifying the basic head shape first. So for these first two examples, I haven't really exaggerated his head shape at all because that's not what I want you to focus on yet. I've spaced out the eye, nose, and mouth lines differently for each one. So I'm going to try to follow them accordingly. When I drew these initial lines, I wasn't thinking about what positioning would work best for him specifically. I just placed them randomly because I want to start drawing without analyzing too much. I really want to just get started and making the beginning of the process as stress-free as possible helps me get over that initial fear of the blank page. I don't know about you guys, but I almost always have that. I'm also just curious to see if there's some spacing that I might not normally try that could work. So we'll see. For these next two, I'm starting with different head shapes. One is shortened and rounded significantly, while the other is lengthened. Then I just did the same thing and randomly placed the eye, nose and mouth lines. I made sure to place the eye line low down on the face in one because I wanted to see what he would look like with a lengthened forehead. Okay. So unsurprisingly, the smaller, rounder head really doesn't work for Dali. You can easily lose likeness by changing the fundamental shape of someone's head. You can still exaggerate the shape, and it doesn't have to be a perfect oval or rectangle or square or what have you. But in the case of Dali, I think this shows that the overall shape should be generally oval or rectangular, rather than square or circular. So as far as likeness goes, I think two and four are more successful. Part of that is because of the length of the heads. In two, though, I didn't actually exaggerate much, which I didn't mean to do. I just accidentally spaced them fairly accurately. So it's not really all that helpful to me. One and three, show me that shortening the nose takes away from his likeness quite a lot. I wouldn't say his nose dominates his face, but that's only because all of his facial features are large. He has wide eyes that are very wide set and a fairly large mouth. Then a mid-sized philtrum, which if you don't know what that is, that's the space between the nose and mouth with the Cupid's bow indent. So taking what I've learned from this exercise, which is basically that I shouldn't shorten his nose and I should lengthen and exaggerate all of his larger features, taking that information, I'm going to do one more drawing of him. I personally think that this final one I've drawn captures his likeness better than even the original drawing, when I wasn't trying to caricature him. It's certainly more interesting to look at. I could continue with this and push it further and further if I wanted to. By which I mean, by pushing the exaggeration further and further. The point is that now I have a better understanding of how I can go about doing that. This has helped me figure out how I can exaggerate his face specifically, basically through identifying the sections of the face that I should play around with exaggerating. You identify the smallest section and the largest section and the middle-sized section, and then from there, decide which sections would be smartest to exaggerate. Hopefully, this exercise will feel a little less daunting and give you a good starting point, especially if you're feeling hesitant to jump straight into thumbnails. This way, at least you have a sort of blueprint to follow. 5. Exercise 2: Caricature/Cartoon Yourself: This time I used essentially the same technique, but on myself. In that I studied and identified the spacing of the different sections of my own face and then experimented with caricaturing and cartooning it in a few different styles. Because I really wanted to show you how this idea can help you work across different styles. I just want to say, the character on the right could really be pushed more. I see this as an initial thumbnail, like a first or second pass. I think if I were to draw it again, I would probably just start over because I wouldn't want to be constrained by the proportions that I've set up here. But I'll go over that more and demonstrate what I mean in later videos. To be perfectly honest, it had actually been a little while since I've done any caricature because I've been focusing on other things lately and these were the first couple of things that I drew for this class. I was pretty timid with my choices. But anyway, so I actually find myself somewhat difficult to caricature because I have a fairly average face, which is really not a knock on myself, I just mean that none of my features really deviate much from the average proportionate face. That said, I do have big eyes and a somewhat wide expressive mouth so those are the two main features that I played around with exaggerating in these drawings. I also have an example here where I put aside those observations I made and purposefully messed around with the spacing. I made my eyes smaller and exaggerated the spacing for my eyes to the bottom of my nose by making it longer. I think that this little illustration of me is far less successful than this one next to it and all the others. Even this very cartoony one here. Because although it doesn't necessarily hold a super strong likeness to me, because it's so cartoony, I think it gives off more of the essence and spirit of me. The areas of my face that I chose to exaggerate are largely what helped me achieve that, I think. Your mileage may vary, but I found that caricaturing or cartooning myself was kinda of nice because, well it was fun, certainly. But also, whenever I go to draw someone else, I always feel a little bit shy about it at first. Because you're studying a relative stranger's face so closely and I have a tendency to feel awkward about everything so it makes me a little reluctant to start sometimes. I always get over it once I really start sketching, but when I'm drawing myself I don't have that problem at all. If you're at all like me, you may want to try starting with drawing yourself. Basically, just take away as many obstacles from starting as you can. But I don't know, most people probably don't have that specific problem. Anyhoo, so I'm leaving it up to you guys to decide which project you want to do, if you want to do one or all of them. If you decide to do this exercise, don't forget to post it in the Projects & Resources section. 6. Exercise 3: Traditional Caricature - Amanda Seyfried: All right, so I'm going to demonstrate the entire process of caricaturing someone from the initial thumbnails to the finished drawing. I'm thinking about all the things I mentioned in the first exercises, but in a less structured way. The Salvador Dali exercise is really meant for beginners who have never tried caricature before. I just really wanted to present an alternate way of starting the process that hopefully is a little less intimidating for people, but this is how I generally go about doing it. Anyway, I'm going to start with actress Amanda Seyfried. The first thing you should do is create thumbnail sketches. I know this obsession with thumbnails that so many of us have can be exhausting, but trust me, they are necessary. Before I started those, though, I warmed up by drawing a bunch of circles. This helps me get a jump start on my muscle memory, if you will, in a low stress sort of way. Speaking of stress, like I said before, I almost always enter a new drawing with a bit of fear. It can be really hard for me to just start. Even though I know that eventually things will start to flow because they always do, I always seem to forget that part. Well, I guess it's not that I forget, it's that for some reason I can't seem to see past that fear regardless. To help combat that, something that I've found extremely helpful for any project, whether it be a caricature, a pattern collection, logo, or what have you, is to decide that the first few pages of sketches are going to be garbage. Embracing this fact makes it much easier to start and really frees you up to make the mistakes that you need to make to get to your final designs. If you know you're planning on throwing away those first few pages anyway, or those first few layers if you're working digitally like I am, you're not so afraid to just start and put pencil to paper, or in my case, Apple Pencil to iPad. This is not to say that sometimes the first drawing doesn't end up being the best one because, that does happen, but it's very rare, especially for those of us who aren't as practiced as other artists are. Anyway, I briefly mentioned this already, but one of the best pieces of advice that I've learned when it comes to character and character design is that when you're drawing just a face, start with the head shape rather than the facial features. Which sounds obvious, but basically I just want you to make sure that you don't start rendering the features before you've established the big important shapes first. Another thing that's important when you're caricaturing a real person is to have more than one reference photo to work from because having multiple photos will help you be able to observe more details about their likeness that way. Even if you're planning on drawing them from a specific photograph or a specific angle or what have you, having multiple pieces of reference from different angles can provide you with information that can help with that specific pose. So Step one, fill a page or two with thumbnail sketches. Accept that these sketches won't be great, and remember that exaggeration is the priority here. Really explore different options of exaggeration. The big one being different head shapes. Don't worry about anything else but trying out different forms of exaggeration at this beginning stage. Put aside worrying about likeness and proper proportions and accurate head shapes, and just let yourself explore all the fun and wacky shapes that are secretly trapped in your brain, yelling to be let out. Thinking too literally at this stage stops you from taking risks and sometimes those risks can really pay off. This is so hard if you're like me and you love detail and precision and you tend to overwork everything, so believe me when I say that I understand, but you've got to be loose at this stage. The first few sketches should take somewhere between a minute-and-a-half to five minutes tops. You want to establish the overall structure before moving on to details. Figure out what's working best and go from there. Just to reiterate, a great caricature can appear highly realistic and dimensional, can be done with just a few simple lines or even be abstract. There are about 1000 different ways you can caricature someone and still keep their likeness and create something that's funny and interesting. I've been going on and on about careful observation and making sure you stick to overall accurate shapes. But all the principles I've been talking about in this class are really meant to serve as guidelines rather than hard set rules. Step two is to take your favorite thumbnail and make it better. I really like the look of this one that I did, but I like how I drew her eyes in this one. I'm taking elements from both. Sometimes, I know this is going against everything I've said, but sometimes the head shape of a person isn't actually the most important characteristic to exaggerate. That is usually because it doesn't deviate from the average much. Even though Amanda Seyfried has a more oval shaped head than this rounder shape I've chosen to explore more, it doesn't necessarily mean that I can't still make a good likeness of her. You still don't want to spend too much time rendering at this stage. However, that said, this is the point where you really start to think about likeness. Individual features are just as important as the overall picture here. Don't just draw a mouth or nose or a pair of eyes, draw your subject's mouth, nose, and eyes. I drew an upturned nose because her nose points up subtly at the end, though you can't see that so much in this photograph as you can in others. Her eyes are big and open and not squinty, so I'm paying attention to that as well, and then of course, her lovely long hair. Additionally, her eye makeup and long eyelashes are something that I'm continuing to incorporate because I feel like they're a defining characteristic. Her expressive mouth and dimples are also something I'm focused on and go a long way towards creating her likeness. Once you've gotten to a point you're happy with, Step 3 is to draw it one more time over the top. Even if you have a sketchier style, you may want to do this anyway and try not to trace it exactly. Basically, push yourself to sketch it over and over again as many times as you can stand, continually tweaking the design and making it better. As hard as it can feel this let go of your previous sketch, I find that my new sketch is pretty much always just that much stronger. Remember, you don't have to render your caricatures as much as I am. You may prefer a more graphic or simple cartoony rendering style, which is just as legit as the more quote unquote, realistic rendering that I'm doing. I really just wanted to demonstrate a wide range of the types of caricature you can do. Here, I'm really paying attention to all the little anatomical traits present in Amanda's face, including the lightened shadow, bone structure, musculature, and all that good stuff. Basically, the only thing that is inaccurate to reality are the proportions of her features. I purposefully chose Amanda to caricature for this class because she is conventionally beautiful and has a fairly symmetrical face. The only thing that obviously deviates from the norm on her face are her big striking eyes. Otherwise, she has a very proportionate, handsome face. I find conventionally beautiful people or very proportionate people very difficult to caricature for this reason. Because what you should exaggerate is less obvious, so I really presented a challenge for myself here. I think it was Court Jones who said that he doesn't always go through every single one of these steps for each of his caricatures, but that it's good to have a process to fall back on when he has a difficult subject. I do think that it is really important to put this much work into caricaturing when you're a beginner or even an intermediate caricature artist. I still go through all the thumbnails and rough sketches a good 99% of the time I go to draw a caricature. I went from this really simple sketch that doesn't look much like her at all, to this more refined sketch where I was taking into account likeness and a little bit more. Then I just tweaked that until it was better and I ended up with the final rendered result. 7. Exercise 3: Traditional Caricature - David Tennant: All right, the second person I'm demonstrating is actor David Tennant. A lot of his thumbnails are super simple and barely taking into account his likeness. I was trying, but I clearly needed to warm up and it didn't really discourage me because, again, I went into it thinking, these first ones aren't going to be great. He was a little less challenging to draw than Amanda Seyfried because he has such a unique face that naturally lends itself to this art, I think, and it gives you more options to play around with. That being said though, it took me a while to decide on the reference I wanted to focus on, and it was still difficult to land on the shape and design that I was happy to keep exploring, and that I felt comfortable spending a lot of time rendering. After a certain point, I knew that I wanted to focus on exaggerating his head shape, which is why I kept trying out long inverted triangle shapes. That was just what I felt was working out for me the most, so I tried it on a few different photos. I finally landed on an idea I really liked and I was excited to move forward with. There was a part of me that really wanted to start rendering a couple of the other sketches I did, but despite the fact that I was practically champing at the bit to continue and get to the part that I find more fun, which is the really intense rendering. Despite that, I knew deep down that I wasn't happy with those sketches, and I knew that I would regret spending more time on them than I should. I wasn't satisfied yet, so I made myself start again until I was. This can be pretty frustrating and it can also be difficult to know when it's the right time to move forward with an idea, especially when you're a beginner. But the more you do it, the more you start to develop an intuition about it. I took the last couple of super rough sketches I did and started to develop those ideas with intention here. Really considering likeness, slowing down a bit and being more careful and intentional. I worked on this rough sketch for about 10-15 minutes. As you work, it's a good idea to flip your drawing horizontally because it's a lot easier to catch mistakes that way, and you can see if there's any construction fixes you need to make. If you're working traditionally, you can look at it in a mirror. I've moved on to step three and I'm really starting to work on the details, really studying his features and all the tiny minute things that make his face unique to him. He has this wonderful sharp somewhat crooked nose, so I wanted to feature that. I followed his mouth line almost exactly except that I tilted it up just a little bit more to add just a touch more character to it. What's fun about character is that you're encouraged to take these features and just play with them a little bit, exaggerate them just a little or a lot depending on what you're going for, and you're not constrained to hyper realism. By the way, if at any time you feel like I've sped this video up too much, Skillshare actually has an option to slow down or speed up the video and audio by small increments. In the bottom left-hand corner, there's a little "1X" that you click, and a play speed menu pops up. Remember, if you decide to try your hand at this exercise, please post it in the class projects. I'll be happy to provide whatever feedback and constructive critique I can. We don't just see the world in outlines, we also see it in shapes of light and dark tones. If you squint your eyes and still see a likeness in just the light and dark tones, then your design is super strong. So there you have it. Remember, this is a challenging art form. I'm not trying to intimidate you. I just want you to be aware that if you struggle with this, that's completely normal and really only to be expected. That said, it's also really fun. When I got to the final stages of these two drawings, I was totally in the zone and truly just thriving, living my best life. It was great. Speaking of fun, in the next video, I'll demonstrate turning a live action fictional character into a cartoon. 8. Exercise 4: Caricature a Live Action Fictional Character: Yay, this is my favorite exercise! Caricaturing a live action fictional character, so basically you're turning a live action character into a cartoon. I chose the character Captain James Flint from my favorite TV show in the whole world, Black Sails. As always, I start with a bunch of quick rough studies of the character/actor's face. I'm trying a few different things to see what I like best, but I have a pretty good idea of the style direction I want to go with for this one, so I'm not being as ambitious with shape variation here as I was with the traditional caricatures that I did. I want it to be in my cartoony, illustrative style that I'm in the process of developing still, which is lot simpler than the more traditional characters that I demonstrated in the last two videos. Not necessarily easier, but certainly simpler in style. Once again, I'm using a lot of different photo reference, I want to get a really good handle on his features instead of just going with my first pass. As I've said in various ways, over and over, the first pass is often not the best pass. You want to discover the distinctive shapes and features and highlight them. I made sure to look at front views, three-quarter turns and profiles. It's also helpful to watch a video of the character/actor so that you can better understand their movement, body language, and mannerisms, expressions and personality. All that good stuff. Because you know, essentially, what you're trying to do is capture their personality in a way. Here I've moved on to the super rough sketch. I usually have to do a few of these before I feel comfortable moving on to line work. I definitely struggle more with full body poses because I don't draw them as often as I draw faces. I really need to get into the practice of doing that more so that I can get more comfortable with it. If it wasn't obvious already, this character goes through a few different looks throughout the course of the show. I knew that I wanted to draw him in his season 2 look, if you will, because he wore my favorite jacket of his, and he still had his lovely ginger hair. I was like, it is absolutely imperative that I draw his hair, and it was indeed the most fun thing to draw and color, so I made a good choice. [laughs] Anyway, that's why I used a bunch of different reference photos for his pose, so that I could sort of piece together the right combination of outfit and hair. In case you're new here, I have another class in this crash course series called 'Dynamic Design In Four Steps," and in it I go into a lot more detail about the principles and fundamentals of character design, and I take you through my four-step process for creating a character from scratch. There is a lot to be said about character design, and I'm really only barely brushing the surface of it in this class. Here I was working out some of the last few kinks and issues I had with the pose. Like for instance, I didn't like the shape of his left leg, so I tweaked that and simplified it a bit, and I also simplified his left arm. When I'm doing super clean line work digitally, I like to do quick clean strokes, and most of the time I don't get it quite right on the first try, so I do it over and over until I do. Obviously, when you're working traditionally, you can't do this, and you have to be a lot more careful with each line, but really it's just a different challenge. Anyway, I also don't pay attention to where the line is supposed to end, so I just do a big swooping gesture. I like to erase the overlapping lines once I'm done. Sometimes in tricky areas or more complex areas, I'll draw lines on a separate layer, which makes erasing the ends much easier because then you don't have to worry about erasing the other lines you've drawn because they're on a separate layer. Here I'm erasing the remaining bits of unwanted line, and this is just a good way to make sure that the thickness of your line remains fairly consistent all the way to the end. You want to be intentional with your line work, so either makes sure that all of your lines have a consistent width, or that they all taper similarly. If you're going to have different thicknesses, it needs to make sense, so for instance, I decided to make his overall outline a little bit thicker than the rest, because I think it gives it a nice effect. But if I just randomly made one or two lines thicker, that would look off. While I didn't exactly exaggerate his features, what I did was, I simplified and stylized them, and caricature isn't just about exaggeration, it's also about stylization, particularly if you're interested in exploring a more abstract style of caricature. My point is, caricature is still what led me to this design, it all goes hand in hand. I colored this really quickly. It's nothing fancy, I basically just picked out some colors from reference and laid them down flat. Once I had all the flat colors down, I added a little bit of blush to his face and hands and gave him freckles, and then I duplicated my color layer on top of itself, took the one on top and darkened it, and then also changed the hue of it to a slightly more purplish blue, and then from there, I actually erased the darker layer to reveal the lighter tones underneath. Instead of drawing the shadows, I erased the shadow from the areas that I wanted to be more highlighted. This is a nice, quick, easy way to add a bit of shading to your work without having to think about it too much. I showed how to do this technique step-by-step in my previous crash course, "Dynamic Design in Four Steps," so you can check that out if you'd like. Dun duh nuhhh! [laughs] Now, my next step is to draw the rest of the characters from the show. [laughs] Aw man, time. If only I had more time, I really want to do a line up of them because I really like how he turned out, so it's going to happen eventually, when I have time, which who knows when that will be. 9. Closing: Your project is to choose one or, ideally, all of these exercises to do yourself. I will be happy to provide whatever constructive feedback I can manage on any or all of these exercises. If you're new to this, I would suggest starting with Exercise One, as I think it's one of the easier ones to begin with, since it provides you with a sort of blueprint to follow and it's a low stress exercise. Because the purpose of it isn't to end up with a super successful sketch, it's to help you figure out how to get to a successful sketch. That said, if any of the other exercises excite you more, then feel free to start with those. It's really up to you. I call this series 'Character Design Crash Course' because these classes really only scratch the surface of what you can learn when it comes to character design. But I try to pack in as much information as I can in a short...ish format. Hence, crash course. If you want to learn more, I recommend Court Jones's class on, 'The Art of Caricature.' And as always, I recommend Stephen Silver's classes on There's also, of course, a ton of really awesome character design classes on Skillshare. Some of which I linked to under Projects & Resources. That being said, I'm going to continue producing character design crash courses here on Skillshare that will cover a wide range of specified subjects, all relating to character design and illustration. If you enjoyed this class, and want to stay up-to-date on what I'm posting, be sure to hit the follow button and you'll be the first to know when each new crash course is launched. You can also follow me on Instagram @melissaleedesign to see my latest works in progress. Whatever exercises you choose to do for your class project, or just for your own practice, I urge you to approach them with the mindset that you're not going to create something amazing on the first go. Because chances are unless you have experience already, you won't. You may not even create something you're proud of on the second or 10th or 50th try. I am here to tell you that caricature is very hard. I'm really happy with the designs I created for this class, but they could be improved upon a lot, I'm sure. I've been working hard at this for awhile. So as always, try not to be discouraged if you're not happy with your results at first, let yourself improve at your own pace. My motto on Skillshare, and in life in general, is 'Allow yourself to fail before you succeed.' So allow yourself to create bad drawings, and learn to appreciate their worth, so that you can get to the good drawings. On that note, I wish you the best of luck and as ever, I can't wait to see what you create.