Character Design Crash Course: Dynamic Design in Four Steps | Melissa Lee | Skillshare


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Charakterdesign-Crashkurs: dynamisches Design in vier Schritten

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

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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.

      Die Grundlagen des Figurendesigns


    • 3.

      Spaß beim Zeichnen


    • 4.

      Inspiration und Vorlagen


    • 5.

      Schritt 1: Geschichte


    • 6.

      Schritt 2: Entwürfe


    • 7.

      Schritt 3: Design


    • 8.

      Schritt 4: Bereinigung und Farbe


    • 9.



  • --
  • Anfänger-Niveau
  • Fortgeschrittenes Niveau
  • Fortgeschrittenes Niveau
  • Jedes Niveau

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About This Class

Willkommen beim Charakterdesign-Crashkurs, einer Reihe von Illustrationskursen für Anfänger und Fortgeschrittene, die ihre Kenntnisse auffrischen möchten.  In diesem Kurs führe ich dich durch meinen vierstufigen Arbeitsprozess für die Gestaltung eines dynamischen Charakters. Dazu gehören die Entwicklung einer Geschichte und eines Konzepts, das Erstellen grober Thumbnail-Skizzen, die Verfeinerung des Designs und die Ausarbeitung der Details sowie schließlich das Bereinigen und die Farbgebung. Ich spreche auch über die Grundlagen des Charakterdesigns und darüber, wie wichtig es ist, Referenzmaterial zu verwenden und von anderen Kunstschaffenden zu lernen. 

Was du lernen wirst

  • Inspiration finden und von anderen Kunstschaffenden lernen: Ich spreche darüber, wie man die Stile anderer Kunstschaffenden studiert, wie man dadurch seine Vielseitigkeit ausbaut und wie wichtig es ist, sich von mehr als einem Kunstschaffenden beeinflussen zu lassen.
  • Mit Referenzmaterial arbeiten: Ich spreche darüber, warum die Verwendung von Referenzmaterial der Schlüssel zur Verbesserung der eigenen Zeichenfähigkeiten ist, und zeige einige der besten Möglichkeiten auf, wie man dieses Material optimal für sich selbst nutzen kann.
  • Entwicklung deines Charakteres: von Geschichte und Konzept, über grobe Skizzen bis hin zu ausgefeilteren Designs
  • Bereinigung und Farbe: Ich gebe einige Bereinigungstipps für Lineart sowie einige verschiedene Färbungs-/Schattierungstechniken.

Was du machen wirst

Wenn du fertig bist, hast du einen vollständig kolorierten Charakter, den du deinem Portfolio hinzufügen kannst :D

Hinweis: Du kannst alles, was ich dir in diesem Kurs zeige, auf traditionelle Weise machen, aber wenn du digital arbeiten möchtest (ich verwende Photoshop und Procreate in diesem Kurs), sind wahrscheinlich einige Grundkenntnisse und Erfahrungen mit dem digitalen Zeichenprogramm deiner Wahl erforderlich. Wenn du fortgeschrittenere digitale Maltechniken erlernen möchtest, habe ich einige Kurse zu Adobe Photoshop in meinem Kanal.

Triff deine:n Kursleiter:in

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Melissa Lee

allow yourself to fail before you succeed

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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. Vollständiges Profil ansehen

Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Hello and welcome to Character Design Crash Course, Dynamic Design In Four Steps. My name is Melissa 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 class, I'll take you through my four-step process for designing a dynamic character, which includes coming up with a story and concept, creating rough thumbnail sketches, refining your design and finalizing the details, and finally, clean up and color. I'll also talk about the fundamentals of character design and the importance of using reference and learning from other artists. As a bonus, also just some fun and beneficial practice drawing exercises. Once finished, you'll have a fully colored character to add to your portfolio. So pick up your pencil and let's get started. 2. The Fundamentals of Character Design: If you've taken my previous character design crash course, some of this will be a repeat. But I recommend that you watch it anyway because I do cover some more topics and go into a little bit more detail. So, it should still be beneficial for you. So, the four big things you have to consider are shape, silhouette, rhythm, and construction. Everything else falls into these four categories. It's easier to caricature or cartoon once you understand construction. You'll probably hear me repeat this multiple times throughout the class because I really want it to sink in. So, I want to talk about some of the basic landmarks of the average human body that will help you understand the construction and proportion of the figure. Because, like I said, once you've learned these basics and once they've really sunk in, you will find it easier to caricature and cartoon. So, without further ado, on an average human, the shoulder width is about three heads across, the eyeline is the halfway point of the skull, and traveling down the body, the rib cage bends at the halfway mark of the upper arm, the elbow lines up with the belly button and the hands fall above the knees about halfway up the thighs. The overall halfway point of an average figure is at the bottom of the hips. With the figure on profile, there are some angles that you want to keep in mind, particularly the tilt of the rib cage and the hips. A lot of people tend to want to draw them a lot more straight than they actually are. So these proportions serve as a guide to help you put everything in basically the right place. When cartooning, you will break a lot of these rules of anatomy. But it's important to always keep in mind the basic proportions that most people have in common because when a good character designer exaggerates, they are always aware of what works and what doesn't. So much of character design is caricature and exaggeration. But if you don't have a strong baseline to start with, you won't know how to successfully exaggerate. For example, the first blue figure is an average proportionate figure broken down into simple shapes, which is something that I really like to do. Just keeping it as simple as possible and I'm still keeping to the rules that I just talked about in the last slide but all the shapes are super primitive and simple. The more you do it, it really helps you understand how the human figure works. So, anyway, the first blue figure is proportionate but the green figures on the right even though there are not anatomically correct, I'm still aware of the body's landmarks and there are certain things I've done here that help make the overall shape and design work. So, for example, the arms still fall above the knees and the elbows still line up with the top of the hip bone and navel. I'm still following some of the rules that I set forth in the previous slide. At the same time though, I don't want you to think that it's never okay to do something like having the hands dangle below the knees, for example, because that could very well work. What I'm really trying to do is to stress the importance of learning how to draw anatomically-correct bodies because the better you are at that, the easier it will be for you to make a bold exaggeration choices. You'll be able to make informed decisions based on your knowledge of a proportionate human figure. To be perfectly honest, there are some cartoon characters where it's really hard to pinpoint exactly why they work as well as they do just because they're so cartoony. But trust me when I say that no matter how wildly exaggerated a character may look, the designer behind that character understood how to draw a proportionate figure. Then is the breaks unfortunately it really will benefit you if you understand construction. Moving on, one of the things you really want to try to avoid is tangents. Tangents are what happens when two or more shapes touch in a way that is visually bothersome. So the example I have on the right with her bang, it's touching the face in awkward ways. It looks like it's almost glued to her nose and lips and chin and it's not clear exactly what's happening in the drawing. If the bang was drawn further out from her face, it would be easier to read as being behind her face and not being stuck to her in this weird way. So, these are just little things you have to try to look out for and will become easier to catch them the more you practice. When it comes to silhouette, you want to look out for your positive and negative space and understand that clarity is key. It's about choosing poses that convey the most information about what you're trying to portray. If the action is clear in the silhouette alone, the pose will automatically be stronger. So, the silhouette on the right is unclear. Her legs and arms are bunched together awkwardly and it's just not as appealing to look at as the silhouette on the left, which is super clear. There's a lot of breathing room for negative space and you know exactly what she's doing. Actually, I just noticed on the silhouette on the right where her arm meets her lower back, that's creating a tangent, making it look like the arms leads into the thigh. So, there's a visual tension there created by the tangent that you want to try to avoid. Silhouette and tangents go hand in hand really. It's all about clarity of pose and keeping your poses open and easy to read. So, that's definitely something you want to try keep in mind when designing. The golden ratio is essentially a proportion used in design that is considered to be aesthetically pleasing. It's not only used in fine art but also in character design and architecture and perhaps, most importantly, it's found in nature all over the place. Using the 1:1.618 ratio throughout your designs will automatically make them more pleasing to the eye. So, here's another example. The Greeks definitely used it when they designed the Parthenon. It can also be found all over the human figure including fingers. So, as you can see here, the tip of my finger to the first knuckle and the first knuckle to the second knuckle is about 1:1.618 and so on. Here's a quick example of it being used in my own designs. Shape and variation of shape is, if not the most, It's definitely one of the most important aspects of character design. You want to try to avoid the ladder, avoid the bowling ball, try to incorporate small-medium-large, and avoid sameness. These are simple examples of how varying your size and shape can create more visual interest. The ladder is basically everything being parallel and everything being equidistant and at the exact same size and it's just boring to look at. The bowling ball effect mostly applies to the face and it happens when the features of the head and face are the exact same size and shape and it's just not very interesting to look at. Here are some examples of avoiding the bowling ball. The first character has small eyes and a big nose and the second has the opposite and the bear that I drew has a big nose, medium-sized eyes, and medium-sized ears but the eyes and ears are different contrasting shapes. So, there's still got appeal there. This is an example of what I mean by avoiding the ladder. With the girl on the left, her construction isn't necessarily wrong and really it's not a terrible drawing or anything but she still isn't quite as dynamic as the one on the right. I don't mean because she has a less curvy figure than the second girl. It's more that her shoulders and hips are parallel which makes her look static. The more angles you can incorporate in your designs, the more interesting they'll be. Also, observing how the shoulders and hips tilt in real life will help you learn how to draw the figure in action. So, always be aware, always observe, observe pose, movement, distribution of weight, angles and tilts, folds of clothing and so on. Even people doing something as simple as waiting in line for coffee, for example, tilt their hips and shoulders in a certain way. Rarely are hips and shoulders as parallel as the first girl's are. Here's another example. I drew this from photo reference and as you can see, the hips are super tilted as are the shoulders. Rhythm in design is essentially what makes your eye move across an image. Rhythm is created by contrasting angles and by varying straights against curves, wide versus narrow, large versus small, light versus dark and so on. Contrasting these things build visual interest and appeal. So, our bodies actually have a lot of natural rhythm and you want to try to take advantage of that by always being aware of your straight against curves and contrasting angles and such. One thing you want to avoid is drawing what I like to call the sausage man, which is what happens when there's too many curves against curves. It just ends up looking like the Michelin Man which is fine if that's what you're going for, but usually, that's not what you're going for. Straights against curves is how you'll avoid that. This is a page from Stephen Silver's book, The Silver Way: Techniques, Tips, and Tutorial for Effective Character Design, which I think is probably the best character design book out there. It's just so incredibly helpful and chock-full of design insight. Honestly, a good 50 percent at least of what I've learned about character design was learned from Silver. I took a couple of these classes on schools and dot com as well which are also great. So, anyway, I've linked to his book under the Your Project tab, and I have this up here because these are really nice clear examples of what I'm talking about. The figure on the left is an example of contrasting wide, narrow, wide, narrow and then the figure in the middle, short, tall, short, tall and on the right, dark, light, dark, light. You get the idea. Here's more of Silver's work that really exemplifies this with the wide, narrow, small, medium, large contrasting shapes. In my other series on Skillshare on drawing faces, I talk about using basic shapes and objects as inspiration for creating variety in your head shapes but this also applies to bodies. As I've said before, start with simple shapes and build the details on top of them. Also, you don't want to get stuck drawing just one body type. So, essentially, all of this advice is information that you want to digest over time. It may seem a little overwhelming at first but give yourself time to take it all in and just be aware of it and the more you have an understanding of these things, the more you'll practice drawing with these things in mind and incorporate them into your work and the more it will become intuitive. Eventually, you'll reach a point where you're not going to have to actively think about this stuff every time you draw. It'll just becomes second nature to you but it will still inform your drawing process. All right. Time for the next video. 3. Fun Drawing Exercises: Before we move on, I wanted to share a few drawing exercises that I like to do for practice. The first of which is the Blind Sketching Method. You may have actually done something similar in the beginning drawing class. Basically, what you do is choose a photo for reference or observe from life, then keeping your eyes on your reference, do not look at what your hand is drawing and don't lift up your hand. This should take no more than 15 to 30 seconds. Try drawing it multiple times, each time starting from a different location. Using the weird shapes you've created, design a character. Don't feel like you have to match each line exactly if you don't want to. Just stay loose and have fun with it. Another way to do it is to find reference and do your blind sketch. Then, do your second blind sketch based off of your completed first design. You can try repeating this process over and over as a way to see how far you can push your design. You can also try contrasting your shapes and seeing what designs you come up with. So, just start with really basic shapes and use them as a guide. This is a similar technique but this time try pushing just one design. I started by drawing an idea based off of reference, and then using contrasting shapes, I made a bunch of different designs of the same character. I also change the spacing of the different sections of the face as well, so as you can see, I put the eye, nose, and mouth lines in different spots on each face. That's just a really easy way to hasten variation within your designs. The next exercise is good construction practice that will help you build muscle memory and up your figure drawing skills. So, what you do is choose photo reference, and either lay a piece of tracing paper over it or make a separate layer in Photoshop, if you're working digitally, and then trace over it using simple shapes. Redraw those same simple shapes varying the sizing and angles. Draw a loose gesture design based on that construction, and finally use your loose drawing as a blueprint to design a character. Then I just have some good practice gesture exercises. The first is to watch a sports game on TV or online, pause and do quick action gesture drawings. When I say quick, I mean like 10-second drawings. You can always lengthen the time as you go on but you should force yourself to be really fast at first. The second exercise is similar only this time you'll be pausing an animated show or movie, and you can always find clips on YouTube for this. Anyway, then trace directly over the top of the frames, which happens to be the example that I've shown. Don't concentrate so much on the details, just the basic form. With this exercise, you're learning from other artists and building muscle memory. Next, go to a live figure drawing class or session, and for poses of five minutes or more, draw the same pose from different vantage points around the classroom. Finally, use online resources such as,, which is a super rad site where you can set up your parameters and do some timed practice drawings. Gesture drawing is not about capturing people exactly, it's about capturing the feeling of a person and also practicing figure drawing. 4. Inspiration and Reference: "If you want to learn how to play an instrument, you have to learn to play another musician's song. If you want to learn how to draw, you have to draw another artists picture." - Steven Silver. This is one of my favorite quotes about art. It was really something of an eye opener for me personally, when he put it that way. I was like, "Oh, It was like a light bulb went off above my head." And I was like, "Oh, you know you're right, that's a good point." Okay. So, essentially, I feel like what Silver means is that, it's important to study the styles of other artists. It's just as simple as that. You want to study how they bend and break the rules of construction, analyze what makes their style consistent, look for basic visual concepts that you can adapt to your own work, like how they draw eyes or hair or hands and so on. It's important to be influenced by more than one artist, so that you can avoid having your work look too influenced by the style of just one artist. So, you can build up your versatility. That being said, keep in mind that if you want to work in animation, you have to be able to mimic different styles. So that's still a really good skill to have. Basically, it's okay, and even encouraged to look to other artists for inspiration whenever you need to. Reference is necessary for growth as an artist, and you never stop using it. It's just that, you may start to need it less and less for certain things. If you draw those things over and over again, but you'll never stop using it altogether. So, if you're someone who worries about that and I know I used to be, just remember that using reference is not cheating. One of my favorite examples of a famous artist using reference is Norman Rockwell. He used reference so brilliantly. Even though his work isn't cartoony, and it means, it's obviously more realistic in style. He's still really push and exaggerated his figures in really interesting ways. Like for example, here he made the police officers shoulders a lot wider than they are in the photo reference, which makes the contrast in size between him and the boy even greater, and more interesting to look at, I think. So, basically, he made a lot of deliberate choices in how he'd change things from his reference. I think his final pieces were often almost always far more dynamic than real life. Yeah, that's why he's one of the greats. If you didn't appreciate his work before, I really encourage you to study his work a little closer. So, I have a few other artists I want to just very briefly mention because they're all people who studying and appreciating and they're all artists that have influenced my own work and really can the continued influence it. I'm pretty much just going to flip through these and let them speak for themselves. Because if I talked about each to them as much as I want to, we'd be here for hours. So, any way, first there Stephen Silver, of a course, with his fabulous cartoon work. A lot of my own cartooning is really influenced by him. The next, Shaun Bryant, who I recently discovered and I think is a wonderful character artist. Aaron Blaise, who again is amazing, he worked for Disney for a long time. Lois Van Baarle or Loish as she's better known Online. Glen Keane of course, and his daughter Claire Keane, whose work is brilliant and apparently it runs in the family. Emily Carroll, another Classic Disney artists, Milt Kahl. Ronald Searle. Don Flowers. Don Flowers is really good to study particularly for how he made a fairly simple style work really well and feel really dynamic. Then, there's J.C Leyendecker, who is one of my absolute favorite artists ever. I know I said that I was going to let these speak for themselves, but just really quickly. The thing about Leyendecker's work is that it's obviously very carefully rendered and graphic. Often, you can see the clear brush strokes and the contrasting straights and curves. But at the same time, it has this effortless quality, like there's such a clear understanding of form and how you can manipulate anatomy to stylize it so that it works. It is just insane to me and it's really worth looking at his stuff. Okay, moving on. Last but not least is Charles Dana Gibson, with his famous Gibson Girls. His work is another example of realism that stylized. When you first look at it, it doesn't immediately strike you as caricature, but it's just that the choices that he made were more subtle. All right. Moving on to Step one of the design process. 5. Step 1: Story: So, I apologize in advance because I'm going to be doing a lot of talking in this video, but I promise it's all interesting and relevant so just take a sip of coffee or whatever your drink of choice maybe and sit back and relax for a few minutes and yeah. Okay. So, the first step of designing a character is to create your character's story. So, who are they? What's their background? What's their age, personality, attitude? What is their role or occupation? Where and when do they live? What are some physical characteristics you want to incorporate? You can even go so far as to figure out what they want, what's driving them, what do they like or dislike. What can you personally relate with about them? Are there people in your life that you can draw inspiration from and put into your character, etc? The more you understand and get to know your character, the better. You don't want to just jump straight into drawing unless you purposely trying to let loose and have fun then sure but if you want to build a character for a project like a comic or animation or whatever, you want to do your research first. Also make sure you've established the basic overall style of your project before you design your character. Is it going to be super cartoony or more realistic? For me, I want my characters to be closer to the realistic end of the spectrum but still cartoony and pushed in a fun way. You also want to consider what medium it's going to be for. You may not want you're design to be super detailed if you're drawing it for, say, an animation or even a comic because you will have to draw it over and over and over and depending on the print size of the comic, detail could get lost or feel cluttered. So, you want to consider those things. So I'm just going to jump right into my idea for this character that I'm going to create or actually characters. I want to create a couple of cowboy characters. In reality, black and Latino cultures are actually what essentially shaped the frontier culture or what we think of as the Wild West. Fun fact, the word 'buckaroo' is actually a corruption of the Spanish word 'vaquero', which means cowboy. So, yeah, learn your history, folks. I don't know how it is in other countries but most US history classes make it out to be a lot less interesting and diverse than it actually is. So, anyway, the point is that a lot if not most of the real cowboys back in the day were either black or Latino. So, I wanted to create a couple of characters in that vein. I'm not a professional character designer by any means. I'm still really just a novice and hobbyist but I've learned a lot that I haven't seen presented in this way on Skillshare so I'm trying to fill that void essentially. The point of me bringing this up is that I've never really worked on a professional project where the story and characters are already largely figured out for you. So what I like to do is ground my characters in some sort of fictionalized project in my head. So, I'm sort of thinking of these characters that I'm going to create as the stars of a comic book or web comic. I'm not a writer by any means so this hypothetical comic probably won't ever get made unless I collaborate with someone, which would be super fun, but regardless, for me, it helps to ground my characters and some sort of idea like that. So, anyway, I start by doing my research. I like to make Pinterest boards of images I'm going to use for inspiration. In this case, I especially needed clothing reference, so I have a lot of that here. But I was also looking for imagery with a lot of personality and attitude because I want my characters to have a lot of personality and attitude. Even if you think you know everything about a certain time period or profession or whatever it is you're drawing, I still encourage you to not skip this part. We're so lucky nowadays with the Internet that it seems a shame not to take advantage of it. One sort of example I like to bring up in support of using reference is you know how in a lot of older paintings babies often look really weird? Almost like they're just tiny naked hairless adults. Well, my theory is that that's because the painters didn't have a lot of opportunity to study real babies, so they just straight-up didn't know how to draw them. Don't quote me on that but I wonder about that. So, anyway, what I like to do next is to write some simple attributes down either directly on the document that I'm working on or just on a paper that's next to me so I can refer to it. When I'm designing more than one character for the same story, like if they'll inhabit the same universe in my head, I like to try to come up with not just contrasting personalities but also contrasting appearances since this is a visual medium. So, from my couple of characters, their tentative names at this point are Tobias or Toby Greenwood and Manuel Castillo because that's just what came to me and I like them. The only reason I say tentative names is because if I were to actually make this into a story, I would want to do some more in-depth research and make sure that Tobias Greenwood is a name that someone would actually have back then. I don't see why it wouldn't be, but I don't know. What do I know? I'm not a historian. So, yeah, if I were to actually make this into a fully fleshed-out story, I want to make sure of things like that. But since I'm not doing that, I'm just drawing these guys and trying to get a feel for who they are. I don't really feel the need to go into that deep of research at this point. The only things I know that I really want to get accurate are the look and the clothing and that sort of thing, which is the research that I've already done, the visual research. So...I don't know their names could change. I probably will at some point go and totally research that and make sure those names are legit just because I am that sort of completist and I like to make sure that everything is as accurate as it can be when I'm designing characters, especially if they're based in a real historical time period. Names have a lot of power in a story. They give a character a certain feeling, so I at least I like to have a good idea of what they'll be. Harry Potter is a perfect example of this. JK Rowling makes very deliberate choices when it comes to the names of her characters, or at least her principal characters. For example, the first that comes to mind is Draco Malfoy. His name really gives you a good idea of who he is as a character, and Luna Lovegood is another good example. You get a feel for what she's going to be like as soon as you hear her name. So, yeah, plus I just think names are really fun. So, I also automatically gain a sort of fondness for the characters that I'm creating once I name them so I never skip that. Okay. So, anyway, I've gone off on a tangent and I'm sorry. What was I talking about? Oh, I was talking about contrasting appearances. Toby is going to be tall, thin and wiry, whereas Manuel is going to be shorter and more stocky and broad-shouldered. The contrast between the two characters will automatically make them more visually appealing. Then I always like the friendship dynamic of the sarcastic charmer type and the the exasperated yet fond, more serious type. So that's who they'll be. I jot down all the qualities I know I want them to possess. Recently, I found that I really like to design in pairs because something that gets me really excited about what I'm doing is the character relationship or dynamic. For the sake of this class though, I'm going to take you through the actual process of designing just one of them. All right. So now that I've talked your ear off, let's move on to step two. 6. Step 2: Roughs: So, once I figured out who my character is, I start by drawing really rough sketches. So, initially, I like to try to figure out the body shape, thinking of the head, torso, and limbs as three connected units, and keeping the shapes as simple as possible. Basically, I don't want to think about the body in too many parts if that makes sense. The more simply you think about it, the better. As you're doing this, remember your contrasting shapes. This applies to pretty much all styles from the super cartoony and pushed to the more realistic. Pretty much any illustration that you do is going to involve at least some amount of caricature and exaggeration. But just for fun, if I was designing something in a more cartoony style, I might explore body shapes like this that are a lot more exaggerated. I know I want my characters to be mostly proportionate so there isn't a ton of differentiation between the body shapes I'm exploring, but I still find the step really helpful and it only took me a few minutes to sketch these out. So, I sort of think of them as notes that I'm taking for my hand. These last couple of figures that I drew are ideas for my second character and I'd like to do that when I'm designing in pairs or more than one character at a time. I like to draw different body shape ideas for both characters at the same time. Just because it's fun to see how the characters are going to contrast with one another, and it also gives me more ideas for how you can get them to differentiate from each other when I see them right next to each other. So anyway, at this stage, you want to explore and to do that, you need to not worry about details. I used to jump right into drawing the details and what would happen is, I'd get really precious about my initial drawings and have a hard time exploring and changing things. I'd also make construction mistakes that I didn't notice, and then I'd work on the detail and realize that I had to redraw it and I wasted all that time. So, you don't want to tie down your design right away because not only do you want to make sure your construction is good before moving on to detail, but you also don't want to miss the opportunity to really explore and play around with the feature placement and just see what works and what doesn't work. You really want to try not to be too precious about your drawings. It can be really really restrictive and if you keep it rough and loose and fun and not stressful to begin with, you can really find some interesting ideas. Think of them more as scribblings at this point. So, that you feel more comfortable really trying a bunch of different things. The next stage, the design stage is when you really start to draw. Once I have a pretty good idea of the overall shape of my character, I like to try out a bunch of different faces and head shapes. I'm still drawing pretty roughly for all the same reasons that I did before. I'm still figuring things out. So, I really want to make sure that I'm happy with my design before I start to pin it down more. I have a fairly good idea of what I want Toby to look like, I know I want him to look like he's somewhere in his late 20s early 30s. So, I was trying to work that out here because some of my initial sketches looked a little too young, like the guy on the right looks like he's a teenager. So, I hold him out a bit more and gave him a bit more angles to try to age him up a bit. Also that hat is not great, it needs fixing. I need to look at some reference for that later but I'm not worried about it right now. That's what this part of the process is for, for me, just figuring out stuff like that and trying different things to see what I can achieve to make characters look closer to what I'm trying to make them look like. So, this has given me a pretty good idea of the direction I want to go with him. So, I think I'm ready to move on to step three. 7. Step 3: Design: Step three is when I really start to tackle the details. I usually start by continuing to work on the facial features and trying to really pin them down. I sometimes start with a fairly neutral expression and once I figure that out, I draw it again with a little bit more personality and attitude. Tobi is sarcastic and a charmer. So, I'm thinking about all of that as I'm creating his expressions. Speaking of expressions, I'm planning on dedicating the future crash course to expressions, so that will be hosted sometime this year. I'm not sure what my planning schedule is exactly for that but it will be sometime this year. I might end up making him a little more cartoony in the final designs. But regardless, I know that I don't want to make his design super exaggerated and super cartoony. I do have a good understanding of his features now. So, now, I'm going to move on to posing him and figuring out his clothing and all that good stuff. For me, this is the hard part. I love drawing faces, so I draw them all the time but I do not practice drawing figures enough, so I always struggle with posing. I need to practice figure drawing more. I'd love to get to a point where I can just draw full bodies as easily as I can draw faces but I'm not there yet. I'm also not good at drawing clothing so I always use reference for that. For example, you'll see that I'm going to take a lot of inspiration from this picture, particularly this guy's outfit. I just thought it was really cool and has a lot of character. I also really like how this guy in the middle, in this picture, how his hat is sitting back on his head. So, I play around with those ideas in my design. Just so you know, I do have reference up on my laptop screen while I work on my iPad Pro. One of my students from my last class on drawing animal characters told me that I made it look easy but it wasn't easy. I did struggle. I didn't come upon my designs right away. There was work. I had to work to get to my final designs. So, it was interesting to hear that I made it look easy apparently because it wasn't easy. Whenever I make something that I'm proud of, it's almost always a struggle to get there especially with character design because I don't do it all the time. So, yeah, it's interesting that they said I made it look easy because it really wasn't. So, even though I'm showing you the whole process and I'm showing you the final designs, I'm not showing it to you in real time and it took a lot longer than it may seem like in these videos. When you're watching other people, when you're watching other artists work or you're seeing other artists work, you have to remember that you are not seeing the process, you're not seeing the full process, you're not seeing all of the time that it took to get to that point. I don't just mean all of the time, the hours that you spent on that one design, I mean all of the practice and all of the dedication that every artist puts into their craft. You don't see that, but every single artist draws and practices or every single good artist who has gotten to a point that you admire, they put work in. They put so much work in, and you just don't see it. You're not there for all of that. So, you have to try to remember that you can't compare yourself to somebody who has probably practiced way more than you have and who has probably dedicated a lot more time than you have. Then there's also the fact that people just straight up improve at different speeds and you have to allow yourself time. Cut yourself some slack because you are definitely improving. Just because you're not improving at the speed that somebody else is, doesn't mean you're not improving. So, if this is something that you love to do, don't let yourself get discouraged by other people's talent. Just pay attention to what you're doing and try to appreciate the improvement that you have made. I know it's really hard not to compare yourself to other artists. I know that so, so well. I still do it all the time. So, I understand, it's not as easy as just snapping your fingers and making it so. But, you have to try to have some perspective and try to remember that you're not going to see somebody's whole entire process. Lois H. The Lois Van Barle, who I mentioned in the inspiration and reference slide that I did, she did this experiment where she drew the same basic drawing once a year for, I don't know, five to ten years or something like that. And she basically, wanted to see what her improvement was on the exact same drawing. She draws every day, pretty much every day, she draws so much all the time. She's just, she's dedicated herself to it, really dedicated herself to it. And it shows because her work is incredible. It was really wonderful to see that because to see her early work, to be frank it wasn't great. It really wasn't. It was a beginning artist. It was very beginning artist. And t o see the vast amount of improvement that she made over that period of time was really encouraging. I realized it was such an eye opener for me because I realized, "Oh, here is the physical evidence. Here is the proof that this amazing artist that I admire so much... She hasn't always been this good and she got there because she worked really hard." She got to the point where she is because she has put so much time and dedication into it. It was encouraging for me personally because it was like, "Oh, my skill level is at about year four." Whatever. But it was like, "Wow, look at that. I just need to work. I need to dedicate myself to it." I'm not going to just be a better artist if I don't put the work in. There's no reason why I shouldn't get better if I put the work in. She did it and she's incredible and she's an amazing artist. It was just such a nice thing to see. So, I just want you to try to remember that. Try to remember that you don't see the hours that people put in, the years that people put in to becoming better artists. It can be so frustrating because you just want to be good. I understand you just want to be better than you are immediately. You want the instant gratification of it but you're not going to get it, you just won't, unless you're a prodigy, and you're probably not. [laughs] So, be easy on yourself. Let yourself practice. Let yourself get better at your own pace and at your own speed and try not to compare yourself to other people who are probably at year ten when you're at year one. Something that works for me is to do an underdrawing, then lower the opacity, add a layer and do another rough under drawing over the top but this time trying to push the stylization of the character a little bit more or you can just draw your pushed design over to the side like I did here. I do that as many times as I need to until I hit a point I'm satisfied with. Pushing your design basically just means to exaggerate it more and more. I have a bad habit of overworking my drawings sometimes before I really nail down the construction, which is what happened with the first version that I drew of him. I knew I was unsatisfied with the design as I was drawing it, so I really shouldn't have worked on the details so much and wasted some time. But, I'm choosing to look at it as a learning experience. I think the final version that I landed on matches the original body shape idea I had for him much better. So, I got there eventually. I messed with the positioning of his arm a lot, because at first, I felt like it was pushed a little bit too far to the left, so I pushed it back a bit to the right so that there was a nice clear space in between his back and arm, that triangle of space is a nice open negative space. Then, I realized that his hand was creating a tangent with his leg, and hip, and stuff, and I didn't really like how those lined up, so I made his forearm just a little bit longer so that the hand moved a little bit more in front of his hip. That took away that problem for the most part, but then I realized that his hand was a little bit too small. Both of his hands seem a little small, so I reworked that as well. You may have noticed that I keep flipping the canvas that I'm working on horizontally. I do that because it really makes mistakes stand out. If I can get the drawing to look good flipped both ways, it will be a much stronger drawing. It's weird how things you didn't notice looking off really stand out when flipped in the opposite direction. I'm using Procreate on the iPad Pro here, and to do that, you just make sure you're on the right layer and then hit the little select arrow on the top left of menu bar, then you just tap this little symbol down here, and that flips it horizontally. But on Photoshop, you hit Command or Control T on your keyboard for transform, and then on the bar at the top, there's a W for width. If you just put a minus sign in front of the 100 percent, it will flip what you are selected on, and you just add a minus sign again to the back. When you're constructing your character, make sure to draw after your shapes so that everything's lining up properly. It can give you like a sense of flow and everything feels like it's connected. You want the anatomy to feel right and to feel connected, and drawing through your shapes really helps with that. You can always erase those lines that you don't need later. So, for example, with Tobias's hat, I knew he was going to have a hat, but I drew his head, anyway, even though I knew I was going to put a hat on him. Because I wanted to make sure that the hat was going to rest on his head properly. So, that's where I drew that circle to indicate the skull, so the hat sits properly. I just did that throughout his body to try to make things connect. I connected his shoulders, made sure they lined up, and it just all sorts of things like that. I'm still figuring out my cartoony style, if you will. I have so many influences and there's so many different styles that I really admire, and I can't pick one that I want to emulate more. I don't want to emulate just one style, because I don't want to veer into copying somebody too much, but I still haven't been able to sort of like, hone down something that I want to explore. So, I just keep trying a bunch of different things. This time I've definitely gone with a more sort of Disney look. I mean, his body is a little bit more exaggerated, but the face and that has kind of a classic Disney feel to it. I wasn't really necessarily going for that, but that's kind of how it ended up, which is fine. I love all the styles and stuff. I'm just saying this because I am still really a beginner and an intermediate character designer. I'm still really working on honing my style, figuring out who I am as a character artist. I'm telling you this because I want you to feel encouraged by the fact that, you may be looking at this and thinking that I'm really skilled, or I don't know, maybe not, but, depending on where you are in your art journey if you will, you may be looking at this and thinking that I have a lot of skill and that I'm way far ahead of you or whatever. But, I just want you to know that I am still really working very hard on figuring out who I am as an artist, as a character artist specifically, figuring out where exactly I want my style to go. I'm still experimenting. I really want to reach a point where, somebody can maybe recognize that it's my work, or that it's at least it's the work of one person, the same person. Right now, I feel like my drawings are all over the place and it's like, oh, wow, you drew that, and you drew that? But that's just because I'm still exploring different styles and what I like and don't like. That's okay to do. Unless you really just fall into a style that you like right away. That's also okay. If there something that you're sort of drawn to and it works for you from the get-go, that's cool. But that doesn't happen for everybody. So, I just wanted to talk about that a bit. If you're designing for something like a comic or animation, where you'll have to really understand the shape language of your character so that you can redraw them over and over and over, doing a model construction breakdown, otherwise known as a Model Sheet, is a really good idea. You want the construction and shape of your character to become ingrained. Depending on the project, this Model Sheet could include a full turnaround. A turnaround consists of a front view, front three-quarter side, back three quarter, and a straight back view of the character. I plan on dedicating an entire crash course to turnarounds and all the tricks that I picked up for creating them, so I'm not going to demonstrate it here. But I just wanted to mention that if you do want to work in the animation industry that is a skill set you'll need to learn. There are a lot of great, tutorials already out there if it's something that you want to try to pick up right now. So, here's my final design with cleaned up line work, and I'm going to be talking more about line work in the next video. 8. Step 4: Cleanup & Color: I'm not going to go into a ton of detail on how I rendered this drawing, like I did with my animal characters in my previous crash course, because I don't want to be repetitive. I do have another class that focuses entirely on painting portraits digitally. I used a lot of the same techniques on this drawing that I used in both of those classes, so you can check those out if you're interested. Instead, I'm going to demonstrate a quick, simple flat color demo, as well as share some tips for liner cleanup. It is my understanding that character designers working in the industry, often aren't expected to color their work, because companies usually have people who specialize in coloring. Of course, it's still a great skill set to have but if you want to specialize in character design, you don't necessarily have to be a master at color. With that in mind, I wanted to share a quick, easy and effective coloring, and shading technique. You can do this step traditionally with a light board if you want to. But for the sake of ease, I'm going to demonstrate it digitally. When I've reached the cleanup stage, I'll usually continue working on whatever program I'm using, usually Photoshop or Procreate. I'll lower the opacity of my rough sketch, create a new layer and draw over the top. Of course it all depends on your style and how clean you like your work to be or how much you like the texture of the brush to show. Do you want a solid line, tapered line, sketchy line? For my drawing of Toby, I wanted the pencil quality of the brush I was using to show through in the line mark. I didn't want it to be super clean or sharp, because, well, first of all, I like that hand-drawn, traditional looking style. Secondly, I knew that I wanted the color to have a painterly quality and I wanted the line mark to match it. When I'm doing line mark, especially if it's a super clean, bold line like this, I like to draw each line quickly and I don't worry about going past where the rough sketch ends. I find that I can make lines much cleaner and less wobbly when I do fast strokes like that. I don't worry about perfectly tracing because I can always erase the bits that crossover later. Of course, this really only works with digital art. You have to be a bit more careful with traditional. But I also find it easier to control my lines precisely when I'm drawing traditionally. Anyway, regardless, I try not to be too precious about how perfect my lines are, because you often won't notice the imperfections later on. But I do still sometimes have to draw lines over and over a ton of times before getting it right. There's no real technique to this, it just takes practice. The more you do it, the easier it will get. Now I'm erasing all of the unneeded bits. You want to make sure that the thickness of your lines is consistent. Even with a taper line, the thickest points of the lines should match up and they should all taper similarly. Here I noticed that the line was a little thin, so I thickened it. When choosing colors, think about the story, mood, and setting you're trying to portray. For this character, I picked some sophisticated and trendy pastels and contrasted them with a couple of brighter fun greens, because she seems like a fun, sophisticated lady. For my drawing of Toby and Manuel, I chose a more muted color palette with lots of brown and orange shades, because I was thinking about the Old West and I wanted the colors I chose to reflect that. There's nothing fancy about my coloring job here. I basically just picked a texture brush and laid down some flat colors. One culture I picked up for quickly creating rosy cheeks, is to make a new layer, draw triangles over the cheeks and then blur them. In Procreate, you click on the little magic one symbol on the top left menu bar, and then click "Gaussian Blur" and drag your stylist to the right and left to adjust the blur percentage. In Photoshop, you go to Filter, Blur, Gaussian Blur, adjust the percentage with the slider and hit "Enter". You can also try drawing a circle over the nose along with the triangles and blurring all three of them. But I didn't think this drawing really needed it, so I didn't bother. I just think that's a really cool way to get a really nice, beautiful rosy cheek without worrying about picking out a soft texture brush and perfecting it. It's worked every time for me and I think it's really cool. There are a million and one ways to shade your color. But one quick and easy way to do so is to duplicate your color layer and then use hue saturation to adjust that duplicated color layer. There are a few different ways that you can apply hue saturation. First, you can go to image adjustments, hue saturation or you can go up or right above the layers panel and find hue saturation and apply it. Or my favorite way is to make sure you're selecting on the layer that you want to be effected, and go down to this little circle on the same panel where the new layer button is and select Hue Saturation. It creates a hue saturation mask layer above the layer you want to effect. If you only want to apply it to the layer below, all you have to do is hover your cursor in between those two layers and hold down Alt or Option, and a little arrow pops up and click it. Then it will only apply to that layer below it. In the properties, I usually adjust the hue to a more purple or blue color. The lightness, I bring it down pretty far and make it pretty dark. Then I take the whole layer opacity down to somewhere in the 20s or 30s percent and that just creates a really nice shaded version on top of your light version. The shade colors are a little bit blue and a little bit purple, which makes them look a little bit less muddy. If you just tried to go in with some blacks, some grays, that wouldn't look very good. This is just a nice quick way to find some cool colors that will work to shade your drawing and it just automatically does it for all of different colors for you. Then you can click onto the mask and using your brush tool, the black erases essentially, the dark shading while the white colors are darkened. You can just adjust it just by switching back and forth between white and black. For example, here I switched my brush color to white and colored the shading back in. Mostly I just use black to erase the shading layer, so that the original brighter layer could show through. Here's another example of me using this technique but I kept a lot more shading in this. That is one simple way to find some great shading colors and to make your illustration that much more appealing. One more quick and easy way to add appeal to your drawing, is to add a gradient to your flat colors. I've already added a gradient over the gray of the pants. As you can see, it's a flat gray and then I added a really subtle dark purple over the top. To show you how I did that, first of all, I have all of my colors on different layers. I have the pants color on one layer and the shirt color on another. Make sure you're on the right layer and then grab the magic one tool and select the part that you want to color. In my case, the shirt. I did that so that the gradient that I'm going to apply will only cover the shirt and not the rest of the canvas. Create a new layer on top. Go over to the paint bucket tool and click and hold so the flyout menu shows up and then select the Gradient Tool. I haven't selected on a color to transparent gradient, so that it will go from a color to no color rather than one color to another color. Anyway, I already have a nice purple selected, so I'm just going to keep that. Then all you do is just click and drag up. I think that looks pretty nice. Deselect your selection by hitting "Command D" and lower the opacity a bit. Here it is without the gradients, and here it is with them. 9. Closing Thoughts: Your project is to, naturally, design a character of your choosing. However, all I'd like to see to begin with is your concept. As a low-pressure first step, simply post the story and personality of the character you'd like to create, so Step 1, essentially. Then from there, you can update your project as you progress. 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. Hence, crash course. If you want to learn more, I highly recommend checking out's character design classes. Personally, I took Daniel Arriaga's class, Characters for Animated Film, and Stephen Silver's classes, Fundamentals of Character Design and Advanced Character Design, and found all three of them to be invaluable sources of learning. I also recently discovered the art of Aaron Blaise, who has a bunch of really great tutorials and classes on character design, drawing, and animation. I've linked to all of these under the Your Project tab. 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. 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. If you're feeling stuck, remember that practice and persistence is the key to improving. But also remember to be gentle with yourself. You probably won't see improvement immediately, and that's okay. Learn to embrace your bad drawings because they're only leading you towards better drawings in the future. On that note, I wish you the best of luck and as ever, I can't wait to see what characters you create. Take care and see you next time.