Character Design: From First Idea to Final Illustration | Josiah (Jazza) Brooks | Skillshare

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Character Design: From First Idea to Final Illustration

teacher avatar Josiah (Jazza) Brooks, Artist, YouTuber and Entrepreneur

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.

      Character Design Fundamentals


    • 3.

      Character Design Process


    • 4.

      Finding Inspiration


    • 5.

      Brainstorm Sketching


    • 6.

      Refining Your Characters


    • 7.

      Testing Your Characters


    • 8.

      Drawing a Final Presentation


    • 9.

      Final Thoughts


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About This Class

Turn the ideas in your head into compelling illustrated characters alongside character design expert Jazza! 

Jazza has already taught you how to illustrate incredible characters—but how do you even develop the ideas you want to draw? In this hour-long class, the illustrator and YouTube star will walk you through the design process he uses to create amazing characters time after time.

To start, Jazza will share the building blocks of character design that you need to understand before even putting pencil to paper. (And he’ll get into character himself for these lessons to make the fundamentals way more fun.)

Then, you'll get to watch over Jazza's shoulder as he designs four new characters from scratch right before your eyes. Along the way, you'll learn:

  • How to use inspiration in your work without copying what's already been done
  • How to use brainstorm sketching to discover the character in your head
  • The process of refining and testing your character until they're just right
  • How to present your character ideas to other people to sell your concept

Whether you're interested in creating your first ever characters, or are a veteran illustrator looking to up your game, you're sure to leave this class with some new ideas—and, more importantly, a design process you can trust will help make them a reality. Plus, if you work alongside Jazza, you’ll end up with some illustrated characters of your very own.


This class is appropriate for aspiring and experienced artists alike. Follow along in your medium of choice, on paper or digitally. Even if you're working with different tools, Jazza’s tips and techniques will still apply to your process.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Josiah (Jazza) Brooks

Artist, YouTuber and Entrepreneur


Start watching here!

Whether you want to draw super muscular superheroes or more true-to-life characters, understanding anatomy is critical when drawing bodies—and yet it can be one of the most challenging subjects to master as an artist. In his new class, illustrator and animator Josiah “Jazza” Brooks will break it down to the basics and make drawing human anatomy as easy as possible.

To start, you’ll get an overview of Jazza’s three-step process to drawing realistic bodies, and learn the basic blocking techniques that will support you throughout the class.

After that, a new lesson will be released every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday until September 27th, going through each core area of the body—the arms, legs... See full profile

Level: All Levels

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1. Introduction: Character design is the thing I find most fun. The ability to take something, an idea from your imagination, and turning that into something that can make people laugh or cry or think or feel. It's cool, it's fun, it's exciting and we're going to dive into that head first today, and it's going to be awesome. Good day. Welcome to my Skillshare class, I'm Jazza. I'm a YouTuber, but I'm also an animator and an illustrator, an entertainer and a character designer. In fact you might say, I wrote the book on character design. I think the thing I love most about creating characters is that it's the ability to immediately tell a story. If you have a great character design, whoever sees that character is going to know things about them, they're going to feel that character's personality coming through if you've done it right. This character design class that I'm going to be sharing with you today is going to take you through the whole process of creating a character from start to finish. We start off in a more conceptual phase, a bit of a planning phase. Then we go through some visual inspiration and set yourself up for success so that by the time you put your pen or pencil to paper, you have a clear direction you're going in, you have a feeling you're trying to capture. Last but not least, I'm going to show you how to present your finished character design and if you consistently apply these tools and techniques to all of your creative journey, but specifically character design, you're going to end up with great results every time and you're going to get better as a character designer, and you'll know the things that make a design and a story appealing and memorable. I'm really excited to see what you do and the characters you make, and how you can spot my imagination and passion with the things you make. 2. Character Design Fundamentals: Welcome to my class. Now with any good class, of course, we need to cover the theoretical before we jump into the practical, highly important part of the process. In order to make sure I have the fullest of your attention, I've, of course, dressed up as a professor in grades, grade myself in front of a classroom setting. This needn't take too long, but it is important to cover that. While we all want to jump straight into designing our characters, the design must be built on a solid foundation. We're going to briefly discuss what the most solid foundational elements are that if covered correctly, would mean you shouldn't have any problems later in the design process, if anything, create some opportunities for creativity. What you see next to me is my working thesis, what I call the triangle of design. Patent, Pending, Copyright, Trademark. I made it up for this class. The most important thing to cover before we leap to creating our design is to understand the context that your design will be placed in. If you are designing a character, is it a character for a book cover? Is perhaps a character for a novel or a series of comic books, perhaps an animated TV show. It is fundamental to really fully understand the context for which you are designing. If you are very well familiar with what you're designing for, you're going to make the best design decision. If you're not familiar with, say, designing characters for animation or a romance novel cover, it would be best to familiarize yourself with design work in that context. You can make sure to take a few pages from their books. Now when you fully understand the context for which you are designing, it is then best to understand the medium you plan on using. For example, animation is a context, but there are many mediums in which animation can be created. Is it 3D or digital animation? Is it traditional or paper-based animation? Understanding the medium will further refine your understanding of the limitations of the design elements you can use. Too much detail in traditional paper-drawn animation is much more of a challenge than, for example, digital animation or 3D animation. That's not to mention, of course, clay animation or stop motion where there are much more design restrictions, but a very specific aesthetic approach and outcome, which brings me to style, the next step. This is where we start to get a little bit excited because the two steps that we've covered so far, frankly, a very much about understanding the limitations of what you're designing for. But when we understand those limitations fully and we can start to explore style and what we want to do that's when the process becomes much more creative and about what is possible rather than what isn't. Style is one of those really fun things where you can explore your own style or develop and discover other people's styles and design based on that if you're creating a character design in a world of someone else's design that is a particularly fun but challenging thing to approach, but also something worthwhile learning to do so that you have more tools in your tool belt when designing the style of your own characters, that you're designing for various contexts and in various mediums. Lastly, design. I would have written design elements, but it's a very small triangle at the top and I ran out of space. This is the bit you really want to get to. This is the funnest bit we've covered context, medium, we're starting to understand the style we want to strive for. Then we get to play. This is the playground, but it's the tip of the triangle. It is also the most loose when it comes to design elements. You can explore different things like silhouette, expression, color, texture. All of these things will be the flavor and the garnish to your design. But elements where if not in balance or not done sparingly or decisively can overpower will confuse the outcome of your design. I think in summary, the most important thing I want to cover before we leap into designing characters is that you understand what, therefore, what they're going to be made with, what you want them to look and feel like. Then explore how to make that as effective and appealing as possible. Thank you for joining my lecture. I hope you've enjoyed it. Particular my little setup here. But this isn't the last little setup because next, we have a little more theory to cover as we discussed the design process. But don't worry, because even though it is it a little more theory, it's in the fun part of the triangle, and I'll be sharing some great examples with you so we can start to sync our teeth into this. I'll see you in the next class. 3. Character Design Process: I have a visitor. Welcome to my lab. This is where I do all of my creative experimenting. A word of caution before we proceed, creativity is contagious. But creativity is very much about exploring and experimenting. We want to get to a desired outcome. However, we don't particularly know what's going to get us there. We have theories, we have things we want to play with, but the outcome is always a mystery until we get there, which I find pretty fun. But you want to get there in as constructive a way as possible, which is why it's really helpful to follow a process. Much like scientific theories, we have hypotheses that we experiment, then we test our hypotheses until we develop a working theory. Well, in creativity, the process I like to follow, and many people who do this professionally follow, is called the design process. There are lots of different ways people have talked about the design process, and lots of different words for the different steps, but they can be summarized to reasonably similar ideas. That is, starting off with a basic discovery process, moving on to an experimental, practical process using the outcomes of those experiments to refine and define your design, and then finally deliver finished results, working images or prototypes. I like to summarize these into four words that start with D because that makes it easier to remember: discover, develop, design, and deliver. Rather than just talking about them, I thought it'd be fun to show you what it looks like for me when I go through those four steps of the design process. I have some examples for you here, an example of the design process that I underwent for an ambitious project that I created several years ago, called The Tale Teller. The Tale Teller is a 10 minute animated short that I made several years ago. It's a project that I completed. It was funded by Screen Australia, it took me eight months to work on full time, and I employed people to help me create it. It was a very big project, and as you can imagine, a big commitment. So designing characters that work well for the project was a bit of a high pressure task, but one that I was really excited about. The concept of the animation is pretty straightforward. It's of a tale-teller, a story-telling traveler who enters a new town with many tales to pass on into tale, and he comes across three strangers in the journey that are needed to design. I have the tale the jester, the widow, and the soldier. I want to take you a little bit through that decision-making process and some of the experiments I did to get to those final decisions and outcomes that lead to then the completed project, starting with the brainstorm sketching. I'm skipping that first phase because I'd done that. I'd done my research as to what medium I was working in, obviously, digital flash animation that I was doing on my computer. I knew I was making it for an online audience, I knew it was subject to my limitations as an animator and the people I would be working with, and I knew stylistically, I wanted to emulate the feel and appeal of Pixar animations. I did a bit of researching and some mood boarding, grabbing some visual inspiration, and used that to start my sketching with. That covers the context and the medium, a little bit of that style. I guess those first three tiers of that four-step triangle that I showed you in the previous class are all very much contained in the first step of the design process: discover. Discover what you're creating for, and do your research to see what you want to make, and how it's going to fit in that sphere of creation, and how it might be developed into a real thing. Then the top tier of that triangle, if you recall, was design elements. These are very much something that can be researched, but also something you can play with, which is where brainstorm sketching comes in, which is what I call the method of sketching in a very exploratory, loose way so you can aesthetically discover what you like and don't like as far as what can contribute to a positive character design outcome. I'm speaking very articulately because I am a scientist. Something that is quite applicable in this design process in particular is the use of stereotypes and archetypes: an elderly traveling tale-teller, a little person who happens to be a jester with anger management issues, a widow who's an only mother of children and struggling to make ends meet, and a soldier who lost a brother and a friend. All of these characters that I've just described have a bit of a visual feeling, a connotation that comes with them just by saying them because we associate them with certain things. I had that working for me, but I wanted to make sure I was representing then, creating designs that were my own. Starting with the tale-teller, I made sure, in my early brainstorm sketching, in the early design phase of my character design, to play with many different approaches and many different styles. We have bearded and beardless, we have different extremities of age, and also different extremities of style and detail. Some more detailed, but in the end, I was much more drawn to the more simplified and also elements of extreme silhouette. When I had these pointy beards, or these crooked noses, or really sharp edges in the silhouette, I was really finding that style and appeal I was looking for, which as you can see as I develop it, further leaned into. The more I was decided on what I wanted to settle on with the design when it came to the face, the more I started to feel the need to move into the body and express some ideas of what the costume might look like, what the pose might look like, what props he might hold, and then even things like what companions would follow him, the idea that pigeons, who are messenger birds, might be a similarly represented design, where he, as a traveling messenger, would always be surrounded by these pigeons. I started to use that idea in my color ideas as well, having his costume reflect the colors of pigeons. Slowly but surely through this exploration process, I started to create something I was really fond of. As you can see here, nearly all of these faces are based on the same design that I was at this point, deciding if it was exactly right and the way I decided that was by testing it. That's something I'm looking forward to demonstrating later in this class and it is really fun process of making sure that your design is right because sometimes it feels right, but if you leap into it, you might come across some issues later. This testing process is both fun and really important to make sure that when you decide it's done, it actually is done and you're not going to have to fix anything up later. As the final part of my testing when I decided the face was, as I wanted it to be, I decided the costume elements in the zone I liked because of the extremity of his silhouette and his proportions, I needed to make sure I could do some extreme poses, so Crack's on the ground sitting with his legs crossed and just on some different angles. I wanted to make sure that I could put this character in the different situations I planned on putting him into. At this point, I was happy with the Tale Teller and I moved through the same process with the other characters, starting with the Jester. He was going to be a character who was very angry. I wanted him to look like someone people would laugh at and not take him seriously when he is angry, which was sort of his story and a problem and a challenge he needed to resolve that the Tale Teller helps him with. But at the same time, I couldn't make him to unappealing because he's a character I want people to love and be drawn to and to feel like a person that we care about. In the end, one one the things I found most helpful in making him appealing was to give him rounded proportions, an arched back, bum out pose of a toddler, because, I mean, people are often very naturally, aesthetically, and emotionally drawn to care for the toddlers and that's why things that are cute have big eyes and little bodies and big heads. Then when I decided on the design elements that I was most happy with, as you can see, I started to put those to the test and I was really in love with how this was feeling. I wanted to make sure he had an extremity of expression available to me as an animator. I wanted to test that, both in his facial expressions and then in his body. How much can I push him into the expression of his animation? At this point, I decided his design was done, I moved on to the widow. You'll notice so far I had gone through three of the four steps of the design process for each of these characters before going back to the first step for the next character. The reason I didn't create the final artwork for each character as I finished them, rather waited to do them altogether, is I needed to make sure that all of the designs were harmonious. Not only that they looked good on their own, but their mix of colors and their aesthetic and silhouette balance and proportions all work well together. The only way to know if that's going to be the case is to finalize each of their, I guess you could say, semi-final designs before I went to that final step of the delivery. Next was the widow character and again, we're working with some archetypes here that are reasonably helpful, but I wanted to tell a unique story of a character that could stand on its own legs and feel unique. I think one of the things I needed to figure out how to balance early on, as you can see here, is how to convey age and I guess a worn appearance, someone who's really struggling to get by without adding too much detail, but also creating something that doesn't look too aged or head too far in a direction like that. You'll find that especially when it comes to lines inside the face, whether it'll be under the eyes or on the sides of the mouth to convey age or haggardness, less is more, especially when it comes to animated characters. Any line is going to add a lot of meaning or impact in the final design. In the end, rather than have lines beside the mouth which I decided aged the character far too much for what I was going for, I ended up just having some simple lines under the eyes, and in the shading of the character in the animation, did some slightly pinker or darker shading, just so it all looked in balanced, but also she did have that slightly worn and tired and yearning expression. Once again, when I was happy with the design elements, I tested them out a bit, [inaudible] out the ones that I most liked and I felt like I was hitting the nail on the head and then moved on to my last character, the soldier. It's also interesting to note that as I go through these four different characters, the design process is actually getting quicker. I think in part is because I was hitting my stride. I was really in my focused mode and by this point I'd been drawing for hours and I felt like I knew the style and was really feeling the aesthetic of the world I was trying to create. It was easier for me to experiment and find that. You'll notice here on the left page, my soldier designs were far more rough and experimental and all over the place until I hit something I like at which point I really hone in on what that is, figure it out very quickly, and immediately just start drawing and testing it. In fact, the first outfit I drew in this case was something that fit the head and the style that I'd experimented with and already loved and I, in the end, was able to make very quick decision about what I liked and what I would keep regarding the soldier. I'd gone through that process even though it was very quick, because I'd gone through that with everyone else, it was something I felt safe with. With that being the case, the final step was to produce the final artwork for each character. There are many forms and shapes that a delivery can take, usually just in the form of a more refined looking final image presentation. There are also things that we'll get to later in this class. Things like character turnarounds or expression sheets, even things like animatics or animation samples for animations, perhaps comic book pages or testers to essentially put the design that was made in as close to the final or proposed medium as possible. Like I said at the start of this class, this was funded by Screen Australia, so I knew I needed to create final presentation images to pitch to get the funding to make this production. I didn't have the funding at the point I was making these character designs, but I knew I needed to communicate to someone who was unfamiliar with the world and story I was trying to create, what my vision was, and capture them and help them believe that this is a story worth telling. That was the purpose of these final illustrations and these, of course, were the outcomes of that process that we've gone through here today, the design process. We begin by discovering what we want and exploring that, creating mood boards, brainstorming by writing, brainstorming by sketching, which leads to the second step, playing with those design elements to find the things that work. Which leads to the next step, developing those design elements and those things that we like into a refined outcome where we can finally, step 4, deliver; a great result, final character designs, suited to the context, the medium, and as you can tell, an intentional, decisive outcome, even though the process itself is full of experimentation and exploration. I hope you enjoyed this little presentation on what the design process is, and hopefully some of those examples of how I've used the design process to get to certain outcomes has been really helpful for you, but the rest of this class is going to continue to do the same thing, but at a slower pace. We're going to go through that design process together, the difference being that I don't know what the outcome is going to be by the time I'm recording this video, because I'm going through it with you and demonstrating to you the decisions I'm making, the steps I take to get to an outcome that I know I'm going to love, because I've done this so many times, I know the process works and you're going to love it too. In the next video, we're going to jump into the first step of the design process, which as I've mentioned, is discovery. I'm going to figure out what it is we're going to be making and how it is we're going to get to our final destination. I'll see you in the next video. 4. Finding Inspiration: It's all connected. It's all connected. I've been up for five times. Did you hear that? It's inspiration, calling to me. Discovery. You may think the discovery process is really complicated but it's actually quite simple, it's all there. All we have to do is look for it, it's all connected. Let's say you were to design a character who's supervillain, right? Just look out there, you've got examples of other supervillains. When you're going through the discovery process, you need to make sure you're not repeating what someone else has done. You're trying to do something unique but at the same time, they've done cool stuff. You got to figure out what works. What are the most popular super villains and why? What it is the people like in them? How can you tap into what's been done and what works well and marry that with what you can do new, something that hasn't been done before. In simple words, you're looking for inspiration and originality. You want to make sure you're doing something new but also that you're understanding what it is people like and how you can utilize that. The discovery process is about finding examples that you can use to inspire you, spark new ideas and use this reference in your creative process but we're not doing the illustration here, we're just bringing it all together so we know how to go forward. Something that's really helpful is creating a board maybe not a board like this but a mood board where you can get visual representations, like supervillains for example, find examples, visual examples of supervillains. What are the aesthetics that you like? But it doesn't even have to be a supervillain. Is that a medieval supervillain. Find some cool images of medieval stuff and add that to your mood board or maybe there are just some characters that look a little dodgy, but you like the look or maybe even just a style. That don't even have to be a supervillain, that could just be a person with a cool design that you find inspirational. Add it to the mood board because that might mix well with somebody or other stuff to give you some ideas, get those creative juices flowing. When you put the pencil to paper, it all comes out. When you're designing characters don't just jump straight to the design, don't skip knowing where it's going out to, what the concept is and how people are going to receive it because they might have already received it or prefer what it's similar to. I mean, let's just say out of nowhere I came up with a great idea tomorrow for a high-school kid who goes to school for wizardry and witchcraft and maybe the schools called Bug Warts. It's going to ring to it. You know where I'm going with this because if I just look out there and just see what's being done, well that's been done, right? Let's get this process started for us. Let's say I wanted to design a time traveling group. I'm going to create a time traveling group of characters for an animated TV series. That's what we're going to do in this class. Now if I were approaching this and trying to discover the best way to do it. First, we'd look out there at other time traveling groups and see what we like and what we don't like. Time traveling stories, do we like being in the different places in time, like in back to the future or do we like bringing characters from different places in time to our time which is a weird, funny juxtaposition like Bill and Ted. Let's say I found something appealing with that concept. I want to make an animated story about a character who figures out time travel and brings people from different periods of history to today. But why, what's his motivation? Maybe he's high school kid that just wants to fit in. I love that concept. In this class, we're going to play with the idea of making a character who's far advanced in his intelligence and years so much so that he's being skipped ahead from primary school to high school, when he's about to go to high school but he's far younger than his peers and he was usually got picked on for being the nerdy one for not fitting in, so maybe his solution to fitting in wasn't to be like the other kids but was to grab allies that are the archetypes of people who fit in, in his high school to help him understand how to fit in. For example, a bully or a joke might be a likened to a caveman with grunts and throwing of things in general alpha behavior, so maybe one of our time travelers companions is a caveman brought to his high school potentially to ward off beliefs or to lend some alpha energy to him by association. This is a concept I'm really liking and I can play around with lots of different ideas but I want to hone in on some of those ideas that are most cliche, that people have associations and stereotypes that they understand that we can utilize and flip or tweak, which makes it immediately more interesting. Our main character grabs a pretty popular nobel girl from France in pre-revolution France and brings her to his high school again to help him fit in but the funny bit is, both of them stick out like a sore thumb and hilarity ensues. That's the concept we're going to be working from in designing characters for. Through the discovery process, I have decided that I'll have a protagonist who time travels and gets a caveman and a French noble woman to come to high school to lend him some cred which doesn't necessarily work out very well. Let's throw in a cute companion because it's a cartoon or an animated show after all and if we're thinking about the long-term goals here, we want to make some money. We want to make something toys, we want to merchandise this and what better way to do that is with an animal companion. See I've done my research, I know how it works. We're going to make a cute little robot character to keep our little nerdy scientist kid company. That is the discovery process. We're going to move forward into the design and then develop that design and then deliver a final product but it's in knowing what we're going to make and what the hooks are, so that when we create our designs, we know what to anchor ourselves to, to make something effective. I hope all of this makes sense to you because it makes sense to me and I think it's going to make more sense as we move forward. Let's get our pencils and sketch books ready people. I'll see you in the next video. 5. Brainstorm Sketching: We've done it, we have prepared, we're planned and ready, we're primed on the basics, and now it's time to put pencil to paper. I'm going to start off with the materials I'll be using through the next couple of sections and it really is just these three things. I'll use a colored blue pencil, a gray lead mechanical pencil, and an eraser. Now, of course, you can use a normal gray lead pencil and you don't even technically need the color blue pencil. But just to demonstrate through a scribble here, I'm just going to draw a circle for the cranium and then add a little jaw on the bottom there. You'll notice my strokes are really, really loose. As I'll add in a line for where the eyes will rest on and a signifier down the middle of the face for the direction of the head is facing. Now, this is called drawing the construction of the head. These are the four steps, cranium, jaw, eyeline, and direction line that are used for every single character I've ever drawn. It's really useful and the great thing is, you can change the shape of the cranium, the shape of the jaw, and of course change the direction of the face and the position of the eye. Those four things in combination give you almost all of the endless possibilities you will use. Sometimes we'll be back from that, but very rarely. Now I'll do that in blue pencil, mainly because it looks cool and a bit different from the gray lead. It actually comes from tradition back in the day when comic books used to be drawn very much manually. All of the roughing and sketching was done with a blue pencil. I think a lot of animation did this as well, so that by the time the ink was put down, they could actually photocopy in a way that removed the blue from the image. There's a reason that blue is a bit of a standard for construction sketching aesthetics. I'll like to do that as well as gray lead, because for me it helps separate some of those really rough sketches so that when I have a whole page full of them, I can identify a few that are working for me in this brainstorm sketching phase. Using my pencil, just start to go in and define. Maybe I like the general shape of one in particular and I can go in with my gray lead and just add a few details again, still really loose, but it just gives me a slightly more obvious step of refining and defining something that is still part of this really loose brainstorm sketching phase. There's actually through this phase I very rarely use the eraser unless I'm tapping into something that I like and want to slightly further refine or fix it, but for the most part, when leaping in, making mistakes and getting messy. I'm going to be going through the brainstorm sketching phase one character at a time until we're ready to refine and define each of our three-and-a-half characters. We're going to have protagonist, Calvin. We've got his new time traveled companions, Grok and Collett, and we have his little assistant creature that he's built, Spanny. I'm going to start off with the protagonist, Calvin, and he is going to be fairly generic looking in the scheme of these characters because he's going to be the one we'll anchor ourselves to. If we look at the group as a whole, we need to see Calvin and say, he's the normal one. He is representative of the world we're actually going into. But with that said, we still want to pick a few design elements that are going to be key key signifiers, things that we immediately identify that we can attach to a personality, and of course, that we remember so that every time we see them, we think, there's Calvin. I don't exactly know what they are right now because I discovered them through the brainstorm sketching phase. Now Calvin, there are a few things about him that stand out. He's a bit of a nerd, he's an engineer, and a super genius. So he has to look really clever, but at the same time, he's a high school student and I'm going to imagine he skipped a few years, so he looks a lot younger than his peers. So he has to look young and because he's our protagonist, if this is going to be made into an animation, he's got to be appealing as the main character for the viewers to attach to. He's really going to strike a balance and look small, appealing, but also nerdy enough to be justified as being a super genius. As you can see trying to find this is a really relaxed process. I'm just mucking around and seeing what happens. Really, the point of starting is to start. I need to get the ball rolling, I'm loosely trying some hair or glasses or little traits like buck teeth or an expression. But it simply by putting a few down, that I start to feel what feels right and they don't have to be great examples to start off with. But all of a sudden I realized, okay, I've got glasses happening here. I just want to draw my character with very large round glasses that I start to feel the character actually sort out of the page a little bit. It's hard to explain, but as you go through this process, you really do feel like you're trying to meet the character you already know. That's why the research phase is so important. Because if you understand what you're trying to get to, it's through this brainstorm sketching phase that you'll feel your way to what is right and little elements, little design features are going to grab you. For example, the large round glasses, they really accentuated what I felt was a really worried character, someone very nervous. As much of as a super genius is Calvin is he's obviously really anxious. So anxious in fact that he will travel through time to bring friends to school, so that he's not alone on his first day in high school surrounded by people bigger and more popular than him. I very quickly pinned down the large round glasses as a co-design feature. From there, I'd try and explore some supplementary design features that I think you're going to see with the character. It might be things like a collar or Bow tie, whether I'm going spiky or shaggy hair or maybe slightly curly bunched up here. I experiment with a few different things, but another element I kept coming back to, were having protective goggles on his forehead. Because aside from being a super genius who can obviously figure out time travel, Calvin is an engineer. He built a time machine and I feel like he's got to have some equipment on him so that he can use a welder or some really advanced machinery, but do so safely. This is where that balance becomes a little bit tricky because the more things I include, the bigger and more complicated the visuals get, but at the same time, I want Calvin to look quite unassuming and also really appealing, simple and cute. While I kept having the impulse to add more to show what the character looks like, also I kept reminding myself I've got to pull back and simplify the visual elements to make sure that he looks like a cute, cool protagonist character that could lead a TV series. In the end, I created three rough sketches that I thought were really cool to use as a foundation that I'm going to refine from. They're all similar in different ways, but also stylistically different enough that I can move between them and find the best combination of the elements that are working well individually in these three designs. Now that we have the shape and the fill of Calvin coming together, I'm going to move on to creating some of the more wild visual characters that we're going to be working with. Grok and Collett are meant to look out of place in time. They are meant to look like people plucked from very, very disparate places in history and squeezed into a high school setting. It's meant to really be an exaggeration in both of their parts in very different directions. Starting off with Grok, I really want to emphasize his silhouette and lack of intelligence. I want to find ways to play with how a caveman or a cave teenager would look like or fit in with the jocks of high school. That's essentially the character archetype that we're playing with here but just going over the top and making fun of the archetype, by making him a caveman. It's that same process, working with a very sketchy scribbling blue pencil, and just feeling our way through the process until we find a combination of elements that feels like Grok. Grok presented a completely different design challenge, and that was the balance between the mature and the adolescent. I say that because the physical features of Grok that are going to make him look like a caveman will make him look like a man, man. He needs to look like a teenager. He needs to look like a jock or a high school football player with enough caveman in there that is believable as someone who's traveled through time to be in high school. Now, like with my previous sketch, you'll see that the first five or six heads were just really really rough and scribbly, just mucking around. It was when I stumbled upon having hair cover his eyes that I realized that that was going to be a really important feature. It's like playing that game where you're trying to find something, and someone else is saying warmer, warmer or colder, colder. You really just need to put your pencil to paper, scribble around, and feel if you feel warmer or colder as far as reaching that personality that you're trying to create. Some of those elements that were warmer, warmer, warmer for me with Grok were having hair in front of his eyes, which meant I wouldn't need to have a big brow, which is a bit of a caveman feature, but also feels a little too adult. The other thing too is, while I wanted to have a large lower jaw, which is a great trait for making someone look really brutish and masculine, which is what I was going for, I did a really soft lower jaw, like a really big but rounded jaw, almost. By experimenting with different proportions in both the hair and the big lower jaw, I started to find the direction that I needed to move in. Then there was the matter of posture. Now, I had earlier on experimented with a posture that looked very much like a caveman, but that was also a little too masculine looking. But actually when I mucked around with the idea of a position that a silver back gorilla would stand in, with the arched lower back, the chest puffing out, and the smaller legs, I really felt like that was the direction I needed to go in. It's a mixture of confident but playful, and also a little bit dumb. Like we're anti-evolving here, we're going back in time so far, that he's barely learning to walk upright. Grok is the missing link between the apes and us. When I ticked some of those boxes, I started to really feel it coming together, and when you feel like that, that's great, but try not to end too quickly. It's also important to try things you haven't tried before. I'll just try some different facial proportions, try going back to not having hair in front of the face just to see if I was missing something. That way, when you circle back to the one that feels best, it's more earned through a process of exploration rather than just happening to pick the one that feels best soonest. Now, we move on to Collett. Aesthetically, a very different character, because she's from a very different point in time, but very similar in tone in that she has to feel squeezed into the present in high school, feel totally out of place, but at the same time, a counterpoint to a stereotype, that being I guess the popular cheerleader girl type. Now, Collett is a character where the proportions of her outfit and her hairstyle are going to be much more useful in making an interesting and exaggerated character than facial proportions or anatomy being exaggerated. Being a French noblewoman on there, there were lots and lots of paintings and pictures of French nobles with very ostentatious hairstyles, so I really decided to run in that direction as being the key identifier of her nobility and snootiness. I think Collett has to have a constantly irritated or aloof or snobby expression. I think that's going to set her apart as one of the really snooty popular girls from the French era, which even though she's time traveled to high school, is going to fit in right in as one of those snobby cheerleader stereotypes. In the end, there were a lot of different hairstyles I mucked around with. It was quite hard to find the right balance. Now, I don't think I've nailed it yet, but I definitely have a few great options to start refining from. I think with Collett, there are three core things I really pinned down as essential. An ostentatious hairstyle with a great silhouette that isn't too complex in the amount of lines it has, especially if she's fit for animation, a really snooty expression, and one of those little dots on the side of her face, just as a bit of a design feature, and also something that, again, fits with that cliché. Last but not least, we have Spanner, who Calvin calls Spanny. He fills in that role of the animal companion or the cute little friend. Aesthetically and in story mechanics, he's also much more futuristic, which gives him a lot more abilities and capabilities in which he can be used in an interesting way. We want to facilitate that in his design to be both cute and practical. He needs to be able to turn into different tools, or be used for different things, as well as being a fun little companion. Now, Spanny is a character I did not have a plan going in with. I didn't know if he would be a tool or a little pet on wheels or would he have feet? How would he talk? Would he have eyes? Would he express or would it be really blank? This was actually quite a tricky one to sort out. But in the end, I realized that he's got to be adorable. Let's face it, if I'm making an animated show, I'm going to want to make toys in this character. This is going to be a character that people are going to want to sit on their shelf, or have a plushy off or something. This is my license to be really playful and really fun, which is actually tricky to do in robot form that you might think. I mean, that's not strictly true, there are lots of robots that are very cute in animations and TV shows, but in particular because Spanny has a lot of specific functions he's going to need to serve. He needs to be able to be a chest of drawers, and a spanner, and welding machine. He needs to be really versatile, and stretchy, and usable in lots of different ways, but default to really cute, compact, and adorable mode, which I think in the end, I made a few options that I thought were a really great basis for that to move forward on. I'm really excited because after an hour and a half of sketching through a bunch of different brainstorm sketches, I have a clear direction with technically four characters. I know I keep saying three and a half, but let's face it, we're doing four characters for this character design endeavor. They all feel like they're heading right towards where I need them to, to the outcome I had envisioned at the start. Even though I didn't have a clear vision of what they would look like, I knew what they should feel like, and I feel like we're certainly getting there. In the next video, I'm going to go through the process of taking the elements that are working and pinning down exactly what it is that I want to use in my final character designs before I start testing them. Then making a final presentation of my final character designs. 6. Refining Your Characters: Now we're ready to refine and finalize a character's designs. Believe it or not, you've actually done most of the hard work. All the research and preparation and then brainstorm sketching has put you in a position now where you have the core elements that are working really well, you know what your character should look and feel like in general. We're going to take those elements that we know started working really well and try and pinpoint exactly what those are, put them down on paper and start to incorporate the physicality more. A little bit more costume, a little bit more proportions and body until we get to a result we're happy with. I like to literally move from left to right as you saw me do in my brainstorm sketch. Slowing down a little bit as I go, starting off a bit looser and freer, and then by the end, the last few sketches are going to feel much more certain. This is basically an extension of the process we just went through with that brainstorm sketching, except this time we have a direction and we're going to create a more complete package through the process until we have some end sketches. This is the reason I wanted to do more than one character in my character design class. Character design entitles many different approaches and the balance and the way of finding that varies a little bit from design to design. I'm hoping that by showing these varying different designs, you're going to have more tools and more examples to benefit from. Sorry, let's start off with Calvin. I have three designs I quite like, and there's a few elements in some of my other sketches that I like as well, but I'm going to just keep that open to the side here and reference those fairly constantly because I know I was generally happy with those, and just take a little bit more time, but still keep quite loose in putting those ideas together in different combinations. Following the design directions that I had established with Calvin, I played around with two face tops. One with a fairly circular face, with a small body, and the other which is a bit of a head that connects into the neck lacking something of a chin. Now that normally works pretty well for a hunched character. Someone that looks a little bit geeky or shy, but at the end, I made the character look too small. I wanted to lay it a bit more towards the younger and appealing aesthetic. With that said, I've tweaked it from having a very circular head to having a slightly chubby cheek, circular head. Just by adding that little bit of extra mass at the bottom half of that facial silhouette, I really think it adds to that slightly nerdy but also quite cute aesthetic. Now that in combination with the glasses and the protective goggles on the hair, which I ended up going with a bit of a fluffy hair I really felt like I was getting right towards what I wanted. This is where I started to play a little bit with color. Not only are we refining the style, but we also get to mark around a little bit with color, tests some things and see what works. I've thought Calvin being a temperature measurement for heat, bright orange hair would work quite well, which is also a fairly stand out feature. It's a bit attention grabbing and stands out. I quite like how it looks on Calvin. Plus, I thought it would compliment his school uniform, which I've decided to go in a bit of a blue style with, and this would be the thing that tied all the characters together. Brought the characters that were time traveled into high school, into modernity and also made the three characters with very different aesthetics come together in a way that makes them suit each other. Just like you want, a few design features stand out on a character, like with Calvin here, we have the apron, we have the goggles and glasses, and we have a large backpack, no doubt filled with all sorts of equipment. Color is one of those things where you want just one or two things to contrast or pop and stand out. In this case, is that fiery red, which complements the blue, which is also going to be a key color on some of the other characters. Now for Grok. I'm going to say, I was pretty happy with the outcome of the heads that are drawn. It was really down to making sure that the head and the body tie match well and mixing in that school uniform that I'm going for as well. It didn't take me long to get to a result I was pretty happy with. Then I started to mark around with color, which is when I started to notice some of the things that were going wrong. In particular, when I put the tie and the brown hair on the full body pose of Grok on the right there, it made him look a little too much like a big growing up old man or Fred Flintstones type character. I really wanted to go for a teenager caveman. By simply drawing on a vest on to the character that I've drawn in the bottom there, and then filling that in with a darker color, it really brought it all together in the way that I was hoping for. Because I had made some mistakes with the hair, with the saturated brown looking a little too saturated and with the blonder slapped down on another one of the characters looking too much like a beach [inaudible]. With a much more clay colored brown in the hair mixed in with that blue and the torn shit, I ended up with an aesthetic that really struck that balance. He could certainly pass as a [inaudible] , but he has enough caveman in there that if he lacked in speech skills and was really rough in his personality, I really feel like we got that Grok caveman that I was going for. Now, for Collette, really, the only thing I lacked confidence in was the hair. I played around with a few more versions until I started to narrow down what I thought was working. The reason I wasn't sold on it yet, because I'm a real big believer in making sure you have really decisive silhouette and decisive lines that you draw. Especially when you're designing a character for comics or animation, if you're creating a character that can have expressions and multiple angles and be drawn and redrawn many, many times, you really want that to be a very clear placement of lines and silhouettes. Collette's hairstyle is one of those things that just has to have that right combination of steps to draw her. In the end, the semi-final that I drew was really good. I was really happy with it. Even my first attempt at the uniform by drawing the jumper tight around her waist that mimic those very large bummed dresses that, I don't know what the name for the muse, but those big, puffy old French and English dresses. I really feel like I was struck in the right combination, so I drew the same character, just slightly larger, so I could be a little more defined and also with a bit of a different expression just to see if this character could be multi-dimensional. The result is something I thought worked really well. She feels like the exact balance I was trying to strike between high-school popular cheerleader girl and French noblewoman. Last but not least, Spanni. Now, the last sketch I drew of Spanni was one I was pretty happy with. I didn't want to veer too much from that, so I did just redraw that character, maybe make some minor tweaks. I tried a different shape and silhouette, but honestly, I was just so happy with what I did. I just went back and drew that again, but this time trying a bit of a different pose and I thought I would mark around with colors. Now the first shade of blue I put down seemed a little strong and I thought, there's already a lot of blue, what if I try and mix in some other colors here? Now with a fiery orange of Calvin's head, the pink of Collette's hairband and lips, and the blue that they all have in their uniform, I thought maybe a little green wouldn't go amiss, but at the end of the day, it didn't suit the character. Spanni is meant to be a robot that is industrial and brings out the tools and stores all the heavy equipment. I went back to my blue and scribbled a mid gray all over it, which soften into the blue a little bit and gave it a bit more of a steel aesthetic and I thought that worked pretty well. Just finishing it off with a little bit of a spanner logo on the tummy. I don't know if I'll keep that, but just something visual that communicates his purpose and function as a robot and is something a little interesting design-wise for the [inaudible] to catch. Here we have it. I have four semi-final character designs. Now, they feel very close to complete for me, but I always have to test it before I can call something complete. Now you find out what I mean by test it in the next video, but for now, I really hope you've been able to see how close we were in our brainstorm sketches and how it really just comes down to picking the things that work best, trying them in different combinations until we have the perfect flavor coming together in that character. Next is where we see if it really ties right. I'll see you in the next video. 7. Testing Your Characters: We've gone through this whole process and now we have an almost final character design. Now I don't like to call it final until I've put it to the test, and that's what this video is about. We take our nearly finished character and we just push it to its limits. We've basically got our foundation already laid. Now what we need to do is see if by pushing it around a bit, it's going to stay standing or if it's going to fall apart a little bit. I like to do this by creating what's called an expression sheet for each of these characters where we draw a neutral expression and then slowly but surely amplify the expression both in their facial features and then also a little bit in their full body to see if the proportions and the silhouette and all the design features that we've put together work in different contexts. But there's no formula to this other than to start simple, and then through the process of amplifying and really pushing the extreme expressions on each of these characters, seeing how far they can go. Then if we're hitting any snags or any places where the proportions aren't helping us get good expressions, we can just make little tweaks here and there so that we can settle on a final design and call it final. Getting started with Calvin. I start off with a fairly straightforward expression, mainly just the face facing forwards or three-quarters. Something really generic and really straightforward expression wise. Then slowly but surely introduce some more personality and extremity into the expression. Now, as I'm trying to start portraying the characters expressing more, I start to draw in more of the body as that gets involved in the expression as well. Like a hunched, awkward position if he's caught off guard or the whole body scrunching together and pushing up against his neck as he's angry or frustrated, we're in this pose where he's reaching up, and pointing his finger into the sky. Probably just saying eureka or trying to tell the teacher he's finished his test already or something like that. Playing around with the expressiveness of the body and seeing how that interacts with the head, if there's room for everything and some bigger poses like this. Then the more I go on, the more playful I get. Really balled up, about to cry expression or a big gooey side on face. I'm the happiest boy in the world expression. Now the other thing too is I'm probably doing more expressions with Calvin than I will with the other characters, simply because he is the main protagonist, he is going to be the leading man. I need to make sure that he can do everything I want him to do. After playing around with the expressions and mixing in the body a bit here and there, I am so happy with how he turned out and also how expressive he can be or specifically how expressive I can be using him to tell my story. Next we go with Grok and this guy is minimally expressive. At the end of the day, I think a character like this will sit in his neutral or dumb expression about 80-90% of the time. But we want a story that can be pushed to its extremes and we are going to need characters that can do that as well. However, because the needs of it are pretty minimal with the secondary characters, I've just stuck to four different expressions and then one slightly different expression again, but this time with the full body refined and with a bit of inking, just like I did with Calvin. Last but not least, Collette. Similarly to Grok, she's got a pretty strong default that I'm going to go to quite a lot. Specifically, very snooty and snobby. I think she'd probably get indignant or insulted and angry but more often than not, she'll be flirty with the jocks in the school or just have an attitude in general. Wherever I want to take that, I test those expressions and try and push it a little bit to take it a bit further, and I'm pretty happy with how I can push her. To wrap that up, I put a final presentation together with her as well with just that little bit extra refinement with the line work to polish it off. I have wrapped up my testing phase, which means all of my characters are now complete. I've picked the colors which I did through the refinement phase. Now that I've tested them, I've picked the final geometry and proportions, and I've pushed their expressions to their limits and in the contexts that they're most likely to be pushed. You'll notice I didn't do this with my little Spanny character here. That's because frankly, he's not going to be super expressive, he's just going to be adorable and look very similar most of the time. He's much more about being cute and having utility, he'll bring out the things and probably develop some little cute moments or whatever. But he can't really talk and he can't really express. It's more about nailing the design which I'm really happy with with him; and now I've done that with all these three characters. I have a cast. It's time to finalize them and present them. Join me in the next video where we take our final character designs and put them together in a really nice polished way, fit for context. I'll see you there. 8. Drawing a Final Presentation: Now, it's time for the main event, the big final presentation where we take everything we've developed, put together and finalized into a package fit for the context of its presentation. Now, there are different things you can do to finalize and present your characters or character. One of them is called the character turnaround. This is normally fit for animation, and it's where you have a character on a front angle, a side angle, and often a three-quarter and sometimes a rear three-quarter angle. These usually have horizontal lines between all those features to keep all those proportions the same. The main purpose of this is to show the three-dimensional aspects of the character on the different angles, which is going to be a really useful reference for animators. Another final form of presentation is actually what we've already done. These expression sheets in the final pose here can be done with linework, and color, and with a little bit more time and refinement, and that's a great final presentation. The reason that this would be useful again, would be for animation or comic books, where a character needs to be drawn repeatedly and in different extremes, and seeing those extremes and references in different poses, positions, and proportions always there and ready to see in context that the final presentation is really great. The other thing you can do is just draw a very nice picture of them all together, and that's what I'm going to be doing today. It's a really great way to take everything that's been developed and presented in a way that says, "This is a final concept. It's ready to take to the big time," and I'm excited to show you my process for making a final work of art to show this off. Let's get started. I go forward creating my final presentation piece. Now, the point of this piece is really to bring it all together. I think of this as the elevator pitch for the series, but in visual form. I want to be able to create something which if I presented this picture to someone and said in one sentence the premise of the show, they would completely understand, and understand the tone of it, and the character types, and the general atmosphere. I did a rough sketch of each of the characters altogether and representing their general personalities. This is also really useful as well because so far all of the characters have been created very separate from one another. We haven't seen them altogether. This is going to be great to see how well they work together and also see their proportions next to each other. It's super clear. Their sizes and how their silhouettes work against each other as well. With my sketch and then my line work done, it's time to move into color. It's worth mentioning that a lot of the techniques I use here in terms of sketching, linework and color, are all covered in white illustration class. So if you want to dive even deeper into how I create final illustrations like this, go check that out. But in short, I've actually tested the colors in general, so it's time to just put down a refined, clean and flat presentation of all the colors in my image to make one polished presentation of my characters. Here it is, after the whole clause, we ended up with 3.5 characters. Now, the thing I love about this process, is I had pitched to you that I would do this at the start of this class. But when I was saying that, I had no idea what that would look like, I didn't know what it would take to get there, but I trust the process. As a result, I have something that I would feel quite confident taking into the executive meeting and saying, "Hey, this is my idea for a television show." I've never done that before, but I'd like to think I could, especially with something like this. At the end of the day, all of the forms of final presentation that you can put together for your character designs, be the character turnarounds, expression sheets, or a final picture like this, it's all about solidifying the concept and making it really clear to whoever needs to see it. Be it an animator, he needs to know how to animate the character or a comic book illustrator who needs to see how to use their expressions and proportions, or a TV executive. You're trying to prove your [inaudible] and show that you have the concept that's going to be the next beat. 9. Final Thoughts: Oh my God. We've made it. We're at the end of the class. My mind is blown with the amount of cool stuff we've covered and learned today. I really hope that you've had a lot of fun in my character design class, and I hope you have a lot of fun designing characters. Creating characters is one of my greatest passions, and I really hope you can see through my demonstrations here that not only are the steps really clean and easy and simple to follow to end up with a great result, but the results are really fun. If you make your best artwork that you can make, by following those steps, you're only going to improve the more you do it and you're going to find yourself quite delighted by the stories you end up wanting to tell through your art. To briefly recap. If you're creating characters or designing anything really, start off with a concept. Make sure you know exactly the direction you're going in. Once you know what it should feel like, and what it should look and sound like, that's when you can start putting your pencil to paper. When you do that, chill out. It's a relaxing process, let yourself make mistakes. In fact, I would encourage you to let your first handful of illustrations just be dismissed. Just make some crap, so you can just start making mark on paper, so that by four or five in, you can actually take some of the things that are striking you as interesting and move along with them. Then that really is the process up until you have a final design. It's an exploration to identify and then refine the things that are working so that you can get to the result that feels exactly right and this for me, for the thing that I pitched at the start of this class, feels exactly right. I didn't know what it looked like before this class was starting recording, and now I have it in front of me and it feels more real than I had in my head, which is amazing. I want you to feel as amazing as I feel now. I want to encourage you to participate and make your own character design. It might be a group like I've done, but that can be a lot to take on, so please feel free to just design one character. If you really want something to lean on, maybe design one of the characters in the high school that my characters are at, or maybe you can design someone from the past or future that Calvin has gone and grabbed and brought into the high school. There are a number of ways that you can use my concept as something to lean on if you're unconfident coming up with your own idea to design a character that fits in a specific world and setting. But there is no limit to what you can do. Go crazy, have a lot of fun, but when you submit your class project, just make sure to show you that process. Show your initial pitch and some of your brainstorm sketching, show the refinement process and highlight the ones that you picked until you come out with your final presentation and try maybe whatever is most fitting for what you're proposed application of your character design is. If you want to do something that might be suitable for animation or comics, tried doing a character turnaround or some expression sheets in your final presentation or of course, you can do one polished artwork like I've done here. Like I did in my last class, I'm going to review some of the class projects in a video I'm going to add to this class, so that I can share some feedback, but also get inspired by the stuff you guys make. Go get creative, put the stuff I've shared with you to the test. Have some fun. Be bold, be daring and we will make the world more fun, entertaining, and wonderful place one character at a time. Thanks for watching. I'll see you around.