Character Illustration: Designing from Concept to Creature | Masholand | Skillshare

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Character Illustration: Designing from Concept to Creature

teacher avatar Masholand, Artist & Designer

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.

      Tools & Materials


    • 3.

      Creating Your Creature


    • 4.

      Lifestyle and Characteristics


    • 5.

      Simplification and Fictional Touches


    • 6.

      Naming and Coloring


    • 7.

      Digitizing Your Artwork


    • 8.

      Wrap Up


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About This Class

Want to learn how to create unique, inventive, and creative fictional creatures?

Join artist, illustrator, and designer Masho to learn how to generate fictional creatures based on real animals and turn them into beautiful illustrations!

We will begin with the ideation process, and then transition into the basics of the character design by defining the creature’s characteristics. Lastly, we will learn how to simplify the drawing to streamline the design and give it fictional touches that'll bring it to life.

This class is for anyone interested in illustration, fiction, animals, or anyone who wants to learn how to turn a concept into an illustration. The illustrations can be turned into a framed art, T-shirt/Tote bag design, a story illustration ,or it can inspire the birth of another fictional universe too.

Here are the recommended tools for the class:

  • Paper
  • Pen/pencil
  • Transparent paper
  • Nice to have tools: colorful paints/markers/pencils, printer.

This class will show the students that it’s not necessary to have a big idea to be creative. The illustration process and the approaches demonstrated in the videos can serve students as a new tool, which they can apply to different projects.

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1. Introduction: In this class, I'm going to teach you how to laugh. Today I'm really happy to be here because I have been a student of Skillshare for so many years and I learned so much from different creators and today, I'm happy to share my knowledge with you. Hello, my name is Masho Margishvili and I'm an artist designer and creator of visual brand called Masholand. Masholand is a parallel universe filled with different creatures and their stories. In this class I'm going to show you how to invent fictional creatures based off real animals and how to illustrate them. I'm really hoping that this class is able to show you not only how to create illustrations, but also will encourage you somehow to think outside of the box and be free to create something out of your mind and make your ideas come true. This class is for everybody who's interested in illustration, character design, animals, or they just want to see how they can take their idea and transform into simplistic illustration. Don't be afraid. I know the idea of creativity is really overwhelming, but I will provide real tools and templates that you can follow and it will help you to create something that wasn't there before. The tools provided in this class can be applied not only into creature-creation process, but also you can apply to creating a new houses or worlds or some new environments. Because you can take a realistic image and you can turn into fiction anytime. I'm excited to bring you to Masholand and let's dive in. 2. Tools & Materials: In this video, I'm going to show you what kind of tools and materials we are going to use throughout the class. They are no right or wrong tools that you can use, but I can tell you what tools I'm going to use. First of all, in terms of paper, I will use A4, just normal paper that you might use it for the printer and also transparent paper that will go on top of A4 paper. You are able to create different kind of sketches. Then, I'm going to use just a simple pencil. You can use just any that you have around your home. I will use 0.5. Ink pen and then I'm going to use any colored markers that I have. I have alcohol-based markers with two different tips and I have chalk based marker as well. So I guess that's it. This class is mainly based on real illustrations and how to make them by hand but I'm going to show you as well how to use digital format to create it by using iPad and Procreate. Before we dive into class, I want to show you step-by-step process what we are going to do, so It's a short outline. At first we're going to choose an animal, it could be your favorite animal, or in my case, I'm going to use horse. Then for the next step we're going to simplify the horse maybe twice, so two times, then, for the third step, we are going to define characteristics and lifestyle of the horse. We are going to implement the characteristics and simplify our creature even more and we're going to add some fictional elements. Finally, we are going to colorize our creature and come up with a name and this is going to be a final destination. To help you define the characteristics and lifestyle of the creature, I included a template and some images in resources, please feel free to download and print them out. Now that we chose the tools and materials for our class, let's dive into it. 3. Creating Your Creature: This time we're going to choose an animal, and you can think of your favorite animal, but I'm going to choose a horse, and if you want to follow exactly what I'm doing, you can also choose a horse and download the image that I provided at the class project. Let's start. Let's dive in and let's start drawing. The animal that I chose for this class is a horse, and probably you can see at the class project there is this horse image, and I'm going to make sketch according to this horse. At first, let's take the image and take the transparent paper, and you can put it on top of a horse, and you can choose pencil, or pen to draw on top of it. If you could print out the image, you can use it like this, the same way I'm using, but if you don't have a printer, you can also use your computer screen, or in my case, I'm going to use an iPad to draw on top of it. This is the same image, you can either put your transparent paper on top of a screen, or on top of the printed paper, like this. I'm going to continue with the printed paper as it is more convenient. At first, what you are going to do is that you're going to outline the horse, and this is going to be super easy you don't need to worry about any small details. Just start drawing on top of it. Let's do it. I'm going to do a very fast sketch around the horse. As I said, don't worry if the lines are not very straight or if they are not ideal, we just need an outline. Like this. It's better probably to use a pencil because it's not going to blur that much instead of ink. Here our ears and eyes, it also has a nose here, and mouth that you're probably not going to see now but it will be visible when you draw. We have this awkward horse here with a funny smile, but I like how it looks. Also in the class project, you can see different images of horses, and you can feel free to check them, and see how they look with a different kind of life. It's okay if you mess up, just keep going because we're going to redraw the horse couple of times and it's okay. Every time when you mess up, it's better to leave it that way, or you can erase it if you are using pencil, and just go with the flow, have fun, this is the most important thing that you can do now. Now for the next step, I'm going to take another transparent paper that I have. I'm going to put it on top of the horse that I already created, so I have two transparent papers on top of each other, and I'm going to simplify it even more now. What I'm going to do is that I will ignore all the corners, and little circles that go there. I will just try to be as simple as possible. Instead of, for instance, curving here, I'm going to do just one line like this one. I can do dot instead of an eye, and instead of a nose, just a line instead of a curve. Also I can make the ears more circular, and all the shapes. Actually, what you can also do, instead of having this very beautiful legs, you can create like this. Instead of legs you can have kind of sticks, so it's even more simplified. Yeah, the goal is that to make it as simple as possible at each stage, but then we're going to turn it into a fictional creature. As somebody who's not very experienced in illustration, it's easier to simplify it as much as possible so it's easier to turn it into more fictional side, because if it's too realistic, and if somebody is not very skilled yet to create the Illustration, then they will have many little issues. It's better to simplify as much as we can now and then we can transform it later. For the next stage, I am going to explain the characteristics that you can consider in terms of your creature. What I'm going to do is that as I mentioned earlier in the class, you can see the illustration of different horses, so I drew up front to show you how characteristics affect the creature itself. For instance, we already have the traced image of a horse, then we simplified it. This is the stage that we are now. Now I want to tell you just a bit how the characteristics affect your creature. For instance, if your creature is a good runner, you can give them very long legs, and they can be tall as well. If they are very fast, and also they are very flexible in a way you can draw them in a slim way, and they can be short so they can feed in different places. If they are very chill and don't like to move a lot, they can be like this chilled version of a horse, so their belly will be a bit bigger, they might be shorter, and they can be on a lazier side. Also, it's important to emphasize the characteristics that you have in mind, for example, if your creature is very attentive, they can have huge eyes, so instead of making their eyes a bit bigger, you have to exaggerate it, and you have to make it super big so somebody who's going to see your creature, it is clear for them what your creature stands for. Also feel free to tag the template that is included in the class because it will be an easier guideline for you to define the lifestyle of your creature, and the characteristics. For instance, it's easy to write down their age, probably gender, if any. You can define where they live, what they eat, how they live. Do they live with their friends? Do they leave alone? Do they travel a lot? Do they like cold or warm weather? These kind of things will really help you to define what kind of character you want to create. 4. Lifestyle and Characteristics: Next, we are going to go through the lifestyle and the characteristics of our creature. Please see the template that is included at the class project and I will take it, I have a printed form of it. We can go through and you can also fill it out with me. At first, let's see our horse. You might have a different creature, I understand, but probably it will be helpful if you can see what I'm doing as well. The gender for my horse, just to be clear, be free to choose anything that you like. It can be as crazy as you want or as, I don't know. Feel free to be yourself and to do whatever you want and define their lifestyle as you want. Gender for my horse, I'd like it to be gender less. Not female or male, so it's a gender less. I would like my horse to be a teenager, because it's going to be a wild horse for me. The idea that I have it in my mind, it's a wild horse, so it's going to be a teenager. When you're thinking about the lifestyle and characteristics, you can also have somebody in your mind. It could be your friend, it could be your family member or somebody that you know, because it will simplify the process. For instance, if I'm doing a teenager horse, I would like to consider some teenagers that I know. My horse might take some habits from them as well. You can combine different people's characteristics that you know, or it could be also some creature, some animal characteristics that you know. My teenager horse will like to eat junk food in this case. This horse will be super wild, so it will like running in the fields and doing reckless things. The location probably, it doesn't matter in this case, but it could be in my case, it's from marshy land. It likes to live in marshy lands fields. The thing with marshy lands is that, it's a universe where everybody can create whatever comes to their mind. For me, marshy lands field could be something with a green grass or it could be with wild things there, but for somebody else, marshy lands field could be something that they feel comfortable with. Everybody who comes to marshy land, they create whatever they want and it will come from the white space, which is marshy land. The location for my wild horse, in marshy land it's a greenfield in marshy land with a very nice grass and with some rivers next to it, so this horse really likes running around there with his friends. His personality type, is friendly type. He's very happy, very energetic, he likes to do sports. When I think about marshy lands creatures, I have them in mind, how they are and what kind of creatures they are. This template will help you to go through the creation process if you haven't created a creature before, if you haven't created illustration before. It's unnecessary to cover every step of it, but it's easier. It will make it easier to define the lifestyle. Location, marshy lands green fields. Diet, junk food and sweets for sure. Hobbies, running, spending time with friends, and personality is happy and excited, and probably charismatic. With color, you can think about different personalities and think about, for instance, cartoon characters and what personalities they have and what kind of colors they have. For instance, in many case, negative characters have red color, somebody who's close to nature, they have green color. You can think of them or you can also ignore all the colors that you have in mind and apply the one that you have in mind. Now, what I can do is that I can show you different illustrations of the horses that I made upfront. It's just very simple guideline for you in this lifestyle and characteristics on these horses. For example, now we are here. We have the simplified character that we created before, simplified horse. In your case, it could be different animal. For example, this horse who has quite long legs and long neck, it means that this horse would be somebody who runs a lot and is very curious. His neck can see more and the slim horse over here could be super-fast and this horse can fit anywhere. It could be a very fast-moving horse. This horse over here, he's more chilled. He doesn't like moving too much, his belly is bigger, probably likes to eat a lot of food and he's in more chilled sight. These horses will help you to start thinking about the characteristics of your horse or your animal. But we will cover the rest in the upcoming videos. Just keep it in mind now. Nothing said is done. 5. Simplification and Fictional Touches: In this lesson, we're going to simplify what we created before and we are going to implement the live cell and characteristics that we defined earlier as well. To enhance visibility of our transparent horse it's better if you use a screen below it. I used iPad with procreate because it has solid screen so it's easier to see like this. But the ones who are drawing on top of a computer or laptop screen, it will have a same effect. Let's take another paper now and put it on top of the image that you created before. Now try to even simplify it more and consider the characteristics that you defined before as well. For instance, instead of having very dramatic curves and angles, try to make it less dramatic, something like this. I'll show you. Instead of having this curve here, I'll just combine a couple of curves and as my horse is a teenager and also it's a fast-moving horse, I'm going to give it long legs and also the body is going to be shorter so it's easier to move. Instead of drawing ears separately, I'm going to ignore ears for now and finalize the main body. Now let's draw legs, instead of drawing fake curves, I'm going to use kind of sticks so it's easier and simpler. Something like this. Also, add two more legs and instead of a tail, I'm going to use simple curve as well. Now with the ears, let's draw two ears and instead of eye here, I can also move it a bit so it looks more like a cartoon in characters and I will add mouth as well. Now we have this simplified horse. Let's see it separately. What I can do now is to make it more fantastic. Finally, we are going to add fictional touches. It is very fun because you can emphasize whatever you want with their body image. For example, I can combine ears or I could make tail super long so it's easier to maybe fly or I could add more legs or less or take some legs off so it has less legs or I could make mouth super big or super small. It's easier and better if you exaggerate some features so it's more memorable. I'll take my last transparent paper that I have and I'll put it on top of my horse. Let's see what I can create with this. I will take the main body the same way I had it before. I'll do the same curve. Maybe I'll make it a bit shorter so it's also cuter in a way. Instead of drawing my eye here, naturally the horse wouldn't even have an eye on this place but I will move it even down and I will emphasize mouth as well and make it even bigger. Now with legs, I would like my horse to be super fast and super fun so I will add even more legs. Instead of four legs, it might have five or even seven legs. Maybe three legs here. No, not three but two legs here. Maybe five legs are enough. Then with ears, I also want to make my horse very curious so this horse will hear everything that is happening around him so the ear should be large as well. Instead of two ears, I will add third ear. Let's do long ears like this, like a bunny. You can also combine two features of two different animals like I'm doing it now. It has a bunny ears but it's a horse. Let's draw third ear. As I already have lines, ears in this style, I would like maybe tail to have same style so maybe I'll do three lines, three parts of a tail as well. One-tail, second tail and the third tail. Actually it looks like it is floating in the air. As my horse is moving fast and likes to be on a fun side, maybe a lot of air breezes through his ears and tail. Those are two things that move more so that's why it is so floaty. If you are creating different creature not horse now, for instance, if you have chicken, you can add extra wing. If you're creating a dolphin, you might add an extra eye or even extra tail to move differently. It's always easier to exaggerate what you already have instead of inventing something new. Start small, start with something that you already have. For example, if you have a spider with six feet, you can actually not add but make a spider with less limbs and legs. Or if it has eight eyes, create spider with two eyes and see how it looks. You can improvise, you can feel free to do anything that you want and see how it looks. It might be really fun. Now we have a main image of a fictional horse character. I hope that you also created something fun and I'm really excited to see it in future under the class comments. But now let's move into coloring section and also naming our creature. 6. Naming and Coloring: So the final stage for our creature, is to create a name for them and also to colorize them. If you don't have any idea what color you want to give to your creature, I would recommend checking color theory or color psychology because in every culture, colors have different meanings and you might want to convert that meaning to your creature, but you can also ignore it all, and if you feel like one of the colors, you can give it to your creature. In my case, I'd like my creature to be more mysterious, so I might use purple for that. Purple is also a color of wisdom, but in this case, I want to emphasize more mystery side. Before I start to colorize my creature, I'd like to convert this to non-translucent paper. So don't worry about redrawing it and not to be exactly how you drew before, it's just better for colorizing to have a paper that is not transparent. So let's redraw the creature that we created before. Don't worry if the lines are not the same, actually redrawing it might lead you to a better result than you had before. So I will add a nie mouth, some tails over here. You can use a different kinds of pens, I use a 0.5-millimeter ink pen, but you can use the one that you do not need to purchase the new one. I'm not trying to change anything, but I can also make the creature more alive by changing the feet airbase to move it forward, to make it look like it moves forward like this. So it still has five feet, three ears, and three tails, but it's not the same as I had it, as you see. But it's okay, it is alright don't worry about it, don't worry if it doesn't look the same or you can also feel free to redraw it as many times as you want until you feel confident about the creature. So now let's move to the coloring phase. As I said earlier, I would like it to be more mysterious side. So I will use this alcohol-based marker, it is good for filling the shape. So let's see, I'll start with coloring the ears, try to fit it inside the outline, but the feature of an alcohol-based marker is that sometimes they can blend a bit, and they might appear outside the outline, but it's okay as well. You're not trying to achieve the printed result, but it should also be more artistic or it should look like a real illustration on the printed forum. So don't worry if it doesn't look perfect, who's perfect anyway? You can trust your artistic intuition, and you can just colorize the parts that you want, there is not a strict rule about it. I will colorize tails and ears with the same color, and then when it's done, I can have a look and see if I want the body to have the same color or if I want it to be different, but it's totally up to me. Nobody knows better than I do which color my creature should be, the same applies to you. You can also use the thicker part of the marker, but then it's harder to fill the form because the edges might go crazy. Usually, I use alcohol-based markers, or oil-based markers to create the coloring, but it's up to you if you want to go for a different effect, you can also use a pencil, you can use acrylic paints or anything that you have at home and anything that makes you feel comfortable. Alright, so we have a white body now. Maybe I don't want to colorize the entire thing, maybe it will be a white horse with colorful tails and ears, and it will have just purple dots on top of it like this. You can also change colors, you can also use different colors if you want to. So the dots are also my choice, you can also use different shapes. I just like the look of it and how it feels as well. Alright, we're almost done and you can start thinking of a name, so you can look at the final creature, what you created, and start thinking of a name like who does your creature look like, does he or she or it reminds you of anybody that you already know. For instance, maybe it looks like your sibling or your parent or your friend. Just have a look and think of the name. It could be a fictional name as well, something like, for instance, for my horse, it could be Floaty or it could be also very specific name like Juanita, or John, or any name that you can think of. It could have your name if you want to. In my case, as my horse is wild, I'd like to call it a wild-horsie; wild-horsie of [inaudible]. I can write down different names. You can also choose names, you can write in the comments if you like, any of the names better for my horse, but I'll write different versions here. So wild-horsie is a winner for me, but you can choose other names of your choice. Choose colors that you like. While recreating the image, go with the flow and you can try different colors every time you recreate it. So let's do another image of our wild-horsie, this one. I add mouth, actually, it has a different, quite strange shape, but it's okay. Let's add ears again. This one can go forward and then we can create tail. As you see, this illustration is quite different from the previous one, but it is okay. Let's add legs again, and this one can go backwards. So we have quite a different horse now, it can be a brother, or sister, or a friend of this horse. We can colorize it in purple. You can feel free to use different colors as well. Probably it might be easier to stick with one color because you don't have to think about which color looks best with which color. But in this case, if you take a similar tones, for instance, different tones of the same palette like: purple, light purple, and pink, they would match together. As you see, I am coloring smaller shapes with smaller tips, so it is easier not to go out of the line, but bigger shapes can be covered with a bigger tip. I mentioned before that I use purple because I want my wild horse to be more mysterious, but also you don't get horses in purple color in nature yet. So that's why I like to use purple, but it's somehow looking more whimsical for me. Let's try different colors with ears and tails as well. I'll use differentiate shade of a magenta color. So those two colors, magenta, and this violet color, they are more or less from the same color type, I don't know how to say it in English. Magenta and violet colors are from a similar color tone so they look good together. That's why I can use them at the same time. Finally, I can use this pink color. This one is chalk color. As you see, I put it next to magenta color, they also look like from a similar color palette so that's why I can use them together, but you can do just one color if you are not too confident yet. This way it is more fun so it's more fun, spirited, wild-horsie than the previous one probably that we created. We can compare at the end and you can tell me which one you like more. As you see, we have two different wild horses here. One with dots and another super colorful and fun. Usually, I don't fill legs with colors, I like it to be black. But if you don't see some lines, you can always make them darker like this, or eyes don't show very well now, so you can make the lines bolder by drawing on top of them again. You can write the name somewhere like wild-horsie. To compare these two horses, actually, I like this one more than another one because even though this is more fun with colors, it is a little bit out there. I don't like it that much. I cannot pin why, but I think that shape-wise and color-wise, this one is more solid. So I will try to recreate them digitally and you can also see how it looks. If you have any tools, feel free to do it as well but it's not compulsory. 7. Digitizing Your Artwork : During this lesson, we are going to take a photo of a creature that we created and then we're going to reattach it digitally. Firstly, I'm going to take a picture of my horsie, so let's do it. You can use your smartphone or your normal camera as well, and then you can transfer it. I already have a picture. You can also scan your illustration if it's more convenient for you and if you want white background. I'm going to use Procreate app because it is easier for me now, but you can feel free to use Photoshop if you work on Windows or any other devices. I'm going to add picture, Insert a photo, so I have wild horsie. Then I'm going to use a pencil that comes with iPad and I'm going to redraw on top of the wild horsie, so I can read, touch it and I can recreate my image on top of it. Let's create a new layer, and let's put the opacity of the wild horse to too low. Let's choose leg color. I'm going to use water pan, and I'm going to redraw on top of the wild horsey now. Maybe I'll use different pen, maybe studio pen let see, this one is too slow, this is good, but you can use different effects as well. Let's outline the horsey, so I'm going to ignore what I don't like with a horse and I'm going to redraw the parts that I like. The eye goes here, mouth goes here. I'm going to do exactly the same shape that I had for ears, and tail. Not exactly but similar, and then I'll add feet here. Now I can remove or hide the horse image and I have this playful one instead. And I will start colorizing. I will use magenta color or maybe Lemon charm Like here. I'm going to put the horse images out there so you can see, I'm combining what I have and what I like in each of them so you can use them as references as well. I'm going to drop the color inside the lines like one, two and three and instead of doing the rest of the tail and ear in different colors, I'm going to use just darker and lighter shades of the same color. This and that. And also maybe with a blue team and this and that. At the end I'm going to write the name. Maybe here. Wild Horsie, and that's it for our horse. This is the main base of the character, but you can add up more details if you want to, for example, you can add some dots. It can be inspired from the previous image that we had from the dotted wild horses. You can make the brush a bit bigger. Actually, as I mentioned before, my Wild Horsie is quite reckless and very active and now its legs are pretty short, so maybe I want to make it bigger and longer, bigger but longer. Let's try here, and we can actually add some environment as well. There is a hint about the environment, Wild Horsie lives in, so maybe a green grass. Just a second, I'm going to use different type of pen, not too much, just a little. Somebody who's going to look at the illustration without knowing who Wild Horsie is, might have an idea where it lives and what creature it is, for instance, they can say that it's a positive creature who lives in fields. Just to emphasize the side of the whimsical elements, I can add a little star, stars maybe in yellow, in different colors so we can contrast it a bit. So it can have couple of sparkles. It can be a Wild Horsie, wild sparkling policy. Here like this, grass that match. It can be more abstract, some, something floating. So I will just remove the grass and keep the rest. That's it. 8. Wrap Up: So here we go. We have our final creature, wild horsey. In your case, it might be somebody that I don't know yet, but I hold that I will know your creature very soon. Let's compare what we had before and what we have now. We went through with a very long process. So we had this original horse here, which is very beautiful, but very realistic as well and we have this cartoonish wild horsey. So you can compare your picture with your new character and see the difference. I hope you'll like result and please share it with me and with the class, and I'm excited to see it. Even though we started with a very realistic horse and we have a totally new creature now. For some people it might be a bunny, for some people it might be a horse, for some people it might be something totally new, but the main idea is that you don't have to be super creative person to create something nice and you don't need to have a degree as well to create something fictional. With my wild horsey, I enjoy how playful it is, I enjoy couple of limbs, and many ears, and tails that can float around [inaudible] and bring joy to people or too [inaudible] who are going to see him, or her, or it. I hope that I inspired you to create something for yourself and to show it to the world, and maybe your creations will become reality one day. Who knows?