How to Illustrate a Children's Picture Book Part One: Character Design | Claire Lordon | Skillshare

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How to Illustrate a Children's Picture Book Part One: Character Design

teacher avatar Claire Lordon, Author-Illustrator

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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.

      The Story


    • 3.



    • 4.



    • 5.

      Making Your Character Unique


    • 6.

      Creating a Turnaround


    • 7.



    • 8.

      Creating a Lineup


    • 9.



    • 10.

      Final Thoughts And Next Steps


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About This Class

Illustrating a children’s picture book - character design

Learn from multi-published author-illustrator Claire Lordon as she teaches you how to create characters for a children's book. In this three-part series, Claire will teach you how to create characters, a storyboard, and finally a 32-page picture book dummy (aka rough draft). This class is perfect for anyone who loves illustrating, drawing, writing, and all who love children's books. While no prior experience is necessary it is helpful to come into the class with some drawing, character design, knowledge of picture books, and composition skills.

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Meet Your Teacher

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Claire Lordon



Claire Lordon is an author and illustrator in Vancouver, Canada. She creates children's books, surface designs, murals, maps, and greeting cards for a number of companies.

She is the author and illustrator of "Lorenzo, the Pizza-Loving Lobster" (little bee books) and illustrator of "Over at the Construction Site" (Word... See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Hello and welcome to how to illustrate Children's picture book apart character design. My name is Claire Lord on the After illustrator Up Lorenzo, the pizza loving lobster and illustrator over the construction site. Join me on this three part series as we go from creating characters took Finishing a 32 page picture book Done, which is a ref tracked. This class is perfect for all those who have illustrating, writing, drawing and all those who live picture books. During this class, you're gonna make two characters. We're gonna be using the story towards in the hair, and some of the top step we're gonna cover include brains or may silhouettes, making your character unique, using color with your character, creating a turnaround, working on your characters, expressions and finally creating a lineup. Thanks for joining me and let's get started. 2. The Story: Hi, everyone. Welcome. So in this class, we're gonna be using E stops fable, the Tortoise and the Hare. I have uploaded my version of the story in the class materials, so feel free to take a look. You're also open. The is your own story. If you want. Just make sure it's original. Doesn't infringe on anyone's rights. So take a look at that story because I'll be using it for the class examples and let's get started. 3. Brainstorming: again. This first part is all about bringing. Starving. So what I dio he is. I get my favorite sheet of paper. I usually use, um 11 by 17 if I'm using, like, a sketchbook. I used, like, 2.5 by 11 pages. I just liking a big area. That way I could get a lot of ideas. So nice big sheet of paper, favorite drawing utensil, Andi. Then I just get started. So what we're gonna do is since we are gonna be working with tourists in the hair, I'm just going to get started with some drawings of the hair, so I'm just going to go all over the place with these wrongs, I could go anywhere from super stylized, super realistic, just really quick drugs. I'm gonna fill up the whole page and just explore different things. Like Do I want the ears big dough. I want them this shape. So I want them in that shape, everything like that. So, in this exercise, you can go all over the place. You can draw over. You're trying. It did before. You can do anything you want, just as long as you get a lot of ideas down, so no filtering at this moment, you're just gonna draw every time you draw something else in paper, make sure it's something different and new. At this point in time, I like to step back a little bit, especially if you're a digital artist. I recommend doing this process with a sheet of paper and a pen or pencil. Because one year were conditionally, it's easy to get caught up in all the details. That's why I really like working with a pencil. At this point, you also want to make sure that your images are rough and not polished. You also want a good amount of ideas to choose from. So if you don't come up with enough ideas with just this once, you to paper, feel free to go along to the another sheet of paper and hopefully then you'll have a few good ideas. Don't try to erase. If you mess up, just move onto the next sketch. During this process, I like to start thinking about how the story relate to this character and who is this character? What are they like? And how could their exterior reflector characteristics. Brainstorming is also a good warm up, especially renewed a drawing or a picture book writer. So I just finished my page of drawing different ideas about the hair. As you can see, it's fully build. It has lots of quick, gestural sketches. You don't want something that's gonna taking too much time, too much detail. You're just trying job a lot of ideas out all at once. So this way you kind of can see which kind of characters you're gonna gravitate towards. So going back to the story of the tourists in the hair, we know that the hair is, you know, a little bit of a trickster a little bit, you know, sporty. Could you know he's the one that says, Hails have this race. So I decided to explore that a little bit, you know, kind of like this runner bunny Look. And then over here I was exploring different, like your shapes and no shapes and stuff like that. So I had a few ideas on what I want my hair design going to be. And so I'm gonna do the same thing right now for the tortoise. So I will have so good beginnings of my character design after you finished your hair drawings. Move onto your tortoise drawings. And once you're finished with those, hold onto these papers. You'll need them in the next lesson. 4. Silhouettes: I again, we're gonna talk about silhouettes right now, so you're gonna need to keep your brainstorming sheets handy because we're gonna use So when talking about So what's the character? Imagine your favorite coaching character or your favorite book here. Um, Vichit envisioned that in your mind and create an outline of that character and just fill in that plane with just black. So just looking at the outline of the character, a good character design, you should be able to help who that character is right away. You can do this with almost any character from cartoons or books, anything like that. So when we're thinking about our own character design, you want to make sure our characters also well remembered. Also, a character silhouette can tell us a lot about the character. For instance, a character who was big and round is more likely to be jolly and easy going. A character who was really big, broad shoulders and has lots of sharp angles is more likely to be on the bad character side of things. So that's something else you want to think about when you're working on her characters. Here is some simple shapes already So, like I already mentioned here is the triangle figure as well as the round figure. You can already tell that the triangle figure already seems more imposing, more powerful, while the rounded that your scenes a little bit more jolly and you know someone who would make a good laugh. So the next four little stick figure shapes that I'm drawing, I want you to think about what their characteristics might be. So who in the group would be shy, Who would be a little bit more outrageous? Who who is a little bit more outgoing, etcetera? Start thinking about how these shapes relate to characteristics. So right here we have our three basic shapes when we're thinking about our characters. Circle rectangle and jelly beans slash kidney Being shaped thes are the three main shapes that I recommend you start building your characters with. If you wanted toe flush him out a little bit more, you could even think of them as spears, colds and three D jelly beans. Right here I have the outline of my Lorenzo, the lobster character. As you can tell, you, can identify him pretty easily, so overall you can tell he's a pretty friendly creature you can tell us because he has all these nice curves throughout. So that includes, like in his hat in his claws in his tail. All these curves kind of resonate back to that round character we saw earlier at the very beginning, so I'm also going to show you. Here are the shapes I used to make him. He's mostly made of one long morphed jellybean shape and mostly cones and spears you could even see on his head. His hat is 1/2 spear. That's also another common shape when making your characters. So so take one or two good ideas from your brain storming sheet and to find them a bit more into recognizable silhouettes. Here is my example. So here is where I started on my silhouette sheet. This is the idea I decided to work with. Here is my hair character outline I've decided to go with. So I chose this one because I wanted him to look a little bit more powerful, a little bit more macho. I decided to, you know, give him a little bit of muscle, give him some really broad shoulders, and he's really identifiable at this moment, so you can tell that. You know, that's like a hair with, you know, really strong muscles. And he's emotion and on the go so right from the get go, even without looking at, like details like color, anything you can already tell who the character is. And here's the process. I have four, you know, making shapes of my character. This is going to be particularly helpful once we start moving our character in space. So just knowing these simple shapes will help you a lot down the line. So by the end of this lesson, you should have both your tortoise and your hair. You shouldn't have both their silhouettes as well as their basic shapes, so we'll be using these in our next section, CNN. 5. Making Your Character Unique: Okay, so now I have your character still a bit. Let me show you some examples I've made with some of my characters on how to make the Munich. So the first example I have are my three comic characters. Um, so the doc I have here, he is wearing a hat just to show that he's a little bit sporty, that all Packer has a cape because she has a super ability to fly. So that just kind of helps indicate that and the two can has a backpack, So he's kind of like a helper, and they blur. So he always carries stuff in his backpack. And, you know, how's things ready? Another example I have is in my learns a book I have learned. So the lobster I gave him a hat just to show that he's a little bit friendly. And the turtle character, her name is Kalina. And I gave her a flower just to help show that she she is a girl, but also because he has, um, kind of like a island vibe to her. So you're probably thinking, how do I make me care to unique by getting to know them better I have made a getting to know your character question area that's available in the class material section. You can print it and fill it out. You probably will be able to answer every question about your character, and that's okay. Just answer the questions that you can and just use your imagination here. So what you're filling in probably isn't written in the text. But this is a chance for you. Toe. Bring your own Eunice to this character. Okay, so at this point, I like to go back to my brainstorming sheet and pick one or two character sketches that I'm gonna base my character designer. So this was the one that I chose for my tortoise. So you can either use your silhouette or your character shapes and start developing your character from there. So as you can see, you know, example, I used the character shapes and I just kind of started using my inspiration for my brainstorming shape. And then I started thinking, you know, what can I add to this character to help make it, you know, a little bit unique? Bring it to the next level, show a little bit of their personality so, I mean, you can choose anything at this point. So some people like choosing, you know, flowers, hair, clothes. Any kind of accessory can think of that could just tell us a little bit more about this character. I ended up choosing a little top hat just to show that the character is a little bit on the older side, possibly, and just to make him a little bit cuter. I mean, even something as simple as eyelashes can help give that little bit of something extra to your character. So for my examples, I give the hair a sweatband as well as a watch and a shaker bottle like a protein. Shake her bottle just to kind of show that he used this fit runner and really likes to, you know, be on the go and my tortoise. I gave him a little top hat just to show that maybe he was just a little bit old fashioned . By now, you should have both your characters with their accessories, and again you'll be needing these in the next lesson. So see you then 6. Creating a Turnaround: Okay, So in this lesson, we're gonna talk about creating a turnaround for your character. My first example I'm going to show you is with my Lorenzo, the lobster character. So here he is, just in a regular sketch, and here he is with his shapes from before. So you will find referring to your shapes very useful when we're creating our Turner. So here is Lorenzo's turnaround. As you can see, it starts with the head on view. You want to make sure that the arms are, you know, kind of explain out not to the sides, but not out at 90 degrees somewhere in the middle. There. That way, as you rotate your character, you will be able to see all the shapes you need in space. So sort of a head out of you and moves to a 3/4 you that moves to a side view and then finally the back. I know some people that like to do the other 3/4 view in between. That's total it to you. I usually find I don't need it. But once in a while, it does come in handy. This is the final turnaround. Actually concede e and it's really good to refer to when you're working on your book because you'll be putting your character in different positions and you might not know off the top of your head exactly the positioning or the shape that your character is gonna look in that pose. So referring to your sheet here is very, very handy. So now we're gonna do this for your tortoise and the Hare characters. I chose the hair for my example. I'm doing this in photo shop, but you couldn't do this in pencil on a piece of paper. As you can tell, I did that for my Lorenzo one just for the example. It's easier for me to show you a photo shop. So I started off by putting the picture I have of the hair already just on the left, just so I can refer to it. And I created these different blocks. I have my friends block my 3/4 blocks, side block and my back block, so what I usually start doing is I draw my character first in the front position, less usually the easiest, because that's usually what your character position sketch is anyway. So I start off the front one and then I start drawing horizontal lines to the right. So this helps wine up different parts of your character as you rotate your character in space. So, actually, Comptel, I have one for the top of the head where the shoulders are, where the armpit is, where the waste is, bottom of the shorts and top of the peak. So these lines will help guide you as she draw your character on these other three drawings . So after I do, my character with the front position actually did the side position. Next, I find this is pretty handy because it's the next easiest one to Dio. And both of these will help you figure out what the 3/4 view was gonna look like. So the 3/4 do is kind of going to be like a combination of the front view and the side you . So you're going to use both of these? Rotate your character kind of just 45 degrees, something like that. And once I have these three drawings done, I like going to the back. So in photo shop while I flew, just copy my front character pose and I'll rotate it like flip it horizontally so that I could just trace the outline, because the at one, if it's going to be the same, the contents of the inside of that outline is going to be different presence. You're going to see his tail nous pose, and you're gonna see the back of his hands and the back of his head. And there you have it. You have your turnaround cheats. Okay, So when the next lesson, we're gonna talk about expressions. See you, then. 7. Expressions: Okay, so now we're gonna work on expressions for your characters. So we're gonna do this for both the tortoise and the hare. For my example, I used the hair. So I use this she as a helpful tool to help me when I'm working on my book and I need to know, you know what my character is gonna look like. So I use the shape just to help me Have you know, a good baseline on what my characters reaction would be in certain situations. I only used the head in my examples. You don't need to include the arms or anything. The head can be very expressive with your drawings. For your expression sheet, I find it handy to keep a mirror handy. So if you have a mirror right next to you, you're going to be able to create that expression on your face, see it in the mirror, and then be able to translate that until your piece of paper. I have created a print out for you in the class material section that includes a bunch of different expressions for you to try again. You don't want to do them all if you don't want to, but it features a good range of expression. Settle. Definitely help you when you're creating your book. So next we're going to talk about creating a line of both our characters. See you then. 8. Creating a Lineup: in this lesson. We're going to create a lineup for both of our characters. So you will need your turnaround sheet for both your tortoise and your hair. And what you basically do is take the front pose of both, and then you put them together on their own sheet in the correct scale. So this way you know how tall the tortoise is compared to the hair. Are they the same height, are they not? This is particularly helpful if you have a big group of characters. If you have five or six or even more characters, it's good to know their relative sizes to each other. So this is another tool. It's very useful to have. When you're creating your book and our next lesson, I'll be going over color. See you then. 9. Color: So let's talk about color. So let's start thinking about how we're going to color in both our hair and our tortoise characters. So let's just take a step back and just think about color in general right now. So here is a color wheel and just looking at it by itself, you can see that there are some colors there that already given indication toe what the character is like. So when you're picking colors for your character, think about again what kind of emotion you're tryingto show with that character. Try to use color to show what your character's emotion is. Are they happy character? Are the intense? Are they goofy? Are they outgoing? Or, they said, think about how color can also show these attributes as well. Monochrome colors are shades of just one color, so it's like if you took read and you use all sorts of different shades of red. Analogous colors are colors that are next to each other on the color wheel, so in this example, that would be red, orange and yellow. Complementary colors on the color wheel are opposites, so in this example it would be red and green. Try adding colors are equal distance of three colors on the color wheel. In this example, I have red, yellow and blue. There are also other, more complex examples of color combinations using the color wheel that these air this the simple ones. I decided to choose for this class. Now start thinking about how we want a color are characters. I'm using the tortoise for my example. So here I have my blank tortoise, and here are some examples I have on what it's like to color him in just so moniker in colors. So on the top I have different shades of green metal, different sheets of yellow and the bottom different shades of blue. I could also calling my turtle with analogous colors, so the colors I used in this one are red, orange and yellow. I also tried using complementary colors as well, so this is red and green. Surprisingly, it works. I can also try coloring my tortoise with a triad of color scheme. So here I have red, yellow and blue. He kind of looks a little bit superhero. We it's still an option, but personally, it's not my favorite. The's color real examples are just suggestions on things to think about. Feel free to color your characters, however you want. You can even do them realist that colors like more natural well, you'd see in real life. Or you can color them more cartoony or unusual. The choice is up to you when thinking about color. We also need to keep in mind the value. So here's a simple scale that shows white in different shades of gray all the way going up to black. This helps shows the luminosity of color. Here we have a saturation scale. So here we have a fully saturated red going all the way down to a barely there unsaturated red flash white mixture. When you combine a value scale with a saturation scale, you get something that looks like this when you move right and left, you're dealing with saturation all so the further right you go, the more saturated the color is. The more left you go, the more unsaturated a color is going up and down. You use that for brightness, so the higher up you go, the brighter that value is and the lower you go, the lower the value is and you can see you get all sorts of colors and shades in between. One last thing to think about when choosing your colors is the background that your character is gonna be in. So if I had made my lobster blue in this case, he wouldn't show up too much on the blue background, which happens in throughout my book. So I knew I couldn't choose Blue for being my character. So that was a good choice because it was able to stand up against all the background settings that I had planned in this story. By the end of this, listen, you should have color sketches completed for both your tortoise and your hair coming up in the next video. I'm going to tell you about how to wrap up this class and about the next steps that you can take towards creating a Children's book. See you then 10. Final Thoughts And Next Steps: I just wanted to say thank you for joining me in this class. I hope you have created some really awesome characters and know how to create. Some really cool character is going forward. This course goes over character design, and it's just the beginning here, like there is so much more. You could die if into care of your design. But this is as much as I could cram into this course for now, so I hope you learned a lot from it. The last part of this class is toe upload your class project. I want to see your characters. I really do. I want to see what you've come up with or whether they are the tortoise and the hare or your own characters. These upload a color version of the characters along with one other part of this class. Whether that be brainstorming silhouettes, making your character you need, creating a turnaround expressions or a lineup. I'm really looking forward to seeing your projects in Part two of the series. I'm going to go over How is the thumbnail Children's? But so you'll be using the characters from this class as well as the story of the tortoise and the hare, and we're going to go over how to take these characters and move them into the realm of starting to create a Children's picture book. And I hope to see you in Part two, where we go over thumb kneeling at Children's books. Thanks. See again.