Mini Class: Draw a Quirky Pet Portrait | Sarah Beth Morgan | Skillshare

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Mini Class: Draw a Quirky Pet Portrait

teacher avatar Sarah Beth Morgan, Director + 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.

      Class Trailer


    • 2.

      Select a Photo


    • 3.

      Break It Down


    • 4.

      Draw the Silhouette


    • 5.

      Sketch the Details


    • 6.

      Color Your Pet!


    • 7.

      Finishing Touches


    • 8.

      You Did It!


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About This Class

Want to draw something quick and fun? Perhaps you want to practice illustrating in a playful new style. Or maybe you have a holiday or birthday coming up that you want to create a custom gift for. Could I perhaps suggest.. a pet portrait? 

In this short & sweet mini class, we’ll be working on a fun class project together - a Quirky Pet Portrait! We’ll start by working with geometric shapes to create a distinct, graphic silhouette of your selected animal friend. Then, we’ll add in color and some quirky, charming details to finish it off. When I created MY illustration it took me 25 minutes exactly, so yours should be about the same - give or take. 

I’ll be working in Adobe Photoshop, but this class is less about technique and more about the step-by-step process. So feel free to follow along in any program (Illustrator, Procreate - you name it)! 

This class is for you if you’re wanting to let loose a little and illustrate in a fun, simple style. Maybe you want to elaborate on your simple portrait and make it more complex. Or perhaps you’re looking to frame your piece and give it to a friend as a gift! It’s fun, simple and easy to digest for all experience levels. 

Lessons Include:

  • A simple step-by-step process for drawing your pet
  • Tips for making your illustration more graphic using geometric shapes 
  • Color palette suggestions (you don’t even have to create your own!)
  • Suggestions on how to speed up your workflow + creative decision-making process

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Sarah Beth Morgan

Director + Illustrator


Hi, you! I'm Sarah Beth - a freelance animation director & illustrator based in Cleveland, OH. I grew up in the magical, far-away Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where I was deprived of bacon and cable television - but was granted a unique and broad perspective. After attending SCAD and a two-year stint in LA at Scholar, I decided to move onto literal greener pastures in the PNW and join the talented folks at Oddfellows. Now, I work from my own little studio with my fluffy assistant, Bandit.


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1. Class Trailer: [MUSIC] Don't you just sometimes want to make something quick and fun, let loose a little bit? Perhaps you want to practice illustrating in a playful new style, or maybe you have a holiday or a birthday coming up that you want to create a custom gift for. Could I perhaps suggest a pet portrait? Hey, I'm Sarah Beth Morgan, and I'm a designer, illustrator, and animation director. It's no secret that I love drawing animals. If you pop up my website or social media, you're bound to find a drawing of cute foxes snuggle together or a school of fish swimming the ocean depths. That's why I wanted to bring you this fun quick class today. Everyone is super obsessed with their own pets, I know I am. If they tell you they aren't, they're definitely lying. What better subject to draw than your own cat, or maybe your best friend's beloved pepper? In this class, we'll be working on a fun class project together, a quirky pet portrait. We'll start by selecting an adorable photo of your pet and breaking it down into geometric shapes. Then we'll create a distinct silhouette out of these shapes, creating a graphic look and feel. We'll add in three quirky details and then wrap up your portrait by filling it in with color. When I created my illustration, it took me about 25 minutes exactly. So yours should be about the same time, give or take. You can put more time and effort into it, or you can make it even more simplified than mine. It's totally up to you. For demonstration purposes, I'll be working in Photoshop because that's my digital design weapon of choice. However, I won't be going over the details of the program or any program-related techniques because that's not what this class is about. Most of the techniques are concept-based and can be used anywhere at any time. Feel free to use any drawing application like Procreate Illustrator, or even a pencil and paper. Well, without further ado, let's get started with our quirky pet portrait. 2. Select a Photo: [MUSIC] Since this is truly a mini-class, we're going to dive right into the class project today. First of all, you'll need a pet, whether that'd be your own dog like I've got my dog, Bandit here. Or an animal you find on the Internet, maybe adorable capybara, or a slimy toad if you're into that. But basically, you'll just need an image reference to draw off of. You can take your own photo, or find a free stock image online that you're liking. I highly recommend selecting a photo that clearly shows the side silhouette of your pet so we can get a distinct graphic silhouette out of it. Using a forward-facing photograph may result in something you have to work in with perspective, which may feel a lot less graphic. I personally look through my Google Photos and selected a few images of Bandit that I thought might work well. I also want to go with this one because I think he looks super sweet and I just liked how the shape of his head looked here. I just love him so much, don't you just want to squish his fist? Once you have your photo, open up your app of choice and import the photo; or print it and grab some tracing paper to work with. If you're working digitally, I recommend working in 72 DPI if you want to keep a digital; or 300 DPI, if you want to print it. I personally, I'm just going to set up my Photoshop Canvas to be a square, 2000 pixel by 2000 pixel at 72 DPI and RGB color because that's what I'm familiar with, and I want to work with. Now, I want to drag my image into Photoshop and I'll just crop the head out because that's what I'll be working with. I really want to sketch him anthropomorphically, making him have some human characteristics. I think it'll be super fun and charming. Finally, I'm going to boost the contrast and turn down the opacity so it's easier to draw over the shapes, which we'll do in the next video. You're all set up and ready to go. 3. Break It Down: [MUSIC] Now that we have our photo reference laid out nice and ready for you to draw over, I want to talk a bit about breaking down your photo into geometric shapes. This is a technique I teach more thoroughly in my Playing with Shapes in Procreate class here on Skillshare. Since this is a mini class, I won't go super far into depth with it here, but essentially it's exactly what it sounds like, using basic graphic shapes like circles and rectangles to create an aesthetically pleasing illustration. In my other classes, we took a photo of a still life together and reduced the image into its most basic forms to create something that felt more illustrative and imaginative than the original photo. Using this technique, let's break down our pet photo into graphic shapes. I'd honestly recommend using the shape tool in whatever app you're using. In Photoshop, there's a standard shape tool which I'm using here, and in Procreate, there's the quick shape tool. Or if you're working on pencil and paper, you could trace household objects like the bottom of a water glass or the edge of a square eraser to achieve these shapes. For my pup, Mr. Bandit, I'm just quickly grabbing the circle tool, and not thinking too hard about it. I'm making sure to only include the big shapes, shapes that make up the silhouette of his adorable, cutie-patootie face. We'll add the interior details later, so don't worry about that just yet. This may not look like much, but in the next video, we'll be sure to bring it all together in a smooth graphic silhouette using curves and straits. Here, just try to grab shapes that feel closest to what your pet looks like even if it's a stiff interpretation of what your pet looks like. Don't think too hard about this. Stay loose and light. As you can see, the final result for Bandit's geometric-shaped face is one big circle for the bulk of his face, two smaller ovals for his ears, and a rectangle for his little boxy nose. 4. Draw the Silhouette: [MUSIC] We've got our basic geometric shapes laid out. Let's start to connect them by drawing a silhouette. This is just the sketch phase, so don't worry too much about being precious or using a specific brush here. I'm just using a basic sketch brush in photoshop, but feel free to use whatever you feel most comfortable with. I like to use what I personally call curves and straights loosely following the edges of my geometric shape cluster to achieve an interesting silhouette. What I mean by curves in straights is that I do my best to connect straight lines to curve lines to create an even balance of harsh and soft edges. This will give your work and nice, appealing look. For example, on Bandit's jaw line, I'm making sure to draw a little curve on the nose, but then at the way bottom of his chin, it just juts out and is defined by a simple straight line. Then I'll connect this to the neck, another series of straight lines, and of course I accidentally didn't include the neck and my original geometric shape breakdown, so I'm adding it now. As you can see, I oftentimes also turn off my photograph layer, so that I can see the silhouette in a strictly graphic manner. That also helps me not get too confused by all the organic shapes and lines that are visible in a real life photograph. It's really nice to see the shapes living by themselves on the screen too, rather than over the photo of Bandit. I can start to see the illustration taking shape. I usually turn it off about halfway through, so I can start improvising my curves and straights to be more graphic and pleasing to the eye. Remember how I told you I wanted to make him a bit more anthropomorphic, more human-like. I thought it might be fun to add some little shoulders here to give him more of that traditional portrait field you might see in a graphic illustration of a human silhouette. From there, I'll finish it off with a distinct graphic straight line on the bottom to balance out all of the curves we see around his shoulders. Well off, we have our basic silhouette, and now we're ready to fill it in with some fun, quirky details in the next video. 5. Sketch the Details: What we have here so far is basically a very simple silhouette of your pet. I find the silhouette to be extremely important to defining the shape and personality of your pet so that's why I made sure to sketch that first. However, the details are where your pet portrait will really shine and bring that quirkiness through that we're looking for. Because I want to keep this quick and easy for you, let's just choose three distinct features of your pet and list them out by typing them into your program or writing them down on your paper. These can be any trait, physical, personality, random little quirks that your pet does like pee on bushes or I don't know, chirps in the morning before you're ready to wake up. For Bandit, I'm going to go with a mix. First of all, he wouldn't be himself without his distinct facial markings so I want to be sure to include those as best as I can, even if they're more of a graphic interpretation of them. Second, I would be remiss to include that he is a very tiny gentleman. Weighing only about 17 pounds. He is tiny and he is very polite and knows his manners, so he is of course a gentleman. Then finally I'm choosing another physical trait that will help make him recognizable. He's furry and that's a fact. Whatever you choose to go with, make sure it's a defining feature of your pet. If you go with something more conceptual like tiny gentlemen or maybe your pet lizard is an absolute rascal or your capybara is basically a ballet dancer, this might help you emphasize some of that quirkiness and give you some room to play visually. I find that including two physical traits and one personality trait is a pretty good balance. If you want, you can turn your low-opacity reference photograph back on to more easily see it and sketch out the physical attributes. For Bandit specifically, he has these special facial markings, so I want to make sure I'm at least getting the placement accurate. However, for these markings, I'm implementing the curve to straight trick that we discussed in the last video. Attempting to add an even balance of straight lines connecting with curved lines to give everything a more graphic feel. I think I'm also going to go with a more graphic look for the eyes and just straight up, make them circles instead of that more and more realistic almond shape he has. I think this will make it feel a lot more playful and fun and graphic. I've mostly addressed his facial markings now, but I'll keep working on them a bit. Let's work on that second visual detailed prompt. A tiny gentleman. Now, I'm sure anybody could define a gentleman in many different ways. But for me, I think it would be fun to make him a little old-timey and distinguished. Let's try adding a hat, a collared shirt, a bow tie, and maybe even a pipe. For the shirt, I'm making sure it follows the distinct silhouette that I created and I'm just using straight lines to define the folds and perfect circles for the button. I think adding the pipe and smoke really makes it feel whole. Adding a little extra element that makes Bandit feel more human. A little more than just a portrait of his face, he's actually doing something. I could actually see this coming to life really nicely in animation, and I know this class isn't about that, but I can't help thinking about it all the time. That being said, it would be really neat to see your pet portrait animated if you have the time. Finally, let's move on to the third visual detail in our little list. Making Bandit a furry boy. Typically when I'm drawing animals, I do this by adding on little triangular parts poking out from the silhouette itself. Then I add a few more line work details in the interior of the silhouette to emphasize the furnace. Triangles, circles, and squares all around, so when in doubt, use geometric shapes to create your artwork. You don't necessarily need to do this because it's just a sketch. But sometimes I will also erase the parts of the silhouette that overlap with the triangular hairs. However, in the next video, we will be redrawing this by breaking it up into layers, making it easier to color. After adding a couple of other essentials like whiskers and dots here and there, I'm done with my sketch. Honestly, sometimes less is more, so don't get too caught up in all of the details. That's why I only had us list out three details for you to implement. It might even be fun to set a timer and challenge yourself to go with your creative gut. Drawing all of your three chosen details in just like five minutes so make sure to choose your three details wisely and then add them to your pet portrait here. I'm very excited to see what you come up with. Now, let's move on to the next video to add color to your adorable pet. 6. Color Your Pet!: This is where everything really comes to life. I'm so excited to see how you color in your quirky pet portrait. In the class resources for this class, you'll find a PDF with color pallet suggestions. For my graphic illustrations, no matter what medium I'm using or what program I'm in, I always start with a limited color palette, which I personally have defined as five distinct colors. A neutral light, a neutral dark, a warm hue, a cool hue, and a color pop. A key thing to mention is that the color should contrast greatly from one another so that they can sit next to each other without vibrating or hurting your eye. The palettes I've added in here are just some fun suggestions to use. But obviously, you are more than welcome to use any of your own colors as well. For this project, I'm going to grab this palette because I think it will complement bandits warm four colors nicely. I'll also expand on this palette a bit as I'm working and probably I'll end up using more than these five base colors. But I always like to start somewhere easy and then expand from there. As a rule, I almost always start by isolating the biggest shape, usually the silhouette and outlining it in a clean manner. I fill in the shape and then move on to layering all of the smaller shapes in their own separate layers. This way, I can go in and easily change colors to each specific part or layer, if I need to. The problem with having it all flattened together is that it gets tough to change any individual part without affecting the other parts or details. If you're working in digital program like Photoshop or Procreate, I would suggest keeping everything separate so we can customize it later. In order to fill in the details that makeup bandit silhouette like his distinct facial markings, I'm using a clipping mask to clip all the smaller shapes to the larger silhouette. This means that they will remain inside of the large shape without bleeding out. But I can still edit them easily. I just continue this process as I go. As you can see, I'm adding in a couple of new colors as I go trying to match bandit's real distinct marking colors so that he's instantly recognizable as himself. For the rest of the colors, I'm just trying to pick and choose from the palette evenly so that the colors are balanced throughout creating a harmonious composition. No unnecessarily big chunks of yellow and purple to one side of the Canvas or the other. I'm doing my best to sprinkle them in here and there. In the end, I want his suit and hat to be matching, but at least the purple chunks are separated by the color of bandit's fur like a little bandit sandwich. Then I make sure to pop in hints of yellow and terracotta hues to add more varied interests to the way the color leads the viewer's eye around the frame. For your portrait, I'd suggest trying a similar technique. As always, if you're struggling, you can let me know in the project gallery or Discussions tab, and I will be here for a quick feedback as needed. Can't wait to see how you color your pet. 7. Finishing Touches: Now's the time to add in any more detail you may not have included in your original sketch. Perhaps this involves adding a little feather into your character's cap, like I did here with Bandit. Or, a little pearl necklace for your sophisticated duckling. Or, maybe your cat's favorite felt mouse. You can also go in and change any colors that you feel are unbalanced. Since we kept everything separate on different layers here, it should be very easy to go in and grab whatever layer you're wanting to change and refill it with another color from your palette. If you're drawing on paper, like I said, you can use any medium here, perhaps you could scan in your illustration and edit things digitally, or you could go in and add little bits of detailed linework. This is also the time to add any extra little linework accents throughout your piece. I find that adding little bits of thin line work to contrast with the big blocky shapes is always a nice touch. This adds more finesse and gives you more to look at and admire when it's all done. Here's where my final pet portrait ended up. There are so many things you can do when you're done with it too. You can post it on social media or your website. You could post a processed video to Instagram Reels or TikTok. Or, you can even print it out and give it to someone, which I think is especially adorable if you're drawing the recipient's pet. I personally might give mine to Bandit's grandma, aka my mom, for Christmas, because they love each other. They're obsessed and it's the cutest thing ever. I think it's such a cute gift idea. I printed mine out using thicker card stock. The fact that I use 72 dpi RGB color didn't really end up being a huge deal because I just printed it at home. Then I re-purposed an old frame I had and [inaudible], I have a quick and easy gift that actually took me under an hour to make. Honestly, I can make like 10 of these and it would be such a fun little project. People love personalized gifts like this and probably would cherish it for a really long time. Whatever you choose to do with it, I hope you're happy with your little pet portrait. 8. You Did It!: You did it. You made it through this mini class and you're hopefully leaving with a fun little quirky pet portrait under your belt. But before you leave, I'd love to see what you made. It would be amazing if you could share your work by posting it to the project gallery right here on Skillshare. Share your process from whatever program or medium you decided to use. This could be a sketch, a time-lapse video, or just the final product. Maybe you even include an adorable photo of your pet alongside your portrait? I'd love to see all of your babies. I'd also love to give you feedback on your work too. Please let me know when you post your project if there's anything you'd like me to comment on or help you with. Finally, find me on social media at wonderfall on Instagram and tag me in your work. Sometimes I'll share student projects on my Instagram and I'd love to share yours. Be sure to leave a review also right here on Skillshare because it really helps me immensely. If you have time, share this class with your friends. Thanks again for taking my class. I'm super proud of you. See you soon.