Illustration Master Course – Ep. 2: CHARACTER DESIGN


Hey guys welcome back to my Master class series. It’s my collaboration with YouTube and Google to help you build a portfolio to make a living with your art. Last episode, we had a really fun story time
video featuring my character Nima. She brought us in a really fun journey on
how to get started. Having all the tools to make sure you’re ready to build your
portfolio. For this episode, we’re gonna learn about character design! I’ve
learned a lot of things as a student and through my professional career and I
really want to tell you guys all about it. And then we’re gonna be designing a
character in my book Nima. She’s the secondary main character. She’s super awesome, I’m super excited to show you. So, let’s get started. Character design! Probably the most popular genre in art simply because we are characters. We
are characters, we relate to characters therefore we want to draw characters. One
of the key things about character design is relatability. It’s so important that we
relate to their story. if we don’t relate to them then we don’t really care for
them. Any games that you play, any movies that you watch, we’re always following
the main character and seeing what decisions they make and revealing their
story. And you have to make sure that we connect to them. A common trait you’ll
find in heroes and main characters is having a good heart. Having a good heart
is something we can deeply connect to. That’s why characters like Hiccup,
Spider-man, Ash Ketchum are all really relatable. We want to follow them on
their journey. There are two very common ways on how to design a character. One is
probably the most popular in the industry and that’s with the story. You
usually have a story first, a script, a brief, and then you design your
character. The other common way is probably my favorite way, is you design a
really cool character and then make a story around them. Which is partially
what I did with Faye! Everyone, welcome Faye to the world. She is the secondary main character of Nima. I love her so much. I’ve been developing her for the last few months. So I’ll tell you a little about Faye and then show you how I
created her and then bring you through the process on how to create your very
own character. So let’s do it. She had a hard life growing up. She’s an only child and she didn’t really like humans so much. She befriended these three spirits which was ice, fire and lightning. Which became part of her unique magic and fighting style. Back then, I just had a fun idea of
a magician playing with different elements. And I just loved it so much, I created a whole story for her. And because Fay grew into our
secondary main character, she had to contrast Nima. These two characters have to contrast each other but relate to each other. So, when I was designing
Faye, I thought about how Nima grew up in a more privileged family. Her clothes are more pristine, they’re more nice. Her hair is done well, she has
rounder shapes. And then we have Faye who’s a little more grungier. She has sharper features and her clothes are a little more worn. Although these characters are different and contrast each other, their journeys will echo each other and relate back to one another. The most important thing when making an iconic character is they have to have a thing! A signature
trait that makes them who they are. For example, you have Spongebob, who’s a literal sponge, he’s a square shape. Or Patrick Star, who’s a star fish. Or even Superman. He has that giant S on his chest his colors are blue, red, yellow and we can instantly identify who Superman is despite if it’s super
realistic or super cartoony. So, for example, we have Nima. I
would say it’s the red skin, white hair, and that symbol on her forehead. And then Faye, with her really cool hair, with her braids and then her eye tattoo. This was
her very very first design. I really like to sketch, she had
red pants and cool pink hair and at this point I didn’t really know what her
signature was but I really liked it so I kind of had to develop a story for her
and the design changed as the story changed. Before you get started, you need some
inspiration. That inspiration can come from anywhere.
Whether it’s like the sketch right here or maybe it’s like a scribble in
your sketchbook or even words. For example, Pikachu!
That could have been like, electric mouse. That was a great starting point for you
to start your character. I have this template right here. I very
popular way of starting is with black-and-white silhouettes. That’s very
popular in the industry to try to get the shapes for us to remember.
But since I kind of understand what her character is, I’m just gonna jump right
into colored silhouettes. A direction I was thinking about was kind of giving
her kind of shortish hair, but it’s kind of sporadic. She’s a little more grungy, she’s a little more edgy, so maybe she had short
hair, like that. It’s kind of like a direct contrast to Nima’s, which is
really fluid hair. Thinking about having a cape that covers her neck, like that. I was thinking, since Nima has a kimono and is so prim and proper, maybe she could have some really cool shorts showing out
her really cool legs and gloves. And she’s a magician. Ooo! At this point, you don’t want to go in and kind of make pretty details, we’re not at that stage
yet. But we just want the big shapes to read. That looks like a fun character. You can see
right here that the character is very symmetrical design-wise, right? In
the design world that can mean a little boring sometimes and so to make it a
little cooler, we’re gonna add some asymmetry to make her design more
interesting. We should add this right here. Some coolness. Maybe she has one earring,
that could be really cool So this is the first variation. I’m
thinking magician, you know, really cool hair. And for this one let’s try
something completely different, all right. Maybe give her blue hair, ooo. And
shapes are so important. They play a major role in how an audience perceives
the character. For example, if she had like a more spiky hair, like that, the
viewer would relate to that as a more aggressive design, so maybe she’s a
little more edgy or villainistic. If we went with something a little rounder This character looks more approachable,
look more friendly and then also we have the blue, which means trust. Let’s make
her a little more edgier, maybe uh, I’m thinking this type of hair. Also it’s really good practice when making these silhouette variations is to make sure
each one has a different voice. We’re not doing costume design where we’re changing
little things. We want each one to say something completely different.
Let’s maybe have a one-shouldered cape. That could be really cool. Look at that.
And maybe she has like a jump suit and red boots. Oh that’s cool, love that. Some really cool hand designs, oh my god I love that,
look at this. Some cool tattoos or something on her arm to show that she’s a mage. She’s like accessing from her tattoo
powers. Awesome, so this is the second design and you can tell that these are
two different girls. These are two different voices. Basically to give
us a mental stimulation of what it could be. And you’ve seen Faye’s design and so
we’re gonna do something in a similar wavelength. The cool thing is, you have these
two variations and you can kind of mix and match and assemble what you like
from each one. So here is our final variations. You can
see that each one embodies a different tone of voice. This one’s a little
more friendly, something a little closer to the final design of Faye. Oh
nice. And as I was doing this I was thinking of their signature, you know,
what makes them, them. And ultimately, after playing around,
I just gravitated towards this really cool hair! Look at this hair, it’s so cool.
From this, I’m going to take this design and make a more refined version with all
the shapes kind of supporting the hair. And now we have our big read. This is Faye.
And what we’ll wanna do now is narrow in on our design and design the medium
shapes. Maybe she has a belt, emblem on or cape, something more of a
second read, with the main intention is to support this really cool hair. Let’s
try it out. Still kind of like that idea of the tattoo, so maybe she has
some sort of cool tattoo here. That’s cool, look at that. A good designer
knows how to edit. A lot of the time people kind of put so much cool stuff in
their design and this is very popular with the video game industry,
no offense, but a lot of their designs are over flourished. There’s a
lot of stimulus going on, but that basically just relates to the game of
armor. God-tier, I don’t knowm and you want to stack yourself and make yourself look
the coolest, but when you’re making something for film or TV you kind of
want to simplify your design and you want to be a good editor. If this was a
video game, right? We would stack her with all this armor. And then we have wings,
right? She has a necklace with a medallion
and then she has a sword. What else can we add guys? A big shield. Even further, it
represents her home country, I don’t know. But you can tell, right? This is a
video game. And this is not what we want to do when we’re creating iconic
characters. We’re not creating armor or we’re not costume designing, we’re
creating characters. Go all the way back. She’s losing all her armor, no! And we want to be good
editors and make sure we always think about the main component, which is her
hair. And so, let’s support that. And this is not the case for every video game at
all. There’s some great iconic characters like Link, and Mario, Luigi, Pikachu.
They have a really nice iconic presence and that’s up to you, the designer, on what
to edit and what to feature. Maybe her tattoos are a blue color. Ooh that’s nice.
See, everything here kind of leads up to the hair, to the eyes, and that’s exactly
what I want for her. You can also see here that the cape’s
design also echo the shape of the hair. That’s a pretty good pass.
Visibility in the eyes, the one sleeve, some stimulus on the cape itself. For this variation, I kind of flipped
it inside out. You know, red shirt with white pants, black boots. And you can tell
instantly that her impact changes a lot and that’s the key thing. We kept the
big shapes, we kept the big read but kind of changed the internal
language of what you want to say. I actually really like this a lot. Just a lot
more fresher. This one looks a little more dark and edgy. So, there are endless,
infinite possibilities in what you can do and you can easily get lost.
That’s why movie studios probably take months or even years to finalize their
final character because there are infinite possibilities. Hey guys, so I
went ahead, and with the template, I drew in Faye’s actual design. And I want to talk
to you a little bit about what I was thinking. I still kept the hair,
we still have the eye tattoo. Just note that you’ll probably make hundreds
of variations before you get to the final one, but you will get there I
promise. Every design decision is kind of forcing yourself up to the hair and I
put in some blues. She’s still friendly, we can trust her. And I kept
the half cape, I love that idea. And I really like the impact of the
design. And a good design test to see if your character is iconic enough, is to
have anybody, even a five-year-old, draw your character. And if they can replicate
it and resemble the character then you’ve done a good job. You
remember that design with Faye, with all the armor. I feel like that’s a lot
harder for anyone to remember, but this one I feel is simple enough to be
successful. So, while we don’t have a five-year-old, we have James! Yay!
James is in the studio and let’s take this all away and see if he can remember
Faye and draw what she looks like. Let’s do it, all right here you go. Nice! It looks like her already. I’m like
for real. James, it’s amazing!
[James] Yay. That’s pretty spot on, hold on
let’s compare this back to our original one. James you did a pretty good job, look at that. You even got that little blue in there. That-
[James] I forgot the necklace Oh you forgot the necklace,
it’s okay. But, overall I feel like the impact is there and we can
recognize that this is Faye and I swear to God we could have cheated but we stayed
true to the design test and we didn’t. And now we know that it’s a successful
design. Thanks James, for helping us confirm that. And if you want this pose
template for you to try out your own characters with, I’m giving it for free
on my website. Yeah, the links in the description. And in the previous video, I
talked a lot about presentation. You want to present your character in
the best light. And so this is kind of a static pose, and what we want to do now,
is find a good way to represent her. Let’s try some things. I don’t even know what I’m doing.
[Laughter] What we’re you drawing? I’m drawing a leg, bro. I need to infuse her spirits. What a perfect
time to infuse her powers. So this is the first pose that I
have. I kind of roughed in, and what I’m trying to do here is show her
attitude. She knows she’s strong, she’s showing off her magic, she’s
kind of a little bit smug. I think this is a first good pass but let’s try
another one. Here’s the second pose and I’m being
really loose with these. I’m trying to capture the gesture, I’m trying
to capture the personality, I’m trying to explore visually and for this one I’m
flaunting her magic a little more. For the third one, I want to capture her
calmness and her laid-back nature a little more, so I’m gonna try a
third one. Awesome, here is the third pose and check
it out. Look at all the poses. This one, she’s like flaunting her magic and this
one she’s really casting a spell. I’m really digging this one, she’s
laid back and letting the magic speak for itself and there’s a really nice
confidence here. And while we don’t have all the time in the world to fully flesh
this out, I went ahead and finished it. And here it is. Ready? One, two, three,
Oh! It’s Faye! This is a her rendered out. She has a nice confident
pose. She’s still way letting the magic speak for itself. She’s firm on the
ground. The important lesson to take away from this, is the design process.
We want to make sure we have a solid iconic character, which we can all relate
to, and the rest is just practice. Hours of rendering, and studies, and
then eventually you will get here, I promise. And after you have the design,
you have the pose right, and we understand who the character is, the next
step that I love doing and everyone loves seeing are poses. You know, super
cool action poses and check it out. This was after I had the design, I went
ahead and did some really cool moves based on her magic and I’m getting
excited seeing this. She’s a magician and this is her power. This is
like all three of her spirits combining into an arcane magic and
demolishing the enemy. We have her putting on her glove over here, and then
we have her maybe attacking with two spirits at once. This is maybe like a
lightning fire shotgun kind of spell. This is her leaping into the wind.
I was able to do this here because I had the design of the character over here.
And after you have your final design and you do some really cool poses, the cherry
on top is the character illustration. This is where people pay the big bucks,
this is the juice, this is where you put your love of rendering, lighting,
and all the composition all into play. This is like a cinematic moment for your
character and here’s mine. Ready? Bam! Ah, It’s Faye! Check it out. This is kind of what
I’m thinking you know, she’s kind of in the air, it’s very luminous, she’s playing
with her spirits. We have the really cool hair, we have the eye tattoo, and
everything just kind of comes together, through rendering, through story, to the
pose. And this is where I get real excited because it’s literally
breathing life into your character. But all this is just glitz and glam. This is just
hours of rendering, hours of perfection, but what’s really important is having a
good design. Because if you have a bad design and you do all this glitz and
glam on top, the design is still gonna be bad. It’s the foundation that matters.
Because I had my design, I thought about it, you know, about the
story, and different things that’s gonna make her, her. I was able to continue
further with the poses, with the final illustration, and let that breathe
through. I hope you guys learned a lot on how to create characters, or
having a starting point to create characters. I hope you guys like the reveal
of Faye. I’m really excited about her. She’s like so much of what I’m
about. I just love magic, and mages, and strong
females, and I feel like she’s an embodiment of that. And she’s a really
good contrast to Nima. And let’s take one final look at everything we’ve created
in this episode. What’s up, you want to hang out? You wanna hang out?
Oh it’s Milo! Milo, what do you think of Faye, huh? What do you think of Faye, do you like her? She’s my new best friend, I’m gonna replace you. Do you like her? Give her a
kiss. Hey guys, I hope you enjoyed the character design episode of my
masterclass series. I love characters and I’ve been drawing them for as long
as I can remember. These are some of the key things that I took away that was
really valuable for me and hopefully they can help you design your characters.
In the next episode, we’re gonna attack portraits! We’ll be tackling things like
color, light, rendering, and exploring unique ways on how to make your portrait look
amazing. And if you want the pose template files for you to try your own
designs on, I’m giving it away for free on my site right here.
Try it out, I’m excited to see what you guys come up with. What is a character you wish
you designed, and why? For me, it’s probably Princess Kita from Atlantis.
Yes, she’s so cool, she’s so up my alley you know, she’s like a powerful female
with tattoo markings, and she’s my favorite Disney Princess. I feel like she
doesn’t get enough recognition. Good luck with your character designs. I’m so
excited to see what you guys come up with. And I’ll catch you next time where
we’re drawing portraits on the next episode of Ross Draws
master class. Every day is a color dodge day.

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