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Character Design Crash Course: Designing Animal Characters

Learn everything you need to know to develop your own fun animal characters

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Welcome to Character Design Crash Course, a series of illustration classes meant for beginning cartoonists or intermediate character artists looking for a refresher.

In this class I'll take you through my process of designing and illustrating an animal character, starting with finding inspiration and reference, then moving on to sketching and developing your concept, and finally, rendering it in Photoshop. I'll also talk about the fundamentals of character design, and the importance of using reference and learning from other artists.

What You'll Learn

  • Finding Inspiration and Learning from Other Artists: I'll talk about studying the styles of other artists, how it helps you build your versatility, and the importance of being influenced by more than one artist.
  • Using Reference: I'll talk about why using reference is key to improving your drawing skills, the best ways to use it to benefit yourself, and why it's particularly essential when designing animal characters.
  • Developing Your Character: from rough sketches to more developed concepts
  • Rendering in Photoshop: blocking in base colors manually and with the pen tool, using the radial gradient tool to shade and highlight, using paths to make selections, and how paths and the lasso tool can aid in coloring
  • Color Adjustment and Texture: how to use color adjustments and texture tools to add interest to your drawing

What You'll Make

Once finished, you'll have a fully illustrated animal character to add to your portfolio!

What Students Are Saying

Really loved Melissa's relaxed way of presenting. It's almost as if she's sat beside you showing you her process rather than "lecturing" on the right way to do something which is a really nice approach. I'm pretty new to using photoshop so her tips will definitely come in handy.

- Natasha Chambers

LOVE this course - instructor actually does what few do - she explains how she gets from photo to cartoon and theory behind it - so I can do my own custom stuff - I really hope she does more character design courses!

- Anne Farrelly

This course will take your understanding and your drawing skills to a new level! It packs a ton of information for beginners, but does so with great clarity and clear, logical progression. The examples of how the artist progresses from reference photos to free drawing to exaggerated cartoon version of her chosen animals are a joy to follow! Very inspiring to go and do your own research and character development while (or after) watching this course!

- Stephanie Audry

Teacher was very fun, engaging, and full of joy, which made the learning process that much more enjoyable and easy to follow. Includes nuggets of wisdom, lists of helpful books and inspirational artists, as well as a demonstrated illustration to put everything together. Highly recommended!

- Josie M.

The teacher had some really great ideas on how to initially develop a character, learn about the proportions of the animal, and how to distort those proportions. I really enjoyed this class a lot and learned a lot from it! =)

- Ashley Cristiano

A very informative class that helps you step into learning about character design in a fun and inspiring way. Can't wait to get stuck in!

- Nina Mistry-Rhoades


Your Instructor


Melissa Lee
Melissa Lee

Hi! My name's Melissa Lee, and I'm a designer and online art teacher living in the forests of Northern California. I majored in Studio Art in college, but graduated with a continued thirst for learning and improving my artistic skills, but couldn't justify the high price of further brick-and-mortar education. Instead, I discovered myriads of more affordable avenues of art education online, which eventually inspired me to start teaching myself, and I haven't looked back.

I'm currently in the process of becoming a full-time freelancer and art licenser, but in the meantime, I'm cultivating my love of sharing what I know, and encouraging others to nourish their creative side. I love patterns and character art and watercolor paintings. And also bees. Always bees.


Class Curriculum


  The Fundamentals + Inspiration
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  Practice Exercises
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  Closing Thoughts
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Frequently Asked Questions


When does the course start and finish?
The course starts now and never ends! It is a completely self-paced online course - you decide when you start and when you finish.
How long do I have access to the course?
How does lifetime access sound? After enrolling, you have unlimited access to this course for as long as you like - across any and all devices you own.
What if I am unhappy with the course?
We would never want you to be unhappy! If you are unsatisfied with your purchase, contact us in the first 30 days and we will give you a full refund.

Get started now!