Monster Character Design in 9 Steps
Have you ever wondered how to create your own monster character design from scratch? I did too! Until in my third-year university one of my professors decided to give us an assignment about creating this crazy monster design! I was super excited, to be honest!
He also gave us a couple of choices of different few sentence story passages that describe our character. My favorite was called “ The Ice Cream Man” which described this half-dead tall person with crazy teeth that wants to eat you alive!!!
I thought – great! But how do I make it my own? What’s the background story that I will give this character?
Overall, the step by step process is very simple! So go ahead, follow along and see where it took me 🙂
Step 1: Have a basic idea ready.
For me, it was easy as I already had the basic idea given to me by my (super awesome ) prof! But where do you start yourself? I have done many other character design later on, and it always helps me to think of something that:
A) Would look cool and be very fun to draw at the same time!
B) Taking something from every day and adding a bit ( or a whole lot) of creepiness and your own-sort-of-weird to it!
C) I’ve been inspired by previously! ( and of course please don’t copy anybody’s ideas! But rather personalize them and get inspired by a lot of different ideas at once!
So now, think a little about your topic (you don’t have to know everything yet), and have a basic idea of what you want to achieve. Later on, you can change it and go any route you wish in order to make it better! But we all need to start somewhere.
*you can also watch a video of this tutorial !!
Step 2: What’s the backstory?
Now, when you approximately decided on where you want to go with your character, figure out a way to bring them to life by creating a backstory for them! The backstory might not be 100% delivered to the viewer, but believe me when I say this – IT HELPS! Because it leads you to a more specific and believable character and looks, rather than just generalized idea that has been done in some sort all the time!
So maybe it would help to answer the 5 “W“: Who? Does What? Where? When? And Why? And I also like to add my 6th “W” – What brought them here?
(Sounds like you are back at the desk in English class yet? 🙂 )
For example, the story I came up with for this character (after approximately having the idea of him from Step1) is:
(Who?) The Ice Cream Monster Man (does what?) in a peak of showing off his huge mouth and eating ice-cream mixed with blood and body parts. (Where?) For the sake of the project I am focusing on the character rather than the environment, so I decided to have an abstract mysterious color lighting. (Why?) In order to create an effective and appealing character design with creepy features to it. (What brought them here?) That’s my favorite part of the process, where I get to come up with a history of the character that led them to become who they are now.
The Ice Cream Man is an ice-cold creature with a mouth the when opened is bigger than his head. Once a nice teenager named Joe who decided to make some money becoming an Ice Cream Truck driver, and stuck in such position for the next 40 years. People laughed at him and humiliated him, made the guy feel pathetic and a loser. The jokes of kids and neighbors were cruel – they threw food at him, pointed fingers laughing… One time a bunch of mean kids decided to play a cruel joke on Joe and tricked him into coming in a freezer room where all the ice cream was kept…Then they locked him for fun and forgot about him. Poor Joe froze to death… And…Awakened again, but now in the form of monster later known as THE ICE CREAM MAN. As his revenge, Joe now eats all the kids and adults who used to make fun of him when he was still alive. Mmmmwwwwaaaahahhhahahah .”
So that is my way of creating a story, but feel free to do it in a way that’s comfortable to you 🙂
Step 3: Quick Sketches
So now that we have all the ideas in place and ready to go, we begin experimenting with sketches. Make them silly, quick and fun! You don’t have to show anyone and be embarrassed (like me right now) if you don’t want to! I know how scary it can be to put your worst stuff out here.
Then more sketches-the better!
Also, if you feel like after this tutorial you are not quite sure what to do yet – don’t worry! This comes with A LOT of practice, and A LOT of studying! So here are some of the tutorials I recommend you try after reading this blog post! 🙂
Just pick any of them and you will see how quickly you will improve! 🙂
Step 4: Looking with a different set of eyes o_o
Now, I’m going to ask you to do something that sounds very easy but isn’t always that way if you are not used to it – look at your artwork as though you have no knowledge of the original idea. Now tell me, what is it that you see?
Then, find the one you like and try to improve it, while also getting as close to the original idea as you see fit. ( By the way, if you like one of your new ideas very much, you can make another project out of it, but try to stay with the original though just for the sake of seeing where it could lead you!)
For me, an improvement I decided to make is fixing the hands! So far they are not telling any story and I want them to be meaningful!
Step 5: Get a LOT of reference images!
Try making a piece of art without a reference, and then with. The results are so different it blows my mind! (Unless you are a professional artist with years of practice from your head). Now, I know you heard the concept before, but I will say it anyway – don’t COPY and don’t use only ONE reference! Have A LOT of them! The more the better! From different angles, so you can feel the 3D form of the object you are trying to portray! Have references for styles, colors, and treatments of objects that inspire you. Have references to each piece of your image. It will only make it better! And the idea is your own, so there is no way you could possibly copy anything! But trust me, the reference will guide you to the right place, and will make sure that you are drawing everything the way it is in real life, and not the way you think it is.
It can be as simple as googling your subject and/or looking on Pinterest 🙂
Step 6: Find 1 more way to make it better!
When you think your image is as good as it gets, please do this one thing for me. Try VERY HARD to make it EVEN BETTER! You won’t regret it! Add something, or take away things, or improve the idea or posture! Anything at all! Our brain works in a way where we tend to pick between the things we see and then the one that looks the best turns PERFECT in our head! But we can’t possibly know if it is unless we experiment with it just a little more!
So here I changed the position of hands just a little more!
Step 7: Think ahead!
In some way, we all do! As you can notice on the image below I’ve added some notes- just random things and ideas that go through my head when I decide on what to add while I’m painting like colors, textures, blood stains, saliva etc.
Step 8: Adding Colour
Colouring is not an easy, but a very effective tool! If using poorly it can damage your lineart in a terrible way, or add it some kind of meaning that you didn’t originally plan. If you are not sure on how to pick colors effectively, I recommend checking out () for some quick and awesome content that will save you years of figuring it out yourself! I know it helped me a lot 🙂 Or if you are not into video, you can always have this little tool by your side at any time that you need a cool reference 😉 I personally have a lot of them for colour inspiration, so you can check out any of them on Amazon ( where I go them), but this specific one if just my favourite 🙂
Now, when you are all ready to go, it’s time to make your image come to life! Good luck! 🙂
Step 9: STILL IMPROVING
So, at this point you are done, and happy! Good job (pat on a shoulder!). But how do you know if it’s the best that you can do? You don’t!!!! Unless you check again and try using “Camera Raw” Filter in Photoshop, or the Adobe Lightroom Software.
Here is a screenshot of me playing around in Lightroom on my Ipad Pro 🙂
If you play around, but you still like the original better – great! You are amazing!
If you see the improvement after playing around – high five and welcome to the team! I always use these options right after I’m done, and that’s when I really like the result <3
And we are DOOOOOONNNEEEE!!! Congratulations ! Now you are ONE STEP AHEAD from people who are just starting out because you have the knowledge you can use in practice! Go ahead! Try it out for yourself 🙂 I would LOVE TO see what you come up with! Post your finished Art Piece to “Your Art Path” Facebook page and/or in the comments below for FREE feedback, and simply to show off your amazing stuff! Please write beside your artwork your backstory and #feedbackplease if you want me to personally comment on your art piece 🙂 I can’t wait to see what you came up with!
Also, check out “Composition for Beginners” tutorial that will help you with improving your art piece even more!
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Thank you for reading!
Good luck on Your Art Path,
Your Art Bud 😉