Just felt like drawing a mean moray eel for fun. I think morays are some of the coolest sea creatures. I sketched this one out with col-erase prismacolor pencil, then inked it with Sharpie, then colored it with a combination of markers and colored pencil.
Great news! I now have the Scuba Shark available for purchase as a 3D printed figurine! You can check it out and purchase it by clicking on the image below.
Each purchase helps support my endeavors to continue creating unique and imaginative toy figurines. 3D printed figures can be a little pricey, because of the technology. But with enough support, I can design a mold and cast resin figurines at a lower price point later on down the road. Thanks in advance for your purchases and I hope you enjoy the figure! He’s sure to keep your desk and shelves safe from badguys.
I’ve been wanting to create a blog post and some tutorials about my process for creating and building characters for use as collectible toy figurines. I wanted to share how I develop characters for retail- specifically figurines used for blind bags, blind boxes, vending, adult toy collectibles, and toys-to-life gaming figurines. I finally found some time to develop my own character, and document the process, from start to finish. Here’s my breakdown, from the perspective of a toy character designer:
First off, normally I am designing and modeling original characters that I come up with for clients. This project was especially fun, because I was simply creating a character that I wanted to make for myself. I started out by looking through some existing character designs of mine, and narrowing it down to these three guys: my shark in a scuba diver suit, my Robin Hood medieval dragon, and my sweet-hearted stone tiki guy.
At this point, I knew that my original character concepts wouldn’t work well for small toy figurines. It was important to me, as I was creating my video tutorials and process, to show how to design characters that would work well in a small, minifigure size. When designing for vending capsules, small blind boxes or bags, etc, it’s extremely important to give the collector the most value possible within the size limitations. So I always think about volume, and how I can maximize the space within a ball, capsule, bag, or box. If you have tall, thin figures, or figures with an extremity jutting far out, then it ends up shrinking the size of the rest of your figure, in order to fit that longer item within the packaging. I try and keep things close to the body, and proportioned in a way that makes the toys as big as possible within the packaging. Of course, if there was no limitations in the packaging size, then I’d design them differently, but in the world of retail, you almost always have constraints to your packaging sizing. The sketches above show how I revised my 3 original character concepts, to bring them into character designs that would work well for small toys. I decided also to sketch out a 4th character, the rhino paladin with angel wings.
After sketching out my 4 character concepts for use as small toy figures, I went ahead and finalized the artwork in color. I digitally inked the sketches and added simple color, keeping in mind the limitations with how much painting or pad printing can be done on small inexpensive collectible toys. Since I love creating characters, I’ll share a little more about each one below…
This first character design is Dragon Hood. I liked the idea of a dragon, who is usually the bad guy in medieval stories, actually being the good guy. I felt that a character like this would have a lot of appeal to collectors.
My second character design was this scuba shark. I absolutely love fish and the ocean, so naturally, one of the characters had to be fish related. To keep things simpler for minifigure toy production, I removed the glass helmet from my original concept, so that there wouldn’t be a need for a completely separate mold for that piece (if/when it goes to factory production). This is one way to keep costs down.
The third character concept I developed was my stone tiki god. I liked the idea of a buff rock tiki, who is super sweet. For the smaller toy concept, I decided that adding a little color/paint to his face would give him a little more appeal with kids and collectors. If he was just all grey rock colored, I don’t think he would be quite as desirable in a collection.
And the last concept I created was this rhino paladin. I have had an idea for quite some time of an angel who is a rhino. I love the idea of a really tough, strong angel, ready to go into battle. The tricky part with this guy is that if he were to go into toy production, he wouldn’t work well for round capsules, due to the size of his wings. He would work alright for a blind box though.
After sharing the 4 concepts on my social media channels, the voting came back with a tie between the Dragon Hood and Scuba Shark. I decided then to 3D model the Scuba Shark. I always use zBrush to model characters for toys. ZBrush feels more like sculpting with clay, which I love, and it has great built-in features for prepping for 3D printing. This screen shot shows the model pretty much completed, before rendering and exporting. Each part of the figure is built as a separate shape and then merged together. It’s a long process to design and build a model in 3D, but feels quite rewarding in the end.
And here’s the side-by-side comparison of my original character concept for the Scuba Shark and the final color 3D render. This guy was more challenging to model than I had original thought. The part that took the longest was getting his unique head shape right. I feel like he turned out great in the end though.
And if you are interested to see all sides of this Scuba Shark 3D model, here’s a turnaround video. I really like how the posing and sense of weight turned out on this character.
Also, if you are interested in watching my 3D modeling process, to learn zBrush, or to learn more about how I work, you can click on the image above to go to all my YouTube tutorials that I created for this Scuba Shark. I have video tutorials for each step of the process. And I’m always happy to talk to you more about how to make a great toy series or collectible figurine.
I have sent my 3D model off to a company for 3D printing. I am currently waiting to receive it back. Once I do, I’ll be sure to update this post with a few photos of that.
And lastly, if you would like to talk with me about developing a minfigure or toy line for your company or brand, please feel free to contact me anytime. I love working on projects like this, because I love toys!
Update: Here’s a few photos of how the Scuba Shark turned out as a 3D printed figurine. I am really happy with the detail and results. Feel free to click on any of these photos to be directed to the online 3D printed store to purchase one of your own! (available in a variety of colors)
Thanks for your purchases of this original character of mine! I hope you love looking at him every day on your desk or shelf!
Sketched out a cute young girl and her pet turkey vulture! Everyone knows a good t-bone steak is the best way to train turkey vultures. I’ve always loved turkey vultures, and I think secretly wish I could be a bird wrangler. I drew this quick cartoon in my travel sketchbook… I’m almost finished with my current sketchbook! just about 8 more pages left!
I had the pleasure of working with Crew 3000, an ocean conservation non-profit, on their first t-shirt design. These are a few concepts sketches I worked through with them, to find exactly what they were looking for. It’s a little more challenging to work with a group of people who all have a little something to add, but certainly not impossible. After a few sketches, we were able to narrow it down to the fact that they wanted to highlight the beauty of the oceans, with the animals and the corals. We decided it would be cool to have an octopus defending the coral, since most of their work involves growing/farming new coral to replenish areas where it has died.
Here’s what the final approved sketch looked like. They had decided they wanted a somewhat realistic look to the sea life. I felt like incorporating all of that into a circular type shape would give it a nice feel and also give me a place to put all the wording they wanted to include. It was important for them that this be a shirt that people would be proud to wear (not cheesy), and that other people would want to buy, to support the non-profit.
I realized after all our conversations, that the client really wanted that more detailed, realistic approach to the artwork. Most of the time, for ease of printing, I create t-shirt designs as vector art. There are other methods of illustrating the artwork that can still be printed on tees. So for this project, I felt the best approach for the artwork would be to paint the illustration fully in Photoshop. This brought out the detail and “cool factor” that the client was looking for, yet not able to fully communicate to me. When the client saw this final, he was blown away. In the end, it turned out better than he had even hoped for! That’s always a wonderful compliment to receive.
And lastly, here’s an alternative version of the final artwork, prepped for a white or light colored t-shirt. You can see, as I was working on the design, that I made sure it would work well for light or dark colored shirts. I’m excited to receive a printed shirt soon from my client!
And if you would like to talk with me about your t-shirt design, I would be happy to. I’m always happy to talk with new clients and see how I can help their t-shirts and products become a great success. I truly believe that quality, eye-catching artwork can make a product shine and sell well. Reach out anytime!
I recently designed a Koala cartoon character for a mortgage lending company. This was a repeat client of mine, which it’s always nice to hear again from a happy client about working together again. It was fun to create an original character for their marketing materials. Above are the initial 3 character sketch concepts I presented to them. They fell in love with the 2nd one pretty quickly.
After their approval, I finalized this first pose in vector, full color. And I sketched out the other 3 poses they asked for. It’s simpler to sketch the remaining poses after the character’s look and feel have been agreed upon.
And these were the other 3 poses the client asked for. They are using this character for their “Get Koalified” marketing campaign. I think this character will add a lot of appeal and personality to their branding. They had wanted this character to represent their loan officers working hard to help good people qualify for home loans.
Feel free to contact me about how a mascot can add memorability to your business or product. I’m always happy to talk with people about their projects and ideas.
A wise old alien shaman I drew for fun last night in my travel sketchbook. With his 3 eyes, he can see into the 6th, 9th, and 12th dimensions… basically any dimension divisible by 3. I think some of his power may come from those giant green horns on his head. I would imagine that perhaps a hero in some story would need to travel to this alien shaman’s planet, in order to get advice on defeating an inter-dimensional villain.
One of my friends doodled this little slug character with a floating cyclops eye on a post-it while he was at work. I really liked his character, so I was inspired to draw my own version of it!
I loved the pudgy body and the floating eye he had in his, so I tried to emphasize those traits, while still keeping the essence of his character. You’ll notice he still has similar teeth and hair as well. Any you might wonder, why is he talking about cake? I’m not sure myself… maybe he’s asking for cake, or maybe someone just asked him to do something challenging and his response was, “Piece of cake!” 🙂
My wife and I are celebrating the 2nd year anniversary of Freelance Fridge as a full-time business! (I’ve been doing freelance part-time for 10+ years, but this is the second full-time year). Thanks to all my loyal, wonderful clients for allowing me to create fresh, cool artwork for you! I feel quite blessed to be able to help others’ imaginations come to life every day that I step into my office!
Here’s a tribal bird creature I drew for fun. My concept is based a bit on a Bateleur Eagle. I saw this type of eagle for the first time and found it really inspiring! They are so cool looking and unique with their red faces. Seemed like a perfect inspiration for an alien character design.
Drawn by hand in my travel sketchbook, then inked and colored with markers.
Here’s a Millennial Skater Duck I drew for fun. This guy’s had a few injuries, but it doesn’t hold him back from taking sick Instagram pics when he’s riding the rails.
Drawn in my Travel Sketchbook… penciled, then inked, then colored with markers. I wanted to draw this character in a style that would fit well with a TV cartoon series, such as the Regular Show.
I decided it would be fun to have a coloring contest for with my Murloc fish character illustration. Anyone can download the original black & white inkwork here. You can submit your colored version on social media, tagging Freelance Fridge in the post. Or simply email it to me HERE.
*The contest will be open until May 6th. I will randomly pick a winner from the submissions, who will receive a FREE signed art print!
Here’s the art to download and color. Be sure to click on it to download the full size image for print. Both traditional and digital coloring will be accepted. Hope you enjoy coloring! I look forward to seeing all the versions!
Update: Thanks to all who participated! It was exciting to see all the colored versions of my creature design! Jeff Hankins was the randomly selected winner (the Murloc feature in the pic that has a colored background). And feel free to still print & color this guy if you want, even though the contest is over.
Had a craving to draw a Murloc fish creature recently. I’ve always loved this fantasy fish creature type. I gave him more Stegosaurus-like back fins for a unique look. I had a lot of fun illustrating this guy! I could see him showing up in a video game or fantasy table top game design.