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!
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 had the pleasure of working with another self-publishing children’s book author on his book, Ricky & The Grim Wrapper. It’s a magical, heartwarming story about a boy who learns to stop littering. Here’s a bit of my process for illustrating this story…
I started with character development for the main characters of the book. This first sketch is for Ricky, the protagonist of this story. The author had known a bit of the style he wanted, based on my portfolio, and he did such a great job describing the boy in the book, that it wasn’t hard to create a look for Ricky that fit really well.
After the concept sketch for Ricky was approved, I then drew out the look for Ricky (in transformed cup form), Ginger (a little ginger ale soda can), Rusty (an old rusted can), and the Grim Wrapper (the antagonist of this story). When creating these character concepts, I really tried to give the characters a cute and appealing feel, while in contrast, the Grim Wrapper was given a very scary, menacing feel.
Once the main character sketches were approved, then I finalized the character designs in color, in the style they would be for the book illustrations. This first one of course is Ricky, a sweet young boy with a little bit of a mischievous side. Ricky loves his root beer!
And here’s the version of Ricky, when he magically transforms into his fast food root beer cup later on in the story. His bad habit of littering is what got him into this predicament!
This is Ginger, completed in color. She is one of the pieces of trash that Ricky meets on his journey. She is very sweet and friendly. Ginger is hopeful of being picked up and recycled one day.
Next we have the grumpy can called Rusty. He was thrown out so long ago that he’s lost any hope of being recycled. Although he is a bit of a pessimist, Rusty has a great heart.
Last but not least, here’s the final completed Grim Wrapper villain concept illustration. I’m a big fan of creative villains, and so this character was one of my favorites to develop for this book. As the story goes, the Grim Wrapper is an evil trash monster compiled of all sorts of trash he collects and absorbs into himself. No litter is safe from the clutches of the Grim Wrapper!
After all the main character development was completed and approved, I moved into sketching the book’s interior illustrations. For this author, we discussed using a variety of illustration sizes, to add variety and also save on costs. I reviewed his manuscript in full and then suggested the illustrations that should be full, half page, or vignette sized. I like to sketch out the entire book before I start finalizing any illustrations. It’s important to me not only to illustrate the content of a scene, but also to really capture the emotion of the characters on each page. That is what draws the reader into the story and makes it come alive.
After the author approved all the sketches, then I finalized the illustrations with a bit cleaner sketchwork, color, and shading. I really love how these illustrations turned out. It really adds life and vitality to the author’s wonderful story.
The last part, but certainly not least, was to illustrate the children’s book cover. I believe that the cover of a children’s book is the most important part. This the the first look that a potential customer will see. The illustration should really peak their interest and grab their attention. Equally important is the Title/Logo Design for the cover. This Title should compliment the story and help give the reader some idea for tone & feeling of the book. This is the sketch I came up with for the cover (a wrap-around cover design).
And here’s how that book cover illustration turned out! I think the ominous shadow of the villain over our main boy creates a lot of suspense and anticipation. This cover makes you want to open it up and see what happens to this cute boy. And for the Title, I had decided to give it a bit of a treatment like the old horror movie posters, to add to the feeling.
One of the most exciting parts of illustrating any book is receiving copies in the mail! This author used Amazon CreateSpace to self-publish his children’s book and I think the print quality was quite nice. This is an option that I think more and more authors should consider. It’s a great way for you to get your story out there, the way you want to tell it. With social media and online sales growth, it’s becoming easier and easier to make your independent books a big success, without necessarily the need for a publisher.
Here’s a shot of my favorite interior illustration, the Grim Wrapper!
*If you are interested in purchasing a copy of this fun young reader children’s book, you can order a copy for yourself by Clicking Right Here!
And if you would like to talk with me about how I can help illustrate your children’s book, feel free to contact me anytime. I love helping authors and publishers bring out the best in a story, through great illustrations that compliment the writing.
A local Phoenix Dodgeball League asked me to create another t-shirt design for them, since they loved what I designed for them for last year’s season. They wanted a Pokemon design of some sort, since many of the players love the new Pokemon Go app. I suggested that I create all new characters, to avoid any copyright issues. Here’s the initial rough sketch for that. When working with clients, I always send a sketch for approval, before I create the final art.
Here’s the final vector t-shirt design I created. I was limited to 4 ink colors, and the design needed to work well on 12 different shirt colors, for the 12 teams. I think it turned out quite well. I actually enjoy working creatively within the limitations of a project.
Also, the client used the individual characters separately on the backs, for each team in the league. Here’s a little tidbit of each Pokemon-like original character that I created:
The first character is the one that made it as the main, large character in the center, I call Burnix. Since this dodgeball league resides in Phoenix, it only made sense to make this guy the focal point, and design this Fire Pokemon to look like a firebird.
The next made-up Pokemon is Scarabatak. This one is a Bug type. I love horned beetles, so I used that for my initial inspiration.
Here’s a Dragon type that I call Draziguard. I based him on a two-legged wyvern style dragon and gave him some features that I feel match him well with the Pokemon style of creatures.
This one may just be my favorite, because everyone loves an Electric type Pokemon, like Pikachu, and he turned out so darn cute! I call this monster Zaptrex and love his extra set of legs!
Next on the list is Pummlesar, a Fighting type Pokemon. I liked the idea of a boxing kind of stance for this guy, but didn’t want to give him stereotypical boxing gloves. So instead, I drew him with a spiked club tail and matching spiked hands. He probably doesn’t need the ram horns, but it does give him a nice secondary fighting move to work with.
Is it more bug or more bird? You decide! I call this Flying type Pokemon, Flitterchi. I designed him as mostly bird-like, but with two sets of legs and butterfly or moth wings, to give him a bug-ish feel. Also, it helps the creature become more unique than if it was just one or the other.
Next was designing a Ghost type Pokemon. It took me a little while to come up with a design that didn’t feel too much like an existing character. I call the final character Spirwisp!
Up next is the Grass or Plant type. There seems to be a lot of monsters in this category, so drawing something original took a bit of creativity. In the end, Mushtopus became a really fun one. He definitely falls into the “little bit goofy” category of Pokemon.
One of the first things I thought of for the Ice type Pokemon was a single ice cube. It didn’t take long for me to sketch out this snowflake mohawk, ice cube monster, Mowcube!
The next Pokemon type is Poison. I knew that I could really go anywhere with this type. I hadn’t seen much in the realm of scorpion-looking Pokemon, so I felt like that was a good base to start with. And then I incorporated the cute bunny rabbit face from there. And I couldn’t forget the crossbones on the tail! Scorpoisar looks cuddly, but you might not want to get too close.
Rock type Pokemon was also an interesting category. I ended up deciding that it would be cool to have crystals growing out of him. Named him Crystone.
And last but not least, here is Dolphtar. This monster fits into the Water type Pokemon. This guy is a little bit of a lot of things… dolphin, eel, dinosaur, dragon, etc. I love the feel of this guy for the realm of Pokemon characters.
All in all, this was a fun project to be a part of. If you need great, custom characters, that match your current game or project, I would be happy to help. Or if you just need a really cool t-shirt design. Feel free to contact me through my site and we can talk about how to make your project the best it can be, with great artwork.
I was recently commissioned to design a few illustrations and some icon buttons for an educational game company called Sokikom. I’ve created many art assets for Sokikom in the past, so it was nice to have a chance to work with them again. All the final art needed to be vector, so that it could be integrated into the app easily.
The first item I created were 4 simple silhouetted illustrations. The client wanted these to use in the background of the various game screens, so that they could overlay the actual content on top of it. Each one of these matches the colors and theme of each educational math game.
The next item, and most complex, was the main video game illustration that will be used to navigate to each game. The client wanted to a fresh, new illustration to replace the existing island illustration they had. This new main navigation screen will be the home screen of the game app, where the students can pick each game they want to play.
I sketched 3 different island concepts for them to choose from. You might be wondering why I have grey borders on parts of the concept sketches… This is because the illustration would need to be cropped for various monitors- computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. I included the grey areas so that the client could identify where the artwork would be trimmed for each screen size.
The client liked the 2nd concept sketch best, but asked for a few elements from the others to be incorporated as well as the island size to be expanded. Here’s how my final approved concept sketch turned out.
After approval of the final island sketch, I finished up the illustration in vector art. I had to also keep in mind a limited color palette based on the new web 2.0 colors. Also, I needed to make sure that I was not using any techniques in illustrator- with the shading or clipping- that would affect the art when exporting as SVG files.
And lastly, the client had requested for me to design 6 fun, catchy icon buttons for the educational game app. These are my initial concept sketches for those. Each icon will navigate to a specific function in the app.
Here’s the final approved icons. As you can see, there were a couple changes I had to make from the initial sketches. The final icon buttons are quite colorful and fun for the kids.
I really enjoyed working on these illustrations for Sokikom. I especially love working on projects that help kids and promote education. I believe that strong, quality artwork can really excite children to learn and grow. If I can help you with your kid-related apps or products, please feel free to contact me through my site. I would be glad to talk with you more about what you are hoping to accomplish.
I just finished creating this warrior knight woman character concept for a new client of mine. This character is for a new video game in development, using the Unreal Engine 4. Here’s a little bit about my process…
My client had a really great, detailed description of how they envisioned the character. So for this project, it wasn’t necessary to create a medley of concept sketches. It was very clear what they wanted to see. Here’s the initial sketch I created for the female video game character. The style is a little bit more realistic in proportions than what I normally get hired to do, but I love working in a variety of styles, so that wasn’t a problem at all. I enjoyed the change of pace. I also liked the fact that their description of the character didn’t have her in scantily clad clothing. She’s wearing armor and a cloak that covers her nicely and is more practical for fighting than many of the female characters you see out there in video games.
My client absolutely loved the initial concept sketch, so I was able to move into the other views quickly. My client had asked for a 4 view turnaround for the character, so they could supply it to their 3D artist for modeling. The biggest challenge with turnarounds is keeping the right proportions throughout the character. I would say for this warrior knight in particular, the biggest challenge was drawing all the detail in her armor and cloak several times!
To go along with the warrior knight, I asked if she had any weapon or prop to also be designed. My client described a magical crystal sword that she would eventually wield in the video game. I enjoyed sketching out this one-handed sword for her. Again, my client loved the sketch right away, which is always a great feeling, knowing that you captured what they had pictured in their head right off the bat.
Here’s how the crystal sword turned out when I finished it up in color. You can almost feel the gravitational pull of the purple glowing orb in the center, holding all the crystal blade pieces together. I used a little bit of leather and metal to tie in with the character’s clothing and match it all together well.
And here’s all 4 character turnaround views for the warrior knight girl, completed in full color. You’ll notice that there’s a few pieces of crystal on her belt and her eyes match the glowing orb of her weapon, which also helps tie the sword into her ensemble, showing that she is the true keeper of this mystical crystal sword. I loved my client’s idea to have her hair fading into an orange color, which I feel contrasts quite well with her blue and silver cloak.
Here’s a larger image of the three-quarters view of the final character design. I really enjoyed developing this character and I look forward to working on more character designs for this client in the future, as their game progresses.
And lastly, here’s a close-up of her face, so that you can see the detail I illustrated.
I would love to talk to you about your characters (whether for video games or other products) and share how I can bring value and strong imagery to your stories, games, and products. I would be happy to explain more of my process or provide you with a quote. Feel free to contact me and we can talk about your project!
A while back, I created a bunch of wacky fish concepts for a Denmark-based mobile game app company. They were looking for several concepts of unique and imaginative fish for a new fishing video game. They wanted to see a progression/growth in the fish, along with a concept of what bait to use to catch them. After 12 months, I’m finally allowed to show the work.
Here’s the first fish concept sketch set- The ElecTrout! An electric dragon eel that eats battery fish.
The second one is the ExtraTETRAstrial! Merged with Alien DNA, this fish feeds on Cattle Worms.
Third is the Fluffer Fish! This round fuzzball’s food of choice are BoxFrogs. Notice his mustache grows as he does!
The Venus FlyCarp! This toothy plant fish loves flies the best, but will eat just about anything. This is probably my favorite of my wacky fish concept sketches.
The Longnose Warttie! This fish’s warts continue to grow and multiply their entire lives.
The Steel Tusk Pike! The males fight for companionship by knocking tusks, similar to how rams do with their horns.
And here’s the last of my silly fish concept sketches- The Occular Orca! This big guy loves to munch on cyclops shrimp! Thanks for checking out all my fish sketches, and I hope you continue to enjoy seeing other characters and creatures as I continue to share.
And if I can help you with your creature concepts, feel free to contact me anytime. I’ve worked with countless clients on video games, apps, books, board games, mascots, visual development, pitches, and more. I have seen great artwork really help drive the success of products. I’d love to hear your product and how I can help your ideas become a reality.
A great client of mine asked me to design a new t-shirt & illustrative logo for his new company, The Saltwater Saltan! Here’s the initial sketch I drew for the project- A tough King Neptune with an electric guitar, and a couple heavy metal dolphins.
Even thought the client wanted the dolphins, after seeing it, he decided that it was a little too busy and took away from the awesomeness of King Neptune. So here’s the revised sketch without the dolphins. The text was also revised to add in his slogan.
And here’s the final vector illustration! Nothing better than a buff Merman with tattoos, rocking out on a trident guitar! My client was extremely pleased with the final artwork and eager to get the art on some t-shirts to sell!
If I can help you with your branding or clothing line, please feel free to contact me anytime and we can talk about how great artwork can take your business further.
A great client of mine was starting a new branch of their business, with a kid’s Champion Reader program. In order to promote and launch the program, they wanted me to develop a great character and a couple science fiction space vehicles for it. The creation of compelling artwork was a big part of their choice to proceed with their new expansion. Here’s a bit about my visual development process for them…
The main character for their children’s reading program was a dog named Dewey that lives in space, aboard the library of the galaxy. They had an employee’s dog that they wanted him based on. They weren’t quite sure if they wanted him on 2 legs or 4, so I sketched a version of each for them. Since this is for kids, I wanted to make sure that the character sketches were appealing and friendly. A character that they would want to meet and be friends with. Also, my client had already developed a logo design for the program, so I tried to keep with the purple and grey colors of that logo, so that everything would go well together.
My client fell in love with the four-legged version of the dog character, but liked the suit of the other concept sketch better. So I took the dog they liked and re-sketched it with the suit style they preferred. They really loved what I came up with here and I moved onto the final art.
Here’s the final character illustration for the space dog, Dewey. For the most versatility in printing, I created all of the artwork as vector, so that they could print large banners or cardboard cutouts without losing any quality. In the final stage is when I adding in the shading and a bit of a space background as well.
Another part of the visual development was to create a giant space station for Dewey to live in. This is the library of the galaxy. My client wanted something that looked big, cool, ominous, and a little mysterious. They wanted it to be a place that kids would really want to visit. I developed 2 initial concepts- One being a giant ship that was built into an asteroid, using the resources of the rock to power the space station. The second concept I created was meant to look a little like a tennis ball and dog collar, to pay homage to it’s main resident, the space dog.
My client preferred the 2nd scifi space station concept, but wanted to see something triangle shaped on it, to mimic the logo a bit, plus they wanted to see more “stuff” on the main sphere part of the station. I changed the rotating frame to a pyramid shape, and sketched more windows, boosters, and details onto the surface of the space station. They really liked how the revisions turned out.
And here’s the final space station illustration. I think it hits all the points they asked for… something mysterious, intriguing, ominous, and exciting. It makes you wonder what they library looks like on the inside!
Lastly, I needed to design a smaller spaceship vehicle for Dewey to fly around in, whenever he leaves the space station library. Here’s the 2 concept sketches I initially created. The first one mimics the shape of a dog bone, again as a tip of the hat to the dog driving it. The second is more of just a cool science fiction spaceship. I tried to create a shape for it that would be unique for them. They really fell in love with the 2nd ship, with just a couple minor changes.
This is the final concept sketch for the spaceship. My client just asked for a bubble cockpit of some sort, so that I could draw the dog inside of it, flying the ship. Also, they wanted a bit more purple incorporated on the ship. It turned out being a really cool looking spaceship in my opinion.
Here’s a quick look at all the final vector artwork for the scifi dog, spaceship, and space station. I really like how all of this turned out. I love imagining and creating brand new concepts like this for my clients. Things had worked out so well with the other visual development I drew for them in the past, that they hired me again for this new project. I know that these images will be great for their marketing, promotions, and branding of their new reading program. I’m sure that they will see a lot of success in this branch of their business as well.
If you would like to talk about how I can develop characters or worlds for your video game, book, business, or products, feel free to reach out to me anytime. I love helping companies develop, expand, and succeed in markets where high-quality, imaginative artwork plays such an important part.
I have had fun on my free time the last few days, working on and off on this alien cartoon character. I randomly thought of the phrase, “Set phasers to perturb.” A funny spin on the Star Trek phrase, “set phasers to stun.” It cracked me up thinking of a space gun that had a setting to just perturb the enemy, and just had to draw something to fit the quote. Here’s a bit of the process…
Next, I used black ball-point gel pen to ink the sketch. I inked this by hand in my sketchbook. Sometimes I still think that traditional inking has a better look and feel than digital inking. Once I finished, I took a high-resolution photograph of the drawing and separated the black inkwork out of the photo in Photoshop. I set a large image size and then got ready to color it digitally.
Taking the inkwork that I prepped, I brought the cartoon into Manga Studio to color it. After getting all the colors blocked out, I brought the artwork into Photoshop for some final touches, such as the texture in the background, final color adjustments, and tweaking the size of the text.
I really enjoyed working on this alien captain guy and I hope you enjoyed learning a little bit more of how I created him.
I recently finished illustrating a children’s book for an independent author. Her story is about a cute little African American girl who has a special, high-tech jacket with gizmos and robotic helpers inside of it. Here’s a bit of a breakdown of the process…
As always, I start with designing the characters of the story. This helps establish the look and feel of not only the characters, but also the book in general. Even though my client had 4 characters for her story, I started with the main little girl, Halyn. I sketched out 4 character styles for the girl. My client wasn’t quite sure what style she wanted, so I gave her a variety to choose from. And I always let my clients know that we can continue to refine from the initial sketches.
The client loved the 4th character concept, with a little inspiration in the eyes from the 2nd. Also, the vest had now changed to a full jacket, without any facial features. I had thought that some sort of digital face would help personify this computer jacket, but it wasn’t quite what my client had envisioned.
After I had received approval on the character concept sketch of Halyn, then I was able to use that same style and sketch out the rest of her family, the other characters of the story. In my client’s story, Halyn has an older sister, a mom, and a dad. My client described these characters well for me. The older sister has a lot of fashion sense and is quite loving towards her younger sister. The mother is a teacher and also loves and baking for the family. The father is an engineer and is great with computers. I feel that I brought those traits out in the designs of the characters.
Once all 4 of the character drawings were approved, I moved into the final color illustrations of each. Here’s how those turned out, with a few minor clothing adjustments from the sketches. I really enjoyed developing each character design for this wonderful African American family. This character lineup helps solidify the look and feel of the characters as I move into the book illustrations. Both myself and the client have a point of reference for what the characters should consistently look like in the book. Plus, these character concept illustrations are great pieces for my clients to use in promotional materials, cardboard cutouts, and other marketing and branding for the product.
I’ll share a few illustrations from the completed children’s book. Here’s the initial interior illustration. This shows the view from Halyn’s high-tech glasses, and then her wondering what to do on such a rainy day.
Another illustration from the book shows Halyn commanding her jacket’s gizmos around her room.
And here’s an illustration with Halyn getting giddy with her plans about how she’s going to make her room into a pretend beach for her family. This page also starts showing the special abilities of her jacket.
And here’s one of the last illustrations, showing Halyn and her family enjoying an inside beach party with her family, in her room. They are enjoying her mom’s red velvet cupcakes and some fruit punch. A great, creative way to enjoy a rainy day inside.
I’d be happy to talk with you about your own book or character project. I love helping individuals and businesses create great selling, popular products. There’s great value in strong, professional character development and illustrations. Feel free to contact me to start a conversation about what I can do for you.
I recently created 2 character designs and a vehicle design for an educational start-up company. They wanted Abraham Lincoln and Amelia Earhart characters, with their special time machine twin-engine plane.
I started with concept sketches of the 2 main characters of course. Abe was supposed to have a more rigid, hesitant-to-try-new-things attitude, while Amelia had more of a happy, excited-to-jump-into-things attitude. I worked on making their character designs reflect that. Not only did I draw that in posing and expressions, but also you will see that I used straighter lines and hard angles on Abe, and more inviting, bubbly curves on Amelia- to also reinforce their personas.
My client absolutely loved the sketches. I then went ahead and finalized the characters in color. While I was finalizing them, I was rechecking my reference of the 2 historical figures and decided to taper Amelia’s pants a bit more. My client wanted to be able to use these characters for a variety of prints, including some large format printing, so I recommended that I create them in vector. That way, the images can be scaled to any size without losing quality.
And lastly, I finalized the plane design and incorporated it with the characters. They wanted a black, gold, and red twin-engine plane with extra add-on’s to make it a time machine. Upon my research, I found out that the twin engine plane that Amelia flew was a Lockheed Model 10 Electra. I used that as my base, and then added on some mechanical devices to make this plane fly through the centuries.
I enjoyed working on this project and I look forward to continued work with this client. After their initial launch, they plan for me to help develop more illustrations with these characters and eventually a comic too.
Let me know if I can help you develop some great characters for your museum, educational company, or product.
UPDATE on Continued Work:
My client asked if I could also create a new t-shirt design using the characters. Since the national competition was in Chicago this year, they wanted to go with a vintage World’s Fair scene in the background.
The characters I created for the National History Bee have been turned into life-size cardboard cutouts! They travel to all the competitions. Pretty cool to see my artwork turned into something that people comment about wanting to take home with them!
I recently completed the full creation of a comic book for a home builder named Chesmar Homes. This client project included:
- Writing a new story for the comic
- Concept development of the main character designs
- Illustrating the comic book pages
Writing the Story:
In initial discussions with this client, I found out that they wanted a comic book illustrated, to share the “legend” behind how their company got started. They wanted a fun comic book to use as a giveaway and promotional piece, to give out to interested home buyers and new home buyers. They hired me to not only illustrate the comic, but also to re-write their story. The owner had written a very simple, whimsical story- about a village that only had straw houses and then the home builders came along to help them build stronger homes. It was a good start, but was lacking a strong plot line or character development. So I took inspiration from their fantasy story, but added a strong plot. This included creating a character to be a foil to the main 2 heroes, creating a clear antagonist, and building a rising action, climax, and conclusion. When I had completed the writing, we had a much more interesting and captivating story, with characters to love, characters to hate, and a problem to conquer. This was a great first step in developing a compelling comic book for their business.
As with any story-based project I work on, I like to design and develop the main characters- their look and feel- before I start sketching the page illustrations. For The Legend of Chesmar, I felt it was best to develop Chester, Maria, and Robert D’Builder (the 3 Owners/Founders of the company), Winston (the Foil), and Mangus (the main Antagonist). The interesting part about this project, is that Chesmar Homes had an already existing base design for 2 of the characters, Chester and Maria:
These were designed as a contest that Chesmar Homes had, to give a scholarship to a young artist. The artist did a great job. For the comic, I felt like I could take the characters to the next level, in regards to professionalism, appeal, and also clothing that worked better for the fantasy/fairy tale genre of the story. Also, the client had requested a more Polynesian/Native American look to Maria.
Here’s my sketches for Chester and Maria. You can see how I strengthened the character designs and changed the outfits to match better with the story that I had written.
And here is Winston, the lovable pig, that is the Foil to Chester and Maria. His clumsy, timid persona is a great contrast to the smart and capable heroes of our story.
Also, there’s Robert D’Builder, who is a bit of the Mentor of the story, and also serves as the Narrator. This character was probably the most challenging to design, because the client wanted him to be a wizard, but specifically look like he’s in his 40’s (so not super old), not have a long beard, and be muscular, sort of like the build of Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. A tricky character design, but I really like how it turned out.
Lastly, my favorite character to develop, was of course, Mangus, the big bad wolf Villain of the story. I wanted him to look unique from other well-known wolves of Disney, Dreamworks, kids’ books, etc. It took me a few sketches to find a look that I felt represented the personality of Mangus, and at the same time was unique for this story.
Here’s the final character designs, all colored and finalized. Now with these characters’ looks and personas established, I can sketch the comic book pages without having to think about the character development at the same time.
Comic Book Page Sketching, Inking, and Coloring:
So, now that I had the story written, and the main characters designed and approved, I was able to start into the comic book page sketches. I started with thinking about the frames for each page, and laying out the frame boxes and dialog bubbles. I like to lay out the dialog bubbles first, as it helps me see how much room needs to be saved for the size of those.
Once all the pages were sketched and approved, then I began inking the pages. I find that inking all the pages first, keeps me in the same mindset and I work faster, than if I ink and color each page, one at a time.
And of course, the last step is coloring and shading the artwork. Here’s all of the final comic book pages.
Having a comic book like this is a GREAT way for a business of any kind to add value, share a bit of their background, personality, and leave a lasting impression on their customers. I am happy to talk with you about what mascot, comic book, or product illustration I could create for your business.
A little over a year ago, I developed a new toy line for a client in the vending machine industry. This is the illustrated characters from that first toy line. A pharaoh mummy, mushroom creature, elf, king octopus, and robot. The concept, name, characters, logo/branding, and illustrations were all imagined and created by me.
Here’s what the 3D modeled characters looked like for the first line. You can see that I had developed a very creative, imaginative, open-ended toy line, with a wide range of character types. The goal being a vending machine toy line that allows for collectability and a little something for every child’s taste.
And here’s how the first series of Imagiminis turned out- the 1-inch molded, cast, and painted plastic toy figurines. In the vending industry, the painting has to be kept to a minimum, to keep the costs low. Plus, because of the small size, there can’t be a whole lot of detail in the painting. This first Imagiminis toy line has been a huge success for my client. They continue to sell very well for them in the 1-inch capsuled vending machines.
This brings me to the new project- a second series for the Imagiminis line. My client has such success with the first line, that they wanted me to create and design a second series.
I had a lot of fun with the first Imagiminis series, so I was very eager to work on the next 5 characters. This vending supply client always requests toy lines with 5 characters within it. To start, I sketched out these 11 character concepts. To keep in the vision of the first series, I sketched a variety of science fiction, fantasy, whimsical, and fun characters for my client to choose from. My suggestion for the top 5 to use for the line were the venus fly trap monster, snail critter, samurai, orc goblin soldier, and squid warrior. My client loved my sketches and suggestions, and just asked for the 5th squid character to be swapped out with the cute unicorn, to bring a more girly character into the mix.
Once the character concept sketches were chosen and approved, I proceeded with the 3D modeling using zBrush. In this phase, as I am modeling each character, I tweak and adjust some of the proportions, to better fit for the round vending machine capsule in the end. Proportions and volume are key for these little toys- to make each one look and feel as large as possible for a 1-inch or 2-inch round capsule.
After building all of the Imagiminis characters in 3D, I export them from zBrush as sized STL or OBJ files for 3D Printing. Before the files get sent off to a 3D printer, I open the sized files together in Meshmixer, so that I can check the sizing of all 5 characters. It is important for a vending machine toy line like this, for all the characters to have the same look and feel in regards to the size and volume/mass. You want to be sure that each child feels like they have received the same “value” with each toy purchase.
After the 3D models and sizing is approved by the client, I render out nice, final color images of all 5 characters. These can be used by the client for marketing and promotion. They can also be used by the factory in China, for painting examples. At this point, normally, I receive the 3D printed prototypes and I hand paint them. Those painted prototypes then get shipped to the factory in China for mold making and paint examples.
After completing all the work, I also created these plastic colors and paint styling sheets for my client to use with their factory in China. These examples help assure the client will receive what they want from the factory in China. When working with factories overseas, it’s important to be specific on every aspect of the project.
I enjoyed working on the second series of the Imagiminis toy line and I look forward to continued work on more toy lines for this great client of mine. I’m sure that Imagiminis II will be just as popular and successful and the first series.
If you are looking for a great toy designer and illustrator, feel free to contact me. I am happy to answer any questions you may have. Developing a strong toy line is a very complex & challenging endeavor and I like to assist my clients as much as I can.
I sketched this SciFi Snail Slug Alien Soldier with a big space gun a few years ago. I had sketched it just for fun. Recently a repeat client saw the old sketch and fell in love with the character. He hired me again, this time to finalize this creature for use on his online video gaming channel, as the mascot for it.
I presented my client with 2 armor color options: orange and purple. My client chose the purple armor for the final illustration. He absolutely loved the final artwork. I do as well, especially the awesome giant glowing space gun!
I’d love to work with you on your project as well. Feel free to contact me to discuss your character and illustration needs!