Character Camp!

Welcome to Character Camp!  Character Camp is a series of prompts, guides, and tutorials to help you design and draw your own original characters. This series was created in conjunction with the Making Art Everyday challenge. Each day for five weeks, we’ll have a different prompt to get you learning how to draw characters. We’ll be exploring human characters, animals and creatures, even inanimate objects as characters. This page will be updated throughout the month, so be sure to check back!

Jump to a week

WEEK ONE // Build-A-Character

For this first week, we are focusing on drawing a single, human character. To ease into things, and to get you thinking about what goes into developing a character, we’re going to build our characters one piece at a time.

1. Define the Character

Spend the first day defining your character and what makes them unique. Create a profile determining their physical apperance and personality. Take notes and make doodles! The more you know about your character, the better. This information will help you determine how your character looks and behaves.

Read my article, How to Develop a Character for info about what makes a good character and questions to answer about your character for their profile. 

2. Clothing

Draw the clothes that your character might wear. Don’t worry about drawing them on a body, draw them flat like they’re laying on the ground. Keep it easy, this is meany to be a brainstorm of what clothes you think this character might wear. Finish with color to start getting an idea of a color palette for your character.

Watch the Clothing & Accessories Tutorial

Play Video

3. Accessories

What accessories might this character wear or carry? Use what you know about your character to guide you. Think back to their story, where they live, and the things they want to do. It’s all fair game: hats, shoes, glasses, props, scarves, hair accessories, maybe even a little animal friend!

Watch the Clothing & Accessories Tutorial

Play Video

4. Hair

Hair is a character all in itself! Try sketching a few hairdos before landing on the one that feels right for your character. Finish it in full color to practice hair texture. See my People Skills lesson on drawing hair for extra help!

Watch the Hair Tutorial

Play Video

5. Face

It’s time for one of the most essential parts of your character, it’s face! Think about how you want to depict each of the facial features: eyes, nose, mouth, ears, etc. Are there any unique features such as freckles, a scar, a missing tooth, facial hair, etc? Remember to make your character unique! Play around with different styles and proportions of features and decide which you’ll use for your character.

Watch the Face Tutorial

Play Video

6. Body Shape

Experiment with different body proportions to determine your character’s body shape. Draw the body shape without any details added. Remember to exaggerate features for extra interest!

Watch the Body Shape Tutorial

Play Video

7. Putting it all together

Play Video

Today’s the day! We’ll be putting all the pieces together: the body, the head and face, hair, clothing, and accessories. Don’t worry about creating a dynamic pose for your character just yet; opt for a neutral standing position. This is your finished piece: be sure to finish the drawing completely with color, shading, and texture.

WEEK Two // Animals & Creatures

You can turn an animal into a character by giving it some human characteristics.

This could be by giving it personality traits, outfitting it in clothing and accessories, by making the facial features more exaggerated and expressive, adapting the way it physically moves, or a combination of these! The point is to humanize the animal. And don’t forget to employ some level of stylization in your animal. And don’t forget to employ some level of stylization in your animal. Hyper-realism doesn’t work so well in animal characters. 

Read my article, How to Draw Animal Characters and watch the full tutorial below!
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This week, your focus for Character Camp will be drawing creature or animal characters from prompts. Below are the #MakingArtEveryday prompts, followed by some additional prompts in case these didn’t spark you interest. Of course, you can always use the Random Character Generator for ideas as well!

Prompt List

Mon: cat
Tue: bear
Wed: mermaid/man
Thu: duck
Fri: mouse
Sat: monster
Sun: artist’s choice!

Additional Prompts: 

Animals: dog, crab, pigeon, dinosaur, raccoon, flamingo, earthworm, bird, rabbit, chameleon, hippo, sloth.

Creatures: fairy, unicorn, dragon, gnome, ghost, skeleton, yeti, troll, vampire, zombie.

I'd recommend approaching this week's prompts in one of two ways:

Option One:
Create "Quick Characters"

Draw each of the prompts, one per day. This will be an exercise in quick thinking and idea generation. Don’t worry about getting too detailed with your drawings — think of it as a character brainstorm. For each of the animal or creature prompts, think of a way you could characterize them. You can do this in several ways. You could draw the animal in a more human-like pose, or you can depict them performing an action. You can add some clothing or fun accessories. Give them a personality trait. Depict them portraying an emotion. Check out this People Skills tutorial about manipulating the facial features to convey different emotions

Option Two:
Create a Fully-Developed Character

Choose one animal or creature to develop fully as a character using the methods we employed in last week’s Build-A-Character. Pick an animal from the prompt list. Write a profile for the character, then progress each day, designing your character’s clothing, accessories, facial features, hair (or in this case, the texture and coloring of it’s fur/feather/scales/etc.), body shape, and finally, putting it all together. Depending on how much time you have this week, try doing a couple of characters!

WEEK Three // Inanimate Objects

Lifeless objects might not seem like they’d make great characters, but they actually give you TONS of room for imagination!

This week we are creating characters from inanimate objects. An inanimate object is not living, cannot move on its own, or have emotions and desires. SO there is lots of room for you, the artist, to dream up what all these things might be. Essentially, you are inventing a whole universe! That might sound intense, but I promise, it’s actually a lot of fun.

Read my tutorial, How to Create Characters from Inanimate Objects to learn more and watch the full tutorial below!!
Play Video
This week in Character Camp, you will be imagining and drawing characters based on different types of objects. Here’s what to do:
  1. Below are the prompts for each day this week. The prompts are meant to be slightly open-ended. Choose an object to use for your character that fits the prompt — don’t overthink it, choose what you are most familiar with. 
  2. Imagine a universe around this object. (See my article, How to Create Characters from Inanimate Objects for help!)
  3. Following the process in the article, Make a few quick, rough sketches 
  4. Finish your favorite sketch!

Prompt List

Monday: Kitchen Utensil // ex. Fork, spatula, egg beater, cheese grater

Tuesday: Some type of ball // ex. bowling ball, beach ball, bouncy ball, ball of yarn

Wednesday: Writing or drawing implement // ex. Pencil, pen, highlighter, paintbrush

Thursday: Food item // ex. vegetable or piece of fruit, pizza slice, ice cream cone

Friday: A plant // ex. Houseplant, tree, flower, mushroom

Saturday: Musical instrument // ex. guitar, tuba, flute, drum

Sunday: Artist’s choice!

WEEK Four // Aging A character

This week for Character Camp we are learning all about how to make a character look like it is a particular age.

There are a few key things to know that will make it really easy to have the character you are drawing come across as a child or an adult. For this week, I’ve put together a video tutorial that teaches you how to manipulate facial and body proportions to draw characters at different ages, from infant to elderly.

Head over to the tutorial post, How to Age a Character, from Infant to Elderly, or watch the video tutorial below!!
Play Video
What to do for Age-a-Character week:

1. On Day 1, practice how to age a face by following along in the How to Draw Characters at Different Ages tutorial. Just do some sketches of a simple face from infant to elderly to get yourself familiar with how to draw the different ages.

2. For the rest of the week, choose a favorite character that you designed earlier this month. It can be a human character, animal, or inanimate object.

3. Spend each day drawing THAT CHARACTER at the different ages. Get creative with your character’s outfit for each age, activities it might be doing, etc. Have fun imagining your character’s life!

Prompt List

Monday: age-a-face

Tuesday: baby

Wednesday: kid

Thursday: teen

Friday: adult

Saturday: middle-age

Sunday: elderly

Week Five // Emotions & Actions

Any good character should be able to show a range of emotions as they respond to their story’s events.
Our final week of Character Camp will put your character to the test! You’ll get to prove that your character can show the expressions and do the actions that would carry them through a story.
This week you will draw your character expressing 6 different emotions. Based on your character’s personality, you will need to imagine some scenarios that would cause them to feel these emotions. This is a great opportunity to draw your character performing an action. Look to reference photos of the action to guide you. For example, if your character needs to run, look up pictures of people running.
Watch my Emotions Tutorial from the People Skills series to learn for to draw expressive faces!
My recommendation is to use the same character for the entire week. You can use a new character, or one you’ve created previously in the month. Whatever you choose, you’ll want to have flushed out a profile for this character. The more you know about the character, the easier it will be to imagine up scenarios for their different emotions. Use my free Character Profile Template to define your character.
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What to do for Emotions & Actions week:

Spend the first day, brainstorming what would cause your character to feel joy, anger, sadness, disgust, fear, or surprise. Reference your character’s profile to tell you what they like and dislike, what they are afraid of, etc. Decide if you want to include any additional props, accessories, backgrounds, or environments. Sketch out some very rough ideas for each of the emotions.
For the next 6 days, complete a drawing for each of the 6 emotions.