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Digital Character Illustration

Page history last edited by Frank Curkovic 11 years, 7 months ago



Title: Are You The Right Type?

Unit Objective: To design and create a character illustration representing a font using Adobe Illustrator.

Students are evaluated on knowledge, process, participation as well as product.

*Lesson activities below are subject to change at teacher's discretion.


Approaches to Learning:


•time management—including using time effectively in class, keeping to deadlines

•self-management—including personal goal setting, organization of learning materials


•self-awareness—including seeking out positive criticism, reflecting on areas of perceived limitation

•self-evaluation—including the keeping of learning journals and portfolios, reflecting at different stages in the learning process


•generating ideas—including the use of brainstorming

•planning—including storyboarding and outlining a plan

•inquiring—including questioning and challenging information and arguments, developing questions, using the inquiry cycle

•applying knowledge and concepts— including logical progression of arguments

•identifying problems—including deductive reasoning, evaluating solutions to problems

•creating novel solutions—including the combination of critical and creative strategies, considering a problem from multiple perspectives

Key words: Adobe Illustrator, Belzier, Cartooning, Character, Command, Comics, Curve, Digital, Direct Selection Tool, Font, Handles, Paths, Points, Racism, Selection Tool, Stereotypes, Swatch, Typeface, Typography, Weight (line)


Creative Process:

1. Research

2. Style Selection

3. Thumbnail Sketching

4. Refinement Sketches

5. Building Your Artwork

6. Final Artwork


Digital Character Design Rubric


Cross-curricular links: Grade 8 Humanities (political cartoons: exaggeration, labelling, symbolism), EAL (picture books & cartooning)


40 High Quality Adobe Illustrator Character Tutorials

Quick Tip: Lightning Fast Coloring with Live Paint also check related blob brush



Expressions: http://lackadaisy.foxprints.com/exhibit.php?exhibitid=333


*Activities are subject to change at teacher's discretion.

Week 1 - Intro & Research

Class brainstorm: Name all the fonts you can in 30 seconds.


Watch the following video and pay attention to some of the font names that appear.


Sequel to the above video here.


In groups, discuss the following and record your answers:

  1. What are fonts/typefaces?
  2. Does font help convey meaning? How?
  3. When and how are different fonts used?
  4. How can font make an impact?

Be prepared to share your answers with the class.


Typefaces give us signals from erik spiekermann on Vimeo.


Unit Question: What are stereotypes? (Class discussion)

Review the following characters from the video clip.

Do you feel the characters reflect or create stereotypes? Do you feel they are racist or offensive? Why or why not?

What stereotypes have you encountered?


Unit Task:
Review the significant concept for the unit: "We can write with pictures." Is a picture worth a thousand words?

You will be given a font. Using your font, you will need to think both creatively and critically to design a human comic character. Your character must embody or personify the traits of the font.

other Typefaces here.


Take some time to brainstorm ideas and do some preliminary research for your font. Think about its possible appearance and what the font means. When complete, share your ideas in a small group and add to your list. Remember, this is simply a brainstorm activity to help generate ideas.

  • What mood, situation or images does it convey?
  • Can you play on the title of the font?
  • What nationality is it?
  • What time period is it from?
  • Is it male or female? Adult or child?
  • Hero or villain?
  • Tall or short?
  • Muscular or weak?
  • How is its posture?
  • What clothing could it wear to accentuate the meaning?
  • What facial expression would it have?
  • What could its occupation be? etc.

You will need to show evidence of your brainstorming phase. This will be part of your Knowledge & Understanding mark on the unit rubric.


Task: Practice Drawing Heads

Explore creating heads. Create several that are circular, oval, square/rectangular and others. Keep these sketches. Experiment with the placement of eyes etc. 

Image below scanned from this book.





  • Continue researching and brainstorming traits for your font and practice drawing heads. (Required)


  • What Type Are You? Answer 4 simple questions to see what typeface you are. (Optional) 
  • Watch the following video on comics. (Optional)

The Story of Comics from Maeve Clancy on Vimeo.


Week 2 - Heads, Faces & Planning



Review your brainstorm for your font. Considering your brainstorm, complete the planning sheet provided you.

When your character plan is complete, begin experimenting with heads and faces. Remember, you should be experimenting and only creating sketches. Currently you are only planning and experimenting. Our phases are below:

Images below scanned from this book.


Images below scanned from this book.




When you have several planning sketches done, you may begin developing 2-3 of them.







eyes: http://illustration.worth1000.com/tutorials/161970/adding-expression-to-characters


Homework: Continue with next phase of facial sketches. (Required)



Week 3 - Bodies

Consider your plan. Begin experimenting with various bodies.

A typical human male body is 6.5-8 heads longs. A superhero may be 10 heads long and a cute character will be 2-2.5 heads long.

Test to see which suits your character best. You should create at least 3 body sketches. Do not worry about details. These are loose sketches. When you discover one you like, you may begin elaborating it.

Images below scanned from this book.








Homework: Begin exploring facial features as outlined in week 4 (Required)


Week 4 - Facial Expressions, Poses (and Shading)

Facial Expressions will enhance and display a lot about your character. View the information below and create drafts for your character. Images below scanned from this book.


What pose will enhance your character? You should also begin taking clothing into account. Images below scanned from this book. 

Here are some quick sketches for poses. You are encouraged to try some. Images below scanned from this book.



Optional: If your character is taking inspiration from Marvel or DC Comics, you may find this useful:


Now that you have thought of your character, its facial features, its posture, its clothing etc, you may also reconsider the style of your drawing. A true artist will explore various avenues, styles and techniques. Image below scanned from this book.


Optional: If required, have a look at hands.

Images below scanned from this book.



Shading Exercise


Week 5 - Inking

Finalise your character with all the elements you have learnt so far.


Homework: This week's drawing must be complete by next class. (Required)


Week 6 - Going Digital

Intro to the pen tool in Illustrator. Before beginning the 2 tutorials, you will need to download these 2 files by simply clicking them:

Illustrator Pen Tool Prac1.tif

Illustrator Pen Tool Prac2-Maze.tif

Now you may begin the Prac 1 tutorial. This should take 20-30 minutes. Don't forget to save your work.


Now you may begin the Prac 2 tutorial. This should take 30 minutes. Don't forget to save your work.



You will need to have your character drawing scanned and the jpg file saved for next class. This is ESSENTIAL! You will need it. If everyone plans on scanning it at the beginning of next class, there will be traffic and you will fall behind. Feel free to come in to use the scanner anytime you are free.


Week 7 - Going Digital

Students begin tracing their character in Adobe Illustrator.


How To Draw a Cute Vector Dog Character in Illustrator


Week 8 - Going Digital



Week 9 - Going Digital


You should print and save your design as a TIFF file for the next class. Please email the TIFF file with your "Name-Font title-Grade Group-year" to the teacher. (ex. CurkovicF-TimesNewRoman-8B-2011)

Week 10 - Presentation & Reflection

Students will present their character to the class and write reflections.

Print your finished character design on A4 paper and place it in your folder.


In paragraph form, please answer the questions below and include relevant key vocabulary used in class.  You should have an introductory and concluding statement. Please provide detailed examples to explain and support your statements.

Key Vocabulary: Adobe Illustrator, Belzier, Cartooning, Character, Command, Comics, Curve, Digital, Direct Selection Tool, Font, Handles, Paths, Points, Racism, Selection Tool, Stereotypes, Swatch, Typeface, Typography, Weight (line)
Note: Sometimes it is as important to state what you haven’t done, as much as what you have done.


  1. State your font, describe your character and how you attempted to design and create a character that personified your font. How did you “write with a picture?”
  2. Describe the progress you have made so far (this may include research, planning, developing your character as well as tech tools).
  3. Describe the difficulties and successful elements you had in this project (this may include research, generating ideas, planning, developing your character as well as technical knowledge).
  4. Identify effective strategies or goals to further develop and improve your artistic processes (this may include research, planning, your drawing skills as as technical skills).
  5. In your opinion, do you feel stereotypes aided or hindered your development when creating your character? Why or why not?



Teacher Resources:

 Character Illustration on Creative Sessions

20 Questions for Characters






Art For Kids: Cartooning

How to Draw and Paint Crazy Cartoon Characters

How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way



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