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Creating Crazy Creatures with Nyki Way

Character design is an artist’s way to bring new personalities to life. A little bit of paint, ink, and imagination is all you need to set up a creepy (or cute) creature lab. Resident Artist Nyki Way has some tips for getting started. 

Method #1

My favorite way to make a creature is to start with a random shape. It’s best to think of various fruits while you do this as it will help with variety. Randomly place a wide pickle shape or another poorly drawn oval inside that shape to make a mouth and then fill it in.

After that, draw many circles all over the shape to make eyeholes, then add dark circles in those circles for the pupils.

The final step is adding things like hair, ears, teeth, or other body lines and wrinkles. Before you know it, WAHLAH! You have a creepy (but also kind of cute and cuddly) creaturemabob.

Method #2

Another fun and mindless way to make creatures is by the paint blob method. This one is especially fun because you just get to play with paint. Find a brush or a sponge, even your finger will work. Dip your tool in some paint and make random blobs.

You can get creative here by dropping in different colors, playing with texture, and using different objects to make unexpected shapes. You can work digitally, use any kind of paint, or even squirt some juice on a piece of paper. Anything to make a shape.

Now wait for your paint to dry and eat a sandwich, check your Instagram, whatever you like to do.


Return to your splotches and give them a good look. Start to imagine characters in the shapes. Does it look like a bird? Maybe you see a bat eating a hot dog! Take out a black pen and start to develop the shapes into characters.

It’s easiest to start with eyes or  mouth like the previous example. In my own experience I find that the character often reveals itself once I add a couple (or nine) eyeballs. This is an exercise, so don’t worry about making these perfect, just really focus on finding your character within the blob!

Finish these off by bringing out highlights in the eyes or body using a white gel-pen.

Method #3

When you’re ready to make a clean and fully rendered monster, start by conceptualizing who and what kind of character you’ll make. I decided on Jimmy Janglers, a banana loving cowboy monster who carries his trusty steed in his arms.

Always start with a sketch. I do the same things I did in the previous examples, starting with bigger shapes and then surrounding them with smaller more complicated ones. This is where I have a lot of back and forth with myself. Just keep drawing until you like what you see, because once you get to the final parts it can be more difficult to change. When you’re satisfied with your sketch, reduce opacity to 30% or 40%.

Create a new layer. This layer is only for line-work. Sometimes i’ll use a color and then change it with the Hue / Saturation tool once I decide on the colors that fit my character, but it’s best to use a dark hue so you can see what you’re doing. Sometimes I lock the transparent pixels in this layer, then take a wide airbrush and create a gradient with my lines. Looks preeeetttty sweet!

Make one final layer. The last step is to fill in your objects and add a background color to your line work. If you’re into shading you can do some of that. Now add some patterns or stripes for visual interest, and BA-DA-BOOM you’ve got a creepy cute cowboy!

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