In this post, I will explaing my top 5 tips on how to design a creature. I will also be telling the steps I took to create this creature (obviously a chicken if you look at it). The creature will be called Chickemono because every creature has to have a name. To make this even more awesome, I will give it a second title. Champion. That’s right. This version is the ultimate version of this creature. And it’s called Chickmono Champion.
At the same time, you might already see how creature design can be started. We have an idea of a creature. Chicken? We might know what we want to include into the design. King like elements? We might even know that there are other versions of the same creature.
Regular and Boss?
Think about games. Especially role-playing games. How many times have you seen one type of creature but in various colors?
Exactly! Quite many times, I would say.
It is productive to make one design and create various color schemes to represent different abilities. Red for example representing flame-like qualities while blue, giving a hint of water-like abilities. These are very basic things to consider and to keep in mind. But yet so powerful to just pass by. However, these kinds of things you can usually see in games or even in anime.
Pokémon is a perfect example.
Colors do represent abilities to some extent.
Next, I will talk more about the design process and what I keep in mind while drawing creatures.
Tip #1 Story and background for the creature
There is a major difference whether you design a creature or design a creature with a story. Now, we can always just design some awesome looking creature. But, what if we need a story behind this creature. Some kind of background to tell more about this creature we are creating. Now, that is a different thing.
You see, creating a story and background is quite difficult.
We could just come up different stories from our head and put them to the creature in hand. Would that give us a solid foundation? It could. But I doubt. Think about games, anime, movies, book etc. Usually, the character is quite thoroughly described. Like what is his/her preferences (likes to eat hamburgers, doesn’t like sun etc.), where he/she was born (underwater, in the clouds?).
All those little details that build the character. The creature should have the same building phase.
To be honest. I usually didn’t pay too much attention to this. It’s because I designed this creature, Yes, to be part of a book I’m writing but also because the books story and world building are still in wip. I do have a certain idea how this creature fits the world. But it’s still slightly in the back of my mind.
What I will take into account is the world, environment, time, situation and many other things when designing a creature. You have to think those aspects because every one of those affects the creatures features and looks.
Think about medieval and present time. You don’t see too many people riding horses with a shining armor these days. If you do, do let me know. Would be nice to know about this other dimension you are living in.
Getting back to the subject.
A story, like, how the creature was born, where it was born and what it has done in its life is all important. It creates more connection to the creature and also makes the viewer or reader realize what has happened or is happening. Background and story are essential if you are designing a creature for a book you are creating.
Even a small glimpse improves the creatures charm. Telling the story of the creature might be necessary if it is not seeable from the creature itself. It’s not always easy to come up with a story but figure something out. Even a small story.
Like this chicken here
His story is something of the following: Living in a small cottage near a neverending forest. A huge cliff next to the cottage makes the view amazing. While the forest is green and full of life the life is not always easy for this chicken. As the dangers are constantly present and looming in the deeper end of the forest.
This chicken has had to master self-defense. And by this self-defense mastery, the chicken has acquired a champion title for himself. To defend all evil doers and banish them back to the deep and darkest end of the forest.
As you see. The story sucks. Yes, but it still adds that little extra to it. Extra bs at least.
Tip #2 Features of the creature
After you have thought about the story and background. Hopefully something a bit better than mine. It’s time to move to the features.
As you probably can already notice. The features are the ones which are formed from the story and background you have created. Think about the time in which the creature is present. Is it based on future or past?
What about the culture. Is the culture something we know in this day and age. Or is it possibly something that we do not know yet.
Some unknown realm perhaps. Features should show the world where the creature is present. Like you see in my version of the chicken. We can already say that it is based on a different realm.
Growing eggs from the back are something you don’t see in reality. Also, the head is very different from what you normally see. So you have to show the creatures world in the creatures features.
You could add clothing, items or distort some shapes as I did, to make the creature a bit more interesting. Maintaining that certain sense of realism is important. If you draw something looks way weird and no one is sure what the creature is.
You have more explaining to do.
Surely we identify alien-like looking creatures. Usually. “Creatures that just look weird and does not have any resemblance to reality”.
I think it is easier to draw creatures that are somewhat related to real-world beings.
Tip #3 Abilities & color of the creature
Abilities and color have been a long time friends already. Think about it. How easy is it to tell the viewer that the creature is a fire type by coloring it with red and yellow? I mean, the viewer immediately associates the colors to an ability.
And to a fire, to be specific.
Even though abilities and color walk hand in hand. It is not written in stone to use colors in this manner. After all. You have to remember this creature you design is yours and yours alone.
Of course, if you are creating it to someone else or to a certain project. Then you do it the way that support the other elements surrounding the character. You also have to realize that if you use fire and try to tell the viewer that this creature spits out water and likes to swim. It could be that the viewer might not get that right away from the color choice.
You are battling an uphill battle there.
I would recommend that you use colors wisely. Use color schemes that are easy to understand when you try to tell the viewer about an ability. Dressing up with certain colored outfit or accessories could also be another way to convey abilities. This way you can color the creature differently.
But adding those certain colored items to the creature emphasizes what is going on and what the creature is capable of.
Adding a feather-like sword or something. Might tell the viewer that the creature can create wind like strikes. Just a thought. You can show abilities in many ways. Color is the basic and most used way. Accessories and clothing can also be effective.
Don’t count out the features that could also reveal abilities. Like The chicken could have had a fiery head. Don’t know what that top thing is called. So I just call it the top. The top part could be flame and thus tell the viewer of a fire ability.
I know that sometimes creativity just doesn’t flow and that’s it.
Tip #4 Upgrade the creature to new heights
As mentioned in the beginning. There is a regular version and this champion version.
When I started to design this creature I knew I would draw an upgraded version and a regular one. I also knew I needed to make the champion version a much more of…well more. Better and stronger version than the regular.
And here lies the whole concept.
The upgraded version always has to be somehow bigger, badder, better. Something along those lines.
Mine is badder and better. This is usually shown with more accessories, deeper coloring, changed features etc. Upgrade has to be an upgrade and not a downgrade. Don’t you think so?
The design process first starts with the idea of creating an awesome creature and only when that creature is complete I move on to design the champion version. You could design both of these at the same time.
I just didn’t take that route. I think it is easier to see how can I top the already awesome design you have. When you have all the coloring and lineart done and see the final piece. You can more easily figure out what needs to be changed and what needs to be added to create the ultimate version.
Tip #5 Designing boss creature or minion
Now, this is a huge thing. Stop for a second and think about movies and games. Think about Final Fantasy game for example. How they design a creature?
You see a lot of little creatures, enemies to define them correctly.
Smaller enemies are usually a bit more simple in design and small in size compared to the player or compared to the boss creatures.
Why is that?
I strongly believe that size makes the player seem small and not so strong. Size emphasizes the creature strength and age.
Age, on the other hand, gives a clue that the creature has gained different abilities during its life. So this creature must something we must avoid. It is dangerous.
This is what I think about the boss creatures and this is also how they are more than often represented.
Final Fantasy is, in my opinion, one of the best examples there is. Thinking about creature design and also how creatures are shown.
One of the greats is also the Granblue Fantasy.
The talent is out of this world. If you are looking for good minions and boss references look no further than Granblue Fantasy and Final Fantasy. Those two IP (intellectual property) already gives you enough to juice up your mind.
In my case, there is no clear distinction between if this champion is a boss-like creature or not. If I were to draw a boss creature. The first thing would be to think how could I show the size of the creature.
To give you a few hints.
Place the creature against elements that are known to be big. Mountain, tree, cloud, house, truck, earth etc. Think about elements that are BIG.
How to tell size when you don’t want any background. Like in my case, I don’t usually draw backgrounds. Just because I like to focus on the main subject.
There is the viewpoint. I would most likely draw the creature from the “frogs” view. From bottom to look up. Like you would watch up to a giant next to its feet.
What if you don’t like the use of any special viewpoint? There is always the comparison silhouette. This however usually requires a human next to the silhouette of the creature to tell the size of the creature. So there you have it.
Size is always related to the object next to a creature so think that when trying to design a minion (smaller creature) or a boss creature (big ass thing).