View Full Version : TUTORIAL - Creatures by Design - by Bobby Chiu

05 May 2006, 04:24 AM
Hey Everyone,

I promised Rebecca a tutorial and I always mean to keep my promises. I hope you like it. It's from my latest book - "Creature Sketches"


As a professional artist, you will probably be called upon at some point to design a fictitious creature or character. You might be given a few adjectives for guidelines (menacing, cute, funny, etc.) beyond which you can paint or draw whatever you want.
Endless possibilities.

This is a scary thought to a lot of artists because it can feel like being stranded in the middle of a desert with 360 degrees of free movement but no destination in sight. Where do you begin? Where do you end? And what goes in the middle?

Creative Evolution
Before you go randomly designing a creature, think about what you’re trying to accomplish. Just because your creature is fictional doesn’t mean you are free to throw down anything that crosses your mind. Consider this: the most compelling creatures have a purpose—they’re compelling because, even though they’re not real, they MAKE SENSE. A polar bear-type animal with thick fur living in the desert wouldn’t make much sense. The creature would be JARRING, not COMPELLING.

So here’s your first consideration: real life animals typically look the way they do for a practical, evolutionary reason. Every detail—like a leopard’s spots or a chimp’s opposable thumbs—exists for a logical purpose. So keeping this in mind, imagine that you’re not so much CREATING your creature so much as you are watching the results of its natural evolution.
Let’s begin with its habitat, since how a creature has evolved is often dictated by its environment. So, where does it live? Maybe it’s a cave-dweller. If this is the case, how does that affect its appearance? Its skin might have minimal pigmentation due to its lack of contact with sunlight, leaving it very pale and pink in color. For the same reason, maybe it has tiny eyes but large ears because sound is more important to it than sight is as it navigates through pitch black caves.

If your creature lives in a cold environment, how does it stay warm? Is it extra furry or fat? Or on the flipside, if your creature is from a hot environment, how does it stay cool? Is it hairless? Or perhaps its body is long and thin so that it doesn’t retain heat?

Does its coloration help to camouflage it into its surroundings? Or is its coloration very bright and eye-catching in order to serve as a warning to predators? Maybe the creature has a distinctive pattern that serves some other special purpose, such as markings that look like eyes to keep predators from trying to sneak up on it while it’s sleeping.
This creature, for example, wards off predators because the combination of its colors and its folds gives it a tiger-like appearance to confuse and intimidate other animals which might otherwise try to attack it.

In addition to color, also consider texture. Does your creature have tough skin like a rhino or possibly a shell like a turtle?

Do they mate? If so, how do they attract the opposite sex? Do they have long manes like lions do? Or colorful spots, stripes, or other body parts (the bright blue snouts of mandrills comes to mind) with which to attract a mate?

Once we’ve brainstormed some ideas about its basic appearance, let’s consider structure and function. Think about locomotion: how does your creature get around in its environment? Does it have claws to climb up trees? Does it have large fins to help it swim?

How and what does it eat? If it’s a plant eater, it might have predominantly large, flat teeth for grinding. If it’s a meat eater, its teeth would most likely be pointed and sharp so that it can cut and rip through a carcass.

How does it get its food? Does the creature hunt its prey, and if so, how does it do this, by chasing it down, sneaking up on it, or by lying in wait? Or perhaps the creature is a specialized forager with a body (or body parts) suited particularly for its favorite food. For this, consider the long neck of a giraffe, which allows it to reach the tender leaves at the tops of trees, or anteaters, which have long, specialized tongues, which they can reach into anthills.

When you are standing in the desert with endless possibilities before you, every question you ask yourself about your creature is a signpost to your final destination. Come up with your own questions, the more the better.

05 May 2006, 04:27 AM
My Creature
I made a list of descriptions and wrote them down on a piece of paper. I thought about this list as I sketched and I kept coming back to it as I painted. How can I tie these points into one another?
Here is my creature on paper:
• It lives in wooded and grassy areas—earth tones.
• For defense, it has quills on its back like a porcupine.
• It also has a big, flat head to ram its predators.
• It is powerful but front heavy so it has a long tail to help balance itself.
• Its average size: 5-feet tall, 13-feet long, 1200 lbs.
• It hunts monkeys by head-butting trees and catching them as they fall out of the branches
• It has poor hearing.
• It has a very loyal temperament but is not very bright.
With these descriptions in mind, I sketched out the general shape of the creature and added direction of light and shadow.

As this creature’s natural habitat would be plains and woodlands, I made the background grassy with the creature blocked in with a warm dark red.

Now I build up the fur while slowly turning down the opacity of the layer with the original sketch on it until it has completely disappeared.

Final touches include long quills along the creature’s back and down its tail.

Final concept

05 May 2006, 04:37 AM
Booooobyyyyyyyyyyyy ! Thank you very much kind sir! :D

05 May 2006, 04:38 AM
W00t! Thanks so much Bobby! This is super. :)



05 May 2006, 07:45 AM
bobby, awsome stuff once again!, thanks for helping out the community aswell :)

05 May 2006, 08:14 AM
ahahahah that bunny/kangaroo thing is soo great.
Really great tutorial, and thanks for the effort!
nice too see a bit of your mind!

05 May 2006, 01:49 PM
I am speechless, this is just too... too awesome, :thumbsup:

05 May 2006, 04:12 PM
Thanks very much Bobby. A good insight in the mind of your craziness.:D

05 May 2006, 05:38 PM
Thanks for sharing man, very much appreciated

05 May 2006, 05:52 PM
Wow - some of these I didn't see in your CA thread. Love them all - really excellent work Bobby. Really need to get this book...


- d.

05 May 2006, 05:53 PM
Hey this is really neat! Thanks so much for sharing =)

05 May 2006, 05:56 PM
Wonderful tutorial, thank you so much!

I'm really inspired to try out a creature of my own :D.

05 May 2006, 06:06 PM
WoW super designs! and tchnicue is perfect!

05 May 2006, 06:58 PM
Thank you very much.

05 May 2006, 07:03 PM
great tuitorial.. i really enjoyed the insite and all your works. thanks :bounce:

05 May 2006, 07:16 PM
Mouahah ! Excellent !
great sketches and thanks a lot for this cool tutorial !

05 May 2006, 08:44 PM
Thanks so much bobby :)
yo da man :scream:

05 May 2006, 08:50 PM
Very usefull theory!
However I have a critic on your sketch: how could this creature eat monkeys with teeth of a (gold)fish? :rolleyes:

05 May 2006, 09:36 PM
That's totally awesome Bobby! I just might have to crack out Photoshop and try this as an excercise. Great stuff! Thanks for sharing! :applause:



05 May 2006, 10:18 PM
hey Bob, tnks for share this with us, this is really great my friend...

Tnks again.

See ya

05 May 2006, 11:41 PM
wow cool, now Im really loonking for creature reference ..., and its concept

05 May 2006, 12:13 AM
Cudly and bity at the same time:)

05 May 2006, 01:11 AM
Wow, I never thought a fictional animal could be so complicated! Thank you for sharing!

This really reminded me of Magic the Gathering art on the card... They probably went through the same process. I wish I could draw something like that. (Yes, I'm a big MtG fan...)

05 May 2006, 07:00 AM
Thank you very much for this tutorial Bob.
This gave me alot of inspiration.

05 May 2006, 08:52 AM
hey bobby!

thanks for sharing. i bet this one be very helpful some day.


05 May 2006, 08:56 AM
Amazing Bobby, thank you very much. I wan't more, more...

05 May 2006, 02:41 PM
Just bended time and space and advanced my imaginative process, thanks for this tutorial and inspiration. AWEsome

05 May 2006, 04:11 PM
Beatiful tutorial and beutiful art!! Thankyou!!! :thumbsup:


05 May 2006, 04:24 PM
Thanks to everyone for your love and support. This new Creature Sketches book is something that I'm very proud of. Many sleepless nights have been put into this and I feel extremely blessed to have a great community like cgtalk that supports my work.

Rebeccak - Thanks very much for the plug Rebecca! I've been meaning to do this earlier but just had to find the time. I hope to do many more in the future :)

Menesis - I just figured that the creature would swallow it's prey and the monkey would run out of air and die... :P

To everyone else that commented, I thank you. Your kind words inspire me to work hard everyday.

Here's some other pics from the Creature Sketches ( book.

05 May 2006, 05:23 PM
you diffenently got a massive skill making crative creatures ;) these are all amazing and really make my brain spin. Thanks for the inspiring words and images

05 May 2006, 06:33 PM
Bobby:wise: i ve always found ur creative artwork on characters vry impressive & inspiring:bounce:
Thanks alot for sharin with us ur work from Creature Sketches book:)
I look fwd fr more...
Meanwhile i'll get inspired and run my imagination fr creatin new creatures:arteest:

05 May 2006, 08:28 PM
Great tutorial Bobby! Top notch as usual.....

05 May 2006, 12:09 AM
Oh :D Greatness :) These are greatly imaginative and fun to look at it. Some have the "pug effect," where the creature looks so adorably cute because they have the short end of the stick in the "sleek" department. Thanks for the insights.

05 May 2006, 07:13 PM
NICE!:) Thanks for sharing Bobby!:)

Dreamy Kid
05 May 2006, 02:16 PM
thanks boby, i've been curious with this creature design process for a long long time. I'm glad you make this tutorial. I have got a question to ask if it's not too much, Do you think the knowledge of animal anatomy is a must for designing creatures?
thank you :D

05 May 2006, 02:43 PM
Wow man! Thanks a lot for this! Great tips and insights!

I´ll go play God now, excuse me.

05 May 2006, 08:40 AM
Thank you. I found the tutorial most helpful and it clarified what I should be thinking about when designing creatures!:)

06 June 2006, 09:33 AM
Excellent tutorial!

07 July 2006, 08:13 PM
gr8 lesson!
thanx alot of sharing this helpful information bob
I really enjoyed it


07 July 2006, 04:01 PM
Bobby i really got inspired from this tutorial and your work on Character Designs, :thumbsup:so decided to develop a character of my own. Here u can crit my work:)

I ve posted it on my anatomy thread.

Inspiring Character Designs in your published books:scream:

10 October 2006, 05:32 PM
Hi, Bobby. The images on for the first post of this thread are missing. Is there a chance you can update them for those of us who have not had the chance to see it before?

10 October 2006, 06:31 PM
Hi, Bobby. The images on for the first post of this thread are missing. Is there a chance you can update them for those of us who have not had the chance to see it before?
ye, that would be cool :)

10 October 2006, 10:09 PM
yes, error images :cry::cry::cry:
thanks in advance.

10 October 2006, 01:27 AM
Thanks to Bobby for relinking the images. ;)

11 November 2006, 11:12 PM
Excellent! I didn't realize you had re-linked these already.

As I've said before, you ability to communicate (and by extension teach) is as good, if not beter than your art. (I mean that in the best possible way.)

11 November 2006, 02:52 AM
I've been starting to pick up these wonderful the one on fairies, just ordered this...very inspiring...thanks for the tutorial.


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