9 five-minute thumbnail sketches, mirror flipped. These are mostly to generate ideas, not to be used as is.

I’m working on developing a bat-person for the next of my more illustrational images, like my Ant Man. Normally, at least up until recently, I’d only do one drawing, and just have at it until I was finished. There’d be tons of editing, tweaking it out, and learning from mistakes, trial and error. But I’d be essentially running with the first idea I hooked onto. That works well enough, but there are some simple preliminary steps I could take to help generate a more original creation.

Research / References

The first thing I did was download a bunch of pics of bats and put them in a folder. Then I studied them a bit. I noticed their ears almost always have striations in them, the noses could take any possible grotesque configuration, and the molars were often double-pointed like  twin mountain peaks. I tried to grasp the angles and perspectives of their open mouths. Here are some examples.

There were also a couple masks that were quite good, and also let me know what’s already been done before, and hence doesn’t need me to do it again. These, as good as they are, are a recipe for what not to do.

So, I don’t want my bat person to be a sort of blood-thirsty demon out of hell. Neither mask uses the large, decorative noses bats have, and both exaggerated the size of the mouth and teeth. The eyes are on the front, as opposed to the side, and both have a very large dome-shaped top of the head, which is completely unlike a bat. Pink, which works amazingly here, is sorta’ taken, as is the army green. I’m thinking I’ll go rich beige colors. They also both look male, despite the one being pink.

Thumbnail Sketches

This is the most important part because the idea is to not repeat yourself, in which case you try out some different possibilities. My sketches were just 5 minutes each, so all six took about a half hour. That’s time well spent if I then have a bunch of ideas to work with. Note that it would have been easier to sketch with pencil or pen on paper, because it’s much easier to draw by hand than with a stylus and tablet, but it was still more efficient to do everything digitally.

Normally, I’d draw the creatures at a 45 degree angle, or experiment with other angles. But here, I’m not doing that because I want to be able to combine different sketches, and so it’s better if they are all front and center (and if I can draw it three-quarter view to start off with, I can transpose it to three-quarters later anyway) .So, for example, I could do something like this:

In this sample, the center image is a combination of the better parts for the ones on the sides.

I don’t think I would have come up with the center bat, above, without going through this process. It’s a feminine bat person, with eyes towards the sides, an ornate nose, and a large but not grotesque moth. The ears meet in the middle, and it doesn’t have a bulbous head. I could bat up the ears more, and they could even be semi-transparent, which would be much harder to do with a mask than a painting (if it’s backlit, I can have warm light coming through them).  This mixing and matching stage can be a bit time consuming, but it’s also fun. One could take from more than two sketches, obviously, and resize parts as well.

One can also simply overlap the heads to see what happens. Here are a few examples of doing that:


The mirror technique

I noticed that a lot of digital painters use the new Photoshop mirror function to draw a half a head and have the other half appear in real  time. I can’t do that with my version, but I find an older technique I used to do with tracing paper when I was a kid works even better for me. This is just to make a sketch, then flip it, and overlap it onto the original. Now both sides are the same, but there are new variations, and because it’s perfectly symmetrical, it’s easier to combine with other sketches as I did above.

Here’s a 5-minute sketch, on the left, and then on the right flipped and laid on top.
And here’s another. This one’s a bit too like the masks.

What’s next?

I’m planning on making three composite versions from the 9 sketches. I’ll choose the best one, and then draw over it to make changes. After that, I’ll use the basic design and make a version that is off center, at more of a three-quarter angle. I don’t want it to be just a head, so I may put part of a bat wing in the background, and a bat hand in front. I have an idea for more content, but that can wait until later. Here, I’m just generating ideas so I dont’ make the same old zombie bat man that is the industry standard (however cool).

Stay tuned to see how this develops

~ Ends

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14 replies on “How to come up with more creative creatures

  1. Looks really cool. 🙂 I don’t always go with my first sketch either, but doing this wasn’t something I’d considered. Partly because I’m way too lazy, haha. 😀 But it seems like a cool technique. I liked the one best, that’s above the “The Mirror Technique” title. Especially the big one on the left, and the bottom right one. Big one looks kinda cool and evil, bottom right looks a bit like a fluffy puppy, haha. Cute bat creature. 🙂 Which makes sense since bats are kinda cute. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, right, that evil one looks very Gothic to me, a bit like a gargoyle.

      I only sometimes do sketches, but I do think it pays off in the long run. When I did my Ant Man, I made 10 sketches of monsters first, and then I combined them and so on, like I shared here. That’s why he had some original sorts of traits.

      So, this is a newer thing to do for me. When I get to making its hand, I’ll also make several to test out.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, you’ve got a point there. I like gargoyles too. XD

        I’m unsure about the whole “what is a sketch” thing. Because people seem to look very differently at what a sketch is. Clearly, I’d call those heads you made sketches too. But any unfinished picture that isn’t in the colouring stage, or lineart stage, are sketches to me. 😛 So basically everything I draw are sketches. lol But I’d call these focused sketches perhaps, since they’re all concentrated on one thing. And I think it’s a good technique you have there. The last drawing I made, a demon guy, I did two sketches. One, which was a fail. Then another one which I was happy with, and outlined.

        Hands are hard! I effing hate drawing hands. lol. They always look weird. Good luck! 🙂

        Np. Thanx for sharing your experiences. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think these are technically called “thumbnail sketches”. They are also small, even as digital files. The small size prevents one from obsessing on details, and helps one focus on just brainstorming.

        I picked this technique up from an illustrator almost 8 years ago, and only now have started to use it more, just because it’s smart. Other times, I just start working and don’t make a single sketch or ever look at a reference.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Cool. Of course, I don’t draw digitally. I use pen and paper. Sketching with a mouse would be hard. XD But it makes sense to make initial sketches small.
        lol, yeah, I do that too. XD

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Just a quick note. For the more afluent among us, there are what’s called “graphic tablets”, and with those your draw directly on the image. Some of them are like huge monitors. A lot of the pros use graphics tablets instead of the much more humble drawing tablets. Mine, by the way, is the cheapest Wacom tablet on the market, or the second cheapest.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Yeah, I know. 😛 I’d like to try one of those some day. 🙂 Haha, yeah. That’s probably what I’d get too. XD But so far, I haven’t really bothered because I like traditional mediums. It’s not often I wanna do stuff on the computer. I like having that original in my hands. 😛 But it’s definitely is easier to not need to scan/photograph your art. 😛 Oh well. Maybe I’ll try it someday. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Very cool techniques for character design. I hadn’t ever considered this. Seeing how well Ant Man ended up from his humble beginnings, I’m very much looking forward to following this one from the beginning so see how it evolves.

    Curious to know, are you taking into account Ant Man when making decisions about how to design this one so they are complementary but different, or is this a total start-anew?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I think naturally I would make them similar but different. This one’s definitely not going to be covered with lumps (which are covered with even smaller lumps). I’m going to add an appendage so it’s not just a head, this time. Different color scheme.

      So, it might turn out to be the second in a bit of a series, but I’m not really planning more than a few that tightly belong. Eventually I want to incorporate more elaborate backgrounds, and dip into robots or cyborgs, or monster/cyborgs, etc. I also will want to work in some digitally sculpting to help with the creative process. If I get to all that, that is.

      For now, it will be enough to make this one.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great! My vote for #4 [left side middle of up and down]. I’ve trouble taking the depressed looking ones with outsides of eyes slanted down seriously. I’ll be following interestedly.
    Y’r ol’ Bud, Fike

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, it will be some combination of two or more of them, and then I’ll draw over that. Hah, the depressed looking ones, as you put it, were a deliberate attempt to do something I wouldn’t normally do. I am physicall incapable of making my eyebrows go up in the middle, so it’s not a look I’m intimately comfortable with. We’ll have to wait and see what materializes over time.

      Thanks for looking, and sharing your take.


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