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Dark Fantasy Character Design

with Xiaofan Zhang
4.7 (74)
Ignite your imagination and transform your characters into dark, mysterious personas. Unleash the dark magic within your art!
English, Spanish, 4 more French, Italian, Portuguese, German English, Spanish, 6 more French, Italian, German, Portuguese, Japanese [Auto], B. Indonesia [Auto]
3+
hours
16
lessons
Intermediate
level
Xiaofan Zhang

Your Instructor

Xiaofan, Toronto-based illustrator, is renowned for her cinematic horror/sci-fi art with a strong narrative focus.

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3+
hours
16
lessons
Intermediate
level
English, Spanish , 4 more
Languages
  • French
  • Italian
  • Portuguese
  • German
English, Spanish , 6 more
Subtitles
  • French
  • Italian
  • German
  • Portuguese
  • Japanese [Auto]
  • B. Indonesia [Auto]

What you’ll learn

  • Craft captivating and chilling fantasy characters that will leave your audience in awe.
  • Learn how to elevate your sketches to stunning, fully-rendered illustrations
  • Master the art of painting realistic eyes, noses, mouths, and hair
  • Unleash professional painting techniques that make garments come alive and metal objects shine
  • Infuse your artwork with beautiful, enchanting effects that add a touch of magic
  • Discover simple hacks to effortlessly draw intricate details and recurring patterns
  • Create focal points that command attention and guide your audience's gaze through your masterpiece
  • Harness the power of tried-and-proven Photoshop tools for a seamless, efficient workflow
  • Design custom Photoshop brushes tailored to your unique artistic style and specific needs
  • Master the art of placing shadows and highlights for depth and realism
  • Ensure your compositions are perfectly balanced and visually pleasing
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Description

Unleash the untamed power of your imagination and breathe life into the enchanting, bone-chilling characters that reside in the depths of your mind.

In this transformative course, expert concept artist, Xiaofan, guides you through every step of crafting mystical, memorable beings with intriguing personalities and captivating backstories that will send shivers down your audience’s spines! Don’t let your characters remain confined to your imagination! Say goodbye to artistic frustration and hello to mastery.

Immerse yourself in the world of dark fantasy as Xiao equips you with the essential techniques and secrets to unleash your creativity. Embark on an exhilarating journey alongside her, where every step unlocks new skills, bringing you closer to the glorious end result: a breathtaking, dazzling illustration that will leave everyone in awe.

You’ll dive deep into character development, starting with initial ideas and basic sketches, then adding unique outfits and props, creating a mystical vibe and incorporating cool details that add depth and interest! — so your artwork leaves a lasting impression.

Additionally, you’ll master the art of painting realistic-looking metals and clothing, placing shadows and highlights correctly, and creating balanced compositions with perspective and framing.

With the skills you’ll acquire in this course, they will transcend into reality on your canvas and wow the world! Sign up now!

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Who is this course for

  • Those wanting to create horror/dark fantasy artwork
  • Artists looking to pick up new digital drawing techniques
  • Anyone eager to create fully-rendered illustrations from scratch
  • Those interested in Xiofan’s unique painting process
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This course includes

  • 3+ Hours of on-demand videos
  • 11 Assignments
  • Layered Photoshop files
  • Downloadable brushes
  • 4 Cheat sheets/guides
  • 7 Reference images
  • Certificate of Completion
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Used in course

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What you'll need

  • Digital drawing software such as Photoshop or similar (see examplesAffinity Photo, ArtRage, Artweaver, Astropad, Clip Studio Paint, Corel Painter, Krita, Inkscape, IbisPaint, GIMP, Rebelle 4, Photoshop, Paintstorm Studio, Procreate, MediBang Paint, SketchPad, SketchBook, TwistedBrush, Vectr...)
  • You'll learn more if you have a drawing tablet
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Lesson Plan

with Xiaofan
Expand all sections
00

Introduction

02:15

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Welcome to the world of dark fantasy characters and creepy villains! Xiaofan, your instructor in this course, introduces herself, talks about her art style and shares what you can expect in her course!

Join her in breaking free from character stereotypes and bringing your dreams (or nightmares) to life!

01

Brainstorm your Narrative

09:44

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Let’s jump in! In order for your character design to be a strong, compelling one, it needs a clear, well-thought out story!

A good story influences the character’s personality, poses, expressions, clothes and setting, revealing who they are to the viewer.

Xiaofan shows you her detailed process and tips for starting a new illustration from scratch, including setting design constraints, finding inspiration, using dichotomy (it’s fascinating!), working with references and creating character descriptions.

02

References

11:22

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Now you’ll discover the power of using reference images to create detailed, fascinating illustrations!

Xiao discusses what primary and secondary references are, how to find them and use them effectively.

She’ll also show you essential tips to avoid unintended plagiarism.

03

Shape Language

17:47

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Explore the intriguing realm of shapes, motifs and silhouettes in this lesson, learning what they communicate about your character design and why it’s so important.

Xiaofan shares easy tips on how to implement primary, secondary and tertiary shapes while sketching to tell a fuller, more compelling story in your artwork.

Have fun playing with contrast, eg: taking something considered ‘safe’ and making it unsafe, taking something attractive and making it repulsive. (This is key for fantasy horror!)

04

Detail Planning

04:28

Use thumbnails to plan a design

Next step is planning out the details and finer aspects of your design, such as clothes, accessories and patterns.

You’ll learn how helpful it is to experiment with these elements on a small character thumbnail first, in order to make your life easier later when you begin the actual illustration.

Follow along, as Xiao demonstrates how she works on thumbnails.

05

Color Coordinating

12:45

Color theory tips by Xiaofan

Let’s talk about colors!!

Colors play a major role in the vibe of your piece, communicating who your character is, guiding the viewer’s gaze, emphasizing parts of the artwork and setting the mood.

Xiao gives you a clear breakdown of basic color theory that is easy to understand and apply to your own artwork!

She also delves into the cultural significance of color, what they represent, as well as practical tips for how to choose colors for your illustrations and use them tastefully.

06

Composing your Illustration

09:33

Learn perspective and composition with Xiaofan

The last (but not least) stage of planning, before moving on to sketching: Mapping out your composition!

It’s essential to plan how everything in your illustration will fit together to achieve a balanced, pleasing look that will grab the viewer’s attention.

Xiao unveils the main components of a strong composition, such as framing, guiding lines, perspective, depth of field and more!

She simplifies these concepts for you, giving clear demos, so they are much easier to understand and tackle yourself! Sweet relief!

07

Sketching your Base

21:01

Learn sketching techniques

Creating a good sketch is an essential step, as it provides a solid base to work off of, even if your finished painting doesn’t feature line art (like Xiao’s art).

She’ll show you her exact sketching process, sharing valuable tips, time-saving tricks and things to keep in mind, to ensure your illustration is proportionate and balanced.

You’ll also discover the main, tried-and-proven tools and features in Photoshop that Xiao uses all the time to speed up and simplify her workflow. Get an insider look into her favorite brushes, shortcuts, blending modes and other cool functions! Awesome, huh?


7.1
Photoshop Tools
15:39
7.2
Sketching
05:22
08

Color and Lighting

06:11

Add color and light to artwork

Time to start laying down some beautiful colors to the artwork! Yay!!!

Follow along with Xiao, as she paints in the base colors, adding values and tones, and shows you quick hacks to liven them up and make things pop!

8.1
Color and Lighting
06:11
09

Rendering - Part 1

17:04

How to draw the eyes nose and mouth

Now that you’ve learnt the theory and tips for painting the face and hair, you’ll get to apply it all to your illustration in this lesson.

Xiao breaks down how to draw facial features, sharing super simple tips for the nose, eyes, mouth and hair to make them look real!

She shows you exactly where to place shadows and highlights and key concepts which will ensure your faces turn out realistic and appealing every time!

You’re gonna absolutely ADORE it! (and possibly watch this lesson on repeat!)


9.1
Drawing and Shading Facial Features
07:47
9.2
Rendering
09:17
10

Rendering - Part 2

53:06

Paint realistic metal, patterns and chains in Photoshop

If you’re eager to learn how to make metal shine, garments fold and drape realistically, intricate patterns repeat flawlessly then this is the PERFECT lesson for you.

Prepare to be WOWED by shockingly clever ways to paint convincing textures and things like tiny chain links, clothing designs and elaborate symbols at lightning speed, while maintaining gorgeous, crisp detail!—With just a few simple tools!

She also demonstrates simple ways to draw hands from scratch, working with basic shapes first. You’re guaranteed to have a blast with this!

Watch the mesmerizing process as Xiao carefully renders and details her fantasy illustration, picking up valuable (real-world) skills as you go. 🙂


10.1
Drawing Textures and Hands
13:57
10.2
Rendering the headdress, necklace and clothing
20:37
10.3
Rendering chains, clothing patterns and nail polish
18:32
11

Final Touches

15:57

Paint fantasy characters with Xiaofan

To wrap up your fantasy piece, Xiao will show you how to add magical effects to give your artwork an ethereal feel.

You’ll learn how to create twinkling stars, hazy clouds, mystical swirls and enchanting glows that will enthrall your viewers! Additionally, you’ll find out how to add final tweaks in color, lighting and texture to give your artwork a professional finish!

And you’re done! Kudos to you for completing this course!!

11.1
Final Touches
15:57

Student Feedback

74 customer reviews & ratings

4.7

Course rating

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5 star
82 %
4 star
11 %
3 star
6 %
2 star
2 %
1 star
2 %
Best Suited for
Intermediate
The level is determined by a majority opinion of students who have reviewed this class. The teacher's recommendation is shown until at least 5 student responses are collected.

(Based on 74 reviews)

Most Liked
Clarity of Instruction 60
Helpful Examples 59
Great step-by-step process 56
Showing 10 reviews of
74
reviews & ratings
LC
Lauren C.

7 months ago

Verified Purchase
I have been following this creator for quite a while now, and to say I was excited when I saw this course advertised on your TikTok? A vast understatement. My credit card was receiving a charge the moment my fingers opened Draw21. I highly enjoyed this course, especially in a genre of art that is s
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o niche (and one I love) like dark fantasy. Of course, the tips, advice, and tools here are widely applicable to more than just illustrations made with dark fantasy in mind, but for someone like me, who centers their art hobby around this specific category of art... It was well worth the purchase, 100%. I would pay it again in a heartbeat. To the creator, Xiaofan Zhang: I truly love and appreciate your artwork and dedication to your craft. I also appreciate that you crafted this course and detailed your process, methods, tips, tricks, and creative inspirations behind the piece - thank you so much for sharing this with us. I know I have learned quite a bit from you (for example, using a skin tone and then the lighting color over it? I would never have thought of it myself) in the three or so hours this course takes to watch completely, and I don't think I could thank you enough for it. So, with that said, I look forward to seeing more of your work, and maybe one day some more courses from you!
I recommend it for Intermediate
5 people found this helpful
JP
Jorge P.

8 months ago

Verified Purchase
Nice course
I recommend it for Intermediate
1 person found this helpful
NK
Natalia K.

7 months ago

Verified Purchase
Very interesting and helpful, beautiful result. Thank you 🌸
I recommend it for Intermediate
1 person found this helpful
HO
Herlen O.

7 months ago

Verified Purchase
Thank you 💕
KH
Kaneez H.

7 months ago

Verified Purchase
Loved this course! Really inspired me to try a different style of illustration and content. Would love to see more tutorials from her!
I recommend it for Intermediate
1 person found this helpful
CB
Charles B.

7 months ago

Verified Purchase
I must say, I was taken aback by the actual subject. It is completely different feel from the thumbnail used to advertise this course on Facebook. So I was expecting a different look and feel for the subject. That being said this was still and enjoyable, informative with a beautifully designed chara
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cter. The history behind the subject and the source material was fascinating and even though I wanted to "get to the drawing" I still wanted to hear more. While it is intended for intermediates I feel like anyone regardless of experience can benefit from this course. I do look forward to more opportunities to learn from this instructor. Thank you for sharing your experience, your process and your culture.
I recommend it for Intermediate
1 person found this helpful
Kain D.

7 months ago

Verified Purchase
I really loved the whole design and thought process section of the course and actual showing the helpful tips and tricks how to improve, in theoretical and also in practical way, your artwork.
I recommend it for Intermediate
1 person found this helpful
JF
Jason F.

7 months ago

Verified Purchase
Great detailed steps for almost everything. Could've used a little more explanation and visual how-to on mixing the skin tone with the lighting color to get a mix of the two colors. It was verbally explained, but I wanted to see an example on the screen of just how to go about that step. It would've
+ Show more
added a little more clarity to the step. Otherwise, this was a great course, very detailed with all the smaller pieces being broken out for the chain, facial features, jewelry, etc. Loved the final touches, those are steps I'll be adding to my art. Thank you!
I recommend it for Intermediate
1 person found this helpful
D P.

7 months ago

Verified Purchase
Really loved all the pre-planning details. I always struggle with character development. Very insightful! And the process was easy enough to follow for intermediate artists. The tips and tricks were also highly appreciated, and breaking down the layer modes was also great information. Great tutoria
+ Show more
l! I already want to go and rework all my OCs following these steps. I'd love more! ♥️
I recommend it for Intermediate
1 person found this helpful
VA
Victor A.

7 months ago

Verified Purchase
Xiao is very good explaining what she is doing and the structure of the lessons is very useful.
I recommend it for Intermediate
1 person found this helpful
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About the Instructor

Xiaofan Zhang
Concept artist and Illustrator 1 course

Xiaofan is a concept artist and illustrator based in Toronto, Canada. She is known for her horror/sci-fi-themed illustrations in a cinematic style with a heavy emphasis on narrative.


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