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Introduction to Stylised Characters

with Maria Lia Malandrino
4.9 (52)
Learn to develop your own art style, as Maria explains how to apply stylisation to your characters, making them more realistic or cartoony in Photoshop.
English English [Auto]
Beginner to Intermediate
Maria Lia Malandrino

Your Instructor

Maria Lia Malandrino is an Italian illustrator and visual development artist working as a freelancer in Turin, Italy. Since 2017 she has been working for publishing houses and brands such as Disney, Oxford University Press, Hachette and others.

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Do you love drawing and practice regularly, but somehow feel like you’re not progressing much? You’re not alone! This has happened to most artists at some point in time. The trouble is when we repeat the same mistakes over and over again without actually realizing it. But, never fear, there is a way to break out of this cycle!

When you can understand the exact reasons that make an amazing illustration work so effectively and know which weaknesses to target in your own artwork, that’s a HUGE step in your growth as an artist. Having a greater awareness and understanding of style will improve your artwork by leaps and bounds, as your mind will be trained to uncover the structure behind art, to recognize what your drawing habits are, and …(perhaps more importantly) to identify how you can do better!

HIGHLIGHT: Two lessons teaching the basics of Photoshop for digital art!

In this course, Maria will discuss many aspect of artistic style and share the strategies you can use to develop your own! With a good balance of essential theory and fun practice, you’ll find yourself learning a TON of valuable knowledge that you can apply the next time you pick up your sketchbook and pencil. Be prepared to be venture outside of your comfort zone! It will be fun, promise!

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What you’ll learn

  • Learn the essential tools and functions for creating digital illustrations in Photoshop (Two Lessons)
  • Find out different ways to shade: cartoon, vector-style, soft shading, painterly and 3D shading
  • The 4 main aspects of stylisation: Primary proportions, secondary features, outlines and color & texture rendering.
  • Discover the various types of color rendering to achieve 2D, 3D and realistic styles
  • How to paint shadows at different angles on the same character
  • Understand why some styles work well, by learning to analyze them like a pro
  • Practice several fun exercises that push you out of your comfort zone
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Who is this course for

  • Intermediate artists who would like to hone their style and improve their skills
  • Beginner artists who want to learn how to develop their own style and become familiar with Photoshop
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This course includes

  • 3+ hours of on-demand videos
  • 2 style charts (JPG)
  • Book resource list
  • List of recommended brushes (PDF)

Lesson Plan

with Maria Malandrino
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Are you looking to develop your style and want to learn how? You’re in the right place!

Join your instructor, Maria, in this exciting course that delves into the ins and outs of this fascinating topic. 


Introduction to Style


What is stylisation? In this lesson, you will get a well-rounded overview of the foundation of artistic style. It’s vital to understand the basics of what makes a style recognizable and learn how to go about building your own.

Later on in the practice stage, this knowledge will help you progress faster, not just drawing with ‘hit-and-miss’ tactics, but having a keen awareness of what you are doing and why.


Variables to Stylisation


Maria will discuss the main features of characters that are most often altered in various art styles, making an illustration either more realistic or cartoony.

She will show you examples of popular character designs, so that you can see how these features can be tweaked depending on the style.


A Quick Overview of Photoshop - Part 1


Jump on board for a quick tour of Adobe Photoshop!

Maria explains the main tools and features used by artists (like you!) to create amazing illustrations digitally. She also discusses the pros and cons of similar software, like Procreate and Studio Clip.

It may seem daunting at first, but with her guidance and clear examples, you’ll be a Photoshop master in no time!


A Quick Overview of Photoshop - Part 2


Watch how Maria arranges her workspace in Photoshop and learn how to do so for yourself.

Having the workspace customized to suit your workflow can be really beneficial and time-saving, especially as you become more experienced. She also goes into detail about the major tools, functions and menus that are essential in digital drawing/painting.

After this lesson, you’ll be ready to navigate Photoshop with confidence!


Primary Shapes


At last: Practice time! Follow along with this fun exercise of changing a character’s primary proportions from a realistic figure to a cartoony one.

In this lesson, Maria focuses on the character’s silhouette shape in order to create a figure that works well, and to avoid getting distracted with all the little details at this initial stage.


Secondary Features


In the last lesson, you learned about a character’s primary shape.

Now it’s time to move on to the secondary features, such as hands, feet, eyes and mouth. You’ll discover how to change the overall style, by altering or exaggerating these body parts in different ways.


Corners and Curves


Did you know that there are variations in line art, which also affect whether an illustration looks more realistic or stylised? You’ll discover how and why in this video and learn how to create different stroke styles for your character’s outline.


The Importance of Color


What exactly is Color Rendering? Maria explains this concept in detail and shows you how to do different kinds of rendering to achieve several forms of stylization, including 2D, 3D and realistic.

Discover her favorite brushes and watch her demonstrate how she uses them …. And guess what?? You’ll even learn how to create your OWN from scratch!


The Use of Flat Colors


Follow along with Maria in this first stage of digital painting: Laying down the flat to achieve a ‘vector’ look.

She will also share cool tips, such as how to speed up your coloring process with the symmetry tool and various brush sizes and when to use either dark or light outlines, etc.


Cell Shading


Dive into the world of shading, starting with cartoon-style a.k.a. cell shading! Using multiple light sources, you’ll practice creating shadows cast at different angles on the same character.

Also, Maria will teach you how to add color to grayscale shadows (a popular method with digital artists).


Soft, 3D and Mix Shading


In this lesson, you’ll explore further styles of shading: Soft shading and 3D shading (without edge lines) and learn how to create both effects.

Also learn a neat trick to quickly create soft shadows with just one click using Box Blur.


Painterly Look


Watch a demo of Maria implementing a ‘Painterly Style’ rendering technique and understand the main principles so you can achieve this look in your artwork.




All about textures and how/when to use them! Follow along as Maria applies textures on a flat color illustration to create interest and depth, and on a painterly style illustration to make it look more realistic.

Find out exactly what brushes she uses to accomplish this and where you can find them!


Making Stylisation Work for You


How can you find your own style? Maria shares her own experience in developing her own style and passes on some strategies and exercises that you can do to help you figure out what you like, to determine what resonates with you.

Keep in mind that style is constantly changing and so it is very likely that you might adapt your style later down the line.


Six Styles Challenge


In this final lesson, Maria takes you through a useful exercise that will help you learn to analyze people’s artwork style so that you can understand why it works and enable you to look critically at your own art.




Congratulations on completing this course! The important thing when it comes to your style isn’t so much about ‘finding it’, but to always be looking!

Remember, self-reflection and critical observation of your own work is key to your improvement as an artist!

Student Feedback

52 customer reviews & ratings


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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 52 reviews)

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Great step-by-step process 46
Helpful Examples 43
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reviews & ratings
Judit T.

7 months ago

Verified Purchase
As the other courses which made by Maria, is so great, give simple understandable advices and examples! <3 I like the high quality content. All of the videos are super. I mainly use traditional materials, but I would like to buy my first tablet on the next month, and this course are giving a plus
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reason to try new things out. The opportinuties are endless in digital media, and this course is shows really practical and professional advice how to use them as a pro.
I recommend it for All levels
2 people found this helpful

7 months ago

Verified Purchase
Great course with an inspiring teacher and lots of useful examples!
I recommend it for All levels
1 person found this helpful

2 months ago

Verified Purchase
A wonderful course by Maria Lia, were she breaks down the process of identifying the different styles and how to use them. She also provides great resources and ways to practice.
I recommend it for All levels
1 person found this helpful

8 months ago

Verified Purchase
I loved! Sometimes we are so used to do one kind of stuff and then we see someone with a different way and an amazing tip and this does a huge difference! The course has several tips and insights, the teacher is awesome and explaining very well.
I recommend it for All levels

7 months ago

Verified Purchase
I am a beginner artist and have been stressing about finding my own art style. I got a lot of things out of this course but what stood out the most was that I don't need to stick to one art style. I can't wait to discover and learn new art styles!
I recommend it for All levels

7 months ago

Verified Purchase
Wonderful course!! This is exactly what I was looking for and I am so happy that I took it. For me, this course was perfectly executed. There is a great balance of theory and practice and everything is so clear and flows so well. Maria explains things super smoothly, there are wonderful examples and
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assignments so the student can follow along and it covers exactly the topics I was hoping to learn about as someone working on my own style. I highly recommend this course! :)
I recommend it for All levels

7 months ago

Verified Purchase
J’ai trouvé ce cours complet et clair avec des exercices, des exemples, des step-by-step etc. Rare sont les cours qui parle de style de dessin de manière aussi approfondit! I found this course complete and clear, with exercises, examples, step-by-step etc. It’s unusual to find course which tal
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ks about drawing style so deepens!
I recommend it for Beginner
Gustavo M.

7 months ago

Verified Purchase
I am a engineer and newbie in graphic art and design. I took this course because i was in trouble in finding my own style and this helped me a lot. I learned a lot, did the assigments and played the course more than once to really understand it. Now I plan to use it all in perfecting my own art s
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I recommend it for All levels
Mehga P.

7 months ago

Verified Purchase
I loved all of the demos and detail/step by step process showed in this course. Maria's style of talking and teaching is engaging and really enjoyable. I personally always struggled with pushing proportions of characters and keeping the set/based in some form of reality. This course really helped m
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e solve that issue. I highly recommend this course to anyone just starting their illustration journey or to those who've been drawing for years and want to freshen up their look from a new perspective.
I recommend it for All levels
Sara D.

7 months ago

Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this class and the teacher made it really easy to understand.
I recommend it for Beginner
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About the Instructor

Maria Lia Malandrino
Character Designer, Story Designer & Illustrator 5 courses

Maria is an illustrator and story artist from Turin, Italy. She has a BA degree in Magazine Publishing from the University of the Arts London, has studied Traditional Animation at the International School of Comics in Turin and attended a masterclass in Storyboarding at the online school CGMA.

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