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Learning the fundamentals of art – Building blocks for your art as a character artist or illustrator

The fundamentals are generally universal across most mediums and styles. Whether it is traditional art like paintings for example or digital art and graphic design. But in today’s blog we will be looking at how to apply the fundamentals to character designing and illustrations.

The fundamentals I would consider would be Elements of Art (Line work, color ect.) , Technique (Application), Composition, Perspective and Iconology.

Elements of Art

Elements of art are stylistic features that are included within an art piece to help the artist communicate.

1. Line Art

Line Art plays a crucial part in character designing or illustrations to help define what it is about and gives it attention and dimensionality.

Lines can be horizontal, vertical, or diagonal, straight or curved, thick or thin.

I’m not saying you have to have clearly visible black lines, but there should be a hint of line work in your art to help divine it, for it to be readable for your audience.

Look at these examples below:

You will see that each one has their own unique twist to applying line work to their art.

Figure 1: Portrait of Faye. Art by Ross from Ross Draws
Ross offers great tutorials on his YouTube Channel and has a  Art Bootcamp where you get to learn on hand from Ross on improving your art, I highly recommend checking it out.
2021 Art Recap. Art by Ezra Art
Figure 2: Lemonhead Shark Reference, Art by RinoTuna

2. Shape

Shape Language is a concept used to communicate meaning based on shapes we are familiar with. When used in character, object, and background design, shapes can tell a story, show personality, and illicit an emotional response in the viewer without using any words.

Learn more about Shape Language and how to apply it in your own art. – Click Here –

Figure 3: Art by Ross from Ross Draws
Figure 4: BNHA Gym Outfit Designs. Art by Your Drawing Pineapple
Figure 5: Violet Evergarden Fanart by Ezra Art

3. Color

Color theory refers to the body of principles which address how we see color and what it is.

The theory is much easier to comprehend by breaking color into its three individual elements, being hue, saturation, and value.

Hue: Where the color is located on the color wheel. Red, blue, yellow, green: these are different hues.

Saturation: How vivid or rich a color is. A color which is highly saturated is vivid. A low saturation color is weak and close to gray.

Value: How light or dark a color is, on a scale of white to black. High-value colors are light and low-value colors are dark.

Okay so you have the basics of it sorted, but how do you apply it? My best advice, just try different ways in using the colors and have fun with it.

By using warm tone colors and applying purple tinted shadows, darkening the colors and just using the principals of color theory I’ve created a dangerous, bloodthirsty atmosphere that ends up making you as the viewer uncomfortable and scared.

Original Character: Ax. Artist, Ezra.


There isn’t much to say about this, but here we go. In my opinion how technique would be used in character design is combining everything you learned from the fundamentals of art together. In other words it would be the sort of style you are trying to convey. Whether it is more of a painterly aesthetic, 3d looking or styling your art in a 2d way.

Some example below. Look at the different ways of application.

Figure 7: Portrait of Faye. Art by Ross from Ross Draws
Figure 8: Original Character: Ax. Artist, Ezra.
Figure 9: Eren Yeager Peeker Sticker by Ezra Art


Composition means “putting together”. In graphic design, a successful composition is where all the separate elements come together to form a whole design.

This is everything from:

  1. Scale (Having each element of your character from anatomy, clothing, accessories ect. Be in the same scale and proportions with each part of the character.)
  2. Balance ( Refers to whether it is symmetrical or asymmetrical. Generally we have a thumb of rule to include some asymmetry in designing as it makes the character or illustration more compelling and interesting. )
  3. Rhythm (How is the flow of the design, is it chaotic, calming or balancing? )
  4. Focus point (Where is the focal point of your character, is it the eyes, maybe the clothing it’s wearing. Or if it is an illustration of a landscape, maybe there is a flower that might be the focal point. )
  5. Unity (The elements of your character or illustration come together in unity and complement each other.)

Examples below on composition:

Figure 10: Aurora. Art by Zdenek Benjamin Cehelsky. Rykyart
Figure 11: Lubbock Fanart by Ezra Art


Perspective in art usually refers to the representation of three-dimensional objects or spaces in two dimensional artworks. We as artists use perspective techniques to create a realistic impression of depth, 'play with' perspective to present dramatic or disorientating images.

With character designing we apply perspective to characters to create dynamic poses and relay a specific sort of view that tells the viewer a message.

Look at these examples below:

Figure 12: How to Draw Dynamic Poses: Step by Step Guide and Tips. By Jae Johns.
Figure 13: Art by Rykyart


Iconology is a method of interpretation in cultural history and the history of the visual arts used by Aby Warburg, Erwin Panofsky and their followers that uncovers the cultural, social, and historical background of themes and subjects in the visual arts.

Okay, but this isn’t visual arts but character designing and illustration; so how does this apply to it? It’s simple, what message do you want to convey with your character. What is the personality, the intentions what is the reason for your characters existence.

Whether you want a mundane, hyper enthusiastic, murderous, friendly, depressed, smart, dumb, skilled in sports or science character… whatever the case, that is Iconology and that is what you want to convey for your character. Iconology applies for illustrations like landscapes or buildings too.


In the end if you want to improve or learn character designing or illustration, learning the fundamentals is important. Every artist, if you’ve been doing it for a year or 10 years, applies the fundamentals of art in the work they produce.

Now how can I learn these fundamentals? We live in a technological era where information is easily accessible. There are many artists out there that actual gives tutorials on these principals.  And to name a few, Ross Draws or Jazza (Older tutorial videos) on YouTube. Skillshare and Udemy are great platforms too. And one last option I would suggest is the Art Bootcamp run by Ross.

Now get out there and start creating. If you have any questions, send me a email and I’ll be more than happy to give you advice.

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