Photo of Donald Yatomi

Sketching for Concept Art

with Donald Yatomi
Sketching for Concept Art
Create compelling characters and environments that come alive in comics, video games, movies and more.

Bring unique characters and environments out of your imagination and onto the page with concept artist Donald Yatomi. Generate thumbnail character silhouettes, refine them with rules of proportion and turn your favorite into a full-size sketch. Use your sketch, along with reference photos and professional tips, to create a final blue-line drawing. Next, create environment thumbnails. Employ a horizon line, vanishing points and a ground plane as you transform a thumbnail into a sketch that's drawn with accurate perspective. Build a sense of mood with strategic details before Donald guides you through the creation of your final blue-line drawing. Hone your characters and environments until they're ready to be handed in to an art director, used in your own projects or displayed proudly in your home. 

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Lesson plan


Lesson 1. Character Design

  • Meet your instructor, video game and film artist Donald Yatomi. Start off by warming up your drawing hand and your imagination with a series of thumbnail exercises as Donald shows you how to transform seemingly simplistic scribbles into nuanced forms. You’ll be amazed by the proportion and expressions that start to emerge from your characters as your pen leads you through each study.


Lesson 2. Character Details

  • Choose a favorite thumbnail from the prior lesson and dive into a deeper character study as Donald shares professional techniques to guide you. You’ll establish your character’s stance and major features as you tease out details like expression, clothing and even attitude. Donald shares useful tips for selecting informative reference details and helps you find a happy medium between sketching loosely and adding thoughtful details.


Lesson 3. Finalizing Character Design

  • Transform the rough sketch of your character into a final drawing that would be worthy of submitting to an art director or client. Donald shows you how to use a blue pencil to clean up problem areas, clarify your lines and highlight significant details. Form, gesture and expression begin to merge as your character’s personality comes to life.


Lesson 4. Environment Design

  • Transition from character to place in this introduction to environment design. You’ll gain insight into types of specifications, and work from the assignment phase through early development of your thumbnails. Donald also shares professional examples of environment concept art to help you envision the transformation from the drawing board to the big screen.


Lesson 5. Environment Design Refined

  • Start refining your rough thumbnails as Donald demonstrates ways to consider point of view, and begin to define eye level and horizon lines. Next, Donald helps you add basic shapes and pertinent details to your scene, and shares professional advice for ensuring that the original specifications are the most noticeable elements in your sketches.


Lesson 6. Environment Lines

  • Select your favorite rough sketch from the three you developed in the prior lesson, and work alongside Donald as you focus on a second pass of your scene. Discover ways to weave in more detail and create a distinct ambiance as you continue to highlight the three central specifications in your work. You’ll also learn how to blend reference images with details in your imagination to create a world that’s begging to be explored.


Lesson 7. Finalizing the Environment

  • Enlarge your drawing and take it to the light box as you develop the final pass before submission. Donald shares a comprehensive overview of the finishing process, from cleaning up and clarifying major forms to creating distinct separations between the background, middle ground and foreground elements. You’ll finish the class with captivating, sophisticated character and environment studies that are ready to be brought to life on the big screen.

“In the 90's when I was at Art Student's League in NYC, there was an artist out of the the Art Center in Chicago who drew in scribble format. His work was unique and rather beautiful. The rest of us were attempting controlled lines, and mine rather awkward at the time. The scribble drawing stayed in my imagination. I ran into them again at a museum show on Giacometti at MOMA a few years later. And now with this class, the scribbles are back, and thank you Craftsy for this class.”
avatar - JanetCW

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  • Answers from Donald in our virtual classroom
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