NEW LESSON! Creature Design - Practical to Digital with Casey Love

How to design characters - The "practical to digital" approach to photo-real, fully realized monster design

Mar 2, 2013


by Jeff Dixon

To watch the FREE lesson preview, simply click on the player above. Check out the Full Lesson page HERE.

Everyone likes to get a little more bang for their buck. It’s just human nature.  For that reason, how cool is it that our newest lesson is pretty much two lessons in one!  Not only do you get an extremely thorough lesson on sculpting in WED clay, but you also get an entire lesson dealing with the in’s and out’s of designing with Photoshop.  Each could easily be a lesson of their own, and yet here they both are in one awesome comprehensive package.

Pictured above: The final product as crafted in this tutorial. Casey truly transforms his clay sculpt before our eyes - Creature Design with a real artist.


Our leader for this journey is one Casey Love. Casey has done some amazing work for us in the past, and his NEW LESSON continues this trend. He keeps things light, is enjoyable to listen to, and is extremely thorough with his explanations.  In addition, Casey is well known for his painting, so when he gets to digitally painting within Photoshop, it’s especially interesting to watch him work on this platform where you may not have before.


To start out, Casey just grabs a big block of WED clay and starts to form his creation. At this point he himself doesn’t even know what it’s going to be. While most of the time people go into a project with a plan, here Casey shows you that sometimes you can just wing it and come up with something incredible on the fly. It’s interesting to watch why he makes certain decisions, and how they slowly combine into what becomes a pretty dynamite lizard man design.

Pictured above: THe sculpt begins. He doesn't know where he's going yet. WE do. : )


In the first half of this character design lesson, the physical sculpting section, many tips, tricks, and techniques are described, giving a complete overview of the process at hand. He presents many of the basic sculpting principles like form, structure, and using reference material. But he also provides some more unique pointers about tools, why he sometimes chooses to work without an armature, pros and cons of working with WED clay, and even tips on how to extend the life of your creation if you need to set it aside and work on it later. All in all, this section is a fantastic reference for potential sculptors at any skill level.

Pictured above: Start with a humanoid first in WED clay

Pictured above: The rough forms are coming together and a character is emerging.

Pictured above: Hey. There's a lizard in there.


The second half of this new lesson is all dedicated to Photoshop. After the rough creation of the maquette, Casey takes digital photographs and essentially imports his creation into the digital platform. It’s here that the design really evolves. Using reference photos of iguanas, Casey is able to take entire sections of skin, ears, eyes, and even spikes over to his creation and adapt them for his own use. This section is all about layers, as anything in Photoshop really is. It’s the creation of these layers that truly creates an eye opening figure, and breathes life into the sculpted creation.

Pictured above: Sourcing reference for textures to layer onto the photographed sculpture.

After utilizing and manipulating all these layers, Casey gets into digitally “painting” his creation. Again and always, utilizing reference material is the single most important aspect of this process. He uses his mouse just like an airbrush. By emulating the color patterns, Casey is able to create a lizard man creation that truly and honestly looks like a perfect hybrid of nature and alien. Watching him work in the details, like hand painting in individual scales, really gives you a huge respect for anyone working in Photoshop, and the amount of skill and work it sometimes takes.

Pictured above: Tweaking a pattern into place using the wonders of Photoshop.

​Pictured above: Close to the finish. Casey Love moves into bolder lines next.

All in all, the final creation is something that would definitely be worthy of presenting to any movie company or director. And it took working in both mediums to combine into the final product. You will definitely enjoy both aspects of this lesson. Enjoy getting two for the price of one.

- Jeff Dixon

Check out the Full Lesson HERE.