Character Design – ARTS 501

CG • Section 8WK • 11/08/2019 to 04/16/2020 • Modified 08/18/2021

Course Description

This graduate course stresses individual direction and achievement in illustration/character design. At this advanced level the student is expected to be self-motivated in the pursuit of illustration/character design and working toward that end. Graduate students are also expected to research the work of other artists who work in a similar manner. May be taken twice.

For information regarding prerequisites for this course, please refer to the Academic Course Catalog.


Illustration pairs with animation in the form of character design, layout design, storyboarding, and other aspects of pre-production. To achieve a higher understanding of these areas, there must be an advanced understanding of the function and foundation of animation. ARTS 501 draws on advanced knowledge in the area of drawing, painting, and character design.

Measurable Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate a knowledge of the terms native to character design and animation.
  2. Practice drawing from life as the basis of characters.
  3. Create characters and designs using an advanced knowledge in construction and design, including but not limited to underlying shapes, personality, attitude, color, style and integration with a script.
  4. Apply the elements of character design and script analysis in storyboarding.

Course Assignment

Textbook readings and lecture presentations

Course Requirements Checklist

After reading the Course Syllabus and Student Expectations, the student will complete the related checklist found in the Course Overview.


Discussions are collaborative learning experiences. Therefore, the student is required to create a thread in response to the provided prompt. Each thread must be at least 400 words and demonstrate course-related knowledge. In addition to the thread, the student is required to reply to 2 other classmates’ threads. Each reply must be at least 200 words.

Character Concepts Assignment

The student will create a short story synopsis and create character profile sheets for a main and 2 ensemble characters.

Designing Volumetric Characters from Shapes Assignment

Each student will design their main character from shapes and silhouettes by creating 10 different silhouettes, refining to 5 roughs, and then selecting the best of the 5 for a final large sketch.

Refining Character Design Assignment

The student will take their finalized main character and begin the refining process by refining facial features, outfits, and color scheme.

Model Sheets and Turnarounds Assignment

The student will create a full model sheet for their main character involving sketches of 10 action/movement poses. The student will also create a full sheet of facial expressions consisting of 10 different moods.

Two Character Lineup Ensemble Assignment

The student will create a full model sheet for their 2 ensemble characters by repeating the steps followed in the previous assignment.

Ensemble Character Lineup Assignment

Each student will create a full color ensemble character lineup with a full color action page for the trio.

Simple Script and Storyboard Scene Assignment

The student will create a short script based on the synopsis created in the Character Concepts. From that script the student will create clean, animation storyboard panels. The storyboard must include no less than 10 storyboard panels, interaction between all the characters, and include the use of background design with perspective.

Production Bible Assignment

The student will culminate all of the assignments completed during this semester. The student must take all of the created elements, place them into 1 document, and take any critique provided by the professor and update as needed.

Quiz: Course Overview

There will be 1 quiz that will cover the Reading & Study material for Modules: Weeks 1–7. The quiz will be open-book/open-notes, contain 10 true/false and multiple-choice questions, and have a 30-minute time limit.