Level Up Your Characters

Course outline

Lesson 1: cliches

Often our first ideas aren’t very interesting. Ask someone to draw a pirate and you can likely predict what you’ll get. In this lesson, we go over how to identify what these cliches are so that we can move past them and get to the truly unique designs.

Lesson 2: questions

You can make the most beautiful design but if the concept behind it isn’t interesting it won’t connect with people. In this lesson, we use the power of asking (and answering) questions to create rich character concepts before we even begin drawing.

Lesson 3: exaggeration

In this lesson we tap into the skill that we’ve all seen caricature artists employ—exaggeration. By identifying the most important aspects of our design, we can push those elements further than they currently are to make a way more interesting character.

Lesson 4: proportions

Sometimes the pathway to an interesting character design is just to mix up the existing pieces. Through marking off the size relationships of our character, we can iterate on them by making small elements big, thick elements thin and push our characters in directions that we originally wouldn’t have considered.

Lesson 5: dynamic poses

Your character might have wonderful proportions, an interesting backstory and be flawlessly designed—but if she is standing still, the design will feel kind of empty. In this lesson, we go over the power of posing and how to apply it to your characters. Be prepared to get out of your chair and move around a bit—we’ll be posing ourselves!

Lesson 6: next steps

In this final lesson we recap what we’ve learned and go over the class assignment—our vehicle for making sure the class actually sticks! If you’re looking for more character design practice and education, we also go over a few options for next steps to take.

Course description

Level Up Your Characters is designed to equip artists of any skill level with reliable tools that can be used any time, with any character, to make it better.

Whether you are creating a new character or reworking an old one, this class will walk you through five easy to understand (but hard to master) techniques for taking good designs and making them great. Don't want to learn all of them? That's okay, because each lesson stands alone so you can jump straight to what you want to work on!

What You'll learn

  • How to break away from characters that people expect and make designs that are unique and interesting
  • How to come up with a great concept before even touching pencil to paper
  • How to identify the most important aspects of a design and push them even further
  • How to experiment with your design through playing with size relationships
  • How to breathe new life into your characters by giving them a dynamic pose


Let's put what we learned to work! For your class assignment, take any existing character you've made—it could be a doodle from years ago or a sketch from this morning—and redraw it using any or all of the five techniques from the class.

Be sure to share your before and after, as well as any useful insight you learned along the way.

Sharing your work on Instagram? Tag me at @hkaube :)


About the teacher

Hayden Aube is a designer-turned-illustrator with an obsession for how we learn. Having made many big transitions in his life and career, Hayden now channels his time into helping other artists get where they want to be. This means tutorials, coaching and several community-based initiatives. To stay sharp, Hayden maintains a freelance illustration business, creates a variety of personal projects and is always enrolled in an online or in-person course himself.

This course and many more for just $9/month