Back to Blog Index

Designing Characters: Insights from Emma Gillette

No items found.

In the world of animation and illustration, the journey of an artist is often marked by continuous learning, exploration, and a deep dedication to honing one's craft.

In our latest podcast episode, Emma Gillette, a professional illustrator and instructor of the newly released Character Design Fundamentals course, shares her experiences and insights, providing actionable lessons for fellow artists and designers.

We encourage you to watch the episode above, but for those short on time, here are a few highlights:

The Essence of Drawing and Design

Drawing is not just about replicating what you see; it's about understanding the psychology behind your creations and how they resonate with your audience. Emma emphasizes the importance of learning shape language and storytelling through characters.

  • Emma highlights the significance of using shape design intentionally to create cohesion, visual appeal, and evoke specific emotions from your audience. 
  • You don't need to be an anatomy expert to excel in character design. Focusing on key connection points, major muscle groups, and basic bone structures is sufficient to create realistic and visually appealing characters.
  • In character design, the concept of Baby Face Bias can be a powerful tool. By manipulating the eye-nose triangle, designers can influence the perceived age and emotions of their characters. 
  • Motifs are subtle visual cues that convey specific emotions or traits in character design. Emma suggests using teardrop shapes for a sad character or arrow shapes for a fast or dangerous character. 

Navigating the Artistic Journey

  • Sketchbooks are an artist's personal workbook, serving as a space for warm-ups, idea generation, and practicing different styles. Emma emphasizes that sketchbooks are not meant for public display but rather for personal growth and exploration.
  • In today's digital age, the pressure to share your art on social media can be overwhelming. Focus on enjoying the creative process and exploration rather than seeking validation through social media metrics.
  • Emma's highlights the importance of diversification and flexibility in the early stages of an illustration career to sustain income and progress.
  • An essential aspect of creating art is to draw what brings you joy, regardless of external pressures. Embrace your unique style and preferences, as this authenticity is key to creating engaging and resonant work.

Emma Gillette's journey and insights offer a wealth of inspiration and guidance for artists and designers. By focusing on drawing fundamentals, shape language, and personal exploration, you can unlock your creative potential and make a lasting impact in the world of animation and illustration.

Want to hone your character animation and illustration skills? Check out Character Design Fundamentals, a comprehensive, self-guided course right here on School of Motion.

Dive into real-time 3D with our Unreal Engine beginner's course by Jonathan Winbush. Master importing assets, world-building, animation, and cinematic sequences to create stunning 3D renders in no time! Perfect for motion designers ready to level up.

Explore this Course

Unlock the secrets of character design in this dynamic course! Explore shape language, anatomy rules, and motifs to craft animation-ready characters. Gain drawing tips, hacks, and Procreate mastery (or any drawing app). Ideal for artists seeking to elevate their craft.

Explore this Course

Elevate your freelance motion design career with our guide to client success. Master a repeatable method for finding, contacting, and landing clients. Learn to identify prospects, nurture leads, and develop a thriving freelance philosophy amidst chaos.

Explore this Course

Rev up your editing skills with After Effects! Learn to use it for everyday needs and craft dynamic templates (Mogrts) for smarter teamwork. You'll master creating animated graphics, removing unwanted elements, tracking graphics, and making customizable templates.

Explore this Course

Stand out with Demo Reel Dash! Learn to spotlight your best work and market your unique brand of magic. By the end, you'll have a brand new demo reel and a custom campaign to showcase yourself to an audience aligned with your career goals.

Explore this Course

Illuminate your 3D skills with Lights, Camera, Render! Dive deep into advanced Cinema 4D techniques with David Ariew. Master core cinematography skills, gain valuable assets, and learn tools and best practices to create stunning work that wows clients.

Explore this Course

Master After Effects at your own pace with Jake Bartlett's beginner course. Perfect for video editors, you'll learn to create stylish animated graphics, remove unwanted elements, and track graphics into shots. By the end, you'll be equipped for everyday AE needs and more.

Explore this Course

Revolutionize your Premiere workflow with customizable AE templates! Master creating dynamic Motion Graphics Templates (Mogrts) in After Effects to speed up your team's work. By the end, you'll craft easily-customizable templates for seamless use in Premiere Pro.

Explore this Course
Your download is in your inbox!!!
Check your email (spam, too) for the download link!
Please check the spam folder if you don't see the message within a minute or two. Google likes to hide your downloads, sometimes.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Not sure where to start?

If you’re a beginner, here are some great courses to help you get started:

After Effects Kickstart

Dive into the fundamentals of motion design with our most popular (and recently updated) After Effects course.


Photoshop + Illustrator Unleashed

Master the basics of Photoshop and Illustrator and gain invaluable insights in this introductory level course.


Design Kickstart

An introduction to the design principles behind all great work.


More Advanced?

If you’re a more advanced student looking to up your game, here are some great options:

Animation Bootcamp

Learn the art and principles of creating beautiful movements in Adobe After Effects.


Design Bootcamp

Learn to design for motion in this intermediate-level, project-based course.


Cinema 4D Basecamp

Learn Cinema 4D from the ground up in this exciting introductory C4D course.


Now is the time to learn the skills you need to advance in your motion design career: