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One of my many problems so far is while I may have a good idea, it's very plain. My avi, for instance, is very simple. I came up with a few character and while they were unique (three-legged, six-legged, no eyes, etc) that was about the only unique thing about them.

I find it kinda frustrating cause it seems like others come up with things that I would never think of. For an example, look at this creature. Now, I might think of the overly muscled back or the strange teeth. However, I'd probably never think of the odd nose, or the spikes coming out of it's chest, or the plate on it's head and chin.

So, how would you suggest figuring out these things? I'd like mine to be realistic-ish without totally being plain. Currently I'm not working on anything, just trying to figure out something to sorta inspire me to work.
antimatter's avatar

Vicious Reveler

That's something I don't feel like I'm very good at either, but all the more reason to try it out! I usually just try and immerse myself in lots of glorious art to try and draw some inspiration from it, study what kind of attributes work.

When I think of creatures, find some really good fantasy art, and really diverse types of creatures. I might even look up some D&D creatures from the monster manual, there is some weird stuff in there.

Then once you're inspired comes the hard part of making it into something all of your own. Think about what kind of vibe you want for your creature, what kind of frame it will have and start doing some very loose, basic structures. For an ugly, gross kind of monster i'd start making some fat circles near to the ground. What kind of things make the face ugly? Pushing the nose up higher and making it more flat, gives a piggish, deformed look. An overly large mouth will go well. Low forehead. Small eyes. Protruding eyes and jaw. Primal creature!

A more sinister and intelligent kind of creature may have a tall, looming skeletal frame with un-natural angles. I'd start sketching a long centre line and long lines for the limbs...

Think of some simple attributes like these that would go together to help project the image you're wanting for your creature.

If you're going for something realistic-ish, you could base the structure on an existing animal. Like for a 4 legged, muscular kind of creature, study some horses. Then add your own embellishments, like lengthening and distorting the torso, changing head, legs, adding body parts, anything.

I'm not sure if that was any use at all, but it does the trick for me.
Queen Pirate Bunny's avatar

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I know this advice always goes over like a lead balloon, but it is very true: the trick is to draw a crap-ton of stuff from life. It gives you a toolbox of skills that allow you to come up with whatever you could possibly want to draw. Anything. Draw people, animals, objects, landscapes. After you get a grasp on reality, you can become a master of fantasy.
bacon queen's avatar

Sparkling Streaker

I'd start by saving any images I think are interesting or inspire me, and if I'm struggling to think of nice details like that then I would just look over those images for ideas.

My problem is a little more beyond that. I am generally good at getting the creature base to look good, it's the add-on that I can't seem to figure out. Say a creature has a pig-ish face. Should he have an earring? Maybe a nose right. Maybe both with a chain between them. Or a big scar across his left eye and sorta pull the lids closed? Or maybe an eye patch.

Those are more the details that I can never figure out. Some people have the ability to get the right mix of things without it being overkill, whereas with me normally I'm happy with my creatures the way they are, yet they just aren't odd enough, if that makes any sense.
Soreiyu's avatar

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For me personally I believe the easiest way to design anything monsterlike is to not think beforehand. Just blobbing colors on a canvas until you see something is easier than planning ahead. You might end up with more original ideas this way anyway.

It's also kind of fun to use Sculptris to create random 3D monsters. I guess it's the same principal as the blobs on canvas but instead of sculpting with blobs of color you're molding a sphere like clay.
Syrella's avatar

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Collect a bunch of animal plant and monster features into a list, shuffle them up and choose a few to draw. See what works through trial and error. Try mixing and matching creatures that already exist. Draw a zombie orc. Draw a flying vampire cat monster. If the ideas are stupid, who cares? It's a good exercise to try.
Shanna66's avatar

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well for my dragons and reptile-ish monsters i look at pictures of land and sea reptiles. going to the zoo helps alot too because i can watch how the animal moves and it helps me understand why its designed the way it is.

also having faceoff playing on the tv helps me alot when trying to figure out something thats meant to be human-like.
God-the-almighty's avatar

Enduring Gaian

I know this advice always goes over like a lead balloon, but it is very true: the trick is to draw a crap-ton of stuff from life. It gives you a toolbox of skills that allow you to come up with whatever you could possibly want to draw. Anything. Draw people, animals, objects, landscapes. After you get a grasp on reality, you can become a master of fantasy.
Schwanengesang's avatar

Dangerous Noob

Ahhh creatures. My beloved subjects. razz

Stuff that helps me: what kind of habitat it lives in, general biology/evolution theory. That can work for a lot of details, too.

You can blend a couple animals/insects together, then ask yourself: does it make sense? How will the creature live in its natural habitat? Anything that gives it an evolutionary advantage so that it can survive? What is its niche and place in the ecosystem?

I also get inspiration from books (textual descriptions). You can also look at what other people are doing (don't steal though, stealing is bad, mkaaay?). Ideas can come from anywhere, really.

As for details like jewelry (and other anthropomorphic characteristics), after you determined the basic anatomy, proceed in giving the character some personality. What is its place in the animal society? Then it should dress, behave, and look like such and such. Does the character have peculiar tastes? You can model them after people you know, it's great fun.
Miramelle's avatar

Friendly Heckler

When I'm feeling uninspired on critters, sometimes I'll open up the D&D monster manual (in which I've pre-emptively covered the drawings), choose a random page, and try to draw something from the description alone. This doesn't work well for the classical monsters, but the ones unique to the game are pretty challenging and variable. That, and trying to track the deranged thought process led to the creation of a blue camel/anteater that eats magic or a bioluminescent celestial fire beetle can produce some interesting results.

Also, find a small child and ask them to describe a monster. Fun warm up exercise that entertains the kid at the same time.
And of course, always always always reference from real life critter anatomy for maximum believability!
Okay so not everyone has a monster manual lying around, but that's what the internet is for, right?
EternalFlame's avatar

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Always think of context:

Why has this evolved the way it has?
What is it's natural enviroment?
What does it do to adapt, to be comfortable?
What is it's relationship with other creatures in the area?


The question was posed in Dungons and Dragons once: "Why don't these things eat each other?" which spawned a revolution. Always ask these questions and you will make very realistic creatures. 3nodding
Shadow_kitty7511's avatar

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Me personally, in order to get inspired and make the ultimate creature, I look at the works of the artists to get myself in the mood and inspired to draw. Looking at someone's work makes you see what they do and why it is so good. Just don't over analyze it, it might just jeopardize you. Once you feel inspired I would put on some influential music. One thing that really gets your creativity going is listening to music. I would start drawing some doodles first and after I make a few or so I would then pick one and improve it/ redraw it with more details. The goal of this is to first be inspired and let your inspirations flow out. Creativity does not require much thinking and don't be afraid to make mistakes. That's one thing with creativity, it doesn't come out when you over think things. You might not like the first few but it shouldn't stop you from drawing. By the way, when I do this I normally use a pen so I don't waste time erasing things. Work with your mistakes and make something awesome with them.

Happy drawing and I hope this helps 3nodding
denpa H-puff's avatar

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About your details problem:
Once you draw the basic creature, scan it and print a sheet of small copies (or if you're using a tablet, just duplicate the image a few times on the canvas) and try adding various ideas to each one, until you get an idea for what works.

Details will always take several attempts, which is why for each creature you design, you should expect to have multiple pages of sketches, with small and large differences. It might take a couple or several pages, depending on how easy you find it to come up with something for that particular creature smile

Otherwise: Keep a picture folder of images that inspire you, of all kinds of things, so you can access it when ever you're in need of ideas.
Your problem is that you are thinking of the creature as a base with add-ons. Instead, try thinking about it as one animal from the beginning forward. Just drawing a lizard and slapping antlers and cat paws and bird wings on won't make a dragon; you have to mix it all together and make it cohesive.

It also helps to watch nature documentaries, especially about animals you aren't very familiar with. Chances are, there's already a really cool animal for you to work off of. I personally find bugs really inspiring right now; there's so much diversity in insects!

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