Character designs: Enter The Dragon

Character designs Enter The Dragon

I’m taking some time this evening to play around with Carlos Grangel’s technique for creating character designs. I’ve chosen to focus on characters from the movie Enter the Dragon staring Burce Lee. In the opening of the movie, we find Lee fighting a Shaolin fighter played by Sammo Hung. My designs include Lee, the Shaolin Fighter, and the head Shaolin monk. The next steps are to flesh out these designs with more details. 

Digital tools

  • iPad Pro 12.9
  • Apple Pencil

A character design technique

A few days ago I came across a YouTube channel called Trojan Horse Was a Unicorn. The Sketchbook Series is filled with priceless words of wisdom from many great artists. I took notes while watching the episode with Carlos Grangel. He’s an amazing character designer who’s created many well-known animated characters. In this post, I will share what resonated with me.

Carlos Grangel will use any type of paper or cardboard for designing new characters. He shared beautiful examples of character designs drawn on the back of cereal boxes. I am going to be mindful of any paper or cardboard that can be reused for drawing.

He used the word patina which I had to look up. Patina means a surface appearance of something grown beautiful especially with age or use. He uses this word when talking about the drawing on the cereal boxes.

He talks through his process, below are a few bulleted notes:

  • He starts by drawing very loosely
  • He uses pencils (Blue, Orange, and Red colors for sketching)
  • He hardly ever uses graphite pencils
  • When designing the figure, anatomy is important but it’s really important to visualize the character and their personality
  • In the loose sketch, he will define the face, the colors, and inks come later
  • Fluidity is one of the main goals
  • Animation is character-driven
  • He starts with blue pencils
  • Then uses Micro, Pilot, and Uni-ball pens, etc
  • He starts very loose with small thumbnails
  • Next step he will finalize it with two types of markers
  • Uses thin pens, Micro, Polit or Uni-ball
  • Color (black only( uses the brush of Copic Markers
  • His process/method of working
  • He starts by exploring the shapes of the characters on the corners of the pages
  • He then develops the character on the page
  • It starts like drawing musical notes
  • You start putting in the shapes
  • Use basic shapes
  • Then you balance everything out
  • Every character needs a distinctive shape
  • They should be different from each other
  • Everything is a balance of rhythm
  • Put them in a lineup
  • Change character shapes that may be too similar to another
  • This is a fast technique
  • The color pass
  • Start with black and white
  • Bring in warm and cool grays
  • Add a little bit of blues and violets
  • Mix the markers to get shades and get that #D effect
  • Be careful with skin tones, that they are not too pink
  • Patina Unifies everything

I was inspired by Carlos Grangel and decided to give his technique a try. It’s not great by any means, but it’s a good first try. I’m going to keep working on this technique and will share my progress. If you’re interested in being a character designer, this video is a much watch.

The only thing better than drawing is more drawing.

Art Supplies

Before the days of drawing digitally, my media of choice were markers, pens, color pencils, charcoal, watercolors, and Conte crayons. While going through some art bins, I realized that I still have a bunch of old art supplies. This year I decided I’d like to get back into drawing traditionally more regularly. So, the plan is to use up all my markers before buying any new ones. I ordered a few art pads, which came in the mail today, to complete this goal.

Tusken Raiders

Tusken Raider

Star Wars is filled with a plethora of well-designed characters. It would be impossible to choose a favorite. In Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope, the Tusken Raiders stood out as something special. Tusken Raiders are considered bad news, but that has changed a bit in the Mandalorian series. I enjoyed drawing this piece, you can see my step-by-step process of how I breakdown the drawing.

  • Pencil: Lumograph Drawing Pencil HB
  • Pens: Sakura Gelly Roll Classic Gel Pen (White)
  • Markers: Prismacolor Premier Double-Ended Art Markers

Experience teaches slowly, Robin. And at a cost of many mistakes. – Batman

Batman 66

As a kid, I grew up watching a lot of television after school, on the weekends, and during the summer. One of my favorite shows was the live-action series, Batman, also known as Batman 66. I loved it, I had no idea that the show was meant to be campy. All that matters to a young boy was watching Batman and Robin fight and defeat the villains in each episode. The opening cartoony graphics and theme song added to my love of the show. I penciled this piece quite some time ago and didn’t do anything with it. During my exploration of using markers and pens again, I decided to complete this piece. My markers are old, and they are beginning to fade. The rough tooth of the paper ate away at the inks like a scary monster from a horror movie. However, there’s something special about this one for me. I think it was because the outcome was unexpected and connected to a memory from my youth. Draw what you love and love what you draw.

  • Pencil: Lumograph Drawing Pencil HB
  • Pens: Sakura Gelly Roll Classic Gel Pen (White)
  • Markers: Prismacolor Premier Double-Ended Art Markers

It’s A Trap


Everyone once in a while, someone will request or suggest that I draw something specific. A good friend suggested that I draw Admiral Ackbar from Star Wars. I was reluctant since I don’t always do my best work when drawing for someone else. However, I thought it was worth taking on this small challenge in the spirit of practice. My first and second attempt (see below) was ok, but if I’m being honest with myself they weren’t as good as they could be. My final attempt (see above) was better. I don’t think practice makes perfect, but it does make you better.

  • Pencil: Lumograph Drawing Pencil HB
  • Pens: Sakura Gelly Roll Classic Gel Pen (White)
  • Markers: Prismacolor Premier Double-Ended Art Markers

People hate Ewoks

These days, it seems that many people hate the Ewoks. To quote Josh Baskin from the movie Big, “I don’t get it”. I’ve read plenty of articles on why people hate them but, I don’t get it. Whatever you think of them, they are fun to draw. This piece was part of the quick sketch series I did during January 2021.

  • Pencil: Lumograph Drawing Pencil HB
  • Pens: Sakura Gelly Roll Classic Gel Pen (White)
  • Markers: Prismacolor Premier Double-Ended Art Markers