project[1] (official exercises)

lim jia sheng,

.Illustration & Visual Narrative
::project[0] (official exercises)


part["A"]: Vormator Challenge


Create a character using the shapes from the 8 shape set provided, duplicating and transforming, without distorting or altering the shapes themselves.



I started things out by trying to get to know the shapes a little more.

Figure 1.1.1, The shape set for the Vormator Challenge, 2007

As I was theorizing on how I could create more shapes from the set, I could already tell that "The Drop" & "The Zerk" were going to be ultra useful for their rounded halves. I also noted that "The Zerk" could be added together to make straight lines, and other basic shapes can be made by "carving" them out using subtraction.

Before starting though, I thought I'd try applying these shapes onto preexisting characters, and at the same time, analyzing them as I go.

1. Among Us 

Figure 1.1.2, Among Us character reference, 2/10/2020


Figure 1.1.3, My recreation of the Among Us character, 2/4/2021


Figure 1.1.4, "Anatomy" of my Among Us, 2/4/2021


I chose the Among Us character because of how identifiable it has become. Its status as a meme definitely segments it as an extremely successful design of a simple character.

Its made out of the Zerk & Drop, as well as a lot of random additions, & intersections. I took some liberty with how much the final design resembled the reference... mostly because I was bored. (Peep the belly xd)

A few problems I encountered and would like to address in the other designs would be the difficulty in getting proper "strokes". The workflow of scaling, intersecting, & moving, gets tedious real quick, with no guarantees of any uniformity. I also used way too many shapes here, and things got hard to manage quick. Simplifying things and going more "geometric" of a style might be in order as well.

2. Jake the Dog

Figure 1.1.5, Jake the Dog reference, n.d

Figure 1.1.6, My recreation of Jake the Dog, 2/4/2021


Figure 1.1.7, "Anatomy" of my Jake, 2/4/2021

Initially I chose Jake because I thought his shape would be a great base to try something a little more geometric. I was wrong.

This was hell. I really underestimated how much work was needed to create "complex" bends, especially with the limbs. The shape of the body was over-engineered as well, with different types of curve for every corner. I integrated the Zerk, Drop, Wurst, & Cobra, cutting them up in their own ways.

The problem of strokes were solved by... using actual strokes — adding the shapes together and applying said stroke. The workflow though, still remains hella tedious, but I'm not sure what could even be a solution (R&D in AutoHotkey??).

At this point, I felt like I was confident enough in the shapes to start developing my own characters using them: 


Figure 1.1.8, Vormator sketches, 6/4/2021


I then picked a few that I felt I liked, and refined them a little more in the form of fancy Photoshop sketches.

1. "Sharc"

The world's fastest shark, but is it from this world at all? His small size & composure gives him his speed, but also his anxiety. All he hopes is that one day he'll find somewhere he fits in like the Sonic, his idol. The oceans are sparse, though.

Figure 1.1.9, "Sharc" sketch, 7/4/2021


Figure 1.1.10, "Sharc" illustrated draft, 7/4/2021

2. "Lockness"

Earned his nickname by spending most of his life captured and hunted. All he wants is peace, being as passive as possible to avoid any form of confrontation that might end him in "trouble". The hunters know that Lockness' kind hunts and invades planets, but not that Lockness was a defector.

Figure 1.1.11, "Lockness" sketch, 7/4/2021


Figure 1.1.12, "Lockness" illustrated draft, 7/4/2021

3. "DaBuggy"

Comes from the hoods of distant planets, but is past that life now. Has the hobbies of poetry and 19th century literature and would still kill to protect his friends. However, he is very unaware of his strength and size, due to his physical attributes being an artifact of the constant stress that surrounded him previously. This has brought him into a lot more trouble than you would expect from a literal bug.

Figure 1.1.13, "Bug" sketch, 7/4/2021


Figure 1.1.14, "Bug" illustrated draft, 7/4/2021

Development Progress

 Figure 1.1.12, Examples of intersecting to carve out weird shapes, 7/4/2021


 Figure 2.1.13, Examples of using multiple weird shapes to form even weirder shapes, 7/4/2021


      • 9/4/2021
        • All characters are cute, and have interesting designs.
        • On "lockness", reduce the contrast of the black to something more cohesive, like a grey.
        • "Bug" looks like an Italian gangster.
        • "Shark" looks most promising as it has the stronger motion presence, but requires more development — maybe in the tail area to further exaggerate its motion.


Figure 1.1.14, "Sharc" final illustration, 11/4/2021


part["B"]: Trace, Colour, Texture


Create a landscape background out of vector shapes for the character from exercise[1].



Firstly, we were instructed to do a few rough plans for the background's composition in class.

Figure 2.1.1, "Coral vibing" background sketch, 16/4/2021

Figure 2.1.2, "Planet surfing" background sketch, 16/4/2021

Figure 2.1.3, "Evading capture" background sketch, 16/4/2021

Figure 2.1.4, "Cool emergence" background sketch, 16/4/2021



      • 16/4/2021 — Sketches
        • The 3rd & 1st sketches were noted to be the most interesting, as they showed the story of the character clearly.
        • The use of colour was noted to be good. 


I chose the "Evading capture" sketch, as that was the one which I feel had the most potential. Taking the story and running with it, I purposely left the contrast low as to emphasize the point of Sharc actually hiding to evade "enemies" and attempting to camouflage. 

Figure 2.2.1, Illustrated landscape without character, 22/4/2021

Figure 2.2.2, Illustrated landscape with character, 22/4/2021

This took way too long but was way too fun. The main thing I learned here is the language of the pen. Definitely took a bunch of tries to get the paths curved correctly, since I started the shapes with the pencil tool. Without any post mangling, it would look like a seizure on a platter.

Besides shaping things up, the colours took way too long as well. The main issues were with the gradients and the background contrast. The gradients I wasn't too familiar with at the start so I had many head scraping moments with gradients not being able to be edited, as well as wonky CMYK edits. Then with the gradients out of the way, I continued onto the background, making the decision to keep the contrast low with pastels, since I wanted to emphasize the "hidden-ness" of the character. Here are a few of the colour studies I did besides from the one above I chose as main:


Figure 2.2.3, Illustration colour studies, 22/4/2021


      • 23/4/2021 — Illustrated
        • The low contrast between the character & the background reduces the impact of the character.
        • The main "corals" could be saturated up, to emphasize their """villain >:D""" persona from the perspective of Sharc.


Figure 2.3.1, Final landscape background, 23/4/2021

Figure 2.3.2, Final landscape + character, 23/4/2021

Figure 2.3.2, Final tarot card, 23/4/2021 



This exercise was surprisingly fun. It showcased a lot of ways people approached character design — constructing from shapes, following one general shape, focusing on a physical form, etc. I've learnt a lot about how illustrator worked and surprisingly feel a lot more comfortable in it. All in all, what I took away was how a character always has more to it that meets the eye; always has meaning.


My experience with this exercise was generally positive. The pen tool was awkward to start with, but after everything i feel like I'm well equipped to stab people with it. I also found many small tidbits of pro-tips, such as to save gradients to swatches instead of eye-dropping them, make sure you have 3 handles on a curved end, clipping masks > pathfinder's intersect, etc. All these stemmed from the wonkiness of my initial shapes, but overtime they improved, and achieved what this exercise sought out to accomplish — teach illustration.