Course overview Course overview
Costuming for TV and film
Costume design is an essential part of character design. From a character's clothing down to the smallest accessory, what a character is wearing helps make the character memorable and is a crucial element of storytelling. Students will be taken through the process of creating costume concept designs from thumbnailing to final presentation. The course covers mood boards and thumbnailing, posing, head and face studies, color and how it relates to story, fabric and texture, and best practices for presentation. By the end of the course, students will complete costume concepts for two distinct characters, and present them as if pitching to a costume designer, director, and producers.
Costume Concept Design WHAT YOU’LL LEARN
The more you know, the better.
Unleashing your creativity
Phillip has been working as a Costume Concept Artist/ Production Designer for film, music video and television for the past 11-years. Within the last few years, he has illustrated for a multitude of blockbuster hits including Marvel’s Black Panther, A Wrinkle in Time, Captain America, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Avengers Infinity War, Thor, Man of Steel, Inception, Star Trek 2 & 3, The Justice League, Marvel’s Agents of Shield, The Greatest Showman, and most recently, the upcoming Jungle Cruise starring Dwayne Johnson. He has also Production Designed several music videos for artists such as Ariana Grande, The Black Keys, Panic at the Disco, Tiesto feat. Busta Rhymes, Travie McCoy, Fefe Dobson, Hot Chelle Rae, Saint Motel and the UK band The Blackout. Phillip currently lives in Valencia, CA with his lovely wife Jessica, daughter Alina (jellybean!), a cat named Frida Khalo and a miniature Aussie named Cherry.
Costume Concept Design Student gallery
spring TERM Registration
Feb 10, 2020 - Apr 18, 2020
Phil was an absolutely phenomenal teacher. He was very engaging in our Q&A sessions, and really went the extra mile to help us. I got a lot of valuable feedback from him, and would love to learn more from him in the future.
Absolutely fantastic. Phil always spent enough time talking to everyone about their work and teaching a few new techniques. Also always very positive and encouraging.
Companies that hire our students
environment design Benefits
What makes this learning experience unique?
Receive personal individual feedback on all submitted assignments from the industries best artist.
1+ Year Access
Enjoy over 365 days of full course access. This includes all lectures, feedback, and Live Q&A recordings.
Certificate of Completion
Earn a Certificate of Completion when you complete and turn in 80% of course assignments.
Learn anywhere, anytime, and at your own pace with our online courses.
Speak to an advisor
Need guidance or course recommendations? Let us help!
Show us your skills
Not sure if you have the skills, or are you proving you do? Show us.
Interview with James Manabu
Hello, my name is James Manabu. My background in terms of art education has been a roundabout journey. Long story short, I’ve always been drawn towards art, but I ended up as an electrical engineer. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that art was a profession in the entertainment industry! Ever since then, I’ve been trying to develop the skills I would need to pursue a career I always dreamed of. Through actively searching for quality online art education, I found CGMA.
Working through a couple of fundamental courses, I was keeping an eye on the Costume Concept Design course. I was super excited when CGMA announced Phil Boutte as the instructor because I’ve been following Boutte’s costume design work for some time. The rest of the article will explain my progression and the lessons I’ve learned from developing an idea from start to finish through this course.
IDEA AND INTENTION
My idea was to create a costume for a young Nathan Drake in a film adaption of Uncharted. While the original source material of the video games has established costumes, I wanted to design a costume in a different direction for film. I was considering a balance between a traditional treasure explorer and a modern, sleeker look for a younger audience. I selected Tom Holland as the actor to simulate adopting the costume to a casted actor.
Since video game Nathan Drake is a treasure explorer who traverses his terrain with parkour-like movements, the costume for film Nathan has to be functional and practical. The costume should be grounded to resemble what the audience would understand as an explorer, but feel modern and sleek. And the costume should read at first glance as someone who actively runs around and traverses obstacles.
REFERENCE AND RESEARCH
Throughout the course, reference was key. I was researching clothing that allows for active movement and functionality. I found that military wear looked functional and tactical while athletic wear looked sporty and active. For example: I was inspired by real world 50s/60s military uniforms such as the m-44 jacket, the m-65 jacket, and the fur pilot jacket. The m-44 jacket and m-65 jacket were functional in protection against the outdoor elements and many pockets to hold items. The fur pilot jacket was a fun idea to possibly invoke a feeling of flight as Nathan runs around. I thought I could include one of these jackets into the design for a retro modern direction.
While researching, I stumbled upon an interesting area I wasn’t aware of. I discovered a fashion genre called techwear, which included athleticism and tactical gear of military wear with a modern fashion twist. It was close to what I initially pictured in my mind. While extreme examples of techwear head towards a different genre, I thought I could include hints of techwear fashion into the design.
As a side note, the reference and research didn’t stop here. As the direction for the design became clearer, I was constantly researching to understand new subjects to help with the design. For example: I eventually researched fabrics, stitching, and construction to help the costume fabricator put the costume together.
FINDING THE THUMBNAIL
Based on the research, since there were so many directions to go in, I organized categories to help me see the potential directions. I created a lineup of concepts ranging from more military inspired (left side) to more techwear inspired (right side). #1 was inspired by the m-44 jacket, #2 was inspired by the m-65 jacket, #3 was inspired by the fur pilot jacket, #4 was inspired by athletic wear, #5 was inspired by layers of athletic wear/techwear, and #6 was inspired by techwear. At this point, the concepts were meant to show a rough, loose representation of what the costume could look like.
I was drawn towards #5 because I liked the visual breakup with the layered look. I thought there could be a lot of potential with different kinds of layered look so I iterated variations for #5. In the end, #5D turned out to be an interesting option because the combination of shorts and tights might not have been previously explored as extensively in the context of the Uncharted franchise.
INITIAL DESIGN (LINE DRAWING)
After selecting thumbnail #5D, I started to design each component of the costume. At this point, the direction of the design was clearer and I had a general idea of what kind of clothing to include: military jacket, hoodie, shirt, shorts, tights, and athletic sneakers. While the thumbnail had the general shapes, I had to research specific references for each of those clothing items.
Here are some examples of how research impacted the design. With the sneakers, I was inspired by Y-3 sneakers because they looked athletic, sleek, and stylish. With the shorts and tights combo, I was inspired by how athletes wear compression tights to improve circulation and reduce muscle vibrations during intense activity. Kneepads could be integrated with the compression tights to protect the knee, which could help Nathan protect his knees from banging them against things. I started to think about accessories like a backpack for Nathan to keep tactical items or to store items during his adventure.
After research, I created the line drawing as a first pass design to clearly show the details of the costume. As a side note, I added the wrapping contours on the clothing to show the form because it helps me see the volume for lighting and rendering later on.
After the line drawing, I explored different value combinations to see how I could visually breakup the costume. When zoomed out, it becomes easier to notice which value designs didn’t read well from a distance (marked in red). My thoughts were that both the silhouette and the internal shapes should read from a distance.
From there, I chose 4 different value schemes. #1 was dark value on light value, #2 was mostly dark values, #3 was mostly light values, and #4 was light value on dark value. At this point, I wasn’t sure if I was going to commit to the exact values here because the introduction of color might change the values a bit. For me, it was more about exploring the value relationship and keeping the value relationship in mind when applying color.
Color was a challenging subject because of several design constraints. First, at this young age, Nathan would probably wear whatever clothing he has available without caring too much about color matching. I had to be careful in selecting colors that don’t match too much to avoid the costume looking like a sport’s jersey uniform. Second, I had to be careful in selecting colors that wouldn’t be perceived as another role played by the actor. In this case, I wanted to avoid colors that might suggest his role in Spider-Man. Third, while the colors shouldn’t match too much, the colors should still be cohesive to avoid a rainbow effect.
At first, I was attached to the color navy because I thought navy could be used as a throwback to video game Nathan Drake. And it just so happens that I was also attached to the color red because a red hoodie seemed like strong vibrant color. But some of the color combinations tended to remind me of Peter Parker/Spider-Man (e.g. #1A and #5). Because of that, I had to let go of the color navy and red to try other color combinations. But for some reason, something about the colors on this page just didn’t appeal to me. I wasn’t satisfied with the color so I was determined to try again.
At this stage, a couple of things changed. Before moving to texture, I had to rethink the design and color first because I knew I could make improvements.
First of all, the previous design was looking too symmetrical. To change that, I rolled up the sleeves of the jacket and hoodie at different lengths on his arms. I added a pouch to the hip to add a little more interest to the silhouette. I added an undersuit/compression shirt to show another dimensionality to the character. The compression shirt would provide additional protection if his outerwear or shirt was ripped or removed during the script. I redesigned the shorts to resemble stitching and patterning usually seen on athletic shorts. The previous compression tights looked too busy so I simplified the kneepad and patterning. The previous sneakers looked too bulky so I redesigned the shoes to be fitted like sock shoes for a sleeker silhouette for the legs. I thought that Nathan would need gloves to protect his hand and fingers when climbing terrain. While researching real world examples of mountain climbers and the like, I found interesting discussions of different opinions about wearing gloves for climbing. I decided to add fingerless gloves to protect his hands while his exposed fingers would have a better grip on his environment or other handheld tools.
Second, I revisited the color. The idea was cohesive colors without matching colors. I understood what that meant conceptually, but what did that mean visually? I tried to visualize by experimenting. I ditched the color red and decided to go for a cooler color palette. I first started with a cyan hoodie, but I added a 2-color hoodie that’s teal and cyan to break up the colors. I added the orange compression shirt to pop the upper body. The intention was for the cools of the blue accent of the sneakers, the navy shorts, and the teal/cyan hoodie to tie together. And the warms of the orange compression shirt, orange accents, and yellow accents to tie together. At the same time, the cool and warm colors vibrating off each other. In the end, I think the colors avoided the matching look of a sport’s jersey, but still work together as a whole.
Third, texture and materials were finally next. Since the costume was meant to be grounded in real world clothing, the materials were relatively straightforward. For example: The jacket was made of cotton canvas, the shorts were made of polyester, the hoodie was made of cotton, the compression tights and shirt were made of a polyester spandex, etc.
I wanted to add visual interest with the textures. I added a mesh texture on the compression tights and inside the hood of the hoodie, which also adds a feel of athleticism. The shirt has a square texture pattern and the shorts have a ribbed texture pattern. I originally thought about adding a texture to the hoodie, but the upper body was looking too noisy as a whole so I used the textureless hoodie as an area of rest.
One of the areas I haven’t explored yet was the head. I explored different hairstyles to see what would work with the character. Longer hair, shorter hair, pointy hair, spiky hair, undercut, etc. It was interesting to me how much a hairstyle can change (sometimes dramatically) how the actor looks. This helped in differentiating Nathan Drake from other characters played by the actor. I added green checkmarks to the ones I liked for the character, and ultimately decided to choose option “I”.
Even at this stage, more refinement was done. The previous backpack strap had a conventional buckle fastener, but I added a fidlock fastener to make the backpack look more modern. The shorts were slightly tweaked to redesign the waterproof pockets to add more details and cutlines. While the details were small, the details added another level and depth that would have been missing otherwise. At this point, I finally felt the design was complete.
This was the final design with the color, textures, lighting, and rendering. I added a background, and blurred the background to focus on the costume. I originally had a somewhat elaborate background because I wanted to sell a mood, but I had to simplify the background to avoid distracting from the costume itself. With the insightful comments from Boutte during each week, I think the final design conveyed my original intentions of a sleeker explorer who looks like he can actively run and traverse obstacles.
WHAT I LEARNED
One of the lessons I learned from Boutte was the thought process of how to keep pushing the design to create a more cohesive character. At the beginning of the course, I remember stumbling because I was unsure with my decisions. But towards the end of the course, I was more aware of how to approach the topic on hand with the mindset I’ve developed throughout the course. Another lesson I learned was to always look for ways to improve the design no matter the stage (if possible within reason and time constraints). Looking back, I think the final design worked better than all the other previous designs. And that wouldn’t have happened if I stopped thinking about the design.
I’m glad I took this course because I now have a better understanding of how to approach costume in ways I wouldn’t have thought otherwise. When I compared the initial design with the final design, it’s clear to me how much my thought process improved from the feedback I received from Boutte each week. He helped me develop a critical eye, and his comments prompted me to ask myself the right questions to add more dimensionality to the character. I can’t wait to create another design with the same process! For the next time, I want to try incorporating additional tools and techniques like photos, Daz3D, and other 3D tools to speed up the workflow. I recommend learning from Boutte to level up your design skills!
Before I enrolled in the course, I took Analytical Figure Drawing and Anatomy of Clothing taught by Ron Lemen at CGMA. I found it helpful to learn the foundations of figure, anatomy, and drapery before learning the application of those foundations. As a side note, I recommend both of these courses by Lemen because he is also a generous instructor with tons of knowledge to share about the figure, anatomy, drapery, and materials of drapery. Even if you have experience in these areas, you’ll learn many new things from Lemen!
As of now, I’ve had great experiences with CGMA because of their online platform and the instructors. In addition to feedback, I personally find the weekly Q&As to be super valuable because of the opportunity to speak directly with the instructor. The instructors I’ve had have been incredibly generous with their time and attention, and it’s cool the instructors are working professionals on amazing projects at the same time as teaching. Since I don’t have quality art education around my area, it’s been great to learn from these highly skilled instructors online through CGMA.
I hope sharing my experience with Phil Boutte’s Costume Concept Design course was helpful. If anyone has any questions, feel free to contact me :) I hope I can share future experiences with you again!
You can see more from James here:
The Iterations of Ireoluwe
Interview with Giulio Duprè
Giulio Duprè takes us thorugh the detailed explorations that transformed into the magical Ireoluwe.
My name is Giulio and I am an art student from Italy. My education is in Industrial Design and I obtained a bachelor and a master's degree in Design and Engineering at the Politecnico di Milano. I'm currently working as a Product Designer at an international company based in Milan.
Since I was a child, drawing has been my passion and I have always been studying comic book Illustration and concept art in my free time, only recently joining the courses at CGMA. I am very passionate about character art and design and with this course my objective was to deepen my knowledge of how to properly set up and design a good costume under the guidance of a professional instructor.
Taking a Character From Text to Sketch
First and foremost, I started out planning the story of my character: who she is, where she lives, what is the theme of her story and so on.
I strongly believe that a good character, and in general good design, should be based on a strong story. It must communicate to the audience who the character is as efficiently and interestingly as possible.
With this in mind, I started creating a board that helped me plan the broad strokes of my design. I decided to design a female character because I took lots of inspiration from the stories of magical girls I knew from my childhood. In my mind, I had an urban fantasy theme tied to African American Folklore. I wanted my character to be a magical fighter in a contemporary setting, with a deep connection to the Yoruba god Iroko, who represents the world tree and is said to live in the canopy of the woods.
Before starting, I already knew that I wanted her final costume to be the result of a transformation from her everyday attire to mystical clothes. When facing a challenge, like in a fight, she would call upon herself the powers of her god and "ascend", so her everyday clothes would blend with mystical elements to prepare her to the challenges ahead. This meant that I actually had to plan both stages of her costume, the simpler one before and the complete one after the transformation.
I continued by defining her age, where she lives, how her power works and how her theme could influence her appearance, then translated all of this into a simple shape and line language. I decided that vertical, tall lines can best communicate her mystical qualities and swirling shapes would give her a mischievous and unpredictable look.
I then proceeded to create an image board of references to guide the initial exploration phase. I kept this collection of images with me for all the design phases and kept referring to it to make sure I was sticking with the visual language. One of the main real life visual inspirations was the Yoruba tribe of Nigeria and its traditional clothing, as well as modern fashion tied to African culture and visual motifs.I proceeded to sketch some thumbnails to visually experiment ideas. I kept them very small, quick and gestural as this allowed me to see immediately which shapes worked or didn’t and what generally looked inspiring and in tune with the theme.
During this exploration I always focused on trying to communicate her main qualities. Since she is supposed to be an urban magician, her costume should be a blend of traditional and modern clothing. The overall shapes should suggest that she is a "spellcaster" type character and that she draws her powers mainly from nature. After this, I took the three most promising thumbnails and turned them into a complete rough drawing to better assess details, shapes and see how well they worked together.
I ended up with three very different rough drawings in terms of detail and clothing composition, but felt that all of them respected the initial idea. This was convenient and gave me a lot of freedom to experiment in the next phases. I kept the pose and face pretty generic, giving her a look of empowerment and confidence.
Making the Final Cut
For my first iteration on the final design, I decided to develop the more sporty-looking character from the three rough drawings I produced. The shape and overall silhouette were the best of the three and I felt it allowed for the most interesting opportunities to blend magical and traditional elements with everyday clothes within the costume.
That said, I needed to make some adjustments. I wanted my character to project an idea of being more interested in "looking cool" rather than being pragmatic, so I changed the main articles of clothing while paying attention to keep the general shape language and rhythms that I had previously established. I actually generated two final designs in an additive approach. I developed the everyday clothing which acted as the first phase of her transformation and then added the magical elements of the final costume. This ensured that the two phases worked well together and didn’t conflict. I started to insert the tribal african patterns that I would elaborate on later in the design process and to nail down the details of every article, as well as the connection and the support of every piece of clothing. I had to address how the clothes were draped on her body, how they were connected to each other and in some cases supported to not fall off.
Color and Texture
For textures and color swatches, I needed to plan before starting the research. I knew that this character needed to communicate her bonds to the elements of earth and nature, so I picked mainly natural and grimy textures, such as wood, straw, woven cotton and leather. To counterbalance this gritty look, I added some specular elements, that could work as accents and catch the eye, in the form of metal jewelry. I also added the waist beads, an important folkloristic and cultural reference to this character's ethnic group, that helped to break up the earthy pattern of textures. It was interesting to design and plan out in advance how they would intersect and connect around the character's waist.
For colors I decided to experiment a little bit more. I aimed to try out some schemes inspired by nature, always trying to echo my theme, as well as some other independent combinations.
For some of them I tried to let loose with at least one saturated, unexpected color. To keep everything together I first tried using a complementary, two-color scheme but in the end found out that a split-complementary scheme worked much better. The keystone for the color scheme, around which everything needed to work, was her skin color, constant from iteration to iteration, so I made sure everything worked it.
In the end, I selected four color schemes coming from my experimentations that I felt best blended with the overall costume and contributed to making the character feel more real and grounded.
Phil’s advice was key to this, as he pushed us into trying and experimenting with some wild combinations that we would not have tried out otherwise.
The Final Pass
Nearing the realization of the final drawing, I went back to my research to make sure I nailed down every detail of the costume.
As I mentioned before the most important thing I had in mind was the story and believability of the character, so I wanted to make sure that every detail made sense and was grounded in reality from some background information that fit the cultural origins of my character.
I swapped out the leather straps around her waist in favor of a traditional Yoruba attire called Adire, whose traditional color fit the chosen color schemes. I added a magical staff with the traditional piece of white cloth tied on its shaft like those you can see on sacred trees in Africa.
I also changed the leaf crown around her shoulders to better reflect the Iroko's leaves, the god-tree to whom the majority of her powers are tied, adding handlike branches coming out of them to represent the leafy trees the god hides in.
This was also the moment I decided to change the posture of the character. I needed to break up the functional, static A-pose in favor of something that could better communicate her personality.
Having to re-draw the character multiple times helped me get more in touch with who she is and how she behaves. I designed a more open and dynamic pose that could communicate confidence but still be functional to showcasing her full costume. To enhance the connection with the viewer, I also changed her facial expression into a slight smirk, which was very effective in bringing her to life.
Finally I decided to name her. I did some research on traditional Yoruba names and finally came up with "Ireoluwe", which means "goodness of god", as represent her ties to the divinity.
I think this naming phase is an important but often overlooked one, as it strengthens the relationship and the identity of the character we are drawing, and also makes it easier to come up with the right acting to represent her.
With Ireoluwe's pose, colors and textures in place I moved on to the final piece. I kept the line art, which helped to clearly communicate all the pieces of the costume, rendered and added textures to each and every article to communicate their forms and material qualities. Between colors and textures, I decided that colors were the most important part and so I made sure that surface details would not overpower the hues I selected for the costume.
I also added a back view which was needed for clarity and helped me design how thing would connect and hang from the backside.
During this course I have realized how well executed research can really empower the overall design. Choosing a topic very far from your everyday experience is exciting because it allows you to continuously discover new things and meanings previously unknown to you. This continuous research adds to your wealth of knowledge and visual library, making your present designs more effective; It empowers every future design you will work on. It helped me in coming up with new ideas and new ways to interpret what I already knew. In my opinion, it’s immediately apparent the difference between a research-backed design and one cobbled together.
Understanding the basics of anatomy and clothing are really helpful to realize a good costume, as well as a character wearing it. The stronger your technical basics are the more freely you can explore, come out with ideas and manipulate shapes and lines to suit your needs.
Phil was a wonderful instructor. He always encouraged us into grounding our designs with research and basing it on reality, but also telling us to try and experiment more. For every review he asked us to try something wild, or to see how a very extreme detail or new idea could blend with what we already had been working on. I think this kind of encouragement from him was really successful in me and my classmates come up with fresh solutions that we would not have explored otherwise.
The class was very nice and the interaction with other students was really constructive. We constantly kept in touch out of class to discuss our designs so that we could critic our work before we got the final critique from the instructor.
With regard to this class, I would advise to go in with an open-minded and really take this opportunity to try out something bizarre, out of your comfort zone. Since there is a lot of research, this could be the perfect occasion to discover something new and that we usually shy away from and finalize it to a successful degree.
Climate Change: Dressing Fe'avi for adventure
Interview with Allegra Shinabargar
Allegra Shinabargar takes us on an island adventure as she creates a full wardrobe for her nomadic character in Costume Concept Design.
Hello, nice to meet you! My name is Allegra Shinabargar, and as of this interview I live in a small Midwestern town in the United States. Creating characters and their stories has always been a passion of mine; one that drew me to CGMA’s 2D Character Design Program after I graduated high school in 2016. I decided to further my education through individual workshop-based classes that would help me construct a portfolio, instead of the more traditional -and often expensive- approach to earning a degree at a private art school. So far, I am halfway through my schooling journey; eager to further develop my personal project: Fe’avi and the Obsidian Isles.
Finding the Story
I’ve always had a love for video games and admiration for the hard work that goes into them. This project has become a way for me to practice the design process and explore new techniques while keeping gameplay in mind. I had a general idea of what direction I wanted to take “The Obsidian Isles” and our main character, Fe’avi. My favorite approach to any new project is copious amounts of research and reference and this piece was no different. Creating clothing that would not only be visually captivating, but also add to the narrative was a challenge. I knew I wanted the world to reflect in her clothes, especially as she experienced the differing landscapes of the Isles.
I find it easier to design once I have a story outline, so I decided that this project required a bit of exploration. Fe’avi is the last dragon of the Obsidian Isles, cursed to live in the confines of a human form. She quests throughout the land searching for the sorceress who subjugated her. The Isles contain a range of diverse climates and creating clothing for multiple regions was ideal.
Building believable cultures and civilizations to create a vivid world is very important to me. I really wanted to emphasize Fe’avi’s interactions with the people she would encounter as her journey progressed. This can be shown through the costume details and her accessories. I decided to play around with different climates to learn more about costume diversity. Having Fe’avi transition from a warm environment to the arctic regions was a way to showcase her personal growth throughout the story while also branching out of my designing comfort zone.
The Initial Spark
I decided to keep her first costume somewhat minimal after going through many experimental preliminary sketches. I imagined that she would craft her own clothes, and that they would consist of a lot of patchwork until she acquired enough skill to make more fanciful items. Ideally, this would fit the reoccuring artisan theme I wanted to bring into the project. It was really helpful to have Phil’s insight on how to make the garments appear more homemade, and I believe both the story and the design elements benefited immensely from it. While playing with shapes I realized the more triangular designs seemed to fit the character’s personality better rather than the ones with more rounded edges.
Fe’avi is a confident and determined character, often finding herself at home in the most unsuspecting places. Creating a pose that would fit her personality was equally challenging, especially when I didn’t want to conceal too much of the costume. In the final design, you can see her pose reflecting her routine of being prepared, almost like she is saying to the viewer: “More adventure? Cool, let’s get going.”
The initial face studies can be seen in grayscale format alongside the first drafts of Fe’avi’s costume. While she wasn’t modelled after any one person, I wanted to include a strong profile and chiseled, sharp features. Throughout this course, I took inspiration from many places, including the Dukha people of Mongolia and the people of Umoja, Kenya.
By week four I had completely fleshed out Fe’avi’s first costume. You can see has obtained an opaque glass charm around her thigh. This was made to serve as a type of gameplay notification, ringing like a bell whenever a new quest arrives in the inventory. This accessory also connects her to her first encounters in Tekriit, the artisan village on the edge of the Hist’a Desert. These people are known for their ethereal glass blowing skills, which they survive upon by trade. This small town is one of the first places she discovers on her journey.
Fe’avi also wears a hand-carved driftwood adornment on her back, in the shape of wings to represent her past. Her hair has the ability to burn like embers given the right conditions and it carries the last shimmer of magic left from her transformation. I wanted her clothes to be practical. I considered giving her a hood, but I could just see it accidently going up in flames if her hair got too hot, so that option was put on the backburner until I could think of something more suitable. We can also see ceremonial tattoos that mean she is welcomed by the people of Tekriit.
Finding colors that worked for this character was a challenge. I wanted to keep that handmade -almost scavenged- appearance going in the beginning, so neutral colors worked best. I felt the earthy tones spoke more to her grounded personality. To keep the rugged appearance I went with the dark tanned leather for the main part of her design. All of the eyelets and details were made from waxed thread, rather than metal. To add more variation, I gave her a red piece of silk fashioned around her waist. Her staff’s embellishment is made from a section cut of the same shell that she wears on her shoulder as a makeshift pauldron. The knee guards are also made from the same wooden material as her back adornment.
In the following weeks I decided to explore additional costume ideas. Wanting to try something new, I went with a traditional ceremonial garb she would wear during her welcoming ceremony in Tekriit. Additional clothing designs were created that would suit her as she traveled north to the Izo Tundra. Painting all these detailed textures was a little intimidating at first, but my instructor gave me tips that helped pull the piece together in a timely manner.
Intricate beadwork has always been something I’ve had a fondness for, and I wanted to explore that in this garb. Since the people of Tekriit are known across the land for their glass, I imagined that their ceremonial clothing would be a spectacle to behold. The people of the Hist’a desert do not have a wide selection of textile options, instead opting to use beads for ornamentation when needed. Most clothes are made from spun silk, which is then dyed various warm tones from surrounding items. Red is a common color that symbolizes the people’s connection to the desert.
For Fe’avi’s tundra costume, I played with a lot of natural textures. I quite like the look of woven reeds, and decided to make her an insulated outer shell that would almost serve as an armor. I also scanned in one of the pendants my mother used to wear and painted it as Fe’avi’s necklace to provide a personal touch. It fit her character and the hand-carved attitude of her journey. I also ended up giving her a hat in the tundra costume, thinking she might have picked up an enchanted beanie along her journey so her ears wouldn’t turn to popsicles in the cold. Not wanting the design to be too monochromatic, I incorporated Mongolian-inspired fabric patterns, and also gave her a pop of red with the piece of silk worn in earlier designs. You can see Fe’avi’s journey reflected in this silk and its weathered nature.
Winter is Here
In the final week, I really tried to challenge myself and complete Fe’avi’s tundra costume in the smaller time frame. It was a lot of hard work and overall I am happy with the way it turned out. The final critique gave me the realization that I want to pursue this project outside of the class, which has been very exciting. The world has grown on me and I am quite excited to see what the future holds for it. Phil’s mentorship really helped me flesh out this character and the world she resides in. This course has allowed me to experiment with so many unique ideas and textures. There are so many designs I would still like to explore with her, one being to incorporate obsidian. It’s how the Isles got their name after all, and I would love to find a way to add it to her story.
I absolutely adored Costume Design with Phil Boutte. He pushed me to explore different textures and incorporate materials into my designs that I would’ve been hesitant about before. It was great to have a teacher who was really invested in helping me succeed. Having a passion for designing characters really benefitted me during this course. I learned a lot about how to render difficult textures and how to build a costume for a specific person. The one-on-one personalized feedback and having someone with a professionally trained eye sit down and analyze your work each week is worth its weight in gold. Phil’s expertise was a huge help when it came to making garments not only visually appealing, but functional as well. It is fantastic to have classmates who ask questions and take an interest in each other’s projects. I have found that well-rounded critique is irreplaceable, and would highly recommend CGMA to anyone who is searching to improve themselves artistically.
You can see more from Allegra and her work below:
Creating a Costume for A Future Aristocrat
Interview with Marina Azeros
Marina Azores explores the elegant details that would give her futuristic costume a historical feel in CGMA's Costume Concept Design.
My full name is Marina Azores Lillo, I’m a 25 year old fine arts graduate from Alicante, a small town in southeast Spain. I have worked in small projects here and there as a freelance artist, mostly in drawing and illustration. My mom is a makeup artist and I’ve worked as a makeup artist myself too (learned the family business). When I was a kid my mom used to take me with her to work, and I used to watch and try to help in fashion shows, photoshoots etc. So I’ve always been in an artistic and visual-oriented environment, which I guess fueled my own interest in art and fashion. So costume design came into my interest during my teenage years, as I became more interested in visual media like movies and tv shows. After I finished my fine arts degree I was absolutely convinced I still needed to learn a lot and I wanted to keep studying. After researching for a bit what my options were, I decided to choose CGMA because I really looked up to the teachers that taught there and I loved their work. Also, a computer-based course was really attractive, so I could learn from professionals in the industry without having to actually move all the way to the US, and also I could work and manage my time in other ways while taking the course, which was really convenient for me at the time.
Reference and Research
For the first week, we were asked to find a character that was recognizable from pop culture, either tv or movies, and analyze and dissect their design, then try to redesign them. I usually tend towards either very high fashion-y characters, who wear really fancy clothes, or very historically-inspired, more fantasy like characters. So with this one I really tried to get out of my comfort zone by choosing a character that is anything but polished. I chose Dr.Frank n’ Furter from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. And it really was a challenge, I don’t think I expected it to be that hard! It’s a character with a very strong personality and individuality and keeping that intact while adding something of my own was challenging in a very fun way. Also, I learned that even though characters look chaotic and all over the place, and they just threw on whatever they found in their closets, nothing is further away from the truth! I had to think every detail and accessory in a way that worked with the silhouette, the references, the personality and style of the character, but still looked cool and not too thought out. It was so tricky.
Finding a Character & Rough Line Drawing
For my design, I had a concept in mind that I had been thinking about for a long time. Something like a futuristic Versailles society of noblemen and women (it’s the only way I can think of putting it in few words). So the aesthetic references were sci-fi and contemporary fashion and late 17th and 18th century France. I wanted to create silhouettes and use colors and details that would mash up both currents in a way that looked good and interesting. So for that I went with bell-shaped silhouettes, lots of volume and ruffles on the upper body and skinny tights underneath. I wanted to give them a very stoic stance, with a whimsical, delicate look to them. Like they don’t have to run around working or doing absolutely anything, so their clothes don’t need to be practical at all. They are simply a display of wealth and status, and their only concern is to look pretty and beautiful like a decorative object.
Finally, I decided to name my noblewoman “Olivie” just a name I thought of. So, according to the theme, she belongs in this futuristic versailles-esque society where she lives unknowing of the struggles of the outside world (just like the real life Versailles was its own small world of vanity and frivolity while the common people starved right at the gates of their paradise). She needed to look beautiful, but in a very cold, inhumane way. She doesn’t have any facial expression. The costume I finally chose for her is this piece with humongous balloon sleeves inspired from the late 17th century, and some embroidered details. While some elements of the costume (The balloon sleeves, the velvet boots, the embroidery, etc.) are very reminiscent of rococo fashion, the way it’s put together (the sort pants, the floating halo, etc.) comes off as very modern.
Introducing Texture and Color Swatches
When the time came to choose our textures/fabrics to use in our design, I knew right away I needed to look up a lot of historical references for the fabrics that were used back in the baroque and rococo era, and also lots of modern fashion references more on the high fashion side. I looked up many types of embroidery and embellishments, appliques, silks and similar shiny materials, velvets, etc. I really wanted this costume to look very rich and expensive, like a noble person would wear.
When it came to color I really had no idea what to do. I was open to many possibilities because I really had many options. Usually when it comes to very advanced sci-fi society, we usually do a very simple use of color. White is abundant. I wanted to keep that very clean and stoic image but really go crazy and explore colors. Because during the rococo era, there were many trends involving color. Very strong striking colors like red, deep blue, gold, etc. were popular, but there were some decades where more pastel and soft looking colors were commonplace. And the combination of both and everything in between. So I really tried many different combinations of strong and pastel colors and tried to play with them. Also with the hair color, since I thought it would give a very futuristic and modern look if it was an unnatural color, but knowing well that during the rococo period it was very fashionable to powder your hair in a pastel color, like baby blue or pastel green, and of course white powder was mandatory.
At first I thought I would go with a pastel palette, but then I tried to do a color combination that would usually hurt the eye, like a very intense red and a powdery pink, and for some reason I really liked it. So it stuck.
Identify the Color Palette
I feel the powder pink was a perfect choice in the end. It’s a color that has strong connotations. It’s such an innocent and pure color that we associate with purity, femininity and maybe even childhood and playfulness. So I wanted to use it with her because I felt I wanted to give her that deceiving pure look. And the contrast with the blood red accentuates this. The pink fluffy silky piece represents this ideal of moral superiority and false innocence while the rich striking red velvet peeking through in the gloves and boots shows the true nature of this tyrannical, conceited aristocratic society.
Overall I’m pretty satisfied with how the design came out. It’s an idea that I would like to continue working on in the future (I imagine Olivie would have a very wide wardrobe). During this process I learned so many things it’s hard to list them all, but if I had to name them I would say most of all I learned to check myself and know when to choose. It’s good to be passionate about your work but you also need to keep distance from it and not be too emotionally invested, otherwise you won’t be able to make choices and think objectively about what is best for the project. Also I learned that designing a costume thought for a specific character is completely different from just designing clothes or drawing characters out of your head. There are many necessities that need to be met and your job is to do that well while also being creative, which is a very delicate balance to keep.
To see more from Marina check our her sites below:
Interview with John Milstead
I’ve enjoyed creating and designing since I was young. I originally started my career in graphic design. I realized I didn’t enjoy it enough to do that day in and day out. I searched for something I could be more passionate about. Now, at 24, I have found that passion and I am learning more about it by studying to be a Character Concept Artist at CGMA.
I have learned to see things in a different light due to moving around a lot while growing up. I have lived in Alaska, China, Idaho and several other places. I have also had the opportunity to travel to places like Mongolia and Thailand. I have worked on various indie movie projects and comic books. My initial art style was in comic books. I have recently learned more about painting — both digitally and traditionally.
My desire is to work in the costume design world so this was a perfect course, right up my alley. I’m enrolled in the 2d Character Design Program, so I was happy when this course came up. I’m also a huge fan of Phil Boutte’s work, which added to my excitement in the class.
Finding a Character & Rough Line Drawing
One of my goals is to one day work on either superhero designs or historical characters. I decided to combine these ideas into a WWI Superhero. I chose WWI instead of WWII because it tends to take a backseat to WWII in the media. The hero, Artillery, is a brave renegade soldier, but not a flashy and bold character. I wanted to design a character who would look confident, yet humble. I also wanted him to have a strong, armored, and down-to-earth look. My first idea was to have him look intimidating to the enemy, with his large poncho and mask. His uniform would be slightly enhanced, giving him a large graphic read while being adaptable in many situations.
I narrowed down my selections by looking for a silhouette that would both intimidate enemies and inspire hope for the good guys. I also wanted the design to be unique enough that it wouldn’t be associated too much with other current heroes.
I used WWI and WWII soldiers and airmen for my real world inspirations for this design. I took examples from their uniform materials, like the leather, fabrics, colors, and general shape. I upgraded the basics to fit the character’s story. Going to a military museum was a big help and offered a great deal of inspiration. I was able to view the pictures and dioramas, recording pictures and ideas from actual era pieces.
I based the casting off the actor, Matt Lanter. His face/pose was the main influence for the uniform. Matt’s character’s are the strong, adventure hero type, without being too bold and flashy. This influenced the proud, determined pose, and neckline design.
More about the character and his uniform
At the beginning of the Great War, Ian Reynolds is medically discharged due to injuries sustained in an intense skirmish. While back home, he hears word that his brother is pinned down on the battlefield. With help from his wife, he puts together a custom armored uniform and goes back into battle to save his brother. Along the way he becomes a legend, a hero who appears out of nowhere in times of need.
The character needed a time period and accurate uniform to start with. I modified this a bit so he could make better use of it on the battlefield. I also equipped the character with used, military gear like pouches, grenades and more. He also has a custom patch, resembling a military patch, but his own piece. I also added metal highlights to make him stand out more and strike the heroic pose. The scar on his eye highlights his injury.
My main goal was to accentuate the chest piece and the ammo pouches. I customized the chest piece just enough to become his own, iconic piece. The ammo and gear pouches also have the character’s own touch — creating his own gear system so he is ready for the trials to come!
Introducing Texture and Color Swatches - Identify the Texture/Materials
I investigated textures by researching the process in which items were made during the time period. I gathered information from online sources, personal collection items, and museum pieces. I used my research to create a reference board to use while designing.
I started the color swatch research by viewing the colors in the original uniform and accessories. The character’s uniform is modified so, I chose to use earth tones, similar to the original uniforms, but enhanced so they would stand-out more. I did not find blue in the original designs so I added it to make the uniform stand-out a bit more. I played with the tones, tweaking it until I found the desirable effect.
I had a pleasant ‘accident’ while applying color tests over the black and white painting of my character. I ended-up finding a good secondary color for the armored uniform accessories while exploring with different layers and colors. This color would be used in my final piece.
Final Material and Color Design
The most challenging part of the final week was the rendering and pose refinement. I have previous experience in painting. However, taking it to the next level was challenging — yet, rewarding when I was able to get it to work.
Trying to push the pose as far as I could without breaking it was tricky. It was satisfying to see the character evolve as I changed and modified the pose. Overall, it was a fun experience. Thankfully, Phil gave great lessons, tricks, and techniques that helped me learn more about this process correctly. This process resulted in a character in the proper position and direction.
I am satisfied with the design. In fact, I think it came out better than I imagined. My goal is to create a design sequel for the character. I would also like uniform — and the title to become a family legacy. I can imagine the uniform being passed down to future generation. The next character will be his daughter during WWII — and possibly his grandson in the Vietnam War. I will possibly refine the current character’s mask and poncho.
The final critique was very beneficial. I enjoyed learning more and more. I was able to see clear progressing from the beginning to the end of the course. I also see how I can apply the design knowledge and skills learned in my own career path.
o - What are the main skills that you have improved on from taking this course?
I definitely learned on how to take better use of reference and research and apply it to my designs, how to focus in and improve details, and how to make the character’s costume more functional. I also improved greatly on my technical skills like painting and composition.
o - What prior experience do you think helped you most going into this course?
Previous studies in fashion and film helped with how the costume was practically broken down, my general knowledge of Procreate, and sketching techniques really helped me focus on the design aspects itself. I also used my graphic design experience to create a title card and promo materials to push the movie look and feel.
o - How did the instructor feedback help? Can you give an example?
Phil Boutte was a fantastic instructor! He had great information for techniques, career tips, fun stories from the life of a concept artist, and he really went above and beyond helping each of us in our pieces. Midway through the course, when I started taking the design from ideas to final piece, his instruction on how to scale the piece, add dimension to the background and work with proper contrast and design elements really helped me to grasp the techniques and take it to the next level.
o - How was the interaction with your fellow students?
It was great! I learned a lot from watching their take on things as well. We also connected outside of class and keep up with current activities.
o - Do you have any tips you could give other artists that would like to this class?
I would definitely recommend taking the digital painting class, anatomy class, and clothing class. I took the clothing and anatomy class, and this really helped me keep up with other elements of the class. Not being refined as I could be in digital painting slowed me down a bit, so I would recommend being well rounded in that class as well. I would also recommend learning a bit of style/ fashion rules, be familiar with how costumes work, and have some pieces in mind that inspire your work.
I have really enjoyed this class and learned a lot from it! I highly recommend it to anyone interested in costume design.
The Importance of Backstory in Costuming a Character
Interview with Elena Righi
My name is Elena Righi, I am an illustrator from Northern California with a focus on character and costume design. I grew up fully bilingual in English and Italian and as a result I was encouraged to read many books in both languages. Having an early attraction to stories and reading, eventually I developed a fascination with movies and the pre-production phases.
I have a strong fine arts background that for many years centered around portraiture, people and still lives. In 2015 I was accepted into the Fine Arts major at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) and in my second year decided to specialize in Costume Design and minor in Digital Arts. During my undergrad years, I worked in musical theater, costumed music videos, and short films, the most recent being “On The Clock” a short film that was accepted to the 2019 Creative Minds in Cannes Film Market.
At CalArts I discovered that beyond costume design illustration, I was interested in screenwriting, storyboarding and character design. When I saw that CGMA was offering courses on cinematic illustration, in particular “Costume Concept Design” taught by Phillip Boutte, it was clear this could be useful in strengthening my costume illustration and character design skills.
Finding a Character
Much of my fine art revolves around storytelling. I am an avid movie watcher and am frequently drawn to surreal, psychological, and fantasy based narratives. My initial idea for this character originated in my sophomore year of college where I sculpted the personification of lunacy.
Arden, the character, is not real. He comes into existence when a young piano prodigy gets sick with mercury poisoning. The piano that the pianist plays is a restored antique from the early 1900’s that has accumulated mercury vapors in the wood from poor factory protocols of the time. Arden is the result of the pianist’s sickness, a hallucination. Arden’s objective is to stay alive and he protects his existence by facilitating the pianist’s playing. In doing so, he accelerates the illness. The more the pianists plays the sicker he gets and the stronger Arden becomes. The pianist needs Arden in order to succeed in the orchestral arena, but is unaware that his passion is killing him.
I leaned heavily on haute couture fashion as inspiration for Arden’s silhouette. To give him an erratic and impulsive vibe, I focused on poisonous or vaguely threatening florals and insects as his wardrobe staple. I also aimed to emphasize his mesmerizing and mysterious quality through the prints he wears. That is why his costume is a sensory overload, like the overwhelming and hectic carpet of a casino.
By the end of my first design stage, I had thoroughly studied the effects of mercury poisoning on the human body. In addition, I had explored a variety of poisonous plants and the symbolic meaning of insects. My result was an extensive arsenal of research and reference images.
Narrowing Down a Selection
During week 2, I tested out many different silhouettes. Through my thumbnail explorations, I chose to push and pull which of Arden’s traits to represent. Some are more provocative and grunge, others are more sophisticated and some are eccentric and wacky. Eventually, I picked the ones that are highlighted in the box to develop further.
Look 1 (Below) focuses on the significance of blood in my narrative. The print that Arden wears is made up of twisted, spiny flowers which imitates his personality, something stunning and poisonous at the same time. The pairing of the red color and the floral print together signifies the pianist’s mercury contaminated blood. The asymmetrical element of the button placket is highly symbolic for Arden’s unbalanced personality. His hair, gloves, belts, boots and coat collar are rugged and uninviting that, furthermore, echo the punk age. Finally, the steel toed boots and chains connect to the silver of mercury.
In look 2 (below) I chose to develop is stranger and emphasizes Arden’s gaunt thinness. In this look, the red accents are still present in the neck tie and socks. Initially, I explored butterflies as an image for Arden because they correspond to his persona; they are beautiful and erratic. The fur coat is an indication of his narcissism and, at the same time, shows off his physique. His wardrobe is a reflection of his selfishness and his inclination to take what he wants.
Look 3 (below) is the most straight forward. The grey color of the romper is indicative of the color of mercury, which is silver. Layered under it, is a wacky patterned and colored print button up shirt. The designs are a parallel to Arden’s unstable personality and are physically under the surface of the romper signifying the hidden effects of the illness. This pattern is repeated on his steel toed shoes that are also blood red and fashionable.
In retrospect, I believe Arden’s final costume design was always between Look 1 and 2. At the end of week 3, I became hesitant on which look to pursue. It was Phil who pushed me to follow my instinct and create a new design based on the look I was more attached to. I chose to start from look 1 and incorporate elements from look 2 to make it the most comprehensive design. The base for Arden’s costume is an edgy suit silhouette from look 1, but with a sheer button up shirt inspired by his bare torso in look 2. Additionally, to break the suiting fabric uniformity, I introduced another texture to add a whimsical quality to his outfit. In this way, I was able to find a balance between the seriousness of look 1 and the wildness of look 2.
Something that was helpful for me when trying to finalize Arden’s pose, is thinking about what elements in the costume I wanted to emphasize; in this case it was the silk lining of Arden’s coat. However, I had to get creative with how to showcase it since it’s on the inside. I realized that by having him wear the coat through just one of the sleeves, I could drape the coat over the other arm, exposing the coat lining. Furthermore, exposing the lining with the dragonfly print is a metaphor for Arden’s true nature being visible.
I also wanted to display his elegance and flamboyance particularly through his general stance and hand pose. Overall, his well-grounded stance shows absolute confidence and powerful dominance. Arden holds a conductor baton in his right hand to signify music as his origin and the source of his influence over the pianist. In conclusion, this character has to fool you with his angelic features and sophisticated demeanor, but, in reality, he is alluring, manipulative, and borderline dangerous.
An important aspect of the story is the pianist’s dual musical identity, so I decided to give Arden an androgynous look. His overall sophistication is just a facade to disguise his true nature and goal. Arden is the physical embodiment of mercury poisoning: he is pale, very thin, with eye bags and wild white hair.
The initial butterfly motif for Arden eventually evolved into a dragonfly, for it is less childish and more mysterious. In traditional Swedish folklore when a (Fig. 9). dragonfly flew around your head, it meant that the Devil was weighing your soul. There are German and Norwegian beliefs that a dragonfly could sew together your eyelids and poke holes inside your eardrums. Dragonflies were a good choice to represent Arden’s continuous assault on the pianist’s senses.
From the beginning, I had a really clear understanding of my character but during week 4, when my creative process had slowed down. Phil recommended that I look at fashion designer Walter van Beirenndonck. Beirenndonck designs bizarre collections of men’s fashion wear consisting of hyper colors and geometric shapes, which inspired a new level of design for me.
Introducing Texture and Color Swatches - Identify the Texture/Materials
In order to imitate Arden’s spectacular and outlandish vibe, I wanted the textures he wears to be a compilation of many extravagant fabrics that clash and complement each other simultaneously. Arden wears several notably precious fabrics including cashmere and silk. Among the silver accent pieces he wears, one of them is a silver dragonfly pin on his jacket lapel.
For week’s 5 exploration, I continued using runway fashion for texture and color inspiration. I tried to maintain haste when exploring color concepts for my character to avoid getting too attached to any single view. The color schemes I generated were mostly unplanned and mood oriented
The exercise was extremely helpful in narrowing down a color scheme because I had many secondary ideas and references that I could explore. Through this week’s assignment I discovered Arden’s accent colors, violet and taupe, and the best place to put them.
This course was immensely valuable for me and I feel very happy to have taken this course. Phil Boutte is an excellent instructor. He is extremely encouraging and demonstrated many of his favorite drawing techniques and programs to the class. Many of my ideas for my character and screenplay have been reinforced and supported because of feedback from Phil Boutte. It is very easy to feel overwhelmed, as I did, when starting a project, but the course format made it highly manageable and enjoyable. It is important to have a good mentor and an organized course outline like CGMA offers. I learned many tips about the costume illustration process and professional field from the teacher as well as from watching the other students’ works.
Having spent much time over the eight weeks working hard and learning new aspects of character and costume design, it is extremely exciting to have an outcome that embodies my ideas and expectations. I am very proud with the final product. I have continued to develop my project and in the future, I hope to have the opportunity to turn it into a film or play.
Like many artists, I grew up working with traditional mediums and this course helped me to become more confident with the digital software and tablet I was using, which before that point was very daunting to me. Most importantly, this course gave me the opportunity to bring to life one of the my original characters.
Elena's work can be found on her website: http://www.elenarighi.com/