2019 | Fall Registration now Open!

Registration for our Fall Term is now open!

  

Costume Concept Design

An 8-week course focused on the design and development process of costumes for film and television

Course overview 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.

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Course Format:   Standard
Lecture Type:   Pre-recorded
Feedback:   Individual recordings
Duration:   8 weeks
Assignment:   Due each week. Expect to spend 8-10 hrs/wk viewing lectures, q&a, and time on assignments.
Q&A:   Once a week
Materials:   Photoshop and Wacom tablet (or equivalent)
Skills level:   Intermediate
Prerequisites:   Anatomy of Clothing and Analytical Figure Drawing

Costume Concept Design WHAT YOU’LL LEARN

What you'll learn

The more you know, the better.

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Let's get to know each other! Introduction / background | What makes a character tick? | Initial breakdown of a character: who are they and how does that relate to what they wear? | Outline how to create a proper character mood board | Thumbnail demo
Fleshing out rough thumbnails into full character sketches / ideas | What is the script by which these characters exist? | Pose Demo
Picking an actor and that perfect "something" | Character Face / Head study demo
Introduction to researching texture and materials for a costume | Let's talk about color theory: what colors would your character wear and why? Does color foreshadow something specific about your character's arc? | We will render and apply color to character #1
We will render and apply color to character #2 | Using existing grayscale tones of the body to apply color | Demo
We will use various techniques to apply texture to both of our characters | Demo on how to deal with various types of fabric
Our characters at this point are very close to being complete | Demo on adding simple backgrounds to characters | Show examples of how to layout characters for final presentation
We are now in front of our Costume Designer, Director and Producers | Sell the costume and show me why your vision of the character is the most accurate depiction of who this character could be
Instructor

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.

Student interviews

COURSE BEGINS

October 5th!

fall TERM Registration

Jul 29, 2019 - Oct 14, 2019

Only

$699

COURSE BEGINS

October 5th!

Pricing & Schedule

Even though our courses are the most affordable for the quality of education.

These Finance Options allow you to focus on your goals instead of the barriers that keep you from reaching them.

Employer Reimbursement

Animation Guild CSATTF

Payment Plan

Companies that hire our students

  • Naughty Dog
  • Luma Pictures
  • Google
  • EA Games
  • DreamWorks Animation
  • Blizzard Entertainment

environment design Benefits

Benefits

What makes this learning experience unique?

Personal Feedback

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.

Flexible Learning

Learn anywhere, anytime, and at your own pace with our online courses.

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Uncharted Territory

Interview with James Manabu

Learn how James Manabu took the leap from engineering into costume design and navigated the design process with expert help from Phil Boutte in Costume Concept Design.

Uncharted Territory

BIOGRAPHY

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.

 


VALUE EXPLORATION

 

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 EXPLORATION

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.

 

 

TEXTURE/MATERIAL EXPLORATION

 

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.

 

 

HEAD EXPLORATION

 

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”.

 

 


FINAL DESIGN

 

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!

 

 

FINAL THOUGHTS
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:

https://www.artstation.com/jamesmanabu
https://www.instagram.com/jamesmanabu/
 

The Iterations of Ireoluwe

Interview with Giulio Duprè

Giulio Duprè takes us thorugh the detailed explorations that transformed into the magical Ireoluwe.

The Iterations of Ireoluwe

Biography


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.

 

 

Final Thoughts

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.

Climate Change: Dressing Fe'avi for adventure

Biography 

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. 

 


Designing Details 

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. 

 


Warmer Climates

 

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. 

 

 

Final Thoughts

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:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ashi.the.artist/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkf-9sEpMxM0Grw-QUsCOwg

ArtStation: https://www.artstation.com/ashiartist