April 8th - June 3rd 2024




"I just want to say that these 8 weeks have been really informative. I've learned so many things from you about the way I've been making my art, and how I can improve upon that. Thanks to you, I now have a sharper eye to look out for parallels and evenly spaced details (ladders) and to add more angles and dynamic features. Thank you so much for your insight these past two months. " Jon Leslie



You will work through developing a set of characters based off a character description that I will guide you in creating from start to finish.


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Welcome to the SDA Character Design Course.

This course was originally developed back in 2005 where it was the training ground into Character Design for thousands of students over a 15 year period. Many of the course students went on to have great careers and some are now leading designers in the animation industry.

A prolific and noted artist in the animation industry, Stephen Silver is known for his distinctive and unique designs, and for his work on "Kim Possible", "Danny Phantom", "Clerks - The Animated Series" and many other franchises. Among his clients are Disney, Warner Bros, Nickelodeon, Sony Pictures and many more.

As a character designer, you will be responsible for exploring new ideas through characters. Your role as a designer will be to create major and incidental characters for animated television, feature films, video games, and the like, as well as creating characters for your own intellectual properties.

Throughout this course, Stephen will share the creative process of drawing that he goes through and his personal techniques for producing successful character designs. You will learn to understand clarity and shape variation, as well as many other important principles and elements of design.

In his lectures, Stephen will provide you with a better understanding of the drawing and design process, and give you tools with which to constantly improve your skills. This 8-lecture course will build your confidence in drawing while inspiring you with new ideas that will help you grow continuously.

What others are saying...


Julie - Silver Drawing Academy Member




Jimena Sanchez

"I took this course because I wanted to polish my work, specially my characters. From the beginig, Stephen helped my understand the areas of my work were I could improve and throught the lessons he was able to provide the tools to do it. What I have learned on this class will help me keep growing as an artist for years to come."



Bobby Pontillas

"During Stephen's class I really learned to discipline my process in character development and design. Stephen has a palpable passion for this art form, and it is contagious. His encouragement to constantly practice our craft, explore different styles, and to keep studying were all keys to our improvement. He clearly breaks down his process without imposing his own drawing style on yours. From thumbnails to turnarounds to expression sheets, I really felt like my development process took a huge leap forward. I came away from the class with the message that it's all about passion, discipline, and practice."



Guy Barley 

"Stephen, Without exaggeration, this has been one of the best classes I've ever taken in my life. Thanks for sharing some of your trade secrets, which you earned through hard work over many years. These 'short-cuts' you've given me are an incredible boost."

What's included...

✔ Weekly live one on one Skype meetup with Stephen to go over your assignments. (not a group meetup)
✔ Each week you will be given an assignment which you have 7 days to complete.
✔ You will gain access to the following weeks lesson each Wednesday, this way you don't jump ahead too quickly.
✔ This course lasts 8 weeks and you will have a total of 5 months in order to watch and rewatch the lessons.
✔ Recorded video critiques.
✔ You will have access to the SDA community where you are welcome to share your work and also get the link to the weekly Zoom meetups I do with Academy members.

Heck yea, sign me up!

Course Outline


Lesson 1 - What is character design?
Throughout this lesson, we will examine what character design is as well as your responsibilities as a designer in the animation studio. I will discuss my own experiences, how I got started, as well as doing a visual breakdown of my influences, thereby, giving you a better understanding of what I'm thinking about when seeking inspiration. In this class, you will be given your first assignment, which will consist of creating a character based off a description so that I can see what your skill level is, giving me a better understanding of how I will work with you one-on-one.
Lesson 2 - Thinking, Looking, Doing.
"Get the fundamentals down and everything else you do will rise." This week I will be discussing Thinking, Looking and Doing. We will cover more design fundamentals and answer the most common question, "Where do I begin?" We will cover topics such as basic shapes, variation and the importance of strong silhouettes. I will discuss my own personal drawing exercises with you, which will help break those artist's blocks that we all get at times. You will also be given your scripted assignment that you will carry out from start to finish.

Lesson 3 - Construction/Caricature
In this class, we will cover the importance of construction. We will discuss what it means to avoid the ladder and tap into the realm of caricature. We will examine design issues such as contrast in angles and shapes and much more. I will give and demonstrate for you another great drawing exercise that you will be using for years to come. On top of all this, you will also be able to download my own 20 week drawing program. We will have two assignments this week.
Lesson 4 - The features
We will discuss more design principles and start breaking down some individual features, such as hands, eyes, noses, ears, and mouths. We will start fleshing out our characters some more.
Lesson 5 - Clean-up
In this lesson, we will cover scale and proportion. I will also do a lecture on clean-ups. As a designer, you may not often be called upon to perform this task, but you might have to do it from time to time. This will not be an illustrator lecture, but a clean-up-by-hand procedure. I will also be demonstrating another creative side assignment for you to have fun with during the week as well as continuing on with your main assignment.

Lesson 6 - Turnarounds
We will cover the important topic of turnarounds, a must if you want to work as a character designer in the industry.
Lesson 7 - Expressions and Attitudes
This week we will be covering expressions and attitudes. We will cover rhythm, balance and flow. I will also do a brief color demo on my characters. You will be given another creative exercise to do during the week in addition to your main assignment.
Lesson 8 - Memory sketching and how to approach keeping and drawing in a sketchbook daily
We will be discussing the importance of drawing in your sketchbook, what you should be observing and why this will help you grow. We will also talk about the importance of memory sketching and what to look for. We will discuss the business side of art, being a professional, meeting deadlines, end in procrastination and ways to simplify your life. This means getting  organized and staying on track. I will also cover putting together your portfolio to get yourself started.



James Anderson

"Stephen Silver's course on animation character design has blown away my ideas on what an online course can offer. Stephen uses videos to hand us the tools to improve our artwork with in-depth lessons and personal critiques that are hand drawn over our own assignments. We get to see where we've succeeded in applying his lessons, but more importantly where we've strayed so we can learn from our mistakes. I can't say that all of his lessons have sunk in yet, but I've already noticed an improvement in my artwork. And I have more confidence in my abilities too!"



Alan Stewart

"This class was awesome. I got to learn so many things that I know I wouldn't have been able to learn anywhere in Alaska. I'm going to start slowing down with my drawings and do more sketches from life. Character design is what I love to do and now I feel like I'll be able to draw the characters that have been locked up in my head because I was too scared to draw them before. Thanks for a great time Silver.

This course was a great experience! I think any one who draws characters can benefit from it. It was packed with exercises and lessons to help push my drafting skills. It also was very encouraging to have a Skilled professional go over my own drawings, giving helpful advice along the way. This was money well spent!



Steve Richardson

"This course turned out to be everything I was hoping for, and more. Your experience and enthusiasm for what you do comes through, not only in your lessons but in the critiques as well. Not only have I seen the improvement in my own work, but I have caught myself saying things like I Watch those tangents! when I am doing critiques at work. You sir, were (and still are) my idle while I was going to art school. It has truly been my honor to have spent this pass nine weeks under your tutelage. And for that I thank you."

What you'll learn in this 8-week course

The 8 week course was created while I was in the thick of designing for the studios as an in house artist and has trained hundreds of artists many of which are now working in the industry. It is a separate program from the monthly streaming lessons with longer form videos and is guided all the way through. It's a course designed to walk you through the Character Design pipeline process to mimic what you would do in an animation studio environment as I had done for many years.  

  • Develop characters from start to finish
  • Developing concept ideas
  • Caricature
  • Drawing features
  • Clean up
  • Turnarounds
  • Posing characters
  • Expressions
  • Bonus assignments
  • Portfolio worthy artwork

Student Work

Your week one assignment is based off a character description I give you.

Your week eight assignment is for you to redesign your first assignment and see how you can improve it based off the lessons learned.



Sandra Ni Chonaola

"I thoroughly enjoyed the Character Design coarse. It was real eye opener for me. I find that I now have a greater knowledge of design and I have the confidence to really push the envelope.

 Your critiques were very clear and precise, very easy to grasp. From looking at the other student videos, I could see that you really got through to everyone on their own level, and really honed in on what the needs of the individual were.

 Your enthusiasm is infectious – it really doesn’t matter that that its coming from a computer screen! I think your very honest, and encouraging with your suggestions, I have to say, I would have no problem recommending this course, to anyone, at any level – I’m only sorry I didn't start it sooner."



Judd Simantov

"I just really want to thank you for doing this course! It by far exceeded any of my expectations. One of the things that stands out to me most is how much professionalism you bring to everything you do. It adds a value to your teaching that both inspires and captivates those learning. I took this course doubtful that I'd complete it and be able to produce a decent design... Only 8 weeks later, I feel confident to produce a cleaned up character, full turnaround and expression sheet... that really is a testament to you as a teacher and artist."



Dave Han

"I'm very grateful to have learned so many things from this class. I really do not think I would've learned many of these things anywhere else. This course has opened my eyes to many aspects of art in general, including rhythm, balance, appeal, and breathing life into characters through shapes, poses, line art, and much more. I can safely say that these lessons have indeed improved my drawing abilities, and given me a different outlook when it comes to designing characters. All of the lessons, great tips and advice you gave have a permanent place in my mind, a database if you will, of information that I refer to whenever I am drawing characters. What I'm most happy about is the fact that I am now able to bring more life into my characters. And although, I'm not quite as good as I'd like to be yet, I have a better design sense than I did before, and I know this will help me grow. Thanks for all the awesome lessons and fun course Stephen!"

Hey, I'm Stephen

Learn from me – an industry leader

Stephen is responsible for the visual character development and design of some of animation’s most iconic shows; including Disney’s Kim Possible, Nickelodeon’s Danny Phantom, and Disney’s Clerks: The Animated Series, to name a few.

He developed intellectual properties for some of the largest media companies in the world; such as Disney, Warner Bros., Nickelodeon, Sony, MAD Magazine, Reel FX, Bento box, Hasbro, Universal, DreamWorks, and more.

As seen on: 

Frequently Asked Questions

What other students have asked...



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