Animal Character Design Masterclass

If you have an interest in picture book illustration, concept art, surface pattern design, developing products for an online shop, cartooning or animation, this course is for you.



This program has been designed as a self-paced program.  This means that you have the flexibility to fit the program into your schedule. You can weave in the video lessons, tasks, and push projects in and around your other priorities. If you have the opportunity to cram, you can fast-track and gain competency quickly. If you prefer working at a slower pace, assimilate the information without feeling rushed; with lifetime access, you have the opportunity to revisit the course content whenever you need to.

The goal of this course is to build…

  • Knowledge – I will share everything that I’ve learned over the years about successful animal character design, in a series of easy-to-follow video lessons, demonstrations, and a workbook.
  • Competence – each new skill builds upon the other in easy manageable tasks and projects, strengthening your skills as well as your confidence.
  • Confidence – the daily lessons help you to foster your own creative practice, one that you can continue well after the program.
  • Your Portfolio – the lessons are practical, time-efficient, and designed to fit in and around a busy lifestyle. After 4 tasks, you'll receive a 'weekly' push project. The push projects reiterate what you've learned during the tasks, and give you the opportunity to illustrate a portfolio-worthy project.

"This course combines everything I love about designing expressive animal characters. I truly believe that what you learn in this course will positively impact every aspect of your illustration journey." – Nina Rycroft

"The passion that Nina has for animal character designs definitely showed is this course. Each week Nina gives you enough tools to improve your skills making you want to practice more and more. It covers a lot in just one month, and it's worth every penny!"

Carol Arantes
Animal Character Design Course, 2022

"Nina was an excellent teacher – professional, brilliant, fantastic artist, and easily understood… By the end of the course, I had created several animal characters that I've used for some of the books I'm currently working on."

Karla Hull
Animal Character Design Course, 2022

"I loved the step-by-step illustration techniques. It was a very logical course that kept building. Love the teaching styles with so many examples and practical instruction."

Rachel Fia
Animal Character Design Course, 2022

What to expect

Although we cover the fundamentals of animal character design in 'Week One', this is a comprehensive program on learning how to draw and design expressive animal characters. It is not a tight set of lessons on perspective, light, shadow, and photo-realism. Across the self-paced program, I will provide you with tools for expressing your you-ness through the animal characters that you design. You will be encouraged to add wit, and spontaneity with straight-to-the-heart accuracy.

Nina’s picture book illustration background adds another layer of tuition. Our deep cultural history of animal characters in children's literature inspires many of the tasks, and push projects. Referencing to fables, fairytales, and storytelling, in general, brings more meaning and purpose to the overall experience of the program.

BEGINNERS – Everything is here in one place, with a curriculum designed to take absolute beginners all the way through to an intermediate level. And with lifetime access, you can choose to spend more time on areas that need more practice. 

SEASONED ARTISTS – you will have the opportunity to learn new skills and techniques and establish an art practice aligned with your goals and one you'll want to continue well after the program (officially) ends. With lifetime access, you have the opportunity to develop your artistic style as well as discover and dig into your interests AND build your illustration portfolio. 

You will not need to spend another minute working alone wondering what to do next. This program will keep you on track offering the support and guidance that you need to move forward toward your illustration goals. You will have access to video lessons the comprehensive workbook, drawing demos, recorded expert interviews (giving insight into what it means to be an illustrator), and access to an online community of ACD members past and present.

Tasks & Projects

You will have access to 20 Tasks and Projects. 4 smaller tasks are designed to build your skills, preparing you for the larger Push Projects.


Access to ‘weekly’ demos, expert interviews, and a comprehensive workbook designed to work alongside the tasks and push projects.


Bring your portfolio to life by capturing the heart and the imagination of the many animal characters you'll design.

Join the Animal Character Design Masterclass

Here's your opportunity to commit to this extraordinary journey.




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From Observation to Imagination

This is a course on learning how to draw expressive animal characters. It is not a tight set of lessons on perspective, light, and shadow, and photo-realism. I will provide you with tools for expressing your you-ness through the animal characters that you design.

Animal Character Design Masterclass Curriculum

Self-paced this program has a different theme for each of the four 'weeks'. Each 'week' has four 'tasks' and one 'push project' to complete, as well as video lessons, a workbook, demos, expert interviews, and access to an online community.

We look at the ingredients needed for designing successful animal characters and finding the balance between observation and imagination. 

1.0 Welcome to week one
1.1 An introduction to animal character design
1.2 The importance of observation
1.3 Sketching from reference vs. sketching from life
1.4 Observation to imagination
1.5 How to set up a successful sketchbook practice

We dive into anthropomorphism techniques helping us create charming, memorable characters.

2.0 Welcome to Week Two
2.1 What is anthropomorphism?
2.2 Moving parts
2.3 The importance of telling a story
2.4 Construction and volume
2.5 Strike a pose

Explore caricature, exaggerating features, pushing shapes, and exploring the many different ways to represent your animal character’s personality, style, and features.

3.0 Welcome to Week Three
3.1 What is caricature design?
3.2 Animal archetypes
3.3 Sketch. Design. Repeat.
3.4 Breakdown drawings
3.5 Design a caricature

Learn what makes the perfect cast of characters and how they work together. Learn how to define and combine them skillfully and in-depth.

4.0 Welcome to Week Four
4.1 Fables
4.2 Villains
4.3 Five-step process
4.4 Group – silhouettes and more
4.5 Design and illustrate your 'dream team'

Tasks and Projects

Each ‘week’ has four tasks, each designed to build your skills and prepare you for the larger push project.

"First time trying animal caricature but absolutely loved everything. It's a whole new world for me and the ideas are flowing continuously. Thanks so much, Nina for putting this out into the world – I can't wait to see where this journey leads me!"

Sue Lippiatt
Animal Character Design Course, 2022

"I now find myself creating animal characters with much more ease, and without being enslaved to the initial references. The course is very well organized and self-paced."

Alan Rolle
Animal Character Design Course, 2022

"I really loved it and I learned so much that I can keep practicing. I loved how it was organized and I resonated with Nina's teaching style."

Randi Winters
Animal Character Design, 2022

Learn the Fundamentals

Learn the fundamentals of animal character design and how to apply these to any character design.


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