• Jelena Jordanovic-Lewis

Little exercise for you - shapes for three little piggies

#childrensbooksillustrations #fable #threelittlepigs #illustrationknowhow #characterdesign

In this blogpost I describe an exercise on how to make your design look more intentional when creating the characters for Three Little Piggies, one of my top ten must have for a children's book portfolio! Read below the thought process behind the illustration


My first portfolio for children's books illustrations had the three little piggies in it. I like the story, because it is very simple and easy to visualise. Every child knows it and can play it out in rolle play. The version most common is that the pigs all hide at the end together, but some research revealed that this is a very child friendly version. I'll stick to the common one.

Different approaches different results

The illustration above is the recent piece I did with intentional character design, and below you can see the illustration from 2016 where I approached the storytelling first before I did the characters. It is sweet and I still like how I shaded the piggies, and how chubby they look, but It's quite a classic style. And while I think there is nothing wrong with the classic one, it seems it's not quite in demand these days.

Let the shapes do the work

For the design I focused on giving the piggies some character and didn't want them to be part of a scene yet. I distinguished the characters by choosing different shapes for each one of them. I will explain here how my process was and you can follow the same exercise.

First, I picked the standard shapes, triangel, circle, and square, and created the general form for the pigs heads and bodies (see pic below). I wanted the square/rectangular piggy to be the one with the bricks, because of the shape of the bricks, but the other two were randomly chosen.

In order to mold the characters of the pigs, I played around with the sizes of the shapes and the ratio head/body. For this I dived in to their backstory and invented some details.

What if the first one using straw, was just a young and not so experienced one, and that's why he choose a poor material. If so, I could give it baby proportions (see pic above, left pig) with a big head, and tiny body to emphasise this. The second and third pigs could be a bit older and probably stronger, and so being able to carry the weight of their chosen materials. To make them look older, I made the heads a bit smaller (middle and right in pic above) and the bodies a bit wider compared to the first pig.

Last but not least, I variied the ears, which make them now for children really easy to distinguish from one another (see pic below). To complete the design, I made the piggies feet and stands according to how much weigh they are carrying.

Finishing the painting

I painted the pigs on heavy white cartrige paper using water clours and pencils, and added shade and light on photoshop.

before photoshop:

after photoshop:

That's it. If you try this exercise I would love to see what you come up with. Let me know in the comments and send me a link where you posted your piggies.

If you liked my post, please share this exercise on pinterest with this image below. Thank you!

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