Best seller

Digital Painting for Characters: Color and Light

A course by Joel Santana
Character Designer. Tampa, United States.
Joined September 2019
, Character Designer

Learn how to breathe life into a character sketch through color and light with Adobe Photoshop

  • Best seller
  • 99% positive reviews (1.3K)
  • 28430 students
  • Audio: English
  • Spanish, English, Portuguese, German, French, Italian, Polish, Dutch

Learn how to breathe life into a character sketch through color and light with Adobe Photoshop

  • 99% positive reviews (1.3K)
  • 28430 students
  • 18 lessons (2h 49m)
  • 10 additional resources (6 files)
  • Online and at your own pace
  • Available on the app
  • Audio: English
  • Spanish, English, Portuguese, German, French, Italian, Polish, Dutch
  • Level: Beginner
  • Unlimited access forever

Adding realism and depth to a character drawing can be a real challenge for an illustrator, and it's usually what separates a simple sketch from a full-blown character illustration. The combination of color, light, and texture is what brings a character to life and, in this Domestika course, you'll learn the techniques to master them in your digital paintings.

The illustrator and character designer, Joel Santana, will walk you through his whole creative process, from the moment he scans his drawings to when he exports the finished product for printing or digital media. Throughout the course, you'll learn how to make the most of Adobe Photoshop to breathe life into your character sketches.

What will you learn in this online course?

Course table of contents

  • U1
    U1. Introduction
  • U2
    U2. Painting Fundamentals and Exercises
  • U3
    U3. Character Digital Painting
  • U4
    U4. Finishing touches and effects
  • FP
    FP Final project
View details

You'll start by getting to know Joel and his professional background as an illustrator. He'll also share a little about his creative approach and things he's done to push himself as an artist. You'll then jump into what you'll be creating in this course and discuss how you'll learn to take your characters from a sketch to something that feels lifelike using color, light, and textures.

In the next unit, you'll cover some of the basics, from setting up your workspace to warm-up painting exercises that will help you understand lighting, basic painting tips, and adding textures.

After, you’ll go over some things to make sure you’re prepared. You’ll start by discussing the steps to importing your sketch into the computer. Joel will also talk briefly about mood boards and how to create one, as well as how they can help you in your painting process. Finally, you’ll jump into painting your character design.

At this point, you will have reached one of Joel's favorite parts of the process. This is where you get to take your painted character and enhance some of the lighting effects, play with overlaying textures, color adjustments and add super simple background and floor shadows to ground the character for that 3D effect. Around this stage is also where you'll be able to push the depth of field effects to take the dimensionality to the next level. Some of these steps are a matter of preference, but again, this helps to add a lifelike feel and a sense of realism to the final image.

What is this course's project?

You'll bring a character sketch to life using intermediate to advanced digital painting techniques in Adobe Photoshop.

Projects by course students

Who is this online course for?

Anyone who would like to learn digital painting techniques in Adobe Photoshop.

Requirements and materials

You'll need basic anatomy and creative drawing skills, as well as a computer with Adobe Photoshop installed, and a drawing tablet.


28430 Students
1326 Reviews
99% Positive ratings
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Joel Santana

A course by Joel Santana

Teacher Plus
Character Designer

Joel Santana is a character designer and illustrator, a collector of hats, and a married father with two kids. Throughout his career, he's done freelance work for Champs Sports, Walt Disney World Orlando, and other major clients. Joel's been published in the Communication Arts Illustration Annual 2016 and a full page in 2017, and Huffington Post UK. He's also worked for in-house teams and advertising agencies creating illustrations for advertising, as well as packaging and toys.

Aside from creating, Joel has also mentored junior artists and co-workers, taught workshops, given talks to art students at local universities, reviewed products for Wacom, and participated in the local AIGA group speaking to young creatives.


  • U1


    • Introduction
    • Influences
    • What We Will Do in the Course
  • U2

    Painting Fundamentals and Exercises

    • Our Workspace and Brushes
    • Sphere Studies - Color, Light and Shadows
    • Sphere Studies - Modifications
    • Sphere Studies - Textures and Blur
  • U3

    Character Digital Painting

    • Creating a Moodboard and Importing Our Character Sketch
    • Masking Our Character
    • Flatting Our Character
    • Defining Placement of Keylight
    • Values and Color - White Fur
    • Values and Color - the Gun
    • Values and Color - Refining the Fur
    • Refining Lights, Shadows and Textures - Gauntlets
  • U4

    Finishing touches and effects

    • Finalizing the Image - Final Details, Glow and Blur
    • Finalizing the Image - Highlights and Shadows
    • Finalizing the Image - color editing and export
  • FP

    Final project

    • Digital Painting for Characters: Color and Light

What to expect from a Domestika course

  • Learn at your own pace

    Enjoy learning from home without a set schedule and with an easy-to-follow method. You set your own pace.

  • Learn from the best professionals

    Learn valuable methods and techniques explained by top experts in the creative sector.

  • Meet expert teachers

    Each expert teaches what they do best, with clear guidelines, true passion, and professional insight in every lesson.

  • Certificates

    If you're a Plus member, get a custom certificate signed by your teacher for every course. Share it on your portfolio, social media, or wherever you like.

  • Get front-row seats

    Videos of the highest quality, so you don't miss a single detail. With unlimited access, you can watch them as many times as you need to perfect your technique.

  • Share knowledge and ideas

    Ask questions, request feedback, or offer solutions. Share your learning experience with other students in the community who are as passionate about creativity as you are.

  • Connect with a global creative community

    The community is home to millions of people from around the world who are curious and passionate about exploring and expressing their creativity.

  • Watch professionally produced courses

    Domestika curates its teacher roster and produces every course in-house to ensure a high-quality online learning experience.


Domestika's courses are online classes that provide you with the tools and skills you need to complete a specific project. Every step of the project combines video lessons with complementary instructional material, so you can learn by doing. Domestika's courses also allow you to share your own projects with the teacher and with other students, creating a dynamic course community.

All courses are 100% online, so once they're published, courses start and finish whenever you want. You set the pace of the class. You can go back to review what interests you most and skip what you already know, ask questions, answer questions, share your projects, and more.

The courses are divided into different units. Each one includes lessons, informational text, tasks, and practice exercises to help you carry out your project step by step, with additional complementary resources and downloads. You'll also have access to an exclusive forum where you can interact with the teacher and with other students, as well as share your work and your course project, creating a community around the course.

You can redeem the course you received by accessing the redeeming page and entering your gift code.

If you're a Plus member, when you complete a course you've purchased, you'll instantly get your personalized certificate. You can see all your certificates in the Certificates section of your profile. You can download your certificates as PDFs and share the link online. Learn more about certificates.
Digital Painting for Characters: Color and Light. Illustration course by Joel Santana Best seller

Digital Painting for Characters: Color and Light

A course by Joel Santana
Character Designer. Tampa, United States.
Joined September 2019
  • 99% positive reviews (1.3K)
  • 28430 students