The Live-Action Character with Karla Ortiz

Karla Ortiz
8 Lessons (8h 35m)
8 Week(s)

Two Ways to Learn


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  1. Watch Video Lessons at Your Own Pace
  2. Assignments Included
  3. Peer Feedback
  4. Switch Courses as Often as You Like
  5. Access to all Schoolism Webinars included

Critiqued Sessions

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  1. Watch Video Lessons with a Planned Curriculum
  2. Scheduled Assignments with Deadlines
  3. Personalized paint-overs and feedback videos
  4. Peer feedback
  5. Ability to Contact Instructor with Questions
  6. Physical Certificate of Completion (Mailed to you anywhere in the world)
  7. Access to all Schoolism Webinars included

Course Description

“The Live-Action Character with Karla Ortiz" is an immersive, detailed journey into how Karla Ortiz, known for her work on films like “Doctor Strange”, “Avengers: Endgame”, “Black Panther”, “Rogue One”, and “Jurassic World”, designs and refines characters for the big screen. This eight-lesson course takes you through Karla’s intricate process of character design, from the initial sketches to incredibly detailed and fully realized keyframes, as she shares her essential techniques for effective visual storytelling in character creation. 

Throughout the lessons, Karla discusses her process for developing character concepts, including her approach to composition, nuanced use of light and color, portraiture techniques, detailed facial expressions and anatomy, practical costume designs, and helpful “rules” that can be utilized to make the process of character design more simplified.

This course not only focuses on the principles of design but also on practical application aided by the numerous demonstrations from Karla, where she puts theory into practice. These demonstrations provide insights into her process of bringing a character to life, from initial concept to polished presentation. Watch as Karla Ortiz, a master in the industry, provides a rare glimpse into the high-level skills required for professional concept art in films!

  • Adobe Photoshop

Lesson Plan

In this introductory lesson, Karla introduces fundamental concepts of character creation, stretching from basic ideas to detailed keyframes. You will explore:

- the role of characters in storytelling

- emphasizing their story through actions

- body language and appearance

- lighting and location

Key techniques such as anatomy basics, Atelier measurements, and initial doodles are covered. The lesson concludes with a demonstration that combines these aspects featuring the Greek goddess Nyx as a case study, showcasing the essential principles of character concept art in action.

Karla continues her character design demonstration for Nyx, showing the practical application of the concepts introduced in the first session. She highlights how the foundational elements discussed in Lesson 1 play a crucial role in the character design and ideation process. Throughout the lesson, Karla provides insights into how these principles are seamlessly integrated into developing a character, offering a real-time view into the creative workflow of character conception.

Focusing on the detailed work of drawing faces, an essential aspect of character design, Karla delves into the angles of the face, the importance of memorizing facial measurements and their role in defining the body's anatomy, and demonstrates drawing heads from various perspectives. Key topics include:

- head construction

- precise placement of facial features

- understanding how angles and cartoon shapes contribute to creating expressive, acting faces

The lesson also introduces two fundamental portraiture techniques: Basic Construction, focusing on transforming basic frames into detailed facial features, and the Block-In Method, a simplified approach for laying out the structural lines of the face.

We now know how to build a strong base, do a block-in, and lay in shadow shapes, but what about lighting? How do we make the most out of different lighting situations for our character?

This lesson builds on the foundation laid in the previous session, shifting focus to the critical aspect of lighting in character portraiture. Karla goes over various lighting scenarios, including:

- natural lighting scenarios (sunrise, daytime, overcast conditions, sunset, and nighttime)

- cinematic lighting (key light, fill light, and backlight)

- high key and low key lighting

- how the position of light can be altered to meet specific artistic needs

Then, revisiting the Nyx character design demonstration, Karla concentrates on the portrait aspect, and shares her problem solving process when things look “off” in your portrait.

Students are introduced to the foundational elements and principles of design that are crucial for not just character designs, but all imagery. Karla covers the seven elements of design and how these components combine to create a painting, the principles of design and how to effectively use these elements in your work, and how these principles guide the application of design elements to create focal points, distribute visual elements evenly, and achieve movement and unity in a composition.

With the elements and principles of design in mind, this lesson focuses on enhancing concept art through techniques such as: 

- emphasis 

- contrast

- harmony 

- variety

- rhythm

- balance

Karla shares several rules of thumb that you can use to balance your artwork and character designs out, and covers the importance of designing functional costumes that help describe your story, add realism to your work, and make sense for the character and their personality. The continued demonstration on Nyx showcases these design principles in action, adding elements of contrast, elements to create balance, and identifying motifs that will be repeated  within the image, while ensuring all elements reflect her personality and what she represents.

In this lesson, Karla explains the concept of keyframes and how they guide visualization of scenes in movies or shows. Topics include:

- composition

- compositional tools (the rule of thirds and the golden ratio) 

- how to arrange elements pleasingly using basic shapes

- symmetric and asymmetric layouts

- aspect ratios

- various camera angles (extreme long shots, medium shots, close-ups)

Karla also provides a demo on perspective, emphasizing the importance of accurate proportions and horizon lines in maintaining perspective across multiple characters.

In this final lesson, Karla builds on the concepts from Lesson 7 to guide students through the detailed sketch process in keyframe creation. This lesson emphasizes the importance of deciding which areas of a sketch require detail and which do not while still being able to establish lighting, colors, values, and major compositional elements. Karla covers the significance of a strong drawing foundation and provides tips for effective sketching. The lesson concludes with an examination of some of Karla’s favorite keyframes, dissecting the transition from detailed sketches to finished keyframes and revealing the thought process and techniques behind them.


Karla Ortiz

Karla is an award winning artist who enjoys working on a diverse and wide variety of projects.

As a concept artist with over 10 years of professional experience, Karla has worked for Paragon Studios/NcSoft, Ubisoft, Kabam, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Marvel Film Studios, Universal Studios and HBO.

As a professional Illustrator her clients include Wizards of the Coast, Ace Books, Tor Books, Orbit Books, CB+P and has provided cover work and art for various independent authors and toy makers.

As a fine artist her work has shown in the Studio Gallery SF, the Safehouse studios shows, Thinkspace Art Gallery, Nucleus Gallery, Spoke Art Gallery, Hashimoto Contemporary and internationally at Galerie Arludik in Paris, France. 

Karla loves good music, good stories, good laughs and good food. She paints her days away with her cat Keedy Bady , and that's how she likes it.