Art Tools of Elsa Chang

We have with us Elsa Chang for this interview today. She's a character designer working at Paramount, and has previously worked for Sony Pictures Animation and Disney Feature Animation.

Check out her work at

Qn: Can you give our readers an introduction to what you do for a living?

I'm a character designer and visual development artist for feature animation.

As a character designer you do anything from designing the first rough concept to tightening up a model sheet. I communicate with the director and art director about the color and style, I make sure what I'm designing matches up to the world it exists in.

Qn: I see that you use watercolour and gouache. When do you decide which to use for your artworks?

It depends on the size of the piece. If I'm working really small I like to use gouache, I feel I have more control over it when I'm working small in gouache. For larger pieces I just feel it's more fun to work in watercolor. You can see the effects of it better too, the way the water bleeds and mixes with water on the paper.

Qn: Why do you have two small almost identical brushes?

One is a size 1 brush, the other is size 2. It's a very subtle difference but one is also an older brush so when it's wet the point is not as fine as the newer brush.

Qn: Blackwing pencils. Are they nice to draw with?

They're pretty good, I only just started drawing with them but they're a lot of fun to sketch with in my Moleskine sketchbook.

Qn: Are there any difference between the tools you use in your job compared to your personal artworks?

I mainly work digitally at my job. At work I have deadlines I have to meet so making corrections on the computer is faster and easier than having to re-paint over something in gouache or watercolor. I work digitally with my personal work as well but I also sketch in my sketchbook in my free time.

Qn: What did you use to create these two drawings? There's some nice textures for the fabric, and just about the everything in the second piece is textured.

I usually limit myself to using 3 brushes or less in Photoshop. I have a chalk brush with a rough hard edge, a chalk brush with a soft edge and a texture brush. The hard edge chalk brush is for making the shapes or outline of a subject. The soft brush is for highlights, shadows or to soften an edge of something. I use the texture brush to mask highlights and textures as well or to make a gradient effect on the edge of a subject.

Qn: Do you use any sketchbooks for your drawings? Or any special paper for your watercolour or gouache works?

I have a couple of Moleskines I sketch in with pen and graphite. My favorite paper to use for watercolor is Arches cold press 140Lb, the watercolor blocks are great because the paper doesn't buckle or curl at the corners. I've used different surfaces for gouache including illustration board, cardboard and a middle tone card stock paper. Gouache can hold up on most surfaces if it's not too diluted.

Qn: Which other artists do you think should be featured next?

Clio Chang, Natalie Hall and Claire Keane.

I follow the work of my friends on Instagram and the ones that are always the most striking and fascinating to me are the pieces done by Clio Chang and Natalie Hall.

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