Tony is a concept artist and creature designer in the entertainment industry with a passion for real-world animals. He makes a point to learn as much about their anatomy as possible in order to nail both accurate and fantastical designs. Based on his impressive portfolio of work, we wanted to know more about Tony's technique for combining two unlike real-world animals into one awesome mythical being. Check out his process below, and be sure to take a look at his gumroad in order to learn from Tony directly! 


Before designing the creature, respectively the griffin, it is a good idea to first of all get some background information on the creature. For this project, we want to learn more about the griffin and its evolution. After searching the internet for a while we get to know that the griffin is a hybrid creature: The body is from a lion while the head, wings and legs are from a predator bird. There are many different descriptions of griffins so they can also have the tail of a scorpion or the head of a snake, for instance.

Another important point is the character of a griffin. It is said to be very strong and alert. We keep this knowledge in mind so we can use this information when designing our version of a griffin.

Now that we have collected information on the griffin, we can think about its anatomy. In order to design realistic looking creatures it is important to have a good understanding of the animal anatomy. With this knowledge we can make authentic creatures.

As you already know, the griffin is composed of a cat’s anatomy and a predator bird’s anatomy. After studying the anatomy of these two animals, I got the idea to make a fresh interpretation of the griffin. So I asked myself: What if the griffin was a real animal and during millenniums of evolution came to be a subspecies of the house cat? This way I was able to see the griffin from another perspective because – to be honest – the Internet is full of classic designs of the griffin. The goal is to design a being that you like to be around and that you can hug and play with just like you do with a real house cat.


Now that we have an interesting idea of the griffin and learned the anatomy we can begin the actual work. It is up to you whether you draw a few quick sketches with pen and paper or start directly in Photoshop or ZBrush.

It is essential before the actual designing process to look at photographs or videos of real cats. You should know how cats move and how the wings of eagles or owls look like in a state of rest and so on. In order to save time I use a low poly model of a cat that I have downloaded from the Internet. We can easily set this model in a certain pose. For this I use a typical standard pose of cats. With these positions you can transfer as much information as possible. The next step is to render the cat.


In order to get the most realistic effect, we are going to work with photographs of real animals in Photoshop. These photos give us not only a lot more information of the animal (e.g. the thickness of the fur or the form of feathers) but also help us to make the creature look more realistic.

During the search of suitable pictures it is a good idea to keep the pose and perspective of the cat in mind. Not all the cats that we searched on the Internet fit for the pose we are going to create in 3D. That is why we cannot download any picture but have to look out for suitable ones we can work with.

As soon as we have collected enough pictures we have to cut out every single one of them. You lay these cut out parts over the rendered image. As an end result we have a puzzle of photo snippets that we have to blend over seamlessly.

It is very important to keep the silhouette of the creature in mind. As already mentioned, we want to design a friendly creature that you like to cuddle. Therefore we have to avoid angular forms as well as hard edges and lines. We orientate ourselves by smooth, round forms and curved lines.

I hope that these tips help you with your designing of creatures and that you learned a lot of new tricks!

We'd like to thank Tony for these great tips. Be sure to follow him on Instagram to stay updated on his work!