Skip to main content

Review: Science of Creature Design

Star Wars artist Terryl Whitlatch helps you understand animal anatomy to create epic creature designs.

Our Verdict

This is an essential book for any artist, whether you are a creature designer by trade or more of a realistic painter . The guides are helpful for any illustrator and the diagrams will fuel your imagination.


  • Inspirational illustrations
  • Stunning pull-out pages
  • Learn the fundamentals of all animal structures
  • Clear and easy to follow anatomy
  • Explanations and information from an expert


  • Could have included more interactive exercises for budding creature designers

ScienceofCD: Cover

Terry Whitlatch's books are must-haves for any illustrator

Any professional illustrator or concept artist will tell you, understanding the structure behind your creations is essential, which often includes needing a good knowledge of human and animal anatomy. Whether you want to know how to draw a bear or how to draw a face, first getting your head around a creature's basic make-up is vital.

Terryl Whitlatch's Science of Creature Design: Understanding Animal Anatomy is the first volume of two extraordinary books, delving into creature design through the eyes of a true master.

ScienceofCD: Gorilla

Whitlatch begins with what she calls, "the wings of anatomy," allowing readers to study the fundamentals before experimenting with their imagination

Blending science with art has helped Whitlatch build her extremely successful career as a creature designer. Having helped bring George Lucas' Star Wars universe to life, you couldn't ask for a better mentor and she isn't afraid to let you in on her secrets and skill. You too can inform your art and create more realistic, believable beasts and monsters.

ScienceofCD: creature labelled

Whitlatch even looks back to prehistoric, extinct creatures and studies their anatomy for more unique creature creation

Beginning with real-life animals, Whitlatch reveals a strong foundation in science with her diagrams. The illustrator studied vertebrate zoology and animal anatomy – and transfers this knowledge to readers, with labelled illustrations showing complex skeletons that make the basis of hundreds of different animals, and unique creatures.

ScienceofCD: Mythical character interpretation

Here, Whitlatch shows us how she creates the mythological Satyr, with help from Nubian goat and human anatomy

Whitlatch uses ancient mythological beasts to illustrate how you can use various animal anatomy from both extinct and extant creatures and combine skeletal structures to produce believable and unique fictional species.

Whitlatch's expertise is evident from page to awe-inspiring page, with every illustration beginning with a basic skeletol diagram, followed by muscular make-up and detailing, and finally the finished creature.

ScienceofCD: Sea Dragon

Whitlatch's "Rhinorca Sea Dragon", is a mix of rhino, orca and ribbon eel anatomy

The real mastery, however, is shown in her ability to make each stage so effortlessly simple – yet build it up into something so seemingly complex and filled with imagination.

Setting aside an entire chapter on horses, Whitlatch is is adement that there is no other animal more important for artists to draw well.

Illustrators will be fascinated to learn the basics of horse anatomy and what that can open up in creature design. "It's the literal pegasus that gets you to where you want to go," she comments.

ScienceofCD: horses

Whitlatch looks at horse anatomy in great detail, she believes there is no animal more important to understand when it comes to creature design

Closing the book are the mythological dinosaurs, with everything from feathers to wings, scales, fins, beaks, hooves and claws, they are the ultimate when it comes to creatures and the designs will leave you in awe.

This book is stunning, packed not only with essential information but filled with beautiful art, that you can pull out and admire while honing your illustration skills at the same time.

The Verdict

out of 10

Science of Creature Design

This is an essential book for any artist, whether you are a creature designer by trade or more of a realistic painter . The guides are helpful for any illustrator and the diagrams will fuel your imagination.

Alice Pattillo

When Alice is not writing about VFX and digital art, she freelances for Metal Hammer magazine, watches too many horror films and reads comic books. Sometimes she sculpts monsters and has been writing her own comic book for over ten years (it's still unfinished…).