Behind The Scene: Fantasy Character Illustrations for Sports Apparel

Saad Irfan

Lead Artist

Anas Riasat

Supporting Artist


We were approached by the Sleefs team – a sports apparel brand in the USA selling high-quality and super cool sleeves, headbands, socks etc. They asked our art team to make a lot of fantasy character illustrations for their new mask collection. This was a perfect job for Saad Irfan, who is an amazing character artist with tons of professional experience.

Planning & Execution:

The marketing team at Sleeves provided the sketches and some instructions that were pretty straight forward. The first thing we did was finalize the art style required for the illustrations, so an accurate time and effort estimate can be provided to the Sleeves team. We then made a list of 50+ illustrations with references and notes. Here’s the instructions for one of the batches.

Saad has a super fast digital painting process which always ends in beautiful results, no matter how many illustrations are needed. It all starts with Saad creating a detailed sketch layer for each character before handing it over to the team. Here’s the process Saad and the team used for this project:

  1. Concept Sketches
  2. Final Sketch
  3. Greyscale Shading
  4. Basic Color Shading
  5. Final Illustration

We would send the characters for review after each step, and move onto the next batch of sketches. Any feedback was incorporated in the next steps, and sent back for another review. Saad and the team worked in batches of 4-5 characters daily, and I was amazed, almost hypnotized by the quality and turnaround times.


In 2 weeks time, Daniel was super happy because he had more fantasy character illustrations for his store than he could wish for – hats-off to Saad Irfan and the supporting artists. Here are some of the final paintings,

“In my country we say. ‘Vos sos el mejor’ lol. You are the best”

– Daniel G, Sleefs

I learnt so much about character illustrations during this project, which made me stop to think how much research & practice concept artists must do in order to make such gorgeous paintings. This was definitely one of the most memorable projects we have worked on, thanks to the brilliant ideas from the nice people at Sleefs. Have a look at the final product.

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