One of my favorite things in the process of creating an illustration or a series of works is the initial character design. I thought it would be fun to share some of my process with you today! Here are my 5 main tips for a great character design:
#1. Get To Know Them
Who are they? What is their personality? What do they do for a living? What are their goals, motivations, fears, etc.? You can even write a little summary or a back story & direction you want them headed in. All of these things help create your character. They are the foundation for all other design decisions you will make along the way. Try to create a well-rounded individual and then worry about a name & fashion.
#2. Use A Muse
Not everyone does this but I have found it to be extremely helpful when getting down to the nitty gritty of illustrating facial expressions and mannerisms. Find a muse! Cast the role in your mind. If your illustration were a film, who would play the part? (Pro Tip: Find a muse that gives good face! Facial expressions are key in creating a character that “comes to life”.)
Here are a few of my go-to muses:
(JJ Feild • Elijah Wood • Lee Pace • Tom Hiddleston)
#3. Rough It Up
Sketch, sketch, sketch. As much as you need to. Get all of those first ideas that pop into your head down on paper. Personally, since I stand by my convictions on the importance of facial expressions, I start with the face. Once that part is defined then I find that everything else comes together quickly and fluidly. Go with your gut. They’re your character & you know them better than anyone else! Once you have a few sketches down then you will usually be able to point to one or two & say: “That’s it! That’s him/her!”. Sometimes this can be achieved on the first couple of rough sketches (especially if you’ve spent a lot of time developing their backstory & personality beforehand) but sometimes it requires a number of tries. Don’t get discouraged if that happens. It just means that you are slowly, but surely, meeting your character and you don’t want to settle for less than all the magic you know they have to offer!
(Early sketch of one of my characters from 2013, Jacques Dandyprat.)
#4. Choose Your Style
This step is either the easiest or hardest for an artist. What style do you want to draw your character in? For more advanced artists, this is usually a no-brainer. They’ve already developed their own personal style after years of experience and it is pretty much their default because it’s become a signature look.
If you’re a beginner or if you’re advanced but not “married” to a style then I recommend doing some research. Always consider who your character is before choosing a style. You want to match their personality. However, if this is for a series of work then you will need to be able to draw all of your characters in the same style, so be sure to consider that as well. If you can’t decide on one then challenge yourself to draw your character in three distinctively different styles and see which one wins you over. You might be surprised and even end up developing your own style this way!
#5. Add Some Flair
Now you get to decide on fashion choices. Trust me, you don’t want to start a character out that way because then you box yourself in and ultimately the results are less dynamic. Just as in life, who you are determines what you wear. Whether that be because of your personality or career path. So save that decision for last & you’ll find that it becomes even more fun at that point because you can determine the perfect details for dress that you might not have considered before.
That’s it! Hope these tips and suggestions help you out the next time you’re working on a character. Don’t be afraid to let loose.
Sometimes characters will surprise you!
Thanks for reading! x – Dez