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Character Design: An introduction

Fri Jan 25, 2013, 12:29 PM
Arvalis-2012 by arvalis
Arvalis-2012 by arvalis


What does 'Character Design' mean?
The character design is the process  which comes after the characterisation and consists in defining the character  through his/her physical appearance. 
We need to consider a character as a little fictional creature, human or not, that aims to please its creator and the public as well.
While the basic characterization of this fictional creature (his tastes, his fears, his behaviors) may take a little mental effort, as it is a sort of list of emotions, facts and feelings that come and go in the life of a character, the process of visual realization of this creature may not be as simple. That's why many writers and characters creators prefer to rely on experienced hands.
Also many of the mental aspects of the character are not possible to gain by using 'static' visual medium. For 'static' I mean all the illustrations and drawings unable to tell a story, but that's the beauty of writing and reading, isn't it?  Anyway there are also plenty visual media that can graphycally or spatially recreate the emotions of a certain character, his thoughts, his complex mental structure that makes our creature a simulacrum of the human being. I'm talking about cartoons and comics, videoclips, anime and manga art, where the design of the character is a real milestone in the realization of a story of success.

Which are the differences between a design for cartoons and a design for games?
The first one requires a simple shape, highly recognizable at a first glance. The second one requires a higher complexity, able to show the real power of rendering of the console (or the power of your video adapter). The higher complexity design works really well for concept art  and trading card games as well. 

Slugterra Development 6 by CreatureBox
Slugterra Development 6 by CreatureBox

Tips from experts?
  • Take a sheet of paper and write down the psychological characteristics and traits that you want to give to your character. If the character is not yours but you already have a description of the author, the better.

  • It's also important to see the character in proportion to the medium on which the character will appear and the target audience it should have: keep the design simple if it's going  to appear on small media, use more structured design in case of  larger media, use bright colors if the character is designed for children. In any case, the design must be strong and original to make it look interesting to its public.

  • Now you can start sketching. Take inspiration from the world that surrounds you, from fashion magazines, from other original characters. Starts from a successful design and work on how you would change it for the better. Add items to its design and remove others. 

  • In cartoons, the consistency of the line should be the protagonist: use curved lines for good and sweet characters, use hard and sharp lines to  present cruel and evil characters. You may also need to exaggerate the physical features that correspond to mental characteristics: thick arms for a strong man, thick lips for a seductive woman...

  • Colors ay be really important. Dark colors, black and purple (and sometimes acid green) are used to identify the villains. Bright colors, white and pink are for vouchers. Heroes uses yellow, red and blue.


Oriental enchantment by TorqueArtStudio
Oritental Enchantment by TorqueArtStudio

  • Add accessories to your character. Animals could work as accessories as well, but their symbolic meaning can be very vast and ancient. New items will help add personality to your character, or they'd give you ideas for their background story. Clothing is a very important accessory to identify the social class and taste of a character. A warrior will have an armor, a mage will have a stick or a scepter, one who wears sandals will not be a great walker unless he/she is poor...They say the clothing doesn't make the monk, but in Character Design the bow makes the archer and the sword makes the knight. 

  • Works a lot on your character behaviours and facial expressions. Is he/she the angry type? Or is he/she curious? Well,  in both cases it will affect his/her appearance!



  • Good designs are well balanced. Doodle many designs without planning but don't add too many oddities to the same character. Just one but a good can be enough. Try to work on the silhouette of your character, make it immediately recognizable.

  • Develop your design both on your computer and using a sketchbook. The world is the best inspiration, especially when you can look at so many human types all together. Look at their make up, hair, facial features, clothing...Everything! 

  • Works on characters with different physical characteristics that can help identify the 'type' at first sight. 


Some good design sketches

Scarlet Empress by your-fathers-belt
Jarael character design by harveytsketchbook norah epstein by AlexPascenko Cha01 by your-fathers-belt knight    s by AlexPascenko
Sketch Character Design. by Nafah Go dark by algenpfleger cornell final version 3.0 by AlexPascenko Brides for Highlandar by JDarnell
  SB doodles by AlexPascenko cornell final by AlexPascenkoMaangchuan Jyh by offrecord Blood moon by offrecord
carmilla 2.0 by AlexPascenkoMaangchuan Yaw by offrecord Carrie v3.0 by AlexPascenko Commissh - Moonhawk by kasai ICHIDO-DOODS. A gang of idiots by kasai
<da:thumb id="306341456"/> 


Items study and different races or types

Rift Necromancer Tank Minions by ArtofTy
Dark Queen by dustsplat  Pathfinder Paladins 1 by Scebiqu Javelin-2012 by arvalis
 Pathfinder Paladins 2 by Scebiqu Tryndamere Concept Art by Zeronis  offensive combat characters by michalivan 
<da:thumb id="338266933"/>  Spektre-2012 by arvalis Siege. Characters by Gimaldinov
  Yet another one by Kurunya COTV armor by Reza-ilyasa Lady Kushana by Zeronis
 II: Athos by IielyZyra Official Concept Art by Zeronis Sophie concept by anndr
Some Posts by akizhao 


Process: from the sketches to the final version

Sketch Stages by dapper-commissions
Whakan - Characters 01 by Kurunya Whakan - Characters 02 by Kurunya 
Character Sheet: Bianca by DanHowardArtDracula - Character Design by EsbenLash
Lio design process by Ranoartwork X-FEM 3 by ChaseConley Kartel- color experiments 1 by ChaseConley
 

Some finished character designs

COLD FLAME by offrecord


Bitefight Female Hunter by Minosch Little demon by TorqueArtStudio   <da:thumb id="310855964"/> Sims 3 Showtime Female Uber Unlock by Jace-Wallace
Demon Hunter Blank BG by Zeronis character study05 by tahra  Dream Evil by anndr 
Warriors by naturaljuice  Sombras Divinas: Brianna by telthona Sombras Divinas: Elynin by telthona Reload by AdrianDadich
  blade collector classic - RED DAZE by Toshinho Mimi by naturaljuice Wraithborne by el-grimlock character study04 by tahra
Admiral Emmerich Kephran by Zephyrhant Michiko Toyoda by dCTb Combat Princess by timmi-o-tool Amalur - Kollossae by Gorrem 111025 jaslyne by bara-chan
Cyber-238 by Rahmatozz Bloodrust by timmi-o-tool  tribal warrior by len-yan Lord of Hatred by ArtMagix
Arthas Menethil by namesjames Amalur - Ljosalfar by Gorrem Amalur - The Jottun by Gorrem Vatori Advanced Version by trejoeeee
APB Stacy James by arnistotle APB Sofia by arnistotle The Entomber by Gorrem Amazon design by PeteMohrbacher Commission: Naraku by Wen-M
Archer by Goshun scorpion woman by SiaKim :Melthelm: Fashion contest winners[D] by azpt Knight Design Male by lorlandchain World of Warcraft Kazuki 1of13 by Meiphon
ZZ by jeffwamester character study 07 by tahra  Traxex by kunkka character study06 by tahra
Gothic Witch by Scebiqu study character by tahra  F i r e P l a i n s by Bluefley Kraun by ionen The Dancing Dragon by bluessence
   Dark and Day: Keiko Kirin age 13 by nJoo Commission: Ivae by Charlie-Bowater Tantai Xuan by fangogogocassiopeia by aozorize ocs - Meral color by krhart
Twilight Waltz by MichelleHoefener <da:thumb id="242924299"/>  Senja dance outfit by Orpheelin assassin-female by Cushart  


Sources: 


Credits:
All the images belongs to their respective owners. Click on the image to see the fullview from the artist gallery.
English is not my mothertongue. Be gentle. :dummy:


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:iconbiatravessa:
Biatravessa Dec 8, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
I have been looking for this for a long time. Thanks for making this!
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:iconanimavlastaspiridon:
AnimaVlastaSpiridon Jun 20, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks a lot. I shall continue to learn
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:iconkatcho:
katcho May 11, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
this is really great :) thank you for posting this :)
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:iconbinson:
Binson Apr 16, 2013  Student Traditional Artist
Thank you for posting this lengthy informative piece.

Extremely helpful!
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