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.
- 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.
- 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.