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27 top character design tips

Character design can be a tricky beast to tackle. Creating your own character from scratch involves a lot of creative thinking. Although many of the classic personas well known to us all through cartoons, movies and ad looking straightforward, a lot of skill and attempt will have gone into shaping them so effective.

From Mickey Mouse& apos; s famous three-fingered hands- drawn to save production time when he was first developed for animations in the 1920 s- to the elegant simplicity of Homer Simpson, attribute intend has always been about stopping it simple.

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But aside from clean lines and readily readable aspects, what else do you need to consider for your persona designing? There& apos; s knowing what to exaggerate and what to play down, what to add to give a hint of background and extent, and what to do to develop personality.

And then there& apos; s the matter of the technicalities of how to draw your attribute designing. If it& apos; s going to be used in motion or as part of a cartoon strip, you& apos; ll need to make sure it runs from any slant( easier said than done, as this unsettling top-down view of Mickey Mouse proves ).

For this article, we questioned a range of leading artists and illustrators their the recommendations on establishing memorable, unique characteristics layouts. Many of these tips-off come from Pictoplasma, an annual persona layout festival in Berlin.

01. Don& apos; t lose the magic

character design

Make sure you don’t polish all the charm from your attributes[ Image: Laurie Rowan]

Many character decorators will start their project with a sketch. And most agree designers concur this is often where the essence of the character is captured. So when you& apos; re working up your layout, make sure you don& apos; t lose that magic.

“I try to stick to my original illustration mode, because the instinct is to try and clean it up, ” says Laurie Rowan. “I don& apos; t like to feel like I& apos; ve is established by attributes; I like to feel like I& apos; ve various kinds of just encountered them.”

“When starting out on your persona designing, don’t get caught up in the details, ” says Pernille Orum. “Decide what you’re trying to communicate, then generate loose sketches with move, behaving and pour. As soon as you start to tighten up the illustration, you’ll automatically lose some of the dynamic, so it’s important to have as much life in the early stages as possible. Movement is all but impossible to add later, so make sure it’s in the initial sketch.”

02. Step away from the citation material

While inspiration needs to come from somewhere, the aim is to create something original. So Robert Wallace- known as Parallel Teeth– indicates not having the citation substance right in front of you as “youre working”.

“If you look at something and then you try and hazily recalls that it in your thinker, that& apos; s when you finish up attaining something better, rather than a pastiche of something, ” he says. Above you can see Wallace& apos; s new take on well-known festive figures, been established for a Hong Kong department store.

03. Research other attributes

For guidance, it can be helpful to try and deconstruct why certain persona intends run and why some don& apos; t. There& apos; s no famine of research material to be found, with illustrated attributes seeming everywhere: on TV commercial-grades, cereal boxes, shop signs, stickers on fruit, animations on mobile phones, and more. Study these persona designs and think about what makes some successful and what in particular you like about them.

“When you work with personas you need to be inspired, ” admonishes Orum, “and you can do this through research. Your mind is a visual library that you can fill up. Try to notice people around you- how they stroll, their gestures, how they garment- and use that in your design.”

04. … but also search elsewhere

It& apos; s likewise a good notion to look beyond character designings when hunting for inspiration. “I like chicks& apos; mating rites a lot, ” laughs Rowan. The odd motions can spark unique character behaviour.

“When I begin a project, I often start with the feeling I want to evoke, ” he adds. The process begins with the designer taking videos of himself as a citation, trying to capture something of the character idea& apos; s movement or posture.

Other inspirations include ceramics- an organic texture and muted colour palette stop his operate feeling too clinical- and folk costumes.

05. Don& apos; t lose sight of the original hypothesi

Jo-Mei studio character design

Sea of Solitude is an upcoming game by Jo-Mei studio[ Image: Jo-Mei]

It& apos; s easy to subconsciously let our favourite designings force us. Cornelia Geppert, CEO of indie games studio Jo-Mei, is a huge fan of The Last Guardian, with its unique aesthetic and great video game character intends.

At one point one of her team members had to say to her that their Sea of Solitude design was looking a little too similar to The Last-place Guardian. She looked back at her initial artworks, and it brought back the feeling she had when creating them. The project altered back on track.

06. Exaggerate

Exaggerating the defining the characteristics of your attribute designing will help it seem larger than life. Exaggerated aspects will likewise help viewers to identify the character& apos; s key qualities. Exaggeration is key in cartoon caricatures and aids emphasise certain personality peculiarities. If your attribute is strong, don& apos; t just give it normal-sized bulging arms, soup them up so that they are able to& apos; re five times as big as they should be.

The technique of exaggeration is relevant to attributes, too. Anna Mantzaris& apos; amusing Enough film( above) appearances everyday characters in mundane situations, doing the things we& apos; ve all dreamed of doing on a bad day. “I think it& apos; s fun with animation that you can push things further, and people will still accept it as real, ” she says. “With live action it would look absurd. You can also be used push the emotion further.”

07. Decide who your character designing is an effort

character design: scarygirl

Nathan Jurevicius’ Scarygirl features in games and a graphic novel[ Image: Nathan Jurevicius]

Think about your audience. Character designings aimed at young children, for example, are typically designed around basic shapes and bright colours. If you& apos; re working for a client, the specific characteristics& apos; s target audience is usually predetermined, as Aussie artist Nathan Jurevicius explains.

“Commissioned character intends are usually most restrictive but no less creative. Clients have specific needs but likewise want me to do my& apos; thing& apos ;. Usually, I& apos; ll break down the core features and personality. For example, if the eyes are important then I& apos; ll focus the whole design around the face, making this the key aspect that stands out.”

08. Make your persona distinctive

Character design: The Simpsons

Matt Groening used yellow-bellied to induce The Simpsons attributes stand out from the crowd

Whether you& apos; re creating a monkey, robot or monster, you can guarantee there are going to be a hundred other similar initiations out there. Your character design should be required to strong and interested in a visual sense to get people& apos; s attention.

When devising The Simpsons, Matt Groening knew he had to offer the observers something different. He reckoned that when viewers were flicking through Tv channels and came across the show, the characters& apos; uncommonly bright yellow skin colour would grab their attention.

09. Create clear silhouettes

A silhouette helps you understand the character’s gesture[ image: Pernille Orum]

Another good way to induce your character distinct and improve its pose, says Orum, is to turn it into a silhouette. “Then you can see how the character’ speaks’ and if you need to stimulate the gesture more clear. Do you understand the excitement of the specific characteristics and understand the line of act? Can things simplify matters? Try not to overlap everything, and keep the extremities separate.”

07. Develop a line of action

A line of action is the backbone of a character depicting[ Image: Pernille Orum]

One key aspect to consider when creating a character design is the line of action. This is what defines the direction of your character, as well as being a useful narrative tool and bringing a feeling of movement.

“Try to bring the line of activity all the way out to the terminus, ” says Orum. “A ballet dancer is a good example: they emphasise the line from the gratuities of their toes to the tips of their fingers. The pipeline of action is also easier to see in beings with fewer legs, which is why mermaids are an ideal subject for developing a strong line of action.”

08. Make it personal

Geppert& apos; s Sea of Solitude video game is an exploration of her suffers of loneliness. Intensely personal though it may be, video games hit a chord with audiences when it was previewed at E3 earlier in the year, because it deals with an experience that is so universal yet still strangely taboo.

“The best artwork is based on personal experiences. People can pertain better if it& apos; s based on the truth, ” says Geppert. “It& apos; s not a made-up story, even though it& apos; s are available in a fantastical setting.”

09. Find the posture firstly

posture in foxes: character design

Posture can say a lot about a character[ Image: Felicie Haymoz/ Wes Anderson]

Felicie Haymoz has worked with Wes Anderson on both of his animated features: Marvelous Mr Fox and Isle of Dogs. When starting on a new character design, Haymoz likes to start by finding the individual& apos; s posture. This part can start the ball rolling on the whole feel of the personality. “I try to capture the stance of the character. Are they hunched over, or are they sitting straight-out and proud? ” She also notes the face is important to get right.

Read more of Haymoz& apos; s film persona tips-off here.

10. Consider cable excellence

Straight and curved paths are spoken by your eyes at different accelerations[ image: Pernille Orum]

The drawn paths of which your character layout is compiled can go now some direction to describing it. Thick, even, soft and round cables may suggest an approachable, cute persona, whereas sharp-witted, scratchy and uneven pipelines might point to an uneasy and erratic character.

Orum recommends balancing directly and arcked paths. “Straight cables and curves gives your character design a rhythm. A straight line( or a simple line) results the eye quickly, while a curved( or detailed pipeline) slows down the eye .& apos ;P TAGEND

It& apos; s also worth considering the balance between stretch and compression. “Even a neutral pose can lead the eye by applying these two approachings, resulting in an effective character design, ” says Orum.

11. Use a joke structure

Rowan grew a call for himself by sharing humorous clips of his attributes on Instagram, and went on to work on projects for Disney, the BBC and MTV, and earned himself a BAFTA award and nomination in the process. However, it was his less successful years doing standup slapstick that provided inspiration for his trademark character animations.

“It& apos; s through standup I learned brevity. It& apos; s kind of a joke arrangement, ” he clarifies. Knowing how to frame the clip comes from past loss and successes on stage: “You very rapidly learn how to made certain phases, ” he giggles.

12. Keep it simple

As well as to determine when to inflate, Orum is also keen to highlight the importance of simplicity. “I always try to communicate the designs with the fewest pipelines possible. It doesn’t mean that work hasn’t been put into creating the volume, placement and design of the character, but I try to simplify as much as possible and merely put down the lines and colourings that imparts the necessary information.”

13. Consider all the angles

Hilda character design

Hilda needed to work from all angles be incorporated in a comic strip[ Image: Luke Pearson/ Flying Eye Books]

Depending on what you have planned for your attribute designing, you might need to work out what it will look like from all angles. A apparently flat attribute can take on a whole new persona when seen from the side if, for example, it has a massive beer belly.

In the Character Design Crash Course workshop at Pictoplasma 2019, Jurevicius and Rilla Alexander asked attendees to sketch their character in poses held by other attendees, life pull style.

And if you& apos; re going to turn it into a comic strip, a la Luke Pearson& apos; s Hilda, it& apos; ll need to not only make sense from all angles, but search good too.

“How to draw Hilda from behind without her hair swallowing her silhouette”, how to draw her beret from above; a long and depicted out battle with how her snout should look … these were all issues Pearson had to deal with when creating his persona. The troubles all ultimately led to design solutions.

14. Build it in 3D

If your character is going to exist within a 3D world-wide, as an animation or even as a plaything, works out its height, weight and physical shape is all important. Alternatively, go one step further and create a model.

“Even if you& apos; re not someone who works in 3D, you can learn a lot by converting your attribute into three magnitudes, ” says Alexander. It& apos; s a key part of the process the students follow at the Pictoplasma Academy.

15. Choose colours carefully

Complementary colourings create a delighting equilibrium[ image: Pernille Orum]

Colours can help communicate a character& apos; s personality. Normally, dark colourings such as black, purples and greys depict baddies with malevolent intentions.

Light colours such as white, blues, pinks and yellows express innocence and purity. Comic-book reds, yellows and blues might go some direction to devoting hero excellences to a character design.

“To choose effective colourings, it’s important to understand the basic rules of colour, ” clarifies Orum. “Become familiar with the primary, secondary and tertiary colours, as well as monochromatic and complementary colourings. One technique for generate an effective colour palette is to chose two complementary colourings and work with them in a monochromatic colour scheme.”

“You’ll develop equilibrium because complementary colourings develop dynamism, while monochrome colourings invoke beliefs of mollify. You could also try a tertiary colour scheme, which adds a third colouring( for example, violet, orange and green ), and then work with monochromatic versions of those colours, but it requires more strategy and ability for it to work well. If you’re new to colour, try and keep it simple.”

To read more on this, determine our post on colour theory.

16. Don& apos; t forget the hair

Shape, divide and hairline are the secrets to drawing good mane[ image: Pernille Orum]

“Some years ago I went from hating illustration fuzz to loving it, ” Orum. “Previously, I used to view works out all the details and directions of the fuzz as a tedious attempt. Now I think of it more as a large, organic shape, which like a pennant in the wind indicates and emphasises the movement of the character or its surroundings.

“Start by creating a large shape and divide it into shorter parts, while “ve been thinking about” where the hair is parted and where the hairline is. Every pipeline should help to define the volume, shape and direction of the hair.”

17. Add accessories

Props and clothing can help to emphasise character traits and their background. For lesson, scruffy clothes can be used for poor personas, and lots of diamonds and bling for tasteless rich ones. Accessories can also be more literal expansions of your character& apos; s personality, such as a parrot on a plagiarist& apos; s shoulder or a maggot in a ghoul& apos; s skull.

30 inspiring examples of 3D artwork

Next page: More top character layout tips…

18. Focus on facial expression

Character design: Droopy

Facial expression is key to a character’s personality, as Tex Avery’s Droopy demonstrates

Expressions indicating a character& apos; s range of feelings and depicting its ups and downs will further flesh out your character. Depending on its personality, a figure& apos; s feelings might be muted and wry or explosive and wildly exaggerated.

“When you know the basics of outlining a face, play games with the formulation of the specific characteristics, ” says Orum. “Use a mirror to read your own face and placard the subtle varies. Push and pull the eyebrows to show emotion. Avoid giving the face symmetry. The mouth will always favors a back and it renders life to the drawing. And give the head a tilt to add nuance.”

Classic examples of exaggerated sayings can be found in the work of the famed Tex Avery: the eyes of his Wild Wolf character often pop out of its brain where reference is& apos; s aroused. Another lesson of how express express gestures is deadpan Droopy, who barely registers any kind of feeling at all.

19. Give your character goals

The driving force behind a attribute& apos; s personality is what it wants to achieve. This missing& apos; something& apos;- be it riches, a girlfriend or solving a mystery- can help to create the dramatic thrust behind the narratives and escapades your attribute gets up to. Often the incompleteness or shortcomings in a character layout are what make it interesting.

20. Build up a back narrative

A scene can help reveal the identity of your persona[ image: Pernille Orum]

If you& apos; re prepare the way for your character design to exist within comics and animations, then developing its back tale is important. Where it comes from, how it came to exist and any life-changing events it has suffered are going to help back up the solidity of, and subsequent faith in, your persona. Sometimes the telling of a attribute& apos; s back tale can be more interesting than the specific characteristics& apos; s represent adventures.

“If you’re experiencing questions when attempting to nail the essence of a character, try thinking of them in a certain situation, ” Orum advises. “Use the tale to think about your character’s feelings before tackling the design, and add the details subsequentlies. Giving the incident is the best help when staring at a blank piece of paper, and it builds the process more fun, too! “

21. Remember it& apos; s not all about the face

Yukai Du utilizes hands to covey emotion[ image: Yukai Du]

Yukai Du is not whatever it is you& apos ;d call a typical attribute designer: none of her task aspects faces. Instead, her body part of choice is the hands. Having note she wasn& apos; t good at capturing specific excitements within a facial expression, she turned to a different form component: the hands. “Hands are very expressive. You can tell a lot of stories with hands, and do it in a very subtle way, ” she says. Hands became her path of telling tales.

22. Make your persona designing flexible

Having decent software and materials to work with is useful, but not essential, when it comes to bringing your attribute to life. A plenty of amazing attributes were successfully designed years ago when no one had personal computers and Photoshop CC was just a dream.

If you character is really strong, you should be able to capture it with just a pen and paper. Or, as Sune Ehlers throws it: “The character should still be able to work with a stay dipped in mud and depicted on asphalt.”

Top Photoshop tutorials 23. Get the information received from others

Show people your initiations and ask them what they anticipate. Don’t just ask whether they like them or not. Instead, see if they can pick up the personalities and traits of your personas. Find who you think is the suitable or principle audience for your work and get feedback specifically from them about it.

24. Make it honest

John Bond recently created a storybook based on his Mini Rabbit character[ Image: John Bond]

“A lot of my commercial-grade job come out of my personal work. That& apos; s why I “ve been trying to” build my personal work so honest to what I like. I think it comes through to the viewer that I& apos; m not just ticking cartons, ” says John Bond. The illustrator recently launched his debut picture volume, NOT LOST, based on his Mini Rabbit character design.

25. Create the appropriate environment

In the same way that you create a history for your attribute, you need to create an environment for it to help further cement believability in your creation. The world in which the character lives and interacts should in some way make sense to who the character is and what it gets up to.

26. Fine-tune your figure

Question each element of your creation, especially things such as its facial features. The slightest adaptation can have a great impact on how your persona is perceived.

Illustrator Neil McFarland admonishes: “Think about the meaning of the word& apos; attribute& apos ;. You& apos; re supposed to breathe life into these things, make them appealing and give them the sorcery that will allow people to imagine what they& apos; re like to meet and how they might move.”

27. Don& apos; t be afraid to make changes

Hilda character design

Hilda in 2012( left) and 2016( privilege)[ Images: Luke Pearson/ Flying Eye Books]

Hilda has changed over the years, from book to book, but Pearson explains that no one has pulled him up on it. “I like to think it signifies the design is strong enough to withstand being drawn in all these different directions, ” he says.

This article contains content that was originally published in Computer Arts and ImagineFX publication. Subscribe to our design magazines here.

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