Character design is frequently fraught with stumbling blocks. Although many well-known figures from cartoons, advertising, and films appear simple, creating your own character from scratch requires a lot of creative thinking. In fact, a great deal of effort and talent will have gone into making them so effective.
Creating character has always been about keeping it basic, from Mickey Mouse’s famed three-fingered hands (designed to speed up production when he was first developed for animations in the 1920s) to the elegant simplicity of Homer Simpson. See our Disney Plus guide for more information on these and other classic characters.
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But, in terms of character design, what should you think about? Aside from clean lines and clearly readable characteristics, knowing what to accentuate and what to minimise, how to add depth and backdrop, and how to develop personality are all important considerations.
Then there’s the issue of learning how to draw your character design. You’ll need to make sure it works from any angle if it’s going to be utilised in motion or as part of a comic strip.
Don’t let the magic go.
Many character designers begin their work with a rough sketch. And most designers think that this is often where the character’s essence is captured. So, when you’re putting together your design, keep that magic in mind.
Laurie Rowan explains, “I strive to maintain to my initial artistic technique because the instinct is to clean everything up.” “I prefer not to feel as if I’ve invented characters; I prefer to feel as if I’ve just met them.”
“Don’t get caught up in the intricacies when you’re first starting out with your character design,” Pernille rum advises. “Decide what you want to say, then do free sketches with movement, acting, and a sense of flow.” As soon as you start tightening up the drawing, you’ll lose part of the dynamism, therefore it’s critical to have as much life as possible in the early phases. It’s nearly tough to incorporate movement later, so make sure it’s in the first sketch.
Look into other people’s characters.
It can be instructive to try to figure out why certain character designs work and others don’t. There’s no shortage of research material, with illustrated characters popping up everywhere: on TV advertisements, cereal boxes, shop signs, fruit stickers, mobile phone animations, and more. Examine these character designs and consider what makes some of them successful and what you enjoy about them in particular.
“When working with characters, you need to feel motivated,” rum adds, “and research can help you do that.” You can build a visual library in your head. Try to pay attention to the people around you — how they walk, gesture, and dress – and include that into your design.”
Keep the original concept in mind.
It’s all too simple to get influenced by our favourite designs inadvertently. Cornelia Geppert, CEO of Jo-Mei, a small independent game studio, is a big fan of The Last Guardian because of its unique style and fantastic video game character designs.
One of her team members had to tell her that their Sea of Solitude design was too similar to The Last Guardian at one point. When she looked back at her early artworks, it brought back memories of how she felt while producing them. The project was re-adjusted to its original course.