Designing characters is something that almost every artist wants to do at some point in their life. Creating your own character is something that gives excitement and feels very personal. Like you are breathing life into something of your creation.
What has always been an absolute blast is the fact that you can create worlds. Creating worlds is made of many components, but one of the critical elements are the ones who inhabit that world of yours, the characters.
Creating original characters is not easy, it’s the opposite. But don’t feel discouraged by that statement. You see, the character you want to create is always original as it was drawn by you and not by someone next to you.
However, keep in mind the creating and designing original characters is something that makes the whole process a bit more complicated. You see, you have to take into account a lot of things when designing something entirely new and that is what we go through next.
What is the process behind character designing
So as with anything you first have to imagine the world your character is going to live in. What is the era, what is the solar system, what kind of clothing do they wear, what’s the age of your character, story and background and so on?
I guess you start to get the picture. You see, there are so many elements that go into creating an original character. Even though I would like to look at my characters as an original. Yes, they are somewhat original but do they really differ so much from someone else’ design?
So maybe we dive in a bit further.
Gathering character design references
Start by gathering reference images around the subjects you have decided to include to your character. Reference images give your character a sense of realism that is always needed.
Characters can’t be believable if there is no attachment to reality. So do keep that in mind when designing your awesome new character.
An excellent place for inspiration is Pinterest. As that is kind of THE place to search for images. Of course, there’s always Google and art sites to go through, but I still think Pinterest is the best place to be when finding inspiration for your characters.
Compile and mix things up
When you have all the reference images gathered. It is time to compile all the information you have. Try to mix things up and see how you can infuse new elements to your character.
Elements that the rest of the world might not have thought or seen before. This creates that subtle touch of originality to your characters.
The world around you is so vast that it might not be easy to create entirely new personalities and character designs. But fear not, you are not alone with your thoughts. Every now and then someone breaks the lid off creativity, and a new design emerges to the world. It could be you who brings the next cool character design for the rest of us to wonder and awe.
Basics of character design
As mentioned briefly before. You should take into consideration the following elements to your design process:
- What is the era the character is living in?
- What is the solar system? Inhabiting this planet or maybe some other?
- What is the environment like?
- How does the environment affect the character?
- What kind of clothing do they wear?
- What’s the age of your character?
- What kind of background does the character have?
- What is the biggest adversary he/she is having?
- What kind of personality does your character have?
- What does he/she like to do in free time?
You might think the list is endless and yeah, it kind of feels like that.
But what you can do is think of yourself a second. Think of how much you have inside you. Memories, experiences, skills, thoughts, what kind of personality you have, etc.
You start to see that for you to create something believable you need to have some elements in place to do just that. You don’t have to take everything into account. But you have to include the things that are in the core of your character.
If your character has a huge personality, you have to develop that side more. If your character is more like a cool guy, you take the clothing and poses into your focus.
The above things are kind of like building the character, but then you also have to take the following into account
What are the characters:
- Eye color
- Hair color
- Skin color
- Favorite food
- Friends, allies, enemies
Developing your characters abilities
What about abilities. Now the character would be pretty dull if he/she wouldn’t have something that limits him/her. There has to be something that makes the character weak, vulnerable. Superman has kryptonite for example, and yes, I guess he does bleed.
You should limit your characters abilities but also give him/her abilities that make that person strong and exciting. The subtle combination of strengths and weaknesses creates powerful characters.
Remember the character doesn’t have to be physically strong or weak. You can also think about the mental side of things. Showing that through illustrations might not be the easiest job but facial and body expressions help in that area.
To make characters interesting, you should look around and see what kind of characters you like and more importantly why you like them. When you figure that out, you are more ready to design your own.
Search for Character Design Challenge and challenge yourself
If you want to challenge yourself and really push forward with character designs. There’s a Facebook group called character design challenge where you can participate with other excellent artists like you and really delve into character designing.
You can find the group behind this link: Character Design Challenge
It is also an excellent place to find inspiration as that could be hard to find sometimes. Looking at other peoples work might ignite a thought inside you, and you might get this feeling of, yeah, I can further develop that idea.
This is called inspiration. Further developing an idea, you got by looking at some image you found online or around you. And when you get a lot of these moments of inspiration, you can start and design your character by fusing those ideas together and create something entirely new.
With the character design challenges out there, you can get a clear task on what to design. As it could be hard sometimes to find the idea on what to draw. I know the feeling, like very closely.
Character designs in video games
To be plain honest. I think video games are the best place to see awesome character designs. I mean, think of Final Fantasy or World of Warcraft or Street Fighter. They all have unique and memorable characters in them.
Yet they were designed by an artist just like you. So there is no special talent or anything behind these designs. Just remarkable visions and executions.
If you think the characters just pop out like that. You are wrong, the design process takes turns and changes many times. Rarely a character design is a spot on from the get-go. They transform many times before settling to their final form.
A nice example is from the designer of Chun-Li. Akira Yasuda a.k.a Akiman is known for designing some of the most memorable characters in video games and Chun-Li from the Street Fighter series is one of them.
If you are looking to find excellent character design, look no further than video games. One of the best sites I know and use is Creative Uncut. That site is possibly the best site there is for game-related art.
I use it frequently to search for inspiration and even to develop my art style and thought processes towards art. So I highly recommend that site if you haven’t seen it yet.
Get help for your Character Designs – The Character design Generator
If your mind just throws you a blank and you have like zero ideas. There’s a character design generator at Character Generator website. In that site, you can quickly generate character profiles, biographies, names, etc. Now, of course, you want to change and further tweak the details and all, but it gives you something you can work on.
Now, it might not help you with drawing the actual character, but it could help you build a background for her/him. And having a background helps you better visualize the person you are creating.
Another useful source could be YouTube and the massive library of videos of all sorts. So absolutely it also has videos on how to design a character.
Like this one video here:
One useful site to check through is Character Design References.
If you are serious about creating your very own original character. I suggest you search for books in that area, watch YouTube videos, search reference images, create a background, story and personality for your character. When you have these elements in place, start designing your character.
Character Design Ideas and Inspiration
In my opinion, the best ideas come from your surrounding. Think of the characters you love the most and go from there. What are some of your favorite characters these days? What makes them so special to you? Why do you feel they are cool?
As mentioned before, Pinterest could very well be the best one out there. More than anything search for images that are defined in your story, background, and personality. You quickly start to see what kind of character is forming in your head.
When that image is clear in your head, start the design process.
Inspiration can be found from anywhere these days.
Character design and world building
An excellent example of uniform, unique and stylized character designs are the ones made by Hanzo. You can see how the characters are presented from the front but also from the back side. This creates a clear message on what the character is looking all around.
There is no guesswork involved, and you can truly enjoy the detailed design work that was put into creating these characters. A pure pleasure for the eyes.
Colors, looks, and the feel of the characters start to tell a story of the world that the characters inhabit. And by keeping the art style intact, you can create a unique looking world that one can quickly delve into.
Designing characters is no easy task. Not at all. One thing though is sure and that is that when you have designed your character. You will feel damn proud. It feels like you have created a living creature to this world and one that has his/her own life to live.
Take time with the design, search inspiration from around you. And when you are ready, just pour all your creativity towards creating that living being you have in your head.
Few key things to remember when starting out your journey with character design:
- Use reference images!
- What is the world and time your character lives in?
- What kind of emotions your character goes through and why -the backstory?
- What kind of personality your character has?
- Clothing, equipment, accessories, features and body formation!
- Abilities and weaknesses!
I really do hope this small but very in-depth article gave you a lot to think about and something you can move forward with, don’t forget to bookmark this page for later use. You will need it!
If you liked the article and would like to tell us more about your character designs, don’t be afraid to leave a comment below. We would all love to read and see your designs.