FREE SHIPPING for orders over R600

From Concept to Creation: Improve your character design by doing these 5 things

Do you have a tendency to start with characters, but you aren’t really sure how you want to push the design. Or you have this idea, execute it, and end up with a completed character….and most likely it looks great, but you are just not getting a connection or feeling from the design? How do you improve your character?

Don’t worry, you aren’t alone. As a matter of fact, practically every single character designer in the world has most likely gone through that as well. And it’s not the end of the world.

I’ll give you some insight on how to plan out your characters before you start rendering for 20 hours straight. This is actually something I learned from Ross Draws, and now I’m giving you the same insight, but in the way how I understand and execute it.

What is the golden secret that will get your characters to a higher level that will actually end up connecting with people?

You only need to implement these 5 things.

  1. Character background story
  2. Using the correct shapes for character building
  3. Unrestrictive flow in the design
  4. Rule of 3rds
  5. Become your character

Character Sheet: Anime Techo anime girl. Collab with Oby1

To explain how to implement these 5 things into a design, I’m going to use one of my original characters as an example.

Now, it is important to keep in mind that by learning and improving on the basics such as shapes, anatomy, perspective, clothing design etc., still plays an important role in creating better work.

1. Background Story

I have a character series called ‘Endangered Species’ where I will take a specific animal and use that as inspiration to create the character. Before I start creating a character, I will first think of a basic background story to set an anchor and get an idea of the characteristics.

The animal chosen is a Snow Leopard. When I think of a Leopard, I think of stealth, intelligence, apex and independent. Looking at the colors of the fur, being white with black spots and golden eyes. Gives me the idea to go onto a more bad boy type of route.

jin-woo min character information card

So, here is a background for my character Jin-woo Min: Age: 35 | Ethnicity: South Korean | Occupation: Leader of The White Dragon

Dark Snow is the leader of The White Dragon. It is a famous Mafia group that generally deals with smuggling of weapons & are famous for the amount of information and dirt they have on the biggest political leaders in the Eastern part of the world. Dark Snow has a reputation of his clean escapes & combat abilities.

Dark Snow is just a front. Jin-woo is connected with the Pillar of Souls. Which means he is one of the 12 protectors chosen by the Snow Leopard Spirit to protect a certain location from human interference.

The Pillar of souls is a connection between all my characters from the endangered species series, it helps bind them to one world collectively while leading the story and character development for each of them.

You might be asking the question, “do I have to name my character when building the character story?”

No, not at all. As a matter of fact, it is better to name the character afterwards. There are 2 reasons.

  1.  You only wrote a basic background story that could change, because you are still understanding your own character through the design process.
  2. It’s easier to give your character a name when you have a completed design, because looking at your character, you will get an immediate idea of what weight the name carries. You can’t name a Mafia boss Fluffy, and 2 year old kid, Killer. They don’t match up. Unless, you have a very specific reason.

2. Shapes

Yes, we are back to the basics. Have a look at the most popular characters in pop culture, if you put Deku and Bakugou next to each other. You will notice that Deku has rounder shapes, where Bakugou is more rigid. That is because shapes help determine the personality and behaviors of a character.

As for my character, Jin-woo. You will notice that he has a lot more triangular features. And the reason is that it creates a stronger and more unapproachable personality. Remember, he is a Mafia boss.

In summary, when you create your character, think about the role shapes will display in your design.

3. Flow

When we talk about flow, we are referring to the design elements such as clothing design, accessories, color ect. When you design your character, keep in mind to have consistency. Having a character with a blue shoe and a white shoe on the other foot, a pink tshirt, with a royal robe on, in army pants, with yellow hair and face tattoos. Makes absolutely no sense at all. Is the guy homeless, a maniac, is he a rebellious royal? What is he? If it becomes confusing for yourself as the artist and your viewers.

Stay consistent, implement designs that compliments the characters personality and behaviors.

Looking back at my character Jin-woo, I kept that consistency in the flow of the design. Each element should connect with the characters personality and behaviour, and some elements telling the stories of his past, or giving hidden messages.

I went with dark semi-professional clothing as he doesn’t want to be seen, and work in the shadows, a large winter coat, and silver hair falling over his face. The coat is bold, yet creates a sense of curiosity. “What is he hiding under there?” The hair falling over his face gives him an unapproachable feeling, as if he is hiding and if you bother him, you will regret it.

In summary, be consistent in your choices of design to make sure it connects well and tells the story, personality and behaviors of the character.

4. Rule of 3rd

This is quite simple. The rule of thirds applies well with accessories, color, patterns and small details. Look at Jin-woo, you will notice that his Necklace, the pieces of metal on he’s coat and the buckles on he’s shoes are all gold. That is the rules of thirds. If I had to remove either one of them, it feels uncompleted.

5. Become your character

Actually take the time to imagine your character, imagine what your character went through In the past, imagine your character loosing or gaining something. And what would they do in conflicting situation?

By putting yourself in that characters shoes, will you be able to understand what the ideal personality and behavior traits should be, to truly create the ideal character that connects with your fans. 

In summary

To improve your skills on character designing, implement these 5 things.

  1. Character Background Story: Starting of a basic story helps you understand the direction you want to take your character to. Will he or she be the hero or villain of the story?
  2. Shapes: Understanding how shape and shape phycology works, will help build a stronger base for your design.
  3. Flow: Consistency is key
  4. Rule of 3rd: Just by including 3 of  the same design elements, or color usage throughout the design can complete it in a matter of minutes.
  5. Become your character: Imagine yourself in the shoes of your character, and you will know exactly where to lead your character development.
Subscribe to mailing list to stay updated on new blog or video releases.
* indicates required

start freaking out

SHOP most recent

view more
© Copyright 2021 ezra art - a manga & contemporary artist
designed by ettiene botha
Ezra Art cartcrossmenuchevron-down