In this issue I want to go a little deeper into how I design my characters.
In the last issue of Designn magazine I wrote about how we can use older pieces to help us stay productive during art blocks. I used character designs as an example and briefly touched on the thought process that went into re-designing them. In this issue I want to go a little deeper into how I design my characters. This is by no means the only, or even necessarily the best way of doing it, after all there are many ways of doing any one thing in art, and trying these different processes out and learning which one works for you can almost be described as your duty as a creative person. So let’s get started!
The character I am going to be using as an example is Lirika, one of the main characters from my comic, Arksong. The first thing I do is get down the character’s name, age and other basic information:
Her name is Lirika, a dark skinned woman in her early twenties.
That gives me a basic template. Now, I consider the world she exists within, her background, and her current occupation.
Lirika exists in a setting with its own style based heavily upon varying European styles over the past few hundred years. The odd design influence from other parts of the world come in every now and then.
This is very open, allowing me to style her freely without worrying about anachronisms. So now if we wanted to narrow it down a bit more we need to think about her background/personality and job.
Lirika is a strong, confident, and rather extravagant sky pirate captain. She has achieved several near-impossible feats in the past.
If she is strong then she will need to be well built. Average height will allow her to be relatable to most audiences and does not single her out too much as naturally gifted. It makes sense to give her a captain long coat so that she is easily identifiable as a pirate (and more specifically a captain), however, I would not want her to always wear it because it would cover a lot of her body language, so a matching waistcoat can be worn alternatively. Both are embroidered with gold thread to add to the extravagant vibe. Her excessive hairstyle and her piercings, although not too different from what we may see occasionally in real life, still give a slight sense of rebellion or personal flare that is relatable. Scars and the like can also be considered within this area as well.
Lirika acts a certain way and is often flying her ship in mid-air. I need to make sure to balance practicality and attractiveness/coolness.
Although we all wish our characters to be attractive or cool, my aim is to strike a balance between the two. Lirika’s clothes need to cover her well since she will be travelling at medium to high altitudes, and the colours of her crew (red, black and yellow/gold) should run throughout her clothes to make it easy to align her. Also because of the athletic actions Lirika will be undertaking, making her too thin or any part of her body extremely large would be impractical and look awkward at best. I did however allow skin to show on the sides of her midriff, since someone as reckless as her would not base everything on practicality. Makeup is always a tricky one because in many situations it is not technically necessary; however the majority of women people I meet in life do have makeup on, so I might as well apply it to her character.
Hair too, is another thing which can be considered practical, but personal preference tends to always dominate over practicality in this case, so favouring her nature to be cool and rebellious meant not over-thinking the hair’s practicality too much. In addition to this we must also remember that having hair and clothes that are of considerable length can help display movement in dynamic scenes and also makes characters look a lot cooler.
Now the rest is up to you. Place your newly designed character in a pose with a facial expression that matches their personality, background, and environment, then let their adventure begin!
Written by Nathan