Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Closer Look at Character Design

In the previous post, we took A First Look at Character Design. If you haven't read that, you should before you continue on with this. I'll wait for you so you can catch up.

Alright, I've waited long enough. So last time, we asked questions like what makes a character so appealing and lovable? How can Disney and other masters of the art actually create such lasting personalities? Well, in this post, we will learn about the fundamental steps it takes to develop a strong character. So, what are they?

1. Define your character.

In this first step, we will find out who are character is and define is qualities. Here are some simple questions to think about:

  • What is the life purpose of your character?
  • Where is it from?
  • What is your character afraid off?
  • What does it think about?
  • What is their main obstacle in life?
  • What is its strengths and weaknesses?
  • What type of friends does it have?
2. Make it human.

This doesn't mean to make your character look like a human. It just means to try and give it qualities in which the audience can relate to and understand. You can use common themes to bring your character to life such as sadness, joy, happiness, love, compassion, success, failure, etc. These will all relate your character to the audience. The less human-like you make it, the harder it will be to make that connection with the viewer.

3. Symbolism adds depth.

Do you want to add yet another level of depth to your character? Of course you do! In this step, you can really add subtle features to your character by adding symbolic traits to indirectly cue the viewer to learn more about it. For example, a small man may drive a very large truck around because he feels like he has to compensate for his height or a lady wears a ton of makeup to hide her real face because she thinks she's not beautiful enough. There are all kinds of ways to achieve this step, but that should get you started.

4. Add some humor.

Or you could add a lot of humor. It's really up to your vision of who this character is. But, you can never go wrong with adding some silly qualities to a character such as size, intelligence, misfortune, parts of the body being misplaced, or even just a funny tone to them.

5. Use reference to start creating.

If you are graphic artist or traditional artist, you will always use reference or find things that inspire you to make that next masterpiece. The same goes for creating a character. By this point, you should know who your character is. Now it is time to create it. If it is a male who is a bodybuilder, you can find pictures of body builders, weightlifters, Olympians, what they wear, how they act, etc. This research will help you further visualize what you want your character to look like.

6. Start sketching!

There are no boundaries at this stage. All you need to do is let your imagination take you to what your character should be. The only limitations are following the qualities, features, and traits of that you decided on in the first few steps. Start finding that certain style you have been looking for in this character and how it appeals to the audience. How will your character be pleasing to look at? Unless you are creating a monster, you may want to achieve harmonious shapes, good draftsmanship and simplicity.

7. Support with an environment.

Lastly, you will want to create a world in which your character lives in to further support the storytelling aspect of this character. That means focusing on design complexity, color, light and staging. The main idea behind this stage is to create an environment that completely supports and illustrates who your main character is.

So, now what do you do? My suggestion is to dive right in. Try your hand at character design and follow these steps to creating your vision. If you decide to make a character after reading this post, go ahead and link the picture in the comments section so we can all see it and give feedback.

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