Designing characters can be tough, especially when you’re creating from scratch and don’t have a brief to follow.
Autodesk asked that I walk through my creative process. Here are three tips for creating compelling characters that tell a story and show emotion:
By: Mohammad Qureshi
Pay Attention to Anatomy
It’s a good idea to have a decent grasp of human anatomy before creating your character. Even for the most stylized characters, professional artists have a strong background in anatomy. This way, they’re able to exaggerate certain proportions in a way that reveals character development and helps tell the story.
Below is a human anatomical reference of proportion. There are different ways to represent certain figures depending on the story behind your character. Andrew Loomis, an American Illustrator, has many books on figure drawing and illustration and is well known for his Loomis Method. Some books and tutorials are available online for free and are highly suggested. His guidelines have been instrumental in helping me bring more depth into my characters, and I feel they add to my overall design to strengthen a story. Although these are general guidelines, they don’t always have to be followed. They can be pushed and pulled for further exaggeration and style, but it’s always a good idea to get a grasp of the fundamentals first.
Going for a more heroic character, we can see the larger, more broad figure near the end that would support the role. Compared to a fashion type character, with a length of 8 1/2 heads versus the 9 for the heroic.
Always Look for Inspiration and Reference Around You
Today, we are surrounded by movies, cartoons, professional artists, music, nature and all sorts of different things that inspire us. Even if you’re the type to sit home most of the time, a lot of inspiration can be found on the internet through different sites. A personal favorite of mine is Pinterest.
However, inspiration only goes so far. You have to make your own art, keeping in mind to come up with your own ideas. Referencing different product designs and the way things are made is another excellent method to look for reference and study functionality. An important aspect of designing and problem solving is functionality. Will a character’s armor allow him or her to move properly within their particular environment? How heavy or light should the armor be based on their movement needs? These are questions every character artist needs to ask themselves while designing.
The images in this board have been pinned by concept artist and instructor Anthony Jones. He has a collection of amazing references and resources grouped together on Pinterest for artists or enthusiasts to follow.
Study, Study, Study
Continually studying from reference is a great way to add to your visual library and improve on your design sense. There is no right way to study, as every individual is different, but switching methods can be a good way to change things up. Many start off by copying the image directly which I think is a valid way of studying as long as you have a goal in mind. Others practice certain elements. Things to consider include: Am I studying the lighting in this picture? How do the colors react and complement or contrast with each other? What is the shape and flow of the different objects in the picture? Below are some examples of how studies can be approached.
Thinking about contrast, shapes, and the story behind your character should all be carefully thought out to add depth and strength in the overall final design. Having a strong background in anatomy is also a plus, even if the character is more stylized.
Find different images that fit the subject you want to study and write notes on what you are studying within that picture.
Studies are a good way to get the information planted into your head and also to reference back to see what specific things you were trying to figure out.
Doing a quick study will prevent you from messing up complicated blocking details.
Stay tuned for “The Making of Cat Fu – Part 2: A Character Study.
Mohammad Qureshi is finishing his last year at Sheridan College in Canada and will graduate with a Bachelor of Game Design. Once he graduates, he plans to work in the media & entertainment industry working on awesome movies and games.