How can I quickly generate a range of character silhouettes?
I approach the process of design by building a library of modular shapes. I generate a base ship design, ensuring that it has a relatively simple silhouette. This enables me to change it significantly by adding additional shapes and pieces. By creating these modular pieces – wings, engines, cockpits, guns and so on – on separate layers, it’s easy to place them in different locations on the design, skew them, change their size or orientation and basically experiment in ways to make the ship design significantly different.
Silhouette is what the eye always reads first. By ensuring you make sufficient changes to the silhouettes of your ships (rather than internal detail), you can maximise the differences between each instance of the design. I try to further the variety of the designs by adding different colour schemes and paint jobs to each ship; this idea could be pushed even further by introducing different textures as well as colours and shapes.
Leanne Ashington, England
Coming up with interesting silhouettes isn’t easy, although painting them is, and that’s the interesting thing about them. When painting a silhouette, you don’t need to paint details – hands or clothes, say – you just need to focus on the general shape of the character. This means you can rapidly produce dozens of them. So, the key isn’t painting one interesting silhouette straight from your imagination, but rather to paint a collection of them quickly. Statistically speaking, this should ensure that you’ll end up painting a bunch of interesting ones that you can develop into a character design.
My approach is to paint the first thing that comes into my head, then copy the silhouette and add more elements or erase some. I repeat the process, trying to come up with different things, and once I have collection of silhouettes, I place them alongside each other and choose the best one.
Another method is to put down random brushstrokes until you see something interesting, using programs such as Alchemy. This approach can generate a varied range of random shapes. You have to remember that there are no magic shortcuts for creating a character, but my two methods can make character creation a lot easier.
Here are the designs in context.
There are not quite enough to constitute a fleet yet, but they make a reasonably convincing squadron. Above, variations of a silhouette that were painted quickly. Below, random shapes generated using Alchemy are developed into a character sketch.
Here are four designs that I generated from one ship, and three additional pieces that I’ve cobbled together in different ways.
Alchemy is particularly useful when you’re stuck for ideas. As you start generating random shapes, lots of interesting concepts come to mind.