Q&A: char­ac­ters

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What are the ba­sics of char­ac­ter de­sign

Devin Tucker, US

An­swer

Jia-Ying replies

There are sev­eral ways to ap­proach char­ac­ter de­sign; there’s no fixed process that you must ad­here to. And rather than dwelling on the ef­fec­tive­ness of the fin­ished art, I rec­om­mend sim­ply en­joy­ing where that process takes you.

I of­ten be­gin cre­at­ing a char­ac­ter from scratch by branch­ing out ideas from a spe­cific source of in­spi­ra­tion. Start small scale with thumb­nail sketches and rough poses to con­vey the gen­eral form. Not hav­ing to worry about de­tails will also give you more op­tions. In the ex­am­ple, I chose to cre­ate a more or less neu­tral char­ac­ter (a sup­port­ing role, like a par­tic­u­larly flashy shop­keeper in a mys­ti­cal un­der­ground district) drawn from Asian folk­lore.

Next, do some re­search. This will help in­ter­pret the form in a way that’s be­liev­able, by bor­row­ing el­e­ments from ex­ist­ing de­sign or be­ing in­spired by them. If your in­spi­ra­tion stems from one main source, don’t just limit your­self to that: look up sub­jects that are un­re­lated yet can help to en­hance the con­cept. For this ex­am­ple, I base the golden swirls loosely on an­tique china tea set pat­terns.

For co­he­sive­ness, I re­peat colours, pat­terns and over­all con­cept through­out. I use a sin­gle colour more than once, while main­tain­ing a rel­a­tively strong con­trast, makes cer­tain el­e­ments pop. Bear in mind that de­tails shouldn’t be lit­tered through­out the en­tire form, but con­cen­trated on spe­cific ar­eas to avoid con­fus­ing the eye.

To round them out as an in­di­vid­ual, fac­tors such as your char­ac­ter’s pos­ture, fash­ion choices and even favourite ob­jects should re­flect their per­son­al­ity or life­style.

I usu­ally stick with a max­i­mum of four base colours that work well to­gether, while keep­ing the de­sign clean and sim­ple.

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