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My comic char­ac­ters’ faces lack va­ri­ety – can you help?

Abi Thorne, Eng­land


Tom replies

When draw­ing un­usual or par­tic­u­larly char­ac­ter­ful fa­cial types, I find it im­por­tant to have a strong un­der­stand­ing of the un­der­ly­ing anatomy, as my abil­ity to con­vinc­ingly ex­ag­ger­ate el­e­ments of this will gov­ern the le­git­i­macy of my char­ac­ters. So I have ref­er­ence ma­te­rial, such as anatom­i­cal di­a­grams on hand to cover any of the gaps in my knowl­edge.

I look up im­ages of celebri­ties whose faces seem to match the char­ac­ter type I’m aim­ing for most closely, and study the dom­i­nant shapes in their faces. How­ever, I try not to base my de­sign too closely on one per­son, as a no­tice­able re­sem­blance to a fa­mil­iar fig­ure may bring the reader out of the fic­tion of the story and com­pro­mise the char­ac­ter’s own unique iden­tity. So I draw from el­e­ments of dif­fer­ent sources, be­cause notic­ing the com­mon­al­i­ties and the dif­fer­ences in my cho­sen mod­els helps me understand what the core el­e­ments that de­fine the char­ac­ter are.

By build­ing up enough knowl­edge of the foun­da­tions of fa­cial geography, I can choose pre­cisely which el­e­ments to keep generic and which to make dis­tinct, to bet­ter de­fine only the things about the char­ac­ter that I wish to com­mu­ni­cate.

Em­pha­sis­ing dif­fer­ent, key as­pects of the face can cre­ate a va­ri­ety of con­vinc­ing char­ac­ters, so long as the fun­da­men­tals of form and anatomy are main­tained.

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