I’m not really sure I’d call myself an authority on character design, but I was asked to put something like this together, so I hope it can at least be of some help to someone.
For this demonstration, I will be using my “maybe-kinda mascot” character, Browne.
Cute little grump, isn’t he?
Well, believe it or not, without a few important design qualities I picked up in life, he could have turned out VERY differently.
Yes, there was a dark period in my life (ie: middle school), where I might have likely designed this character like this.
-completely uninteresting, cut-and-paste facial features, barely a step up from a basic emote.
-inconsistent, mismatched shapes trying to force sharp corners and curved lines together in ways that look jarring.
-awkward “hair for the sake of hair” anime mop haphazardly stapled atop his lumpy head.
-strange proportions that make him appear to have a normal sized humanoid torso with shortened limbs.
There isn’t really anything about this design that would catch anyone’s attention, and if anything, the disjointed nature would probably turn them off it entirely.
Now, compare to a design that considers and uses all of those factors to create a cohesive and charming look.
-Browne’s facial features are now specifically shaped to fit together in a way that provides both a unique face, and a variety of ways to show emotion.
-The design specifically avoids sharp corners anywhere it can use a soft curve instead, and there is a recurring fluff motif spread all throughout, from his outfit, to his hair and eartips, and even for the shape of his hands and feet.
-The character’s proportions are purposefully exaggerated to create a cuter look, avoiding jutting shoulders and making his head roughly the size of his torso.
And now, to test whether a design really works, the rule of thumb is:
If your character can be easily identified by their silhouette, then you nailed the most important part of making a memorable character design.
For instance, you might be able to recognize this as Browne, even if it was presented to you out of context, correct?
Of course you can. The big poofy cap and cape would make it obvious right away.
AND, even if I drew him without a distinctive outfit, and in an action pose that could trick the eyes, his proportions and features would still make his silhouette recognizable.
In closing, though, the most important advice I can give is KEEP TRYING.
Look at characters whose designs you like, break them down into basic shapes and see what makes them fit. Analyze EVERYTHING and challenge yourself to see if you could do it better.
If a goober like me can make progress, than believe me, so can you.
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