Ultimate Collection of Character Design Tips and Insights

  • Graphics Design
  • 4 November
  • 6 min read

There are three things you can watch forever: fire burning, water falling, and a blank page staying blank. I bet that before making the first stroke you try to design a character in your mind. The hardest part of the illustration design process is getting out of the white canvas stage. For many, this is caused by a fear of spoiling the perfection of the white page. This fear is actually your worst enemy, and you should learn how to fight it.

Here is the ultimate collection of tips that will not only help you overcome the blank page stage, but will also make you come up with incredible character design.


Look Around You for Inspiration

Muses follow creative people, but the latter must be attentive enough to notice them. The world is full of inspiration.

Observing people and their behavior may help. Just like cartoon characters, people can be divided into types: strong, wise, goofy, tricky. Walk the streets or just sit on a bench and look at passersby.   Consider how a happy elderly couple that walks along the streets, holding hands, could have inspired Carl and Ellie Fredricksen from the movie Up (2009). Or maybe not. You might see a muscular man trying to impress a woman and come up with your own take on the Johnny Bravo concept.

You should always be patient and attentive to details. And once you have found inspiration – do not waste it! Make a sketch immediately. There is nothing more fleeting than a moment of inspiration.


Think About Your Target Audience

When you start designing your character, you should decide whose tastes you are going to aim at. You should know your target audience. What are their interests, dreams – what they want to see?

Small children often like characters made from bright colors and basic shapes, like in Peppa Pig. Characters in children’s illustrations are often also kids, like in Dora the Explorer. This helps small children to learn together with the characters.  

If you know your target audience, it is much easier to come up with a design for an appealing character.


What Type of Character Do You Need?

If you listen to Jung, the world is made from archetypes – images that are perceived on the subconscious level. In illustration design, archetypes serve as a foundation for character creation. They can be used as templates. You can use several popular character types that will serve as a basis for your design.

For example, if you want your character to radiate cuteness, then you should better use baby body proportions and facial expressions that depict shyness and coyness. Baby body includes small ears and a small nose, but big eyes, a big head, no neck-head joint, and short and chubby limbs. If you want your character to look bulky and be more bully-like, then give him a big chest, thin neck, and a square chin. Also, draw him with small legs, and a small cranium and hip area. This is how you achieve a strong and heavy character type.

A tricky character type ought to have a slim body that depicts his agility. Such characters often smile and have a cunning or carefree facial expression. The most popular example of a tricky character type is Bugs Bunny.

There are many other character types than you can look out for inspiration. But, remember to add a unique personality to your character. You can even take a specific part of your own personality and emphasize it to base your character on this particular feature. Express it through facial expression or body posture.

Make something that you personally like, and it will surely be liked by someone else too.


What Is Your Character’s Context?

It is important to understand the context in which your character acts. While character type provides you with a basis, deciding on the character’s context applies cosmetic features. It helps come up with a character’s outfit and behavior.

Is your character from the present, or do you want them to be from the future or past? Maybe the setting is the Wild West, or is futuristic, for example, the age of space colonization. Your character can be a tough cowboy with a defiant glance or a caveman with a blunt look.


Try to Exaggerate

Sometimes it is an exaggeration that makes a character really memorable. Pick some attribute that is significant to your character and emphasize it. It might be thick glasses for a scientist to highlight his nerdiness or huge wrists that point out your character’s strength.

Popeye the Sailor has become popular and memorable due to this method of exaggeration.


Start Drawing and Spoil That Page!

Now you know your character’s type, setting, and your target audience, why not start drawing?

If you are still uncomfortable with the white page, draw anything on it. Draw a star, flower, or smiley face on your canvas. Congratulations, you have just spoiled the page! You can finally start drawing since you have overcome the fear of the blank page.


Always Experiment

Do not be afraid of experimenting. There is no way you can come up with a memorable character design concept unless you have passed multiple attempts and failures.

Try different colors, shapes, and effects. You are certainly going to discover something new if you continually make attempts.


Ask a Graphic Design Company for Assistance

If you need a character design, but you are out of ideas, you can ask a graphic design agency to make one. There are many companies out there that provide illustration design services for those in need.

Try to pick the best graphic design team whose style is appealing to you. Hire graphic designers who you consider to be experienced and skillful enough to cope with your request.

External assistance does not always imply that someone will do your work for yourself. It might also serve as a push factor. By designing a character concept, hired professionals will show you the right direction, and you will then move forward independently.



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