Character Design: What is it?

All of us have grown up watching cartoon movies and animations. At some point of time or other, we all have developed a fancy of cartoon characters. The larger than life characters may showcase wild moves, hold superpowers, or simply charmed us with their innocent maneuvers. The bond we had developed has never faded away. The reason for developing an affinity for these characters was that we tried to be like time.

Characters are these digital or handcrafted beings that we see on screen or within comic books. The success of a strong character depends on the appeal it generates among audiences. Characters become immortal when viewers can relate to them. Character design essentially implies bestowing a unique personality to the created character. The behavioral pattern is demonstrated by the way the character interacts with its surrounding while walking, talking, looking or thinking.

Memorable characters are loved by us all. Evil or friendly, smart looking or distorted, comical or stern; characters are immortalized by their personalities. The emotions which are reflected from the characters are the result of hard work put in by designers and artists. The time invested by artists to attentively mold the looks, motion, mannerisms of characters enchant audiences. Either in movies or in games, the peculiarities of the character keeps the viewers or players engrossed.

In short, character design involves a set of processes. Characterization is the process of bestowing unique personality to the character with which audiences can relate to. Character creation involves designing the looks, intuitive response mechanism and mannerisms of the character as per the conditions where they would be deployed. The look, poses, and gesticulations of the animated character are standardized through Model Sheet documentation.

character design


Character Sketches: Their Importance

To make the characters express themselves purposefully and impulsively, character sketching has a major role to play. You can start with the character’s written outline. This facilitates ease of brainstorming and subsequently helps in organizing the physical characteristics of shape, size, height, eyes, nose etc. The outline can also carry information about non-physical traits of character like emotive quotient, mannerism, personality, backdrop, history, preferences, etc.

Character sketches seamlessly blend the physical and non-physical attributes in the form of outlines. Embodiment of these characteristics during the outlining process can enhance the quality of visual sketch. You can also draw more inspiration by looking at the outline. You can follow your impulses and sketch out the things that come to your mind or strike your imagination. The same can be refined later on. If the objective of character designing is already clear to you, then the process will deliver offer satisfactory outcomes. Characters can be drawn with better aesthetics and strong personalities.

Different Types of Characters

When you get down to character drawing, you can build the characters in 2D (two dimensional) or 3D (three dimensional). It can be sculpted with hand as done conventionally or can be modeled with computer software.

  • 2D Character

    In cartoons of older times, you can spot 2D characters. They are still widely used today. These characters are simple in appearance and lack sophistication. Such characters are deployed for various purposes yet they lack definitive personalities.

    Presently, two dimensional characters are used for minor sequences in stories or gaming. If all characters are developed in 2D, yours efforts would fail to generate interest and may not be liked by audiences. We often come across 2D characters in our common lives particularly while watching advertisements

  • 3D character

    3D characters resemble real life people and hence are more credible than 2D. You can relate such characters with heroes you like. Such characters have their individual peculiarities and are characterized by flaws and shortcomings like ordinary humans.

    During 3D character design, you have to ensure that such details have to be incorporated which may not be vital for the project but impart a sense of realism. The challenge is to accomplish the same without diluting the gravity of the plot. If you go overboard with detailing, you risk boring and distracting your audiences.
    3D character is not stagnant in nature. As the story unfolds, you can add more details to it to suit the plot. If the character has been developed for an entire series, you may keep making it complex based on demands of the story and responses of audiences.

    Each character narrates a story on its own. Even if the character has a brief appearance, it can serve a purpose. The way in which a character is dressed also depicts the social and economic conditions you want to demonstrate. It is up to your expertise and imagination to optimize on the roles of characters created. Meaty roles can make characters easily occupy the center stage.

Guidelines for Designing Characters

You must have realized by now that a character has to be attentively designed. It would not appear out of thin air. For this, you need to follow some proven principles which would help in rendering your character successful.

  • Functionality

    Any design can succeed when its form supplements the function for which it is created. This holds true for character designing also. If the character has been designed logically, audiences would be able to easily perceive its purpose. Due to the versatile and visually congruent nature of basic shapes such as ovals or circles, they are preferred for creating character’s wire-frame model.

    If the character has to be showcased from various angles, the shapes that make up the character must be simple. If you rotate or view the character from various angles, you would observe that the planes which constitute the design of character also change. The orientation would be proportional to the angle by which character is rotated. It gets really difficult to retain consistency in proportions and ensure adherence to scale under such circumstances. When you start with basic and common shapes, accurate representation of the character in various angles becomes easier.

  • Visual Appeal and Styling

    A character becomes immortal or fades into obscurity based on its aesthetic quotient and styling. Start with basic shapes. Design them in a manner that the shapes seamlessly blend together to create a visually appealing and graceful style. To add charm and balance to your character, balance the constituents of the shape through proper and proportional contrasting of form. The shoulders, legs, feet, hands, eyes and other body parts all must give vent to a dynamism which would hold audiences spellbound. The eyes have to be expressive so that just by glancing at the eyes of the character, one can make out what is going inside it. The character’s personality is defined by all its parts.Characters are comical and incongruous. Hence, you can experiment with proportional aspects and bodily attributes to the maximum extent possible. Extreme visual contrasting can lead to attractive character designing. You can make the character more expressive by exaggerating the features. Keep the ears large and eyes squinted; the results would be simply spectacular.

  • Character’s Personality

    Your character’s personality is made up of many facets. However, the physical attributes and bodily features of the character have a dominating role to play. These are the first things that would catch the attention of your audiences. You can decide on exaggerating particular features based on the circumstances in which the character has to be projected. We intuitively associate round and plump faces or bodies with innocent beauty because babies often have such shapes. You can pull off this effect by setting large eyes very closer side by side towards the face’s center. If you want to introduce harshness, you can go for sharper and steeper angles and combine the same with narrowed faces.Whenever you go about designing a character, you need to relate its personality with the features. You must never forget about the verbs when undertaking character creation. Most designers tend to overlook these verbs.Character animation can add weight to the personality of your creation. Materialize the verbs by making your character express itself animatedly i.e. through movement, dancing, sporting a particular expression on face, or adopting a defining posture. Just by adopting a stance, you can express the confidence of a character. You can have the overall aesthetic quotient of the character enhanced with different shapes and angles.

Industries where character designing is used

Different creative industries extensively use 2D characters. Despite the surging popularity of 3D characters, these industries do use 2D designs widely. The industries that prominently use character design include cartoon makers, anime video producers, video games manufacturers, and feature films’ directors. 2D characters are significantly used because they are flexible to use and deploy as well as are compatible with large number of platforms. Multimedia, television, entertainment, video broadcasting and other industries use character designing largely. You can frequently spot 2D characters over the television.

On television, you must have come across numerous shows where 2D characters have been used exhaustively. The list of such programs is endless. Some shows that have gained international popularity include Avatar, The Simpsons, Archie’s etc. 2D character designs are also used in Japanese anime series which are motivated by manga comics. Majority of films which have gained critical acclaim and have influenced the thought process of generations have used 3D or 2D character designs in various manners. Some of such movies include Snow White and the 7 Dwarves, The Lion King etc. The lead has always been taken by Disney, the production house which had pioneered character animations and released many widely appreciated films.

In contemporary video games, movies, cartoon shows etc., 3D character design is popularly used.

Role of A Character Designer

The character designer is an artist who is responsible for conceptualizing the character, adding attributes and mannerisms to it, designing its form and shape, styling its physical and non-physical looks, and tweaking it as per demands of the project. To render the character’s physical appearance visually attractive, the designer aligns its personality with shape. The character, whether it be human or fictitious, needs to be carefully created from scratch and the process draws heavily on the creative energy of artists.

Artists aspiring to make their mark in the 3d modeling and animation industries must understand the intricacies of character designing. The design procedure essentially begins with character briefing.

By designing character, the artist give vent to his power of imagination and creativity. By diving deeper, the designer builds a character step by step to match the purpose and description. 3D artists model and rig the characters which have to be deployed in video games and 3D films. If the character is being developed for 2D animation project, then storyboard artist would look at it to ensure that it can complement the project’s script. The visual development artist would additionally develop more ambient details like house, vehicle etc. to highlight the character’s maneuvers.

You need to admit the fact character designing is a difficult work. It is a complicated process. Lots of practice is needed to perfect your designing and artistic skills. Sufficient industry exposure is needed to orient the behavioral patterns of characters as per the need of project.


If you aspire to learn more about character designing, you can get in touch with us. WinBizSolutionsIndia is a leading name in the domain of character design and animation services.