Character Design


Transcript - Click to toggle

Welcome to episode 4 of this comics program. In this episode I’ll be talking about character design and a little bit about locations.

As in any story, the main characters in a comic is the single most important thing. Before you start drawing, it’s a good idea to design your characters, so you know how to draw them from all angles. It’s also a great way to get to know your characters, what kind of expressions they use, their style in clothing. A lot of artists do character design sheets or style guides, often to present to the writer or the editor for approval. But even if you’re doing everything yourself, it’s a good method.

Here’s a little pop quiz:

A great comic book characters needs to be:

A: Cool
B: Memorable
C: Funny
D: Recognizable

The answer is of course”D”.

You need readers to be able to tell the characters from each other. A distinctive hairstyle, a posture or choice of clothes, anything that can help your readers navigate the story. Character archetypes can be a good starting point, especially if you twist the clichés a little bit. The lesser the character, the clearer their function should be and the less you have to develop their personal look. The major characters should be distinctive enough that the reader can tell them apart. You need to know what their role in the story is, their personality and perhaps some backstory, and of course the visual design for the character. Identification is important, so try to think of what makes us care about this person. Often it’s because they remind of something of ourselves. Make a style guide or put your thoughts in a sketchbook next to the character, and make sure every character is different and recognizable.

Style guides are also great for locations, cars or objects that appear often in your comic. I’m sure there are style guides for the batmobile, tintins apartment and Thor’s hammer for instance. Like I talked about earlier, doing these style sheets can really help you get to know your characters and your locations, so it’s a great exercise before or while you’re working on your story. But be careful not to spend hours designing something that’s hardly even used in the actual comic. I can’t tell you how much work went into designing the Sushi restaurant in The Devil’s Concubine. And it only appears in 4 pages of the book! You probably don’t need to know where everything is placed in all of your locations, but if it’s a place you return to or it’s used a lot, make a little floor-plan or map that you can always refer to. Some artist even build cardboard models or even computer 3D models for their locations! While this might work great for professionals, I would recommend just drawing the damned thing. We’ll talk more about backgrounds in lesson 6.

Now let’s go to episode 5 about texting and borders.

8 Responses to “Character Design”

  1. Amy September 16, 2013 at 12:55 pm #

    Very interesting

  2. Sean November 25, 2013 at 9:37 pm #

    As an absolute beginner, these videos are great. I already have several pages of notes in my notebook.

  3. Palle Schmidt November 26, 2013 at 1:12 pm #

    Thanks Sean, glad you find the videos helpful!

  4. Benny_builder March 24, 2014 at 10:53 pm #

    This really helped me out Palle! Thanks for all the great tips!!! 😀

    • Palle Schmidt March 24, 2014 at 10:57 pm #

      Thanks for that feedback, Ben! Much appreciated. Any particular part you found helpful? And can I ask how you heard of this site?

  5. Brannagh Waslh April 14, 2014 at 12:19 am #

    thanks so much I love all of the great tips and vidoes!

  6. Heidi Harless December 12, 2014 at 8:04 pm #

    Thank you, Palle. I’m a Design teacher and am using your videos as curriculum for my students. They are excited about the videos!

    • Palle Schmidt December 12, 2014 at 9:00 pm #

      Thanks, Heidi! Coming from a teacher, I take it as high praise. I’m sure you asked all your student to sign up individually 🙂

Leave a Reply