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Practical Things to Consider When Designing a Character's Look

Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, July 30, 2022
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When designing a character's appearance, we want to come up with cool, original elements that make an impression and distinguish that character from all others. So it's tempting to give them a gazillion cool belts with buckles running up their legs and arms, chains hanging off them, high lace boots or corsets, intricate hairdos, whole sleeve tattoos, fancy hats, or patterns.

We love it as we design it. The character looks SO COOL!

…and then we need to do it again. And again. And again. For ever.

Suddenly, we hate every chain link, every belt buckle, every bit of lace, all of the tattoos. The character takes forever to draw, we need to be constantly looking back to the design for reference, and perspective can be challenging when drawing the character from different angles.

Nowadays with the various paint programs, there are ways to go around this, by creating special brushes that paint chain links, or tattoo patterns, or lacing. Still, that can't always be a solution or even feasible with every intricate design. So some strategizing during the character design phase should be done in order to create a character that is fun to draw innumerable times.

The sense of elaborate clothing can be given with strategically placed, easy-to-sketch elements on the character's outfit: a line of buttons, a frill around the cuffs and from under a jacket, pleats, buckles on the shoes, and so on. The point in a character design for a comic is to give the right impression as minimally as possible.



Jafar is “the best dressed man in Agrabah” but his design is deliciously minimal and simple for drawing multiple times. He still looks like he wears expensive, intricate clothing.


Same for Anastasia in her princess outfit. The glitter does most of the job, as well as the large swirly design on the tresses down her skirt's front. Everything else is almost abstracted.

On the other hand, this would be a nightmare if it weren't computer generated:


Which is why it's so simplified when it is designed for 2D.


The impression is the same, though!

Have you ever designed a character outfit that was a pain to draw multiple times?

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comment

anonymous?

hushicho at 2:40PM, July 30, 2022

This is so true, and something that seems to take most people a good while to understand. It's like overusing screentone -- it not only tends to muddle the panels, it also is a huge pain and a massive time expenditure for really inequitable returns. And sometimes, even with that planning, one does end up changing things down the line, just for a break from doing the same exact thing, again and again. It's better to change it up a bit than it is to develop a dread of drawing the character, because you might even subconsciously sabotage that character to draw them less, and that's no good!

Banes at 12:04PM, July 30, 2022

i had some character sketches (in a comic series i haven't posted yet) with really cool looking tattoos - part of the delay in posting is that I ran into trouble trying to draw them panel after panel. xD

Tantz_Aerine at 9:06AM, July 30, 2022

There are those (<---me) who draw in so many creases everyone looks like they don't know how to iron anything. I have to keep pulling myself back from drawing them in.

PaulEberhardt at 6:14AM, July 30, 2022

Dozens of times! Fortunately, it was always for a character who keeps changing her outfit all the time, a different one for every episode, so it never mattered too much. The kind of girl who'd like to stand out from the crowd but really doesn't have the charisma or anything else to stand out with, you know. All my other characters, in contrast, are much more constant in every sense and almost always wear the same simple things. Btw. I tend to keep creases to a minimum whenever I can get away with it, but not because my characters' clothes never get rumpled - quite the opposite with a tiger in the house in fact - but because it's much more of a pain for me to work out where the creases have to go and how many of them than any level of intricacy for the outfit. Can't be helped, though: without creases any outfit would look like it was made of cardboard rather than fabric. Some artists are naturals at this kind of thing and I kind of envy them for that.


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