A great resource for character development is starting with a story. Starting with your own narrative ideas works well, but if you don’t have a story to springboard from, using a contemporary classic or one that’s been illustrated dozens of times is a great place to start. Here we’ll take a look at how utilizing a story can inspire new ideas for character designs, help kick start project ideas, or simply provide good practice for strengthening your character design muscles.
- One of the best sources of inspiration for…developing memorable characters…is starting with a story, a really great…story, like a contemporary classic or…one that's been illustrated dozens of times,…can provide an inspiration for new ideas…or help you to investigate your own…fresh approach to envisioning known characters.…When I was asked to illustrate the classic…tale "The Wind in the Willows," I was…daunted by the luminaries who'd already…traveled this text and provided amazing visions…for Toad, Mole, Ratty, and Badger,…like Ernest Shepard and Arthur Rackham,…two of my illustration heroes.…
For that reason, I think it's wisest not to…look at other illustrators work when you're starting…to think of your own designs and just…read the text to let your mind create its own…visions of the characters without visual influence.…I read the story about 13 times…and without other illustrators images.…By being so familiar with the text, I was able to…picture each of the characters with clarity.…I sketched each character in thumbnails and…
Mary Jane explains how the components of good character design can be broken down into concrete elements. She shows how body shape, posture, anatomy, facial expression, costume, color, movement, and abstract aspects like archetypes and environment bring a character to life. The lessons are illustrated with examples from Mary Jane's books, as well as famous, heart-warming characters created by a group of extraordinary character designers.
- Capturing the heart and soul of a character
- Using the right tools
- Relying on archetypes
- Adding motion
- Painting shapes and silhouettes
- Understanding anatomy and proportion
- Creating easy-to-read facial expressions
- Coloring your character
- Designing a cast of characters
- Making fantasy creatures believable
- Going from 2D to 3D