Defining a Character:
we learn about Character Design, let us first understand what is meant by a Character.
A Character can be defined as any person, animal, or figure –
whether inspired from real life or imaginary – represented in an
animation. A character is the sum total
of all his traits, mannerisms, and appearance, which together determine how it is
being portrayed. For
example, the characters of Tom and Jerry in the famous cartoon series are
portrayed as Jerry being mischievous and clever and Tom being simple and
direct. In Disney cartoons, the character of Donald Duck has his own way of
talking, dressing and thinking. Therefore, a character is the aggregate of
physical features and personality traits that form the individual nature of
that person or thing. ADD PIC Tom-jerry
What is Character Design?
design is a vital component of an Animation film. Character is what drives the
story and breathes life into a film. The
character design is the process which consists of defining the character
through his/her physical appearance.
process of designing a character starts with a Character Designer receiving a
brief of the character and the script pages from the Director of the Animation
film. These script pages describe what the character is like. The artist then
has to create a number of drawings of what he/she believes the character would
be like. An art review is then undertaken where the director selects only those
few character drawings that come closest to the character as has been
visualized while writing the Script. The character designer then takes those
drawings and begins developing them again back at the drawing board. This
process repeats itself until the desired character has been designed.
Character design begins with pencil sketches. Sometimes the
artists have a clear idea about the character, sometimes only a vague notion of
the character’s personality. The character designers draw hundreds of pencil
and marker sketches to refine the look of each character. They have to decide how cartoony, how iconic,
and how realistic they want each character to appear. ADD PIC pencil
sketch of a character
Let us look a little more closely at the process of
Character Designing in an Animation film. But first, let’s meet a Concept
A Concept artist takes ideas for characters from the director of the
film and creates a visual representation of them. A Concept artist utilizes
various media (including pencils and paint) when creating the design. Some
concepts artists work on the overall look of a character as it might appear in
a film or a game (age, size, costuming, facial features, etc.) and any props
the character might have (weapons, staffs, etc.).
Job responsibilities of a concept artist include:
to and interpreting the ideas of the directors.
source material for ideas to further build on a character or story.
a story board with sketches of characters, settings, and props.
with character designers as they build a 3D representation of the sketch.
The Concept Artist and the Character Designer work
as a team to design a character. The concept artist makes a rough sketch of a
character and the character designer will take that sketch to the next level
and make a more complete image. A character designer is solely focused on
developing a new image of a character for a film, animation, or video game. ADD PIC
A Character Designer is an
artist that creates new, original characters; it can be a character developed
for Feature Films, TV Series, Video Games, Children’s books, Web Animation,
Comic books, Comic strips, or even Licensing or Toy Design.
They are often responsible for taking the Concept Artist’s rough
images and breathing life into them by making them more concrete. Along with
the Art Director and Concept Artists, Character Designers develop drawings,
clay or plaster models, or even 3D representations, allowing audiences to truly
connect to the characters. This is why knowledge of Photoshop and other
computer programs that allow for 3D imaging and animation is essential for this
Job responsibilities of a character designer include:
the provided script to build character images that fit the story.
inspiration and research when designing a new character to ensure correct
anatomy and costuming that fits the story or the concept.
many possible versions of the same character so the team can choose the
most representative features.
to meetings with clients, game designers, and/or directors to further
develop and change the character.
OF CHARACTER DESIGN:
Cartoon characters are everywhere, from advertising to film, and
the ones that stand the test of time all share something in common. They have
substance over style. Designing innovative, cool looking characters is great,
but if they are superficial, they will not be remembered for long. Great
characters like ‘Mickey Mouse’ have much more than just a unique look, they
have several key elements that are instilled in the very core of their design.
The key elements to creating memorable and lovable characters are
1.) Target Audience,
2.) Character Traits,
3.) Back Story, and lastly, a design that draws from all these
Where to Begin?
We can start by sketching out a character. To do this, people
usually take inspiration from observing real life, i.e. animals or people. The
imagination can also be relied upon to do so. Most of the interesting
characters we see in films and television have come out of the imagination –
For example, Casper, the lovable ghost. ADD PIC
1.) Your Target Audience
In most cases your character has to create a bond with its
audience. Designing a character for an audience means getting into your
audience’s head, i.e. understanding the taste, likes and the dislikes of your
audience. If you are creating a character to appeal to an age bracket of six to
nine year old boys, you must first know what your typical six to nine year old
boys are interested in, the sorts of things that make them laugh, the sorts of
toys/food they like, etc. This information then feeds into your character to
make it endearing and identifiable. Think like a six or nine year old boy, and
then design the character. At this stage, ask yourself the following questions
keeping in mind your target audience-
“Why do you care about the
“Can you relate to the
“What is it, a Human, an Animal, or some
“What does it do?”
“What does it like to eat?”
“What does it want?”
Then start thinking about the personality traits of the character, also known as Character
2.) Character Traits ADD
These are your identifiers; the characteristics of your character,
the building blocks for your character, all the things that make them unique.
It can be literally what they are, i.e. a Human or an animal or some imaginary
being, the clothes they wear, the food they eat and their personality traits (
i.e. confident, irritating,
etc.). These character traits need to permeate your design, because you’re not
putting a script in front of your audience, these traits need to be visual and
visible. You may use stereotypes, a particular thing’s inherent characteristics
as a tool. For example, the lion cub in the Lion
King needs to be brave, as it is expected of a lion.
There’s nothing wrong with stereotypes, but be clever with them.
Use your imagination. If you want to draw attention and emphasize a particular
trait, it is a good idea to make it more prominent, bigger/brighter in color,
and in contrast reduce its equivalent opposite to create a striking
juxtaposition. For instance if the character has small arms, in contrast his
legs could be made really long to bring out the shortness of the arms.
3.) Back Story ADD PIC
This brings us to the Back Story. If you were a person that has
had a bad experience in the past, it would shape the person you are today.
Similarly, if your character took part in World War II, he may have an aversion
to loud noises, and often talk of the war. It is this history; the good or bad
experiences that make your character come to life.
Case Study ADD PIC
Here’s an example of the Character ‘Stubby Arms Fox’ designed by
the Animator Ben Mounsey. This character here represents the application of all
The Character Designer has given him these character traits and
“A fox born with short stubby arms and in contrast, very long
legs. He has always thought his little arms were more like wings and he longs
to be a butterfly and to be able to fly. He’s quite timid, but determined and
high spirited. He loves his big yellow shoes, which he thinks are great for
adventures and exploring.”
Over to You
So hopefully this overview has given you some insight into the
process of creating a character design. By nature this is an organic and
individual process, and the three steps mentioned above, may give you some
pointers to approach Character Design. Take it, expand upon it and really be
innovative with your character designs.
1. Explain the
role of a character designer.
2. How are
character traits important in designing a character?
3. What is the
relevance of the Backstory?
4. What are the
job responsibilities of a character designer?
5. Design a simple
character with a Backstory. Explain your concept in approximately 100 words.