In this article, we will show you how professional cartoonists are inspired to design amazing characters. The steps they take, how to collect data from them, draw them several times until they incorporate them, and thus, achieve a unique character model. Keep reading, don’t miss it!
Study and learn. Design characters like a professional
All cartoonists seek to tell interesting stories to reach their audience effectively. And one of the first steps to do so is to learn how to design characters.
It’s not just about drawing a monkey (nothing could be further from the truth).
It is totally the opposite, since it is an intellectual work, that you have to know how to carry out, with method and dedication. That’s why, in this article, I’ll show you how professionals design characters.
The initial idea, and the necessary questions to start your project.
We want to make a cartoon, but what is it going to be about? Who are we going to focus on? Who might be interested in it?
These are the questions that immediately arise after deciding to embark on a creative project.
Absolutely all renowned comics have a clearly recognizable main character, along with other less relevant ones. These characters have to have a purpose in our story.
It would be a good idea for our main character to have human difficulties that anyone can empathize with.
Although fictitious, even non-human, a character who struggles, for example, to get love, flee from danger, or get fortune, is totally assimilable, for any audience.
The situations and complications that a father searching for his lost son may suffer, generates empathy and interest. Beyond the fact that the protagonists are clownfish.
The protection of one’s own home sounds totally logical for anyone, even if the one who must defend his land is an ogre in a fairy world.
Therefore, it is advisable to think of a good name. Generally speaking, there does not seem to be a rule for a good name for the characters.
Although the choice of name can be random, sometimes there are editorial or cultural guidelines that provide certain parameters or ideas.
A clear example is Marvel’s characters. They have alliterative names (i.e., a sound is repeated), as in Peter Parker, Clark Kent, Lois Lane, etc.
Although, in other cases, as in manga or anime, it is common to name characters according to some characteristic, such as calling Makoto (sincere) to a character who is honest (or, ironically, dishonest).
Design the character sheet
When you have a minimal idea, about what and who to write, it’s time to start polishing details. For that, we are going to design the character file. It will be separated into two parts, the psychological profile and the physical one.
For the psychological, you have to consider everything that has to do with his personality, his fears, his likes and dislikes, his way of being, etc.
For the physical, you have to describe everything related to the body. Is he muscular, lame, does he have long fingers? etc.
You might be thinking, won’t this show up in the drawing? It is very probable, but still, we are in the writing part. Still, we don’t know who is going to draw the comic, you or someone else.
This is as true for comics as it is for any other written narrative. That’s why novelists write these profiles before they start writing.
It is also a good idea to ask almost random questions about the character’s daily life, such as: How does he drive a car?
How does he drive a car? Does he have the patience to learn something new? How would he treat his children?
These may seem like unimportant questions, but don’t worry! You don’t have to show them to anyone. These are to give him more three-dimensionality, to get to know him better and fill in the blanks. Believe me, this really helps!
Write his biography, it is very important that you do it in third person
After you have written a good amount of data about your character, you can start writing his biography. There are things that may have occurred to you while you were writing the profiles, and that’s fine.
The biography can, and even should, give rise to the characteristics described above. It is important that, when relating the character’s life, you do it in the third person, as if you were a god, who knows all his life and secrets. Even if he doesn’t know them.
You are not writing about yourself, remember that it is a character, and it does not necessarily have to resemble the creator.
Attention! As mentioned above, remember that you are writing about a character, not about yourself. It’s common for many novice cartoonists to invent characters that are virtually identical to their authors.
It’s not bad if you do it, naturally, we all dump information that is familiar to us. Therefore, we can even express our own anguish or desires, but we must always do it consciously.
Many times, it is good to write about someone who is nothing like us, and who we might even dislike!
Draw it many times, focus on the details and think of moving actions.
Now, you have all the information you need to start drawing!
First, you must draw your character full body, with neutral attitude, and from different views, front, profile, ¾ profile and back. This way, it will give us the three-dimensionality of the character we need, to start moving it.
Logically, concentrating on the details is also important. Draw some parts closely, like the hand, the leg, the head, etc. Then, try to draw movement poses. Think about actions.
You can draw your character running, walking, fighting, doing gymnastics, brushing his teeth, whatever!
Besides practicing anatomy, you’ll see your character doing things! That’s great
Something you can’t overlook, and, which would be the most important thing to get to know him better, would be to draw him in situations linked to his biography, or personality.
Start with short comics, a few pages, or just one.
As you can see, everything we have said so far, aims at getting to know your character. Don’t think that, just because you have created him/her, you know him/her, because it’s not like that.
You will relate to your character in a different way the more you get to know him/her. For this, there is nothing better than getting down to work.
Create, as we said above, short stories with the character you invented, see how he/she relates to others, with his/her problems, etc. These comics can be one or two pages long, or even one strip.
Surely, after several stories, your character will look more credible, therefore, the narration will flow better, and your drawing will consolidate.
Then you will be ready to take on more ambitious projects.
Each of the points mentioned during the article is of utmost importance, so, in order to design characters like a professional, you can’t miss any of the guidelines and tips given here.
Remember, ask yourself what your character is like. What aspects distinguish them? What is their body like? That’s something you’ll have to take into account, since, as we mentioned during the article, you’ll have to draw it from all angles.
You have to learn your character by heart. To achieve this, you will have to draw it many times, be constant, and have a lot of dedication. If you have any doubts, you can go back to the beginning of the post, to review all the great points mentioned here.