Character Design Tutorial


(guest post by the talented Alexia Towle)

Character design is an integral part of the animation world that works hand in hand with the making of the story. Typically, the story and the concept are established first. Then, character designers will come up with dozens of various designs for the characters based on their already established personality traits. Often times, additional personality traits and other aspects of the character’s being are shaped by the physical characteristics. Say you have an evil witch character. Several designs will be made for this character, considering whether she is young or old, fat or thin, beautiful or ugly, with fancy clothing or old rags, etc. These physical traits can shape the witch’s intentions and personality in ways that were not explored before. If she is young and beautiful perhaps she uses magic to cling to her youth, and if she wears fancy clothing perhaps she is a wealthy leader with many loyal followers. The possibilities for how a character’s appearance will affect their personality and life experiences are endless! The story and the design of the character work together back and forth to develop the final design and final story. If the character has a defining physical characteristic, such as Rapunzel’s hair or Captain Hook’s severed hand, then often the design of the rest of the character is made to fit the said characteristic. For your own projects, there are a couple steps that could help you develop your characters.

1. First, consider your story. What kind of character is needed for it- a human, an animal, a robot, a wizard, or a made-up creature? What is your setting, and how does the character move throughout it?

2. After you establish this, you can draw some thumbnails! Thumbnails are small drawings that just help you brainstorm ideas and get a good sense of your character. They do not need to be super detailed- just simple sketches that will help you shape what your character looks like. Think about their body parts in relation to the setting and the story- how does your character move, see, smell, speak…? What is their facial expression? What are they wearing? You can also experiment with different colors!

3. Consider your favorite thumbnail/thumbnails and draw them bigger this time, with detail and color. There’s your character! You can play with different art mediums like paint, marker, colored pencil, and more.

4. Once you have finished making your character, it is time to bring it to life! Take a photo of your creation in PuppetMaster, block out the body parts, choose your desired scenery, and get to animating!

For your PuppetMaster creations, we encourage you to experiment! Since you do not have to draw a character over and over again like professional animators, you can draw really crazy and elaborate designs. Try floating body parts, crazy textures, and funny facial expressions!

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