Shop Mobile More Submit  Join Login


Journal Entry: Wed Jun 26, 2013, 6:04 AM

Yo! I get a lot of questions on how I create my characters, such as how do I come up with color schemes, markings, the basic idea, all that cool stuff~ X3
So I'd thought I do a little design tutorial. This is a TEXT based tutorial, meant to give the tricks/tips that I use.
So prepare to read! I will be using my characters as examples.

This tutorial covers design tips for both ANIMALS AND HUMANS.


The Idea: Where and How Do I start?
So you want to create a new character huh? But you don't know where to start with the process....Hmm. When I'm coming up with a new character, I start with the personality about 75% of the time. It doesn't have to be in-depth, just basic personality traits.

So for example I might want a character that is:
- Loud, aggressive, rude, doesn't give a fuck about anything

Usually, once I get a personality down, I start deciding species. Which species are naturally aggressive or lazy? Or if I want something more unique, which species are usually calm? Even better: MIX them~ Looking at a species natural traits can help decide in the species of your characters!
I try to avoid species that are very popular such as wolves, foxes, mutts, cats, and lions. If you want to use a canine or feline, try looking into the specific breeds. Like for example, you want to use a dog, try making them a Pit Bull. For felines, maybe a Javanese.
Write down your ideas and develop as many concepts as you can.


Species: Finding a Unique Species
This will be a quick one. If you want you character to be a bit more unique, avoid commonly used species.
For example, the most commonly used species groups on dA are canines and felines. Try looking into more animals that would fit your character! Want something aggressive? Try a badger. Want a character that's sneaky or clever? Try a crow. There are a LOT of animals to choose from! Get away from the norm and try something new.
Like mentioned above, if you still want to go with a canine or feline, look into specific breeds, preferably breeds that are not as popular~
ALSO. REFERENCES, REFERENCES, REFERENCES. Make sure the animal you're doing, LOOKS like the animal in body structure. I can't tell you how many time I've seen characters that were supposed to be hyenas, that have a wolf's body structure.
Even with hybrids, take bits on pieces of the animals' anatomy to come up with something unique for your hybrid! 

Species: Creating Unique Hybrids
When I create hybrids I try to use odd species, something that you wouldn't normally see. 
For example, let's take a look at my characters Royce and Micah:

Royce is an Opossum/Crow Hybrid.
An odd mix right? But it works! :D He's mainly an Opossum. The parts of him that are crow-like, are the feathers on his arms and around his tail.

Micah is a Tiger Shark/Angler Fish hybrid. She's more "mixed", sharing the basic body shape of most anthro sharks. The teeth, her tail, facial stricture, and markings are shark like. The antennae, fins, and her longer teeth are angler-like.

How did I come up with these?

I took a look at animals that shared similar traits, habitats, or features. I went through a LOT of species choices before deciding on those.
So when designing unique hybrids, take a look at various animals. Don't go for the norm. Like a Wolf/Dragon mix is cool, and they can share similar traits, but let's go deeper. Still want to go with some kind of canine and dragon? What about a Dingo and a Wyvern? Also try combining more than just the "big" features of a species for interesting body types~
There are a ton of choices that can make for interesting hybrids! 


Designing: Choosing Colors
Once I find my personality and species, I start deciding on the basic color scheme I want to use. To help, I look at the actual species. What kind of colors do they naturally have? This can help in choosing some of the more "sparkly" colors that you might want to use.
I ALWAYS default to a darker color when starting out, just to get a basic idea.
I also default to white a lot if I want a lighter colored character.
I normally have a color palette of 3-5 colors, not including accessories, innards, and the eyes.

Designing: Coming Up With Markings
REFERENCES! Take a look at the animal (or animals) you're doing! Try to follow their basic patterns! For hybrids, try combining the markings for something more exotic or unique!
It's no fun, when people can't tell what species your character is supposed to be, or what animals you used for your hybrid~

Designing: Working With Neons
Now "sparkly" characters are all the rage these days, but a lot of them literally hurt to look at. 
But there ARE ways to make a sparkly character look good!
TEST YOUR COLORS. This is important. When picking a color, especially one that is fairly bright, check with your other colors to make sure it works. If it hurts your eyes, it hurts ours. I always say that the BRIGHTEST color in your pallete should be for the EYES. Always try to use a neutral color (such as a dark gray or white) to help balance them out.
TRY USING A DARK OR WHITE BASE. Avoid using a neon base for neon markings. Balance it out by choosing something dark and muted in color, or white (if you want a lighter character).
MAKE SURE YOUR COLORS FOLLOW THE SAME THEME. If you're using pastel-like colors, make sure the rest of them are pastel. Trying to mix neon with pastels may be really hard on the eyes and will overall, look very unappealing.
And finally, When working with neons, AVOID using TOO much color. Too much neon color can throw off a character design and make the character very unattractive.
Like I said above, I normally have a palette of 3-5 colors for the body.

So with that in mind, let's look at my character Road:

Road is probably the brightest character I have.
I started with a white base and based the colors around that. He also follows a pastel-like color scheme. Notice how there are no "real" neons. It's bright, but not neon. The blue is the brightest color in his palette.
The remaining colors are muted so that they are not hard on the eyes, while the white that I originally based it around of, balances it out as a neutral color.
Most importantly, there's not too much color. His design (not including the extras) is made up of only three colors~ :D

So overall, neons are okay to work with! 
Don't be afraid to use them! Just be aware of how to use them properly~ :nod:

Designing: Making SIMPLE Characters Stand Out
I get this question a lot. If you REALLY look at my designs, quite a few of them are incredibly simple.
Let's take a look at my character Richter, and one of my more popular characters, SIN:

Death By My Own Hand by Hi-biki

First off, you might notice that they share a similar color palette. I just like using those colors~ XD XD
But take a close look at their designs. They're actually VERY simple. Both Richter and SIN have very basic markings, a limited color palette, and are just very simple in their overall design.

But they stand out. Why is that?
That's because the design is MORE than just the colors and markings.
I always feel that a lot of people forget that character designing is just MORE than color and markings. It's the body shape, features, defects, all of that!
Let's look at Richter first. Richter is short, has sort of a scrunched face, large ears, and large hands and feet. These traits define him. Even his clothing is simple.
Now let's look at SIN. SIN has an elongated body, really thin features, odd teeth, and the most "noticeable" thing, eight eyes.
Now if both of these sported a typical "canine" body type and look (even though SIN is more of a hybrid), they would probably be a lot more "boring."

Also, exaggeration is okay! Like take my character Nitro:

He's actually a cat, but I exaggerated his ears a tad to make him stand out more~ X3
If used correctly, exaggeration can really help make a simple design stand out more~ X3

So don't be afraid to mess around with the body! Different shapes and structures attracts the eye! 
So remember! It's MORE than just the colors and markings. It's also everything else!

Designing: Accessories & Clothing
Alright so you have your design down. The colors and markings look great, the personality is solid, everything is good!
It feels like something is missing.

Well now might be the time to consider adding accessories. This can be the most difficult part of the process, because accessories might make your design, but it can also break it.

A rule that I follow is: The more COMPLICATED the character, the LESS accessories it should have.
For example, let's look at my character Rhyme:

Rhyme has a fairly "detailed" design, and because of that, her accessories are very "simple." They add to her design without overwhelming it. This helps in making her design a bit more appealing to the eye.

Try starting out with small accessories first before moving onto those that might be more "complicated."
Popular accessories are collars, bracelets, bows, scarves, clips, and other various clothing items. Try spicing them up a bit if you decide to use them. Like maybe add some charms hanging off of hair clips, or a unique pattern to the scarf. 
It's all personal preference!

NOW CLOTHING. Works a bit different.
Follow the COMMON SENSE rule. If your character is supposed to be shy, and withdrawn it would make zero sense to put them in a super revealing outfit. Try to match your clothing with your character's theme and personality.

Let's take a look at Royce and Nitro again:

Royce has an "Urban Punk" theme. So his clothing is based around various urban designs. Nitro on the other hand has clothing based on his personality. He's a pyromaniac, so his clothing suits his interests. The clothing fits their theme, interests, and personality.
Notice how elaborate the clothing is compared to their designs. Remember, the more complicated the design, the LESS complicated the clothing or accessories should be. In Nitro's case, both his design and clothing are simple. So simple characters can also have simple clothing designs and still stand out!

Clothing is probably considered one of the HARDEST things to design in a character. DO NOT be afraid to use references! I will cover one of my favorite references to use in the next section.


Now this is a fun one.
How the hell to we go about designing a good human character? XD
Well first, pick your theme. Are you going for a more realistic character, or something more anime?

My characters are more "anime" so I'll be covering that.
Foe realistic character, the main focus should be in their personality and reactions. This makes them seem more "real."

SO. You want to design an anime-ish type character?
Let's take a look at my character Tatsu:

Tatsu's design is actually very basic. What really defines him is clothing and personality, and body details.
He follows a very simple color scheme, notice how many DIFFERENT colors there are. Not a lot.
His clothing suits his lifestyle. He's meant to fit into an urban-like setting, which is why his clothing is more "urban-ish". Personality wise, he's very chill, yet dark and manipulative which is why the coloring on this clothing is more on the dark side, and not super flashy. It's also practical for movement. As for the scythe, he's a bit eccentric due to his job, so he goes to great lengths to protect himself, and doesn't give a damn about what other people think when he has it.
And that's just the basic idea.
These little odd things add up to create the whole design, and it works.

So how did I come up with the clothing?
SERIOUSLY. Do NOT be afraid to use clothing references. For anime-like characters, try looking at video game concept or art books. I own a few that I constantly go to when I'm designing clothing for my human characters.

I really recommend this book for clothing designs:
Heroes and Heroines: Japanese Video Game + Animation Illustration

Click to view the book in more detail.
That is my FAVORITE book to use. It's cheap, and it's gorgeous.
The book shows various concepts from Japanese Animation and Video Games that spread over a ton of themes. So it really helps when I'm trying to find out what clothing would work.

Well that's all...I think. XD

Hopefully I covered most of your questions! If you have any, don't be afraid to ask me~
Remember. designing characters takes a LOT of trial and effort, so if you don't succeed, try again!
Thanks for reading and happy designing! :D
And as a mini thing: All characters used in the examples belong to me. So please don't use, copy/trace, re-distribute, or claim as your own. They mean a lot. Thank you.

  • Mood: Content
  • Watching: Let's Play LoZ: WindWaker
  • Playing: SMT: Devil Survivor Overclocked (3DS)
Skin by anokazue (modified by Hi-biki)
Add a Comment:
Inklash Featured By Owner Jun 27, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
I friggin suck at designing characters so I often resort to adopting
But hey, this was really helpful! I'll try to see what I can come up with for my next characters.

Usually I always start with their personality though, and then give them a design. Months ago I used to design them out of nowhere, but now I tend to use colour palettes and actually think instead of using random colours. Still suckish but I got better. xD
Thanks again!
Hi-biki Featured By Owner Jun 27, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
You're welocome! I'm glad this could help in some way!
Dragonpunk15 Featured By Owner Jun 26, 2013
this will help me get into a better mindset when im designing thank you so much!
and i gotta get that book
Hi-biki Featured By Owner Jun 26, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
You're welcome! Glad I could help! X3
Yesssss get it~ It's really worth the money~ X3
sukoshichu Featured By Owner Jun 26, 2013  Student Artist
i usually have a basic theme (a character who is built around x, i have a character right now who is built around the rose tattoo on her right leg, for example, who i haven't uploaded ever haha), then i decide personality, then hair, clothing, then name (which is why i have no name for half my charas hahaha)
for humans, of course. i haven't gotten too far with anthro, but it worked the same for my cats. species, basic theme (graffiti) then personality (streetpunk) then hair (none), clothing (needs to be modified), name. which is why they still don't have names 8D

still, this helped me in small ways, even tho i have my own method. especially the anthro part. ^^
Hi-biki Featured By Owner Jun 26, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Haha scratch the part about clothing being the hardest part of the design...NAMES ARE~ XD
Most of my characetrs have the names they do because I was randomly calling them those names while designing.
Like SIN was going to be named "Black" but I kept calling him "SIN" thorough the process.
Same thing happened with Royce~ XD I had a totally different name in mind for him.

I'm glad it helped! X3
sukoshichu Featured By Owner Jun 26, 2013  Student Artist
i never have names planned and names don't pop up in my head as i draw them x.x so i'm in an awful boat from the start haha.
MutedMutt Featured By Owner Jun 26, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
That is such a great tutorial, really helpful! Thanks! :D
Hi-biki Featured By Owner Jun 26, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
You're welcome! I'm glad it's helpful!
Lizzara Featured By Owner Jun 26, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
thanks~ that helped me a lot! :heart:
Hi-biki Featured By Owner Jun 26, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
You're welcome~ X3
Gryshii Featured By Owner Jun 26, 2013  Student Digital Artist
Whoa. ._.
Hi-biki Featured By Owner Jun 26, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I'll take that as a good "whoa"~ :aww:
xtofubreadx Featured By Owner Jun 26, 2013
Hope you don;t mind if i fav this for future reading :D
Hi-biki Featured By Owner Jun 26, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I don't mind at all! X3
Fave away!
xtofubreadx Featured By Owner Jun 26, 2013
Thanks~ :la:
Hi-biki Featured By Owner Jun 26, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Yup! X3
Add a Comment:

More from DeviantArt


Submitted on
June 26, 2013


38 (who?)