Character design is for communicating a character’s charm at first glance.
Today we will dig deep into the character designs for western fantasies.
I will share immediately usable tips on character setting centric designs and fantasy inducing expressions.
I hope these can be one method you can use for your character design.
-What Character Design Conveys to us-
Before we start, first I would like to talk on why character designs are important.
Character design skills are absolutely necessary for any creations like games, anime and manga.
Their design conveys us:
- The character’s charm
- The story’s charm
These are obvious, but the true interests of character designs are:
- Job (Occupation/Position)
- Attribute(Water, Fire, Wind, etc….)
- Culture / Tradition
- Character’s personality
- Character’s hobbies
- Character’s relationships (relatives, friends, partners, etc…)
- Birth, upbringing and environment
With these characteristics and settings you can truly make a character come alive. Designs are for characters conveying the message “I am this sort of person”.
And this is fantasy, so you are not restricted to realism or modern day.
So here let’s discuss the settings and worldview of a character living in a fantasy world.
-Decide on a Theme-
Although ”reflect from the settings” is indeed important, it’s hard for some people to decide the small details from the beginning.
So let’s decide on a rough draft of themes.
Some examples are “twin magicians”, “the ice prince”, “the stage dancer cat” or “the ball joint puppeteer”.
Try imagining your favorite materials and themes you want to illustrate.
It is highly recommended that the job/occupation, race and motif are recognizable at first glance in fantasies.
Today we will combine “star” and “witch” into a theme called “The Witch of Starry Nights”.
-Deciding on the Story and Settings-
Now that the theme is decided, we will gradually start designing the character’ s story and setting. This process can be done parallel to your character design.
As to why we decide this first is because the character’s personality and characteristics can change with his/her clothes, appearance, baggage, or pose.
For example a witch character with starry appearance,
-A clumsy fledgling witch who loves shiny things.
-A veteran witch who lives deep in the forest quietly with her familiars.
can have various appearances when described as above.
This is to brainstorm a clear design and prevent juggling themes that create vague ideas.
For the next step, we will decide on the setting “The Witch of Starry Nights” and start designing.
【The Star Observing Witch】
-Story and Setting-
Let’s start to decide on the basic setting of “The Witch of Starry Nights”.
These can be setting ideas hatched from the theme, planned beforehand with the story, or stuffed with your personal preferences.
Let’s list your ideas by bulletin.
- Outward appearance 16 years old
- About 160 cm tall
- Rarely changes facial expressions
- Carries a large book of astrology and magic
- She looks stoic and serious, but she’s actually shy
- She looks mature and mysterious
- She sometimes predicts the future and does fortune telling.
- She became a witch at a young age with her born talents.
- She lives in the high class district of the city of magic.
You don’t have to decide all of your settings here.
By leaving some blank spaces, you can add more details from design.
What’s important is to gather enough details to emerge as a tangible image in your head, that can be added seasonings later.
Next we will list the motifs and image colors that might work well with your creation.
- Star(Celestial body・Constellation・Galaxy etc…)
- Blue / Aqua
We also know that this character is stoic and mysterious in the setting we decided earlier.
Let’s go to our next step in design remembering this setting.
Let’s roughly draw the entire silhouette of the character.
One can imagine the necessary clothings for a witch such as a witch hat, cape, one piece dress, and boots.
To give her a stoic and mysterious atmosphere, I would give her a large witch hat and long sleeve cape and dress.
①In this design she looks more like an academic witch with her long coat, cape and boots.
②In this design she looks more like a hermit witch with her long dress, cape and boots.
In addition to this witch’s stoic and intelligent look, I choose the silhouette ① to show how young she is at the age of 16.
Large items such as witch hats, ribbons and magic staff are effective descriptions of a fantasy world. While drawing your silhouette, it’s best to decide 1~3 items that the character holds that describes him/her.
②Prepare the parts
From here we will steadily insert the character settings into her design.
While being aware she is a witch who looks like an academic, we will insert motifs of stars and astronomy to her clothings.
Let’s remember not to stray far from the original silhouette.
Although she is a young witch, refrain from giving her too many cute frills and ribbons, and dress her in an academic coat and cape with straight and cool line clothes.
However we also have motifs of stars and celestial bodies, so let’s draw the curved celestial patterns on the coat, witch hat and cape. Many celestial related patterns like the moon, planet spheres and planetarium have curves.
Also she is a shy character who probably “dislikes showing her skin”, so she would be wearing less revealing clothes. Following with details like “She is a talented witch” and “She lives in the upper class districts” can give her high class clothings and accessories.
Witch Hat・・・Witch-like item number one.
Cut out a circle from one edge of the hat to create a moon crescent shape.
Attach accessories on the hat’s edge and cone for a magical touch.
Hairstyle・・・A bob-shaped hairstyle exudes a more serious face.
Making it asymmetrical adds a less approachable and mysterious impression.
Facial Expression・・・Indifferent slanted eyes will make her cool.
Collar・・・To show her as a stiff personality, the collar should have nice details.
Giving her a necktie would make her look responsible and intelligent.
The characters’ heads and faces reveal their personality and position at first glance.
Big hats or ribbons are recognizable examples and large accessories make the faces stand out.
Magic Book・・・Item number two for witches。
The horoscope book she always carries
Waist Ribbon・・・A large ribbon with straight lines.
It will make her look compact.
Blouse・・・Long sleeve blouse to hide her skin.
But add a small frill to her sleeve cuff for the young girl.
Cape・・・The cape should open wide like a flower.
Creating holes where the cape cloaks the shoulder give a unique fantastic design.
The waist area comes second to the head in where you can easily attach accessories.
Giving her ribbons, bags and frills will make her bewitching.
Dress / Skirt・・・Designs with straight lines will give her a mature impression.
Add patterns of moon crescents and celestial bodies for fantasy elements.
Long Coat・・・The coat would billow towards the bottom.
Hiding her body shape expresses protection and introversion.
Adding spherical stars expresses outer space.
Boots・・・She will look more mature with tight long boots.
Since the skirt and coat widen going down, balance them with lightweight legs.
By questioning each single part with “what meaning do they have, why does she wear these?”, the characters’ design becomes more grounded.
③Deciding Color Scheme
Once the parts are in place next we decide on the color scheme.
We’ll use purple, blue/aqua, and yellow from the motif / image color list to paint her starry clothes.
Base color：Use colors like deep purple and blue to show her stoic aura and nighttime mystery.
Main color：The color yellow is complementary to the color blue because they can illustrate the moon and stars. The color silver and white on her hair and blouse represent determination and purity.
Accent color：The color aqua gives an icy impression.
The basics of color scheme are base color 70%, main color 25%, accent color 5％.
Compared to characters of modern day setting, fantasy characters can be painted freely with many customization. But you have to be careful in the color scheme’s balance or else it will look out of place.
I recommend choosing up to 3-5 colors.
Finally, you can add more details if you think the drawing needs more.
You will finalize the design and shape at the same time.
Here I added more details to the hat, waist ribbon, and coat center.
Hat・・・Added star shaped accessories. Balance with the hat.
Hair・・・I used accent color aqua to add mesh hairs. Now she looks more cool.
Collar・・・Gave her an aqua colored necklace. Also added gold to her necktie that made her look more noble.
Magical Book・・・Made the book cover gold for a more elegant grimoire design.
Cuff・・・Draw golden frills to her cuffs. Make them uniform with the gold on the collar and necktie.
Waist Ribbons・・・By adding a gold chain on her waist, I gave it a shooting star imagery.
Gloves・・・The coat and gloves share the same color. The fingering gloves make her more refined and lady-like.
Coat Patterns・・・Draw 12 constellations related to horoscopes to reveal her as the “The Witch of Starry Nights”
You can reduce the additional design if you think there’s too much. More small details do not equate to quality. Use subtraction and balance the character’s entirety.
Lastly you give the illustration a clean copy and “The Witch of Starry Nights” is born!
How was everything？
Character design is a difficult process. There are no correct or incorrect methods. There are many elements like the character’s personality, mission, and mediation in the story that affects the designing.
Today we designed from the settings, but we can also do the other way around. Today’s method was to create a character design by checking off fantasy world elements.
Please try various methods and find the best one that allows you to realize the charm of your world and characters. I hope the process of character design will be exciting for you.
CopyRight：星灯れぬ Lenu Hoshitou
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