Character Design - A look behind the scenes

in art •  10 months ago

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I've wanted to write this post about how Character Design actually works in a studio setting, building on a few of the things I've mentioned in my #designacharacter contest entry here.
I was going though my files and realised, I'd already written a pretty nice summary on how it all works in an actual studio setting, initially as a presentation for succeeding artists in the studio. And since we all like to save some time, I figured I'd simply share it with you! :D

Bit of backstory first:

My first actual industry job was as a trainee animator at a Game Studio on a little mobile app game called "A Little Lost". It got released but unfortunately only very briefly and it was pulled again, but eh, that happens all the time in the game industry.
Anyway, here's the game trailer they released (I didn't animate anything in this btw, it was done externally) so you get an Idea of what it looked like:

I'll post a sample of some of the animation I did for the game in a later post :)

So there was a time when they ran out of things for me to animate and I was basically just sitting around doing nothing.

Until I mentioned that I could do some Character Design for upcoming creatures in the meantime, and they were pretty good at letting me have a go even though I wasn't hired as a character designer initially.

Turned out they liked what I was doing so while there wasn't anything to animate, I continued to actively work on the project as Character Designer instead. :)

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I don't remember exactly when I was asked to do this but I put together this presentation with brief explanation of the steps and examples from the work I'd done to Illustrate.

I hope you find it informative and entertaining :)
You may have to click on the pictures to enlarge them so you can read what's on them.

All of the drawings are mine

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Toodeloo!
Till the next time :)

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Sehr sehr gute und süsse Arbeit, man sieht wie viel Mühe und Leidenschaft dahinter steckt :)
Zeichnen und generell illustrieren ist wie eine Sucht, wenn man einmal Spass daran gefunden hat will man einfach immer besser und besser werden und kann nicht mehr aufhören :D

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ja das stimmt total!
und dankeschön :D ♡

hi @jillustrations, impressive work you got here.
Currently we are hosting a contest for drawing 4 Characters of the Steempunk MMORPG here on steemit.
Check out this post -> Prize 50 Steem
Hope to see you around!
Kind regards
Jan

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@jillustrations you should think about getting involved with this one. Seems like a promising project :)

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thank you @jedigeiss! :D ♡

that looks like a super interesting project actually! very cool.

hmmm.. I have to think about that one a bit, because 4 characters is a lot of work for an uncertain outcome, and the brief is a tiny bit vague.. ish.
It's a sweet price but then, say my designs "win", does that mean you automatically get to use them however and wherever you like? Who holds the copyright? And would I get any visible credit anywhere?
And say, the game takes off and starts pulling in profit, I read in your white paper that participants will essentially get part of the earnings (which is pretty sweet!) but what about the artists who helped pull it all together? Are we, as is unfortunately so often the case, then condemned to watch something we've created garner huge popularity and profit without getting anything out of it other than the initial "prize" for the designs?

I'm sorry, I hope you know I don't want to knock your project, I think this is an awesome Idea and think it has a real chance of success - which is actually why I'm thinking about all this way more than I would with any of the other contests floating around - I also, absolutely do not want to imply any malicious intent on your part whatsoever - but as someone who has been (whether knowingly or unknowingly) f*cked over concerning their work and copyrights as a freelance artist more than enough for a lifetime, I've become a bit more careful with jumping the gun on these kind of things. sadly.

I hope you understand my concerns. :)

I will still think about it. I really like the idea after all!

Thank you for wanting me to participate in any case! I take it as a huge compliment :D

LG
Jill

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Ach wir könnten auch in Deutsch schreiben ? ;)
Hmm ich verstehe deine Bedenken, lass uns doch mal drüber reden, meist findet sich eine Lösung.
Bist du schon auf dem deutschen Discord Server ?
LG
Jan

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Ja mit dem gleichen username, falls du mir eine Nachricht schreiben möchtest. ;)
Wäre vielleicht nett (und aufschlußreich ) wenn ich dich ein bisschen ausfragen könnte haha

Respekt, danke für die gute Beschreibung und die schönen Zeichungen ;)

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Dankeschön! <3 :D

they are so cute and great designs! I wish I could have your talent in character design. I can only recreate somebody else work :(

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Thank you! But It's not talent my friend, it's practice! lots and lots and lots and lots of practice! :D I've been drawing since I was very, very little and I never stopped. I also have 6 years of education in Illustration, animation, character design, story boarding etc etc etc and about 3 years experience working as a professional in the arts. that adds up! :D
Never give up, just keep practicing . :D
...
wow I just looked at your blog and holy guacamole, you do amazing things! your sculptures are TOP KNOTCH! wowowow!

so basically what you're saying is that you wish you had more original ideas? because you're definitely not lacking in skill!

You know, you can practice that too. ;)
Just make something up! Start with a back story: who is this character? basic characteristics (male, female, age etc), where do they live? what are their hopes and dreams and aspirations? what are their jobs? what do their day to day lives look like? what's their personality like? All of these things are going to influence your design, so if you feel like you have no ideas when you just idly doodle, then maybe creating a small story behind a character first will help because then you have a starting point.
And if that's too intimidating at first, then pick one of your favourite characters from a book. find out everything about them and then start designing them as close as possible to how you see them in your head. it's much MUCH easier to come up with a design when you have a story around it to draw from :D
...
...
you know I think you just gave me an idea for a post hahaha
thank you~~ ♡ ♡ ♡

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I know, I made this silly mistake what people do when they call it talent and forget about all hard work and dedication to the art and craft :) Your lines and shapes are so beautiful and look like it is just natural to you. I did some drawings, sketching and painting but I don't like my sketches, my lines are always the same and they lack this artistic something, when it flows, sometimes get thinner or thicker what perfectly works with the shapes, shadows and highlights.
Yes, no original ideas. I think I too quickly would like to jump to finished object. It is so much easier to take an existing design and just start building or sculpting it. I always have this guilt that I should be much better in sculpting at this stage. I practice as much as I can. It is getting easier, but now, when I sculpt human figures, I can see that I lack this intuitive movements and lines which make the piece look great. I just try to recreate what I see again, each muscle or shadow I see. I need to take few weeks off and try this exercise with creating from imagination only and see if it will work.
Maybe you could start school of character design. Start with basics and later give us homework or something to start with. I hate black canvas. :)
Thanks for your advice.
Will be checking to se what you come with.

omg wie cute diese Tierchen aussehen! :)
Du hast echt Talent

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dankeschön! obwohls gar nicht so am talent liegt sondern hauptsächlich an einer jahrelangen Ausbildung und einiges an Berufserfahrung ;D

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naja ich glaub, ich könnte sowas nie zeichnen - egal wie lange ich übe :D

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neineinein. totaler Mythos. Zeichnen is wie jeder andere Skill den du mit Händen erlernen kannst. Braucht halt viel, viel Übung und halt das dementsprechende Durchhaltevermögen (an dem es am meisten scheitert weil der Anfang halt echt hart und frustrierend ist. eh wie bei allem), aber rein vom technischen kann man das alles lernen.
Genau wie ein Instrument spielen, oder... was weiß ich, einen Tisch mit den eigenen händen selbst bauen. oder schnitzen oder sculpting etc.

Mir gehts immer so arg auf den Keks wenn die Leute meinen "oooohh du hast so viieel talent! ich könnte das niiie!" (jetzt aber nicht auf dich bezogen, gell?) Als wäre mein skill mir von irgendeiner höheren Macht in die Wiege gelegt worden und ich nicht scheiss viel Geld und Zeit und Schweiß und Blut und harte Arbeit in meinen erlernten Beruf gesteckt hätte, wie jeder andere Professionelle auch.

-rant over- haha

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ja, ich verstehe diesen Punkt :)
Ich muss meinen vorherigen Punkt umformulieren: "Ich könnte sowas auch, aber mir fehlt im Moment die Zeit und Motivation, mich intensiv damit auseinanderzusetzen"

Zeichnen mag ich ansich ja ganz gerne, aber Charakter-Design hab ich noch nie versucht, weil ich irgendwie Angst davor hab haha^^
Bin aber trotzdem eher auf der musikalischen Seite zu Hause :)

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haha danke für die Umformulierung. much appreciated. Und ist doch auch wahr oder? :D Wenn man so drüber nachdenkt. ;)

Hahaha braucht man doch keine Angst haben. Obwohl ich versteh was du meinst. mir gehts eben in der Musik so. Ich singe gerne und würde mich gerne trauen mehr texte zu schreiben aber da ich weder Noten schreiben noch lesen, noch ein instrument spielen kann, fühl ich mich so.... "unworthy"
macht das sinn? haha

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eine Fusion aus uns wär dann ein Universalvirtuose :D

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Hi @jillustrations, your artwork is really outstanding. I absolutely LOVE your character designs! I've always enjoyed creating little characters with my kids and this has inspired me to do some today when they get home from school. We often do a half 'n half. I'll draw half, fold the page, then they will do the other half! Such fun. If it turns out good I'll scan it and do a digital paint over.

I believe your artwork should reach more people and you blog is also amazing and well up to scratch compared with many Steemit blogs. I'd like to extend an invite to join our Steem Artists group. If you join we will promote you as well as upvote and resteem. Check it out below if you're interested :)

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Oh yaaaay thank you so much! ~~ ♡
Aww it's always the best compliment to hear that your work inspired someone in some way ♡ it's the best, most precious part of being an artist to me :D it is, in the end, the thing I love the most. Of course I enjoy being recognised and all that jazz, but really, it's all about spreading the joy of creation I think.. at least for me. ♡ So thank you for that!

And of course I'll absolutely check out your community, sounds amazing! I'm always scouring around to find other artists on steemit anyway, so this is excellent.
thanks a bunch!!!

I'm impressed.
Thanks to @oliverschmid who introduced your work.

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yaaaay~ thank you! :D
and definitely massive thanks to @oliverschmid for spreading the word! haha <3

Thanks for sharing these sketches and turnarounds...I love character design and work with concept artists! Your work is great, are you in Slothicorn Discord? We should collaborate! ;) have a great day!

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my pleasure!
Thank you very much :D
nope, I haven't had the chance to really check out slothicorn yet, I'm still pretty fresh on steemit and slightly overwhelmed with the shit-tons of stuff! hahaha
will probably look into it at some point though ;)

The creature designs are so adorable! I really like creatures with a huge head. Like those bobblehead thingy. And once again, I love looking at your process sketches, reminds me a lot like concept art from dreamworks.

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NYOHMYGOSH that compliment almost stopped my heart. 😍
thank you~~ ♡

haha yeah, they're a little bit like the bobblehead things! Never thought of that hahaha

Fantastic work and look behind the scenes, you have a new follower and fan.

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woohooo! thanks! :D

I thought we talked about too much cuteness :) Seriously adore your work and the little guys you create. I love that you take us behind the scenes so that we can really appreciate the time and effort that goes into animation :)

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hahaha hilariously, I was totally thinking of you when I put together this post XD

Thank you! well, this is more the Character Design part of production but the same applies.

There's a looot more going on behind the scenes of these things as most people realise. which is kinda cool. but also kinda sad. Artists often get under-appreciated and undervalued, or not taken seriously, because, obviously it's all fun and games for them right? And besides, it's easy for them, right? They have talent, after all, a mythical gift given to them by the universe, it's not work for them, right?
hahaha
sorry, I went slightly cynical for a bit there. :P

I'm sure you know what I mean.

anywhooo~, your appreciation is super.. err.. appreciated :D ♡
much love ♡

They look so fluffyyyy

This is very impressive explanation on how sketch to 3D works. Thanks!

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thank you! :D I'm happy you got something out of it :) ♡

A l t e r
S c h w e d e !

So nice.

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Ich habe mitbekommen, du hast ordentlich die Werbetrommel für mich gerüttelt? XD
much appreciated, many thaaanks!! ~~ ♡ ♡
Wirklich voll lieb!
find ich voll schön, dass dir meine Arbeiten so gefallen :D yaaay~~~

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Ehre wem Ehre gebührt.

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♡ 😳 ♡

Die sehn einfach so cute aus, ich hätt sie gern als Pokemons

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hahahah das wär geil.
Ja also war ja ein bisschen so ähnlich gedacht in dem spiel, du sammelst die Tierchen auf in dem du dich durch die match3 games battlest und sie helfen die dann am board mit special abilities etc.

this is very awesome art. your very talented in mascot design

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thank you :)

Can't believe I missed this!
I really like how this has the quality of a tutorial as much as that of a sketchbook. Hmm I think my favorite character here is the "Kitsune" in profile or the Dragon "D" series but it's hard to pick. So many different variations!

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♡ ♡ ♡

Haha, yeah it's an interesting format somehow.. hmm

Funny I actually love the Kitsune as well and the Dragons are all my faves hahaha
I think I gave them too many options to pick from to be honest, they were very slow in giving me feedback on the new creations and just kept giving me designs from other artists (usually boring ones) to improve upon and do turnarounds and stuff. (the penguin, bree the cow, the coala....) :( it was a bit discouraging, because it gave me the feeling my ideas weren't good. But looking at them from the distance of some time having passed, I don't think that was the case. I think some of them were totally viable ideas. I think I just overdid it a bit with my pages and pages of creature ideas and the managing folk's brain kinda short-circuited, so they went into the "old-maybe-pile" so they wouldn't have to think so hard. hahahaha
at least that's my interpretation. :P

You greatest artist!!!

I follow you, follow me too!

Awesome post, Jill! I'm definitely taking notes! Also, what a way to capitalize on an opportunity to show the studio you're capable of wearing multiple hats. I find smaller scale jobs/studios are great for those opportunities.

How much time did they give you to work on designs?

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weee! thank you!
haha glad you got something out of it! :)

Yes, usually it's definitely the smaller studios where you're more likely to be able (or be asked) to wear multiple hats, absolutely.
Weirdly, that studio wasn't "small" by any stretch of the word.

but i guess it still operated like one because there were multiple smaller units all working on differnet type of games, further split up into teams on individual games, so it somehow operated like a smaller studio in some cases, depending on the management of the specific teams.

I was definitely lucky that they were so casual about it and gave me a chance. :D

Well, it was a bit of a strange situation because the whole reason they ran out of things for me to animate is because the production of the game had stalled a bit. So I didn't rrrreally have hard deadlines. I was just sort of doing my thing and also additionally helping out here and there.
I learned a program called spine as well, with which they did most of their "2d" effects, and designed a few buttons and things too, which was interesting because I'd had literally no experience in that before.
They also "lent me out" to a different game, so I got to take a break from animating "cute and cuddly" and step out of my comfort zone animating "cool" characters that had proper walk, run, attack, get hit, and stun cycles etc, which was interesting. During that time I learned to animate in 3Ds MAX too (I usually work in Maya) so lots of learning opportunity for me, which was pretty sweet.

WOW! SUCH CUTE LITTLE THINGS. You have a unique style; loving the huge eyes + small bodies + colours. 😍

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aww thank you! I'm glad you like it! :D

But although some of "my style" is definitely in those critters, I actually had real difficulty at first with the proportions.

You see, as a character designer you have to adhere to the already established style of whatever project you're put on, so you have to be able to adapt.

And I wasn't used to draw characters with such humongous heads and tiny bodies, so it actually took a while for me to get used to it and I very often had to go in and "cut out" the body from the head, and resize it after I drew them, because I'd almost always drew the bodies too big. hahaha

you can see on the slide labeled "5) colour exploration" for example, all the tiny characters that border my colour explorations of the potential new characters are already existing characters in the game, and I have them there for reference to make sure I stay within the same colour palettes and style of the game.
The specific colours were important because they had significance in the gameplay ;)

Amazing work!

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thank you! :D

That was a comprehensive explanation. Character drawing is definitely complex, with all those patterns and color schemes! o.O
I would take ages to select one among them haha!
Great tutorial-ish!