Or at least my process.
I drew ten characters from a podcast I listened to last month. It's called Wolf 359 and I highly recomemend you give it a listen if you like Sci-Fi, Comedy and good plots. Now on to the art.
I love designing characters. I'm pretty sure I don't know most of the tricks of the trade, but that's what practice is for. Sketching the simplest and most generic versions of your characters is usually the first step. In animation and comics, designing characters based on the shapes they are made up of is a well used practice.
The main reasoning behind this is so that when the characters are simplified (i.e. in aniamtion and comics) the creators want the viewers to be able to recognize characters quickly. There's a lot of good logic in that.
My first sketches were a strange mix of semi realistic faces and very cartoony bodies. In all honestly I just didn't want to draw anatomy, but I realized that I could go to the extreme with this and just give them rounder and simplified features.
These sketches aren't that drastically different. But the faces and the bodies have better synergy. Speaking of synergy, these characters are a crew on a spacestation, and while you don't have to design them, it's likely they all have some variant of a uniform. Making it so that the characters outfits don't seem too different from each other, and yet also unique is an obnoxious balancing act.
But that's the thing about designing the visuals of a character when you aren't the creator. I like to work within the bounds of what a character would look like, based off of what they complain about or what they value. Do they exercise? Do they like pop-culture? Do they respect authority? Do they shower?
If you are thinking about these things while you are designing, you characters should always look like you answered at least a few questions about them.
These next 5 characters, while part of the podcast, don't start in the same place as the other ones. So I felt it was ok to design them out of uniform. I also did not want to get bored by drawing the same awful jumpsuit. As long as I answer some questions about them in their design, I don't feel the need to push myself too hard.
Also note, simple changes of poses and size of body parts can make drastic improvements on designs.
Now for some people, Lineart is tedious and not worth your time. They are correct. But here I am, still doing it. This is a part of my process where I add all the details. This includes a lot of the texture found on clothes and hair of my characters. I like to have contrast in the lineart and make sure it is good enough on it's own before I start the colors. If I can post the lineart by itself, then I know I wont be using color to hide other problems in the design, be it anatomy or shoddy shoe designs. *cough*
There's less designing in the lineart stage, but still the little details you include are what helps sell a character. Props for characters to hold, or graphics on their clothing helps suggest things about them without the a visual medium having to explicitly state it.
Color can be tricky. If you are designing a character by themselves, you have fewer constraints. But if you are designing a group, you have that annoying synergy problem.
You don't want the characters to be too different, or it wont feel like they are supposed to be in even the same universe.
Individually, these characters look pretty good. But looking at them doesn't suggest that they even know each other. That's ok for some of these characters, but not all of them. The robot-like character in the top image was the solution. She's an AI that runs the spacestation that Wolf 359 takes place on. I made her orange for no reason other than it wasn't on any of the other characters. I found that I was able to take that orange, and put it into all the other designs.
And it worked out pretty great!
Thanks for reading!
You can also find me elsewhere online!