The character design process is one of the most critical processes in every project to bring imagination to life. The characters can be considered as the heart of any story.
Whether you’re a beginner just starting to dip your toes into character design, an experienced artist looking to enhance your skills, or a project owner who is just getting familiar with the character design pipeline, In this blog, we will tell you step by step process, tips, and also best practices.
Understanding the Character Design Process
There are 3 key steps in creating an engaging character that should be done to create characters for animation, video games, or storytelling.
Pre-Production in Character Design Process
Pre-production is critical due to ensure a well-planned and successful character design process. In this step, mostly 2D artists are involved in creating the design’s first visuals.
Having an idea for the character design is what starts the project. Without an idea, there is no design. So brainstorming and ideation is the first stage of the character design process. Here, the backstory, purpose, and role of the character in the story must be considered.
Once the idea is generated and the character design plan is clear. Artists, designers, and project owners must look for references. Reference materials can be images, artwork, sculpture, etc. The next stages and final result will go around these references, so gathering references is important.
Now, it’s time to set pen to paper. Several sketches are created here to choose the best one based on project requirements. This stage involves rough or black-and-white sketches with correct human anatomy regarding the artists working on the design.
After narrowing down the sketches and selecting a suitable one, the visual identity is solidified by refining them. In addition, artists may make the sketches more clear with clean lines. Here, the art style is chosen. Whether it’s a realistic, cartoonish, or stylized approach, the chosen style should enhance the character’s design and appeal to the target audience.
Read More: 2D and 3D Game Art Styles
Here, the color palette is going to be prepared. Selected sketches will be painted in different color combinations to see what would be better for the design and what can convey the character’s personality, mood, and attributes. Consider the color definition in art and its impact on mood and symbolism.
Character Design Production Process
When the pre-production phase is completed, a well-conceptualized, refined, and detailed character is ready to enter the production stage.
Modeling and Blockout
The character is going to be modeled by model sheets that are ready based on the concept art. 3D modeling is to giving three-dimensional features to a flat character. There are 2 types of modeling, high-poly, and low-poly. This stage involves 3D modeling software representing the 3D character’s basic shapes in A-shape or T-shape models.
As well as traditional sculpting, 3D digital sculpting is to create wrinkles, muscle definition, and other intricacies to show depth and realism. It involves shaping virtual clay-like materials to produce detailed and realistic sculptures but in sculpting software.
Read More: 3D Modeling vs. Sculpting
3D material and texture are added to the 3D surfaces in 3D texturing using different software and involving different mappings. For example, UV mapping is the process of unwrapping the 3D model’s surface onto a 2D plane in order to ensure minimal distortion and maximize the quality of the final texture. The result of this stage is a realistic and lifelike character design.
Once the character appearance is ready and completed, it’s time to add a digital skeleton to it. 3D Rigging allows the character to move by setting up the bones, joints, body, and facial expressions.
Post-Production in Character Design Process
When it comes to post-production, it means that the character design process is going to be done, and a character with fine textures and rigs is available.
Lighting and Shading
While the character is completed and refined, lighting and shading techniques are applied to enhance the character’s appearance, which suits the scene’s mood and environment.
Read More: Character Development in Video Games
Detailing and Rendering
Smaller elements such as clothing textures, facial features, hair strands, or accessories are refined here for the last time before rendering.
Feedback and Revisions
Be open to feedback and share the character design with other artists and designers before delivering it. There could be some little issues that were hidden from the eyes of artists working on the project.
Character Design Tips and Best Practices
To excel in character design, it’s important to look for tips and practices to create the most memorable video game characters.
- Balancing Originality and Familiarity
- Creating Visually Appealing Silhouettes
- Using References Effectively
- Iteration and Experimentation in the Process
- Attention to Personality and Storytelling.
- Seek and Incorporate Feedback
- Develop a Distinctive Style
The character design process is a journey from research and conceptualization to texturing and lighting. Different artists with several skills and years of experience are involved in designing a character which visually appealing and meets the story or project needs. Following these steps transforms the initial concept into a fully realized 3D character.