Creating believable characters

Remember all the posts you see on animated characters that look like real-life characters? Well, they are not just for fun but also for learning. Character designers have the key role of replicating real-life characters for the screen. These characters could be humans, animals or objects. In each case having a reference helps in building reality & credibility on screen. Today we look at the 3-step process to create a character that is both entertaining & believable.

Step 1: Quick sketches

Known by character designers as gesture drawing, these form the base of any character design. And this step doesn’t even need a classroom or software. All you need is a sketchbook & pencil. Sit at a café, a park or any place of your choice, and make a quick sketch of the posture & emotions of the people around you. These do not have to be exact portraits, simply a quick silhouette. You could do this for humans, animals or objects around you. These sketches will then form the base for future character designs that may involve both everyday people like your mom & dad, or imaginary characters like dragons & unicorns. This is the best of learning anatomy study even before you get to the details.

Source: Proko

Step 2: Permanent sketches

So you’ve got those outlines. What next? Now you start sketching these figures, but without references. This is when you use your own skills & instincts to bring your character to life. You cannot always go back to those people & places, and start making their portraits. So you have to depend on your experience & observation. Decide what more could the character could do within those silhouettes. How would be the character’s expressions & actions? How would the character behave? All this and many more ideas start coming to life at this stage.

Step 3: God is in the details

Now is when you start filling in the details. What would the character wear? What would be the colour of their skin/eye/hair etc.? At this stage you may realise that your character is starting to resemble someone you know or a picture that you may have seen. Use that person or image as a reference to bring out the finer details of your character.

Designing a believable character may look challenging but it is one of the most interesting parts of the animation process. From exploring shapes to body language & expression, you get to play God of your own little universe. All this can be learnt through guided training. An institute that teaches anatomy study as part of the animation process is ideal to start. So get sketching.