Character Design – Week 3

Today we lost our hard work and research swapped worlds. I left my team and was put into the new group of Becca Blair, Caitlin Collins, Thomas Drake and Rosie Mullen.

The world we were then given was one of my favourites; it was based on an egg that had fallen, cracked open and started to rot. The yolk was supposed to have become so rotten that it became radioactive and started glowing (kind of forming a sunken sun for this world), on the white of the egg the mould had intensified into crystals creating a mountain range and beyond that the mould had created a forest – but no ordinary forest… The deeper you went into the forest, the darker and scarier it got, like going deeper into the ocean.

Mystical rotten egg world
Mystical rotten egg world

The project for this week was to create inhabitants for our new world.

Our life drawing lecturer, Michael Bass, gave us a talk about character design and got us started on designing our characters for our world. Here’s some of the tips Mike threw our way:

  1. When thinking of a character you should think of it’s intended audience or the audience it would appeal to most, for example when designing for young children you would use basic shapes and bright colours.
  2. Good design can sell without the need of any context. For example if you design a character and make him/her/it into a 3D toy, no matter how amazing the backstory, if the toy is unappealing it won’t sell.
  3. Always research and reference. Without realising it you could be designing a character that’s already out there and your innovative idea can be seen as a rip-off. Likewise someone else can create something just like yours so you have to let go of the idea of owning a certain design.
  4. Make your character appealing and distinctive. Matt Groening used yellow to make “The Simpsons” stand out and grab the viewers’ attention. Always consider the line and tone; sharp, sketchy and uneven lines may suggest an erratic character while smooth and round lines imply the character is approachable. Tim Burton’s characters are drawn sharp while Walt Disney’s were more often rounded:
  5. There should also be a likeness between the moving part (character and props) and the non-moving part (environment) of your design, it would be rather distracting and unappealing if a sharp character was in a smooth setting and vice versa unless that’s what you’re aiming for.
  6. Lastly, the character should be simple yet reformed. Construct them using simple shapes. Straight against curves is a technique that you add to characters to push the line of action. Here’s a video explaining it:

Some great pages to look at is 20 Top Character Design TipsCharacter Design – PIXAR and Chris Oatley’s blog for Character Design, Games and Comics!

So we have three distinct areas in our eggy world; the bright liquid centre, the crystalline mountains and the dark forest so we plan on designing characters for each of these three separate areas. We decided the characters in the centre would be more humanoid and civilised whilst the further away from the yolk the wilder, scarier and more creature-like the characters get.


The most challenging part of this project will be for everyone to work in the same style. Each one of us has our own very distinctive style and choosing one that we can all work to and suits our world is going to prove difficult.

The characters also need to have a likeness to their environment, so we are going to incorporate light/bio-luminosity (glowing bits) into the creatures that live in the dark forest and some geometric shapes and patterns into our crystal mountain dwellers and vice versa. Our yolk characters are going to be slightly more evolved looking. Becca had a great idea to make them partly translucent as they’ll be swimming around in the bright yolk.

For our creatures in the forest we decided to base them on a mix of deep sea and woodland animals. There was a beautiful animation video one of the senior students posted on our course’s facebook page that I thought was relevant to our woodland creatures, “Gloam” by Davis Elwell and Gareth Hughes

I think it’s lovely!

We found this image which is sort of what we’re going for, although it’s based on a frog and a crab, the way the features of both the animals are mixed into one creature:


This is one of my earlier crystal mountain creatures:

Although we decided to leave behind the crystal mountain creatures and focus on the yolk and the dark forest ones instead. We wanted there to be a physical contrast between our “good” and “bad” characters. Becca posted up a link to Michael Kutsche’s blog (a character concept artist) and we studied two of his characters for “Alice in Wonderland“; the red and white knights.

Here’s two opposing characters from the film. Morality is obvious, the White Knight is good while the Red Knight is evil, but what gives this way? Apart from colour, The White Knight’s slender shape makes him look more graceful and agile while Red is more bulky and lacks a neck, giving him a more menacing and henchman-like appearance. So we took this into account when designing our characters.

Our dark forest characters are still based on a mix of deep sea creatures and woodland animals so we looked at the anatomy of bears, owls, deer and bats as well as cuttlefish, jellyfish, anglers and sharks. We took inspiration from the angler fish and added glowing features to our creatures which would just be seen before they attacked you… They are tall, bulky creatures, however, for their personalities, we decided the two key elements are that they are not dangerous – they’re scary but underneath they are just angry and misunderstood.

Caitlin’s forest lion
Rosie’s forest creature
My concept stages
character 3 tone
Jellyowl or “Jowly”

They are quite jagged and spiney to show a likeness to the crystal mountains although the concepts for the forest characters will glow as well. For the Cuttlebear I’m thinking of the edges of his side-fins glowing and then the Jellyowl’s tentacles and eyes would glow (these are supposed to be scary animals but they have the cutest names!).

The central yolk characters are more fluid and smoother than their spikey neighbours. The smaller characters are ruled by the larger humanoid/mermaid ones. These guys are the ones who are translucent however all of them either have blackened out or hollow eyes as they don’t need them because they live in a giant light source.

Caitlin’s yolk creatures


My “Yolkian”

For the characters in the yolk we agreed that they would be based on tadpoles or mermaids.

I liked the idea of the limbs being disjointed (looking like actual tadpoles), they’re held together by translucent skin-fins. I was also trying to incorporate a Roman-like look so he’s wearing a robe and the face is shaped like the iconic roman helmet.

When we finished our characters, Becca then drew up a height chart for them:



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