13 Tips on Creating your First 3D Character Design

Tackling your very first character design can be a challenge for anyone! The easiest way to start is by first creating a character creation sheet. Luckily here are 13 tips to make the process of character creation easier!

Start with Design!
Many great character designs have their humble beginnings with a simple sketch. Think of what shapes your character has. They are integral in conveying personality and attitude. Big, robust shapes give a presence of firmness and strength while small, thin shapes give a feeling of timidness, speed or flexibility. It may help to exaggerate shapes to emphasize certain personality traits.

Draw a 2D Body Wireframe!
Building a wireframe will allow us to understand the character’s form better. Afterall, drawing the character’s original body will serve as a base for future 3D sculpting without the distraction of outfit/clothing layering. Understanding the character in its raw form will help modelers understand how separate layers of clothes will wrap around the character’s body.

Start Detailing!
Now that the basic shape of the character is complete, we can start detailing! Think about what sort of details can give personality to your character. These details could include clothing styles, interesting accessories, and traits. For instance, you could show that a character is rough and hardcore by personalizing his details with facial scars, broken teeth and punk-rock hair.

We can also start to think about what accessories the character has. Just like details, it’s also important to know how accessories can reveal the character’s personality. For a thuggish-type of character, he may be wielding a bat with jagged nails to show his tendicines for violence. A professor may be holding books to convey his love for knowledge. Knowing what accessories your character holds can convey what this character is like.

Creating a texture sheet filled with preferred textures will help molders visualize the final product. You can start by creating a template with squares that will be painted with the specific textures.

Explore Different Character Angles!
The next step is to work on the side and back view of the character. A great tip is to create guidelines positioned over the joints of the model (such as where the head connects to the body, where the elbows are located and even the height of the model). By creating guidelines, we can determine how the character will look from all angles (front, back, side, etc). An additional tip is to create these guidelines with the character in a classic T-pose position excluding the arms to make it easier for the modeler to understand the anatomy.

Detail Limbs Separately
Since we excluded the arms when drawing the character in the classic T-pose position, it’s time we focused on the limbs. It’s a good practice to exclude the arms separately, especially if the limbs include complex details such as folds, seams, tattoos, etc. You can also sketch out a front and back view of the hands as well.

Have Fun with Color Variations
It’s a great idea to play around with some colour variations for your character. Instead of deciding on one set of colours, use a mood board to see what different colours best showcase your character’s personality. Check out color psychology for more regarding colour and personality.

Make Multiple Facial Expressions
We need to consider the facial expressions of our character. How do they look when they are hungry, upset, sleepy, or excited? Even if your character is a robot, it’s important to capture at least the basic three vital expressions: sad, happy, and angry.

Create Ambient Occlusion Layers
Ambient occlusion or AO is a rendering method to understand where the darkest shadows for the model are in a neutral lighting environment. It’s a great idea to create this as a separate layer in a 2D sheet when presenting to clients or team members.

Play with Colour Psychology
Colour plays a vital role in determining and revealing a character’s personality. Does your character wear all black to be secretive as a ninja? Does your character wear purple to symbolize his love for luxury? Play around with different colours to express deeper meaning for your character’s personality.

Determining a series of poses for your character can help to reveal more about your character’s attitudes. At least choose 3 action poses for your character design.

Build a Backstory
A final optional touch would be to create a backstory for your character. Flush out your character’s tendencies, personality traits, his choice of accessories and why he/she/it carries them. Creating a backstory can allow you to further refine your 3D model design and explore new possibilities for your character.

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