Stephen Silver: 5 Essentials Elements for Creating Appealing Characters

By: Stephen Silver

Role: Character Designer

As a character designer in the animation industry for the past nineteen years, I have been called up to design for television, feature, video games, commercials and comic books. All of these genres require an understanding of development and the idea generating process. The five tips that I have listed pertain not to a style of a character, but a fundamental rule of getting the best drawing out of your character.

Having reviewed hundreds of portfolios, these are the top 5 elements that are essential to creating an appealing image and the things that I have found lacking in most portfolios. I call this the SILVER RULE that is repeated over and over to my students.

1. Story, Story, Story

It is vital to understand the circumstance, if you don’t have this in your mind, It will be tough for you to create a compelling drawing. Once you have the circumstance in mind, being the quick sketch process of showing the characters action. Is he running because he is scared, or is he running a race, these convey two different emotions that will be shown in the face and body language.

2. Gesture

If you don’t understand the story of the character then you won’t be able to create the right gesture that informs the story. The gesture should be kept loose and rough. This drawing is what showcases the feeling and intention of your character, the way they stand, tilt, lean. Explore many variations at this point.

3. Design

This taps into the overall fundamentals of design this will include, shape, harmony, proportion, balance, variety, etc. You will also be designing the outfit and placement of items. Your goal is to give your design clarity and feeling. At this point your drawing should still be loose.

4. Form

This involves your overall construction which will be essential. Understanding your volumes and shapes and how they connect is a vital component of solid draftsmanship and should not be neglected. Before you start getting ahead of yourself in the construction, always be sure the feeling is there.

5. Details

This is the last element you should worry about, This involves, clean up, color, texture. Most artists just rush to the details and then their final art feels like it’s missing the four other essentials. It’s all about slowing it down, double checking your design, even flipping it to see if it still feels balanced or could use more movement somewhere. Think of this like the cherry on top of your cake. You can’t have a great cake if all the ingredients are missing.

I hope this has given you a little insight into my process. If you would like to learn or see more you can visit me via the links below.

Stephen Silver is a professional character designer and published author. With over 19 years of experience his work stands out among the very best in his field. Check out his website, YouTube channel and Facebook page for more information.