Prelude


For me personally, it's very important to me that my characters feel like real people—in both how I write them, and also what they look like.

It's not necessarily about them being realistic (although my art has certainly taken a more realistic slant as of late and that is related)—I mean, a significant chunk of them are demons, they're certainly not realistic I am very much making fantasy characters—but that they feel like.. People.

Like they've lived the lives that they've lived, and it has made them who they are, and like you could just kind of? Meet a person like that, under the right circumstances?

It's like... I don't really ever see myself in media, and the people I love, my friends, my family, there's such a wide variety of people I know that I really am not seeing reflected back? And this void is what makes me want to create in the first place. It's a void that shouldn't be there.

So, if people can see themselves in my art, people like myself, my mother, my friends, those who are so often told they should not exist at all, then I've succeeded at something, I think. It's a philosophy so intrinsic to my design process that it's impossible to talk about my approach without talking about this first, as it underpins every decision that I make!

Phase 1: Body


So when I design a character I have at least some vague idea of the kind of life that theyve lived and the sort of person that they are. This effects their physique to some extent, i.e. It determines whether or not I make them buff (my characters who sail, for example, have more muscle mass than those that don't), but also importantly it effects how they carry themselves.

A character's body language is one of the very first things I think about—how a character moves, how they interact with the world, to me it's the core of depicting them as a person. We talk a lot about silhouette in character design, an oft forgotten part of this I feel is the character's body language!

As an example here are some of my girlies—physically they have various different physiques, but even those who are similar have different ways of holding themselves.

A series of 7 women standing in their underwear, highlighting their differing physiques. They are fantasy characters, with 3 of them being demons, one with goat legs, one woman having a cloud for her hair, and most of them having long pointed ears. They all stand differently, showing their different personalities.

Phase 2: Face


A characters face I put a lot of thought into—I try to think of a face that I haven't really drawn before. It's not so much that I'm avoiding "same-face" so much as everyones face is just so wonderfully different, you know? Some faces have sharper features, some are softer, some faces look older and some younger... It's fun to explore the different kind of faces there can be :)

I know it's pretty common to have faceclaims for your characters, but personally I don't really have those—I just think about the different kind of features I've seen and combine them to create new faces... A little bit like making miis, honestly. But with like, real people faces. (Even when my work was more abstracted I was still thinking of real people faces!)

A series of portraits of the previous 7 women in profile, drawn in a black ink-brush style on a beige toned canvas. Each woman's face is distinct, with no two women looking alike.

My hot tip: the nose carries in it so much life and character, and shapes the rest of the face! It is into a character's eyes and nose that I put the most thought, personally.

A lot of art seems to kind of diminish the nose until its almost not there (including a lot of my own older art), but personally speaking I have a big nose... And every time I draw a new nose it delights another person who has a similar nose :) So I'm doing my best to get better at drawing them 😤


Phase 3: Outfit


Tip: while figuring out designs especially for outfits and hairstyles, I use the symmetry ruler to save some time while I try new things. I disable snapping when I want to break the symmetry! I like to have a mix of symmetrical and asymmetrical elements in a design.

A fun place to add some asymmetry is in the hair, but symmetrical hairstyles are easier to figure out from different angles... I dont have any specific advice for designing hairstyles I just go buckwild and make it look like theres logic to it after the fact LMAO..

Anyway! Let's actually talk about shapes!

The majority of my characters have multiple outfits—I simply like to dress up my little guys ❤️ but every character starts with one outfit, their hashtag #look if you will, which then influences every other outfit I make them.

My process for designing these outfits is as follows:

  1. I first answer this question: what image does this character consciously project?

    E.g.: Tempest is a woman who cares a lot about her image and projects an aura of confidence and self assurance, whereas Callisto does not and projects an aura of unimportance and humbleness.

    Ergo Tempest's outfit is carefully chosen by herself to create the image she wants to project and is bold and eyecatching, whereas Callisto does not want to draw attention to herself and as such she wears much more subdued clothing.

  2. Then it's time to open up Pinterest

    By this point in time I know who this character is or at the very least their concept, and ergo I have a solid idea about what their aesthetic vibe is E.g. Pirate, fruity wizard, goth, etc. So I open up pinterest and I begin to make a fashion board for this character.

    I look at a mixture of real world fashions both modern and historical for this, as well as LARP fashion for that specific fantasy flavour. It's a good idea to draw from a wide variety of influences, including those that do not fit the specific vibe you are going for.

    Note: I do not look at other fantasy/concept art for this.

    The reason is, quite a lot of fantasy art is like a one-time image, and a lot of concept art is very removed from reality, so a lot of the time things only work from one specific angle and don't have any underlying logic to them.

    Being that all my characters are created for a comic, I need to be able to draw them from any angle. I am not a costume designer, I do not know how to make clothes. But looking at real life clothing ensures everything I design is at least drawing inspiration from something that can be physically worn, so it gives my outfits some grounding in reality.

    The further abstracted your sources get, the less grounded in reality your designs will become—which for me personally and my specific tastes and goals, is not desirable.

  3. Look for recurring motifs in what makes up the specific aesthetic vibe you're going for

    (e.g. Pirates: fancy jackets, loose cotton shirts, sashes and belts)

  4. Fashion is all about the shapes you create with the clothes that you wear.

    Different fashion trends are all about what shape is currently considered "in"—it's not about "high waisted pants", its about the new shape that the higher waistband creates.

    To create fantasy outfits that feel fresh, look at current and past fashion trends and figure out what shape theyre creating—then recreate that using the motifs you found and try use other kinds of clothing not necessarily often used to create this shape.

    Tempest's outfit recreates the high waisted shape with a sash tied around her waist. Her loose poet shirt obviously creates the same shape as a loose jumper being tucked in, but I cropped the front of her jacket short and gave it large sleeves to create the same shape.

    This is why its good to draw from a variety of influences—it gives you a wider pool of shapes to draw from, and you can then combine them to create something new! I may be designing a pirate character, but the shapes are pulled from modern fashion.

  5. When creating another outfit for a character, using a new shape can be used to symbolise a drastic change, while maintaining the same shape but changing the overall value can symbolise a more subtle shift.

    For example, a drastic change of shape can be used to supplement a character arc with a more extreme change, or perhaps supplement a situation wherein there is a drastic shift in how a character is acting or the role they are performing even if they as a person have not changed.

    On the other hand, maintaining the same shape but changing the value balance of the outfit can indicate a more subtle change—such as a character slowly letting their walls down! Hairstyle too is great for this, such as a character slowly letting down their hair as the story progresses... A pun and a great way to gradually change their shape :)

    Or, another way to put it—keeping the same shape will keep the same general vibe, while changing the shape will create an entirely new vibe.

Here's some examples of this in action!

The following images feature simplified drawings of the previous women, with no facial features and no appendages—the focus is on highlighting the overall shapes of their designs. In this image, there are 3 Tempest figures showing how the values in her outfit gradually get darker. The text reads: While Tempest gains new layers and the overall value distribution of her design shifts, her shape stays largely the same. (Her arc is subtler)
A series of 4 figures of Callisto. The first two are the exact same shape, with a change in values. The third she wears a cape, and in the last she wears a completely different outfit with large upturned sleeves. A small diagram highlights the dramatic shift in shape from this last outfit compared to the previous three. The text reads: Callisto's values shift a lot, but even with the cape on her shape stays largely the same until the final arc. (Her arc is more extreme)
Two aquila figures, with and without her coat. The text reads: Aquila's shape doesn't change at all from past to present. (She stays the same until the very end)
Two figures of Lavandula, one with and one without the large asymmetrical feathered mantle and cloak. There is a diagram comparing the drastic change in shape from the uncloaked vs cloaked outfit. The text reads: Without her cloak on, Lavandula's shape is Just A Guy TM, but with it her silhouette is super distinct and non-symmetrical. This is on purpose heart emoticon

Lavandula is simultaneously a very guarded woman with a very controlled image who does not like to let any of her true self show through, and also a woman who is incredibly transparent and easy to read the second you find the crack in the mask.

She has two very drastically different shapes that she alternates between because she is as a person, very extreme. I wanted her silhouette while wearing her full regalia to be extremely distinct from any other character I have bc she is not in the least bit subtle ❤️


Charity and Rosalie don't specifically have arcs as their story happened in the past and it isnt relevant to the events of Heart of the Storm as their role in this story is a supportive one, but their past is still reflected/contrasted in their current designs!

Two figures of Charity. As a young woman, she wears a heavy gambison, mail armour, and pauldrons. As an older woman, she wears a simple shirt and jacket. The text reads: Charity's shape is mostly the same as it was when she was younger, but her shoulders are softer making her less of a hulking great figure.
Four figures of rosalie, one younger and three older. The first two have an arrow labelled "same shape" with a shape diagram showing the shape they are evoking. As a young woman she wears a tailcoat with large sleeves and high waisted pants, and as an older woman in the first outfit she wears a long dress with large sleeves. This dress then pools out slightly as it hits the ground, and there is a note at the bottom saying "but slightly different"—referring to the slightly different shape the base of the dress creates. The next outfit, Rosalie wears again a tailcoat and high waisted pants—an arrow points to the first outfit, labelled "reminiscent of her younger outfit". The final image is the previous outfit, but with a cloak. It is labelled "But the cape creates a new shape for a new era". A shape diagram shows how the cloak changes the shape her outfit evokes.

Rosalie especially I think is a good example of using a different shape in a different context to show a shift in how she's acting, but not in her actual arc itself. She just shifts roles for a little bit :)


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