Character Illustrations in Graphic Design

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Graphic designing is majorly a field of applied art, that apex on the convergence of multidisciplinary fields, primarily fine arts and design. It widely explores the creative abilities as well as the technical expertise of the pursuer. Illustrations are one of the most popular forms of visual depiction, that intend to convey a very specific idea. With the development of technology, the technical part of creating illustrations became easier and easier. Today, we see illustrations are ubiquitous around us. From the apps on our phones to the walls around us, illustrations are everywhere.

What are character illustrations?

Character illustration is nothing but the visual creation of a unique character. Now that creation may be two-dimensional or three-dimensional, depending upon the requirement. Some of the most popular character illustrations are Spider-Man, Goku (from the Dragon Ball manga), Batman, etc. All these were imaginations, and their widespread popularity forced them to come to life. Today, we have innumerable fictional characters that are purely a result of inspired ingenuity. But as they say, the grass always seems to be greener on the other side. Character illustration requires prior planning, visual appeal, and of course, aesthetic skills. For example, to create any character, you would have to understand the motive (according to which expressions of the character can be decided), then the color schemes (for conveying the persona of the character), and minor detailing (for adding that extra special touch of distinctiveness to your character).

Where to start and how to engage?

 “When you look at a photo or realistic drawing of a face, you see it as the face of another. But when you enter the world of the cartoon, you see yourself.” ~ Scott McCloud.

This is pretty much what you should centrally keep in mind while designing a character. Foremost, an idea, a notion, of how you want your character to be. This might be motivated by the real world, or purely based on the power of imagination. Then, the study, meaning if there exists a character similar to your thinking, or does your character sit well with people. If there exists a similar character, then consider how your illustration will differ from it. Sometimes, there is a certain ambiguity if your character will appeal to the mass or not, that’s the risky part.

Next come the instruments. Now conventionally, designers used to sketch each part of their characters individually on paper, and conjoined them together, followed by necessary changes and detailing. Nowadays, due to the advancement of technology, graphic designers use high-end graphic tablets, that enable them to directly digitize their creations onto softwares. Some of the widely used software are Adobe Photoshop, GIMP, Canva, Procreate, etc. for sketching 2-D drawings; Adobe Illustrator, CorelDRAW, Figma, Inkscape, etc. for vector illustrations; and Blender, Unity, Maya, and Adobe Premiere Pro, etc. for three-dimensional characters.

Start sketching, wherever you feel comfortable, on paper or a screen. Draw varied orientations/views of the character for clear visualization. Then, add the colour scheme. The colour scheme depends on the mood of the character. For example, if you want the character to show a tough exterior, you may use bright, pop colours to indicate the same. Or if your character is going to be a part of a serene setting, you can use pastel colours for it. Then, accessorise.

Characters are open to imagination, which means they can exhibit features which may not be present in the real world around us. For example, a war-based character may have a sword, shield, helmet or armour on it. A city-based character can be shown with formal clothing such as crisp shirts, formal pants, suits, etc. If your character needs to be based on some natural setting such as a beach, a mountain, or simply a suburban town, he or she (or it), may be shown with casual t-shirts, hats, trousers, etc. The point is to display the motive visually. This is a great point to start gathering feedback from other people.

Once a basic idea of the sketch is delivered on the paper (or the screen), you need to fine-clean it. That means it’s time for detailing. Detailing is as important as the idea of your character. It allows the audience to observe the characteristics of your illustration, such as the height, orientation, colour style, apparel, accessories, etc. Then, decide on a few suitable backgrounds, which add to the message of your illustration. Finally, add other objects in the background, supporting the dynamic of your character. Most trendy cases of character illustrations include caricatures and comic book characters.

With these tips, you can become a pro at character illustrations with graphic design.

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