ILLU351  Contextual Character Design

From publication to entertainment, illustrators envision and invigorate characters that inspire audiences and have a lasting
impact. Students learn to capture expression and essence of characters through experimentation with performance, shape,
motion and gesture. These defined characters become a unique expression of the student's personal aesthetic that can be
marketed to a range of industries.



Course Introduction

This course is designed to help artists develop a better understanding of character development through shape, personality and movement. Using a variety of techniques to create unique character concepts, artists will produce numerous character concepts for applications in film, game and publishing industries.



Using shape to create personality

This course emphasizes the importance of shape as a means to create personality and emotion in character design. From the simplest basic shape like squares and circles to more complex organic and geometric shapes, utilizing the characteristics of shape can produce dynamic and interesting character design


Telling a story

Developing strong and emotional characters is critical in visual storytelling. Each has it's own personality and attributes, and each has a story to tell. The most effective illustrations involves developed characters who have emotions, facial expression, and clothing, and attitude, and friends/family, and accessories.....All combine to create a character with a story!

Assignment One

50 Character Designs

Use basic shapes to create 50 character designs. (25) heads/(25) fully body. Moderately detailed sketches. Not too light.

Assignment Two

2 Character Designs from Assignment One

Take 2 of Assignment 1’s characters and refine the design through body expression/poses. Must have at least 6 poses per character.

Examples: Running, jumping, sitting, crying, laughing, sighing.

Moderately detailed sketches.


Assignment Three

Sci-Fi and Fantasy

Students must design three characters for a sci-fi or fantasy series based on prompt. One male, hero or villain. One female hero or villain. One male or female child. Characters must
be distinctly different shapes. Must be inked. No color. Must include three body expressions per character (expressions do not have to be inked but need to be very clean pencil).


Assignment Four

2 Character Designs from Assignment Three

Take (2) concepts from Assignment Three and refine them based on Critique. Must redraw and color these (2) updated designs. Must create (6) facial expressions and (3) pose turn-around (anterior - posterior - profile) for each character.  These should be inked and/or color.


Assignment Five

Cartoon Character Redesign

Choose a cartoon character. Research the history of the show and the target demographics. Then create a redesign/reimagined (off model) version of the character from the show. Must include pose/s and a turnaround. Design must remain true to the core concept of the show and character must still be recognizable. Provide a minimum of (10) unique process concepts. Final artwork MUST be inked and clean.

Assignment Six

70 Animal Concepts

Drawings are not meant to be reality but must show unique personality. '70 Animals' - Create (70) 'Unique' Animal Character Designs.

Real or Imagined - but must be recognizable. No Morphing of Characters!

Select (10) from these categories: Aves, Canine, Horses, Aquatic, Bovidae, Reptiles, Feline, Rodents, Insects. Domestic or Wild!! Can include faces/heads and full body. Designs must vary in shape and size. Each group/animal should be labeled.

Assignment Seven

Anthropomorphic Character Line Up

Find a photo of a group or single images of animals (no less than three) and recreate them as an anthropomorphic cast of characters.(Zootopia) The original animal that the character is based on must be clearly seen. Must draw character line up characters. Must be colored.


Assignment Eight

Inanimate animate objects!

Create (2) of each of these types: Vehicles, Inanimate Objects, and Robots. Must have personalities and expressions. (6) Total Characters. BW or Color

Finished art can include sketch, line art, line and fill, and/or full render - and recommended that you include a variety. Each character should be unique and based on original idea.

Images can include parts or full character….ie. face only. Should be a variety.

Assignment Nine

Your Characters - Tell your own story!

Concept and create your own characters for a narrative that could be translated into film/illustration/comics/books etc.

Must have a minimum of three characters. All characters must have turnarounds and one ‘pose’ per character (color)

Must have one full color vehicle/inanimate object/robot (turnarounds are optional).

Must have character line up sheet (color). All New Poses.

Must have three facial expressions and three body expressions for each of the characters (Each can be a combination of line art and color).

Narrative could include an environment/scene. (recommended)

Consider adding assets for each character. (recommended)

Must present idea to class (5-8 mins.) Final art MUST be digital!

Due Dates

Mar 26 - Pre-Quarter - DUE - Share with class

Mar 28 - Assignment One - DUE - Must be placed in Dropbox before start of class.

Apr 2 - Assignment Two - DUE - Must be placed in Dropbox before start of class.

Apr 9 - Assignment Three - DUE - Must be placed in Dropbox before start of class.

Apr 16 - Assignment Four - DUE - Must be placed in Dropbox before start of class.

Apr 25 - Assignment Five - DUE - Must be placed in Dropbox before start of class.

May 7 - Assignment Six - DUE - Must be placed in Dropbox before start of class.

May14  - Assignment Seven - DUE - Must be placed in Dropbox before start of class.

May 16  - Assignment Eight - DUE - Must be placed in Dropbox before start of class.

May 30  - Assignment Nine - DUE - Must be placed in Dropbox before start of class.


Required Textbooks

Bancroft, T. (2006). Creating Characters with Personality. New York: Watson-Guptill. ISBN-13:978-0823023493.

Kevin Hedgpeth, Stephen Missal (2005). Exploring Character Design (Design Concepts): Thompson. ISBN-13:978-1401862961


Archiving Your Work

Preparing each Final Illustration File.

Digital files (PDFs, animation stills, storyboards, comic panels, sequential art, etc.):

  • All native files, fonts and supporting links contained in a single folder

  • All final submission folders compressed as a zip file

  • All zipped folders named in a manner that includes the campus, year, quarter, program abbreviation, the student's first and last names, and the title of the artwork. This information also needs to be embedded in the metadata so Full file naming guidelines are attached.

    • CAMPUS_Quartercode_DEPT_FirstnameLastname_title

    • Sample: SAV_201910_ACCE_AidanBarrow_snapbelt

  •  All images submitted as JPEGS at 300dpi, JPEG quality 12, Adobe RGB1998.

Disclaimer - All content on this page is protected by the artists who created the work. The purpose for showing their artwork on this page, is for educational purposes only. The owner of this site does not claim any artwork on this page as his own. All rights are protected and considered copyrighted. ©2019