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 sketches.

Assignment Six

70 Animal Concepts

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

Drawings aren’t meant to be realistic, must show hints of personality. Real or Imagined!

(10) Birds. (10) Dogs. (10) Horses/Deer/Antelope. (10) Fish/Aquatic. (10) Bulls/Cows/Pigs. (10) Snakes/Reptiles/Amphibians (10) Cats/Big Cats/Rodents. 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 Characters

Find a photo of a group of animals (no more than five and no less than three) and recreate them as an anthropomorphic cast of characters. 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!

Concept and create (15) inanimate objects which include: (5) appliances/tools, (5) vehicles, and (5) robots. Each MUST have personality - personification. Facial and body/shape expressions are important.

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).

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)

Must present idea to class (5-8 mins.)

Due Dates

Sept 10 - Pre-Quarter - DUE - Share with class

Sept 12 - Assignment One - DUE - Must be placed in Dropbox before start of class.

Sept 17 - Assignment Two - DUE - Must be placed in Dropbox before start of class.

Sept 24 - Assignment Three - DUE - Must be placed in Dropbox before start of class.

Oct 1 - Assignment Four - DUE - Must be placed in Dropbox before start of class.

Oct 10 - Assignment Five - DUE - Must be placed in Dropbox before start of class.

Oct 22 - Assignment Six - DUE - Must be placed in Dropbox before start of class.

Oct 29  - Assignment Seven - DUE - Must be placed in Dropbox before start of class.

Oct 31  - Assignment Eight - DUE - Must be placed in Dropbox before start of class.

Nov 14  - 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.

1. All Final Artwork must be archived, both for Department and the college for promotional reasons; the Illustration Department will select student works for large full color prints to be displayed in the hallways of Hayman's Hall, for entries to be entered into various important competitions, the department's Illustrious Magazine, etc.

2. Each file must use the Department file naming convention and other pertinent/required information placed in the Metadata area.

3. Scan all work or be sure all finals are 300dpi and saved as JPG or PSD.

4. Be sure to flatten each image, please add a white 1/4" - 1/2" border to each final, clear guides and resize so that no side is longer than 18". Be sure that the image size is no smaller than 8" x 10".

5. Naming Convention: 'Save As' using the Department's Naming Convention; use TA2, TA3 and so forth or use ProjectA, ProjectB; no need to enter title of work here. Title of Work must be entered in the Metadata area and 'untitled' or TA2 or ProjectA is not acceptable.

Example: Doe-J-07Win-ILLU200-Foerster-A1.jpg

6. Metadata; Metadata is information that is embedded in your image file. This data will be used by the faculty when completing competition entry forms and for giving you credit for your work when published, so it is imperative that you include all requested information.

Start by opening your file in Photoshop, go to File>File there and a new window will open. This is the window to enter the information for the Illustration Department and for the college.

7. Setting the correct color profile: To set the correct color profile, when your illustration is opened in Photoshop, go to Edit, near bottom of the Window, look for 'Convert to Profile' click on that link. A new window will open and look for 'Profile' and using the drop down menu select Adobe RGB (1998), click OK. Then save or save as to complete the task.