From Concept To Final Artwork: 17 Steps to An Outstanding Character Design

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Hello there, dear friends of Tutankhamun, Julius and Leonidas.

Here at Victus we are the luckiest guys in the world for having the chance to work with two awesome artists. Villy joined Victus first and he’s responsible for the game’s units so far. You can learn more about Villy on our blog.

Niki is responsible for the illustrations in our Kickstarter campaign (which is by the way running right now, you know…) and for this post he decided to tell you a story about the character design process. There you go, Niki.

 

Character design and storytelling have many things in common. To create proper characters, you must come up with their story first. Why do they look like this? Why do they like this and hate that? What do they do for living? What have they done in his past? Even the process of drawing a character is a story itself. Today I am going to tell you the story of a mercenary character I created for Victus. Drawing characters always starts with the Brief.

1. The Brief.

In order to show the “Mercenaries” gameplay feature in Victus, I had to draw a picture of:

  •  A noble man handling a bag of gold coins to a mercenary, disgusted by his savageness.

2. The Mercenary Characteristics. Okay, I need to list some words and features that I associated with the typical image of mercenaries. For example:

  • savage, raw, sneaky, greedy, scary, appalling, strong, tough, primitive, not very intelligent, but “street smart”

3. Research and inspiration. Now when I have some characteristics and features, some images from popular culture and art starts popping in my head. I have to do some research, find those images, and add similar visuals of characters and persons that represent the features I need. When I put all of the visual references in one place, I will look for distinctive features or feelings and continue to the next step.

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4. Raw sketches. Based on my visual references I start sketching. Sometimes I try to recreate the image, sometimes I further develop it, and sometimes I just draw something similar that feels different though. As you’ll notice, these sketches are really ugly and raw and this is totally OK because this is what I need for now. If I put too much effort here, this will simply be a waste of time.

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5. Finding direction. After I finish all the raw sketches I look closer at all of them and search for the answer of my question: “Which of these can be my mercenary?” I keep some of the images and continue drawing variations of them.

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6. Pursuing the direction. Each version is getting closer to where I’ve headed. I’ll do some more, than stop and observe, then do some more and then choose one of them:

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This will be the mercenary:

 

 

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7. Drawing the pose. The process is similar to the previous one. I will try to draw as many poses and see what each one tells the viewer.

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8. Structure and anatomy. I add complexity to the drawing by shaping the anatomy of the character.

 

 

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9. Designing the outfit. This goes through a similar research process like step 3. First, I look for visual inspiration in already existing characters in visual arts. You may see that for this particular character I didn’t limit myself to characters from the same era. I felt that my mercenary should be a mixture of a barbarian, a pirate, a Mad Max movie villain and many others.

 

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10. Early sketch of the character. This is the early sketch of my character. What is ready is his overall looks, his face and his pose.

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11. Repeat. The same 10 steps I will repeat for the other character in the situation – the nobleman.

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12. Drawing the weapon. Back to the mercenary: What I still haven’t decided for my character is what his weapon will look like. And weapons are important for our gameplay:

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Many of my visual references inspired me to put a giant “Thor”-like hammer in his hand. I tried and it looked really interesting:

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13. Interesting not always works. Unfortunately, here you can spot a problem. With the hammer in his hands, the mercenary looked like he was just going to bully and rob the nobleman which is not the story I want to tell. I had to switch the hammer for a long sword on his back.

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14. Testing the silhouettes. If silhouettes of the characters are distinctive and interesting enough, than the characters themselves will be too. I had to check that.

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Does it look interesting: Check.

 

 

15. Now the details. Okay, my characters are almost ready. I can now invest time in adding details.

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16. Adding specific details. What will my mercenary look like with tattoos? Back to the inspiration board.

 

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After I google some suitable tattoo styles, I can go on and add tattoos to the character.

 

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17. Shading. I added all the details I needed. Some shading and I am ready. Voila.

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So this is how characters are born in Victus’s secret art lab. Check out the other characters we did for our campaign  too and if you like them you can of course support us before June 23rd. Even if you don’t, you can leave your email on our homepage and we’ll make sure you get an invitation for our Open Beta soon.

 

Love,
Victus Team

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