In this article, were going to come up with creating a character from scratch, and then going on to make a more detailed profile for your character.
What if I’ve already got a character?
No problem, I’ll give you some ideas to help develop them. You might find to fun and useful to also try creating a new character from scratch. It’ll give you a chance to play around with a new character, as well as giving you some insights into your existing one.
What we’re going to cover in this article
Meet Gerald the goat
What characters do you know?
Put yourself in your character’s shoes
Put your character in your shoes
Notes on characters
Beyond this article
First though, a few points to consider
Over to you:
Whenever you see ‘over to you’, that is your cue to pick up your pencil and try out the technique.
Some of the ideas you may have seen before in previous articles, such as ‘how to create a strip cartoon’ While there is some overlap, I hope that you’ll much other useful content as well.
Draw as you go along. If you immediately try out some of the ideas in this articles, then you are more likely to remember them and put them into practice later.
Meet Gerald the Goat
Gerald the Goat and friends will be popping up to help illustrate some of the ideas in this article. I’ve been drawing the Gerald the Goat strip for about three years now and doing so has certainly helped me to work on my own lettering. They’ll also be some other characters and cartoons to help show key points.
Here’s how Gerald first appeared.
And here’s what Gerald evolved into and the characters that later joined the strip.
What cartoon characters are you familiar with already?
Here are a few points to think about:
Who is your favourite character, either now or when you were younger?
Why did you like them?
What stories can you remember them being involved in?
Does the world really need another cartoon cat or dog?
Why not? - There’s plenty of room for other cats and dogs, particularly if you focus on a specific breed or an aspect of behaviour that hasn’t been covered before.
Hopefully this article will help you to differentiate your cat/dog from all the other ones.
Use personal experience to create your character
You could try using your own personal experience to come up with some ideas for a character
Do you work in an office?
Do you have a particular hobby or interest?
Do you have a pet?
If so, does that give you any ideas for making a character?
You could also try putting a twist on it. So if you have a dog, then try imagining if your dog was a crocodile instead or some other creature
If you do have a pet, then you have a daily source of different ideas.
If you can’t come up with any ideas for a potential character, just start doodle lots and lots of simple characters and see where that leads. Try all different sorts of people and animals. Include types of folks and creatures that you haven’t drawn before and see if that sparks any curiosity.
You can also think about what personality types, jobs, animals etc. haven’t been used for a character.
Let’s try a mindmap featuring Gerald. I wrote down any particular ideas or situations associated with him that came to mind. It dosen’t matter whether they’re good ideas at this point, the most important thing is to write them down. Don’t pause to think for too long!
You can choose one of the ideas and do a new mind map to make it even more focused.
Over to you:
Try out your own mindmap featuring your character. Remember don’t pause for thought - write down whatever comes to mind.
Create a character profile
Another really good way to get to know your character is to create a profile/avatar for them.
Here is an example featuring Gerald
Name: Gerald the goat
Where does he/she live?: Stan’ garden (well, he’s supposed to anyway...)
What does he do? Eats things...almost anything, especially people’s flower beds...
What does he like? Eating, butting people
What does he dislike? The bull
Describe personality in a sentence: Gerald is a little bit of anarchy in goat-form.
Here’s a blank profile you can use.
Feel free to add additional information, and to add as much detail as you like. The more detail you add the more richer character you’ll create - and the better you’ll get to know them
Where does he/she live?
What does he/she do?
What does he/she like?
What does he/she dislike?
Describe his/her personality in a sentence:
Popular cartoons that work well are usually the ones that comment on everyday life and people’s habits and quirks - i.e. thing that we are already very familiar with. You don’t have to think of anything too exotic. Even if you have an exotic setting, you can still have the characters commenting on the everyday nature of that exotic setting.
You could try picking an everyday setting and then put a twist on it.
Imagine yourself in animal form
How about trying to imagine yourself in animal form? I’m not talking about anything new-agey here, just an exercise in imagination. Here are a few points you could think about.
What animal would you be?
If it was anything specific like a dog, then what breed of dog?
How would you choose to interact with humans?
After you’ve created your character, try making a few notes about their appearance to help you for future reference.
Practice drawing your characters
In a cartoon strip the characters appear from panel to panel, and strip to strip, so it’s important that the characters always look the same to maintain this sense of continuity.
Start to practice drawing your characters again and again in the same pose. Start off by drawing a side profile, as that’s the more useful to draw when having the characters talking with another character
If you’re working with a drawing tablet, you might be wondering why you don’t simply copy and paste the characters. Drawing the characters helps to build the muscle memory so that you can draw them at will later on. This will also help when you try to draw the characters in new poses, as you will have an instinctive idea of how the characters proportions should look as you’ve previously drawn them a lot.
Over to you:
Choose an existing character or one you generated from the earlier exercise. Practice drawing them a bunch of times like the examples featuring Gerald and Stan above.
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Rob has been drawing cartoons for more years that he can remember. As well as drawing, he runs online courses to help folks draw their own cartoons.