Thursday, June 27, 2013


We did an exercise at work where we had to paint something with the symmetry tool in Painter and then add one or two asymmetrical elements. The fun part of this was trying to figure out how to paint symmetrical lighting.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Costume Design vs. Character Design

I'll start this post by saying that I am not a costume or clothing designer. I've taken some classes and I've got an active interest in the subject, but that's about where it ends.

One common problem I've seen in video games is that costume designs often get passed off as character designs. This sort of makes sense because a lot of game characters are facing away from the camera most of the time, and they are smaller on the screen, so the most prominent aspect of their design is their overall silhouette. But I find the actual character of most video game characters lacking. I get the feeling that their creators think of them as little more than a sort of action mannequin.
This is not really a character design. Sorry.
Which brings me to the separation between character design and costume design. They are closely related, so it's easy to confuse the two. Character design is about the person underneath the clothing. That person should be essentially the same no matter what he or she is wearing. And this personality/identity should be visible to everyone, not just something the artist knows is there!
The heart of the character shows through no matter what she is wearing.
Costume design, on the other hand, is merely a modifier to the character. Clothing has long been used as a symbol of transformation---but what makes that transformation feel real isn't the change of clothing itself, but how that clothing reflects what is happening inside the character. And in many cases, once you know the character outside of his or her clothing, you can use the tension between the costume and the character it is modifying to create further appeal. This is the problem with having a mannequin character: the clothing becomes everything---there is no personality or history underneath to modify or create tension against.
Getting more life in a character is part design, part expression. Hair is technically a costume element, but like many costume elements, hair can add to the personality you're describing.
My point is that, when I design a character, I don't focus on the clothes. I don't necessarily design a character nude; in fact, I often include costume elements to get the silhouette to match the character's personality. But my most important priority is what is going on inside the character's head. I ask myself questions like, who does she think she is? What it most important to her? If she was put into _________ situation, how would she react? Would her reaction be the same in any similar situation, or are there factors that could change her reaction? Does she hide any secrets about herself, and if so, how do they change her behavior? There are other good questions, but I think that's a good start.
The eyes are the window to your character's soul
There are a lot of things you can use to tell people about the character once you know him/her: shapes, lines, proportions, etc. But the most important thing is in the face, and more specifically, in the eyes. I should be able to look into the eyes of my character and get a sense of who she or he is right away.
How would the character modify a given outfit---what feels right for the character?
Once I feel like I know the character, the way I think about his or her clothing changes. In addition to having a feeling for what he would choose to wear, I know how he would wear that clothing, as well as the way he'd wear clothing that he doesn't feel comfortable in.

I know these are all cartoony examples, but I believe these principles hold true no matter what style you are drawing in. A costume design can contain an enormous amount of appeal in itself, but if you want to maximize the appeal in your designs, then finding and showing your character is essential.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Digital Art Masters V8

I've got a tutorial coming out in the latest Digital Art Masters book. You can order here: