Whenever anyone mentioned cartoons around her my grandmother would say, “I like that cartoon with the mother with the tall blue hair, she sounds funny” as if speaking on cue. I knew immediately (and every single time after that) she was referring to Marge Simpson, because which other character who is a mother has tall blue hair? Why did my mother remember Marge Simpson as “the mother with the tall blue hair”? Because Marge’s tall blue hair and raspy voice were both burned in brain. They were important traits that made Marge, well, Marge.
Marge has depth.
Below are some ideas you can try and employ to give depth to your characters, so that they are memorable, distinctive, and hopefully take on a life of their own. The best characters I can think of grow into their own lives and I imagine them as moving beings, like Mickey Mouse, he was sketched into being over years and years.
Perhaps a pretty obvious point, but understanding who you are designing characters for is crucial. Before you take pen to paper, consider who will enjoy your character: is it a critter for children? Is it a complex brooding beast for adults? Understanding why you’re making and who it’s for will deliver better results. Always bring it back to your self-made brief of designing for your audience.
One of the best ways to make your viewers get to know your characters quickly is to exaggerate their features by adjusting their proportions. Manipulating scale makes characters unusual and unforgettable. If your character has long legs, make them absurdly long, and play around with the affects of cuteness, zanyness by adjusting how bunched up or fat they’re made to appear.
Great characters are meticulously planned, down to each individual eyebrow hair. Pay attention to facial expression, line thickness, consistency of palette, and give them accessories. Experiment with where your characters appear in their natural environment, and imagine a future for your characters on a t-shirt, a poster, pillow or comic book. Giving characters longevity will help inject them with life and vitality, so plan for them to leap off the page and into the real world soon.
[Header image: New Guitar by gotoup]