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Real Characters, Real Problems

One Minute Nuggs - Ep #1 - Character Design

In this new series, each week I set out to take a minute to answer one question that I get either through social media, email or direct message. So please, if you have a burning question about art and design, let me know!

This week's question:

How do you get your character designs to look like real people?

Well, I don’t think she meant realistic because my characters are far from realism, but I know what she means. And I’ve heard this before. A friend once commented on a piece, “It feels like I know that guy.”


I think the key to getting a character design to feel ‘real’ is in the details. Look for things that could tell the story about what may have just happened to him or her, off the page.

For example, let’s take Marvin here.

In the book, he played a supporting character and was a bit of a mischief maker. The story had him as a wannabe dog catcher. This early sketch was leaning a little too mean according to the publisher. And the McDonalds logo was asking for trouble.

So, I thought he’d probably wear this homemade shirt. Five days a week. He’s also quickly growing out of it and could care less if his belly is showing.

That whip-thin hair tells us he’ll be lucky to make it to 30 before losing it all.

A backward hat is kinda cliche, but cliche’s come from truth!

Details like the dirty jean shorts hint that Marvin isn’t afraid to crawl under a fence to fetch a lost dog. Or steal a bike?

Is that a bone in your pocket Marvin?

Moving down his chubby little physique, I should have skinned up his knees now that I think of it.

His lace-less shoes may mean he’s either lazy or was overly anxious to get outside and play.

And times up! Wow, that was fast. Let me know if you like this series and by all means, you gotta question? I got an answer!

Thanks for playing.


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