Character design can be difficult. This great website helps you understand how to break down the different ways you need to fundamentally design your character before you start using that character for production. This walkthrough was originally created as a helpful tutorial for future animators to develop their portfolio for entry into the Sheridan College Bachelor of Animation program.
Character design is paramount before beginning work on a printed page due to the need for consistency of design required to draw a character repeatedly over the course of a compendium of pages.
Once you have completed the basic requirements of the three model sheets outlined in the very top of this animation page (Character Rotation, Action Pose Sheet & Expression Sheet) you will find yourself equipped with a well thought out map of your character that will allow you to move through your production schedule with clear and concise artistic decisions.
Try Multiple Approaches
“A lot of people with little experience and no one to get feedback from will probably do only a few sketches to find the design and then start turning that character around as soon as possible. It would be advisable to draw several different version of your character before you start the (rough draft) of the model sheets for your portfolio.”
“Once you have an idea you think you want to go with, I would suggest finding as much reference for that character as possible. If it’s an animal, find lot of photos and videos of that animal. If it has clothing from a certain era, search it up! Find photos to reference. It’s not cheating to do research! Once you’ve done reference and know how that animal/human looks/moves, you can take what you’ve learned and develop a character.”
Softness & Hardness of Your Characters
“A general rule for character design is that softer rounder shapes feel friendlier, and angular and straight shapes feel not as friendly. This is not always the case, but in this example it is for the most part. Genie and The Sultan are round and squishy, it feels like they’re soft and they can’t hurt us because they don’t have any sharp parts on them. Aladdin and Jasmine have soft curves but they needed to be stronger characters and so they’re a little more bold. Jafar’s shoulders are almost like blades, they feel more aggressive than all the others. They are all solid structured shapes.”
Conclusion: This is an excellent walkthrough to use as a starting point to understanding how to design your characters for production. Within the page there are several links and references to other works that break down points even more as well as provide numerous examples of model sheets. Amanda Zima, the author of the page, even provides examples from her own portfolio as well as revisions from the original concepts.