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Character Designer

What does a character designer do?

A character designer, also known as a character artist, is a type of concept artist who specializes in creating visual concepts of characters. They showcase the characters' different perspectives by illustrating their actions, costumes, and anatomy. The character designer interprets the character's personality and physical traits from a brief, and transforms them into expressive illustrations, using subtle cues of facial expressions, poses, gestures, and postures.

A good character designer possesses a sharp eye for detail in human expressions and the ability to understand the story of a character. Memorable and iconic characters are often based on simple shapes and ideas, as exemplified by Mickey Mouse's round ears, which are instantly recognizable.

A character designer is responsible for imagining the character from different perspectives, depicting actions, anatomy, and unique expressions that bring the character to life. In 3D animation, the character's articulations are first used in the 3D modeling process and then in the animation itself. In 2D animation, these serve as reference points for animators, and storyboard artists rely on character design to express the story.

Character designer job description

A Character Designer is responsible for creating the appearance of animated characters used in films, TV shows, and video games. They take ideas and descriptions from the script or storyline and transform them into visual representations that embody the characters' traits and personalities.

The main goal of a Character Designer is to give form and substance to abstract ideas. They specialize in developing engaging and memorable characters that can be easily animated and will leave a lasting impression on viewers and players. Drawing skills are crucial, and the designer's personal style will play a significant role in creating the concept art.

Role & responsibilities of a character designer in film and video games:

  • Liaising with scriptwriters, designers, and developers on the look of the character/s and what style they are to be drawn in (such as anime, comic book art style, or realism, etc.)

  • Researching the look, style, and genre of the film or game

  • Developing various versions of the character looks and other design ideas

  • Infusing characters with personality using visual cues, unique expressions, and distinctive body language

  • Create characters that are relatable and possess human traits that will engage an audience

  • Understand the character’s role in the script and draw it accordingly

  • Collaborate with directors and other concept artists to create a visual consistency with other characters, and the overall look of the animation or game

  • Revise artwork according to feedback and teamwork

  • Create model sheets showing characters drawn from different angles and showing different expressions

  • Can tackle a creative challenge head-on, and enjoys problem-solving with the team regarding design issues

  • Working with Storyboard Artists on how to incorporate the concept art into scenes and sequences

  • Adhering to production schedules

Skills required to become a character designer

Character designers must excel in taking direction, visualizing from abstract concepts, and communicating their ideas. They produce the initial designs and set the tone for key imagery within a film or video game.

Employers may look for the following skills in character designers:

  • Strong drawing skills, with a specialization in character design

  • Ability to draw in a variety of styles

  • Knowledge of anatomy and zoology, costuming, physical settings, and history-related references associated with a character

  • Solid awareness of facial expression, pose, posture, gesture, and movement

  • Visual storytelling skills

  • Solid understanding of visual language - texture, color, dimension, scale, perspective, shade, composition, depth of field, proportion, spatial awareness, etc

  • Good communication skills, ability to explain concepts and support artistic choices

  • Technical drawing skills

  • Excellent time management skills, ability to consistently meet deadlines

  • Team player, skilled at working independently

  • Knowledge of the animation and/or game development process

What software and tools do character designers use?

Character Designers may work with physical materials such as pencil, paper, ink, chalk, mixed media, etc to produce their primary sketches, or create completely digital art using computer software. Eventually, all artwork will be presented digitally. The software used will depend on whether the project is in 2D or 3D.

Character designers may need knowledge of a combination of the following software:

  • Adobe Photoshop (industry standard), Illustrator

  • Maya

  • Zbrush

  • Substance Designer

  • Quixel

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