Character Design Ideas for Inspiration

Character Design Ideas

Designing characters for animation, games, films, cartoons, and comics might seem like child’s play- nothing serious. Well, it’s not. It’s a rigorous creative endeavor that requires a lot of intentionalities to create characters from scratch.

Considering that the characters are created from the designer’s imagination, it’s possible to run to a blank wall. In this article, we’ll provide some fun, amazing and unique character designs to get your creative juices flowing.

If you’re new to the world of 2D and 3D animation and concept art, let’s go through some basics before presenting you the ideas.

What is character design?

Character design is the process of fashioning out a character’s unique visual appearance, character’s style, personality, movement, speech patterns, behavior, body language, and so on as a means of conveying stories. This process involves brainstorming, sketching, outlining, and drawing fictive persons or non-human beings.

The process of designing characters usually uses different techniques to create a figurative representation that the audience can distinctively identify. 

Character designers use model sheets to workshop their characters with other designers. Model sheets (also called character boards, character sheets, or character studies) include references of a character from different perspectives to standardize and ascertain consistency in posture, facial features and expressions, and body language of the character from scene to scene. During this workshop, designers take into account shapes, lines, color palettes, and other aesthetic elements in line with the character’s personality. As such, a good grasp of color theory, shape language, and psychology can help designers create standout characters.

Purpose of character design

Video games, cartoons, comic books, and animated films are all fueled by stories. And at the heart of all stories are characters. Character design aims to make these characters more aesthetically exciting, engaging, and memorable. In the world of visual arts and animation, artists can create characters from absolute scratch employing every aspect of design to create unique character designs that people can instantly recognize. 

What makes a good character design?

Clarity is a key feature of creating an effective character design. Clarity allows you to create a character that is not only distinct but also makes your story more captivating.

Many character designers use the following three elements to achieve a good, clear character design: silhouette, color palette, and exaggeration.

  • Silhouette

A character silhouette is what is left after removing all colors and details and filling the contours of the character shape with black. When characters are identifiable by their silhouettes, it means the characters have been designed effectively. Take a look at the silhouettes below. How many characters do you recognize? 

 character design ideas generator

If you’re a fan of animation, you’ll recognize quite a few of these characters from their silhouette. These characters just aren’t recognizable because they are iconic characters, you recognize them because the designers have created clear character designs. As such, a character designer needs to have a solid understanding of the shape language to create solid and distinct character silhouettes.

  • Color Palette

The character designer’s use of color is called a palette. 

When it comes to color, selectivity is critical to engaging your audience. The last thing you want is a character that is full of a rainbow of colors with no hierarchy or purposeful use of palette. This will end up as a distraction for your audience rather than engage them.

To achieve great character designs, try using one color as the primary color of a character and minimally utilize other colors to support this color. Try to use complementary colors rather than competing colors. The simpler the color palette, the more engaging it is. 

  • Exaggeration

When it comes to storytelling, exaggeration is likely the most important of the three fundamental components of character design. Exaggeration is the intentional use of specific characteristics to provoke emotional and psychological responses from an audience. It can also be referred to

 anime character design ideas

These exaggerated features can be the difference between an audience perceiving a character’s art as heroic or sinister. 

Character Design Process

Now that you understand the use of character design and the essential components of unique character design, let’s look at the character design process.


  • Research

Artists don’t just come up with character designs out of the blue. It takes a lot of critical thought and research. Even before you begin to create loose sketches, you have to research extensively the object they intend to create. You’ll have to understand, anatomy, psychology, color theory, shape language, and story. For instance, if you want to develop fantasy characters, you’ll need to learn about particular characteristics of the character’s gender, look into psychology to understand choices and mood, physical traits, and so on. If it’s an animal character, you may have to view a documentary on how the creature walks, develop, and act, and its distinguishing characteristic. 

  • Decide who your character design is aimed at

Also, during the preparation phase, you need to identify the audience. The character design will be influenced by your target audience’s understanding and experiences. For example, you need to consider age, culture, and gender in the creation process. This will help you identify the right mood, colors, styles, and visual qualities that will appeal to your audience.

  • Gather reference materials

Inspiration is an essential part of art. You’ll also need to gather reference materials- photos, artwork, discussions- related to the character you want to portray. You can browse through Google images, Pinterest, Dribble, Behance, ArtStation, and Magazines to gather inspiration. There is unlimited access to inspiration on the internet.

The goal of looking through other artists’ work isn’t to copy or steal what they’ve done. It is to help you get inspired as well as identify your audience’s expectations and ascertain the visual qualities of your concept such as hairdo, attire, size facial expression, pose, and so on. With this, even if your character is going to be exaggerated, it’ll have relatable qualities that would make it recognizable and memorable.


Concept art is an integral part of character creation. It is how the artist expresses the idea of how a character develops from the beginning to the future whether in a video game, film, or company website.

When going through conceptualization, concept artists often consider the following elements:

  • Origin of the character

Look at the historical context, geography, and cultural background of the character. This informs the style of clothes, words, the kind of battle gear, and the world where you want your character to exist.

  • Name and look of the character 

Once you pinpoint the period and environment, consider the birthplace or current address, height, age, style, accessories, the color of the eye, and color of hair, alongside other physical properties. You’ll also consider the anatomy of the character (head, torso, arms, hands, legs, foot)  and, poses ( tired pose, fighting stances, action shots, facial expressions).

  • Character traits

What qualities does your character elicit? What makes them interesting? Consider writing out 3-5 adjectives to describe them. These adjectives will include their redeeming characteristics (positive characters: kind, empathetic, etc…), and the fundamental flaw of the character (insecurities, negative qualities, and so on)

  • The motivation of the character 

What drives the character, and why are they on their current journey? Are they saving the world? Finding love? Or destroying the universe? This would help you visualize the present and future outlook of your character.

Write A Prompt

Once you have your concept fashioned out, it might be hard putting them together into a unique and memorable character. There are lots of options to consider. However, don’t get worked up about making a perfect character, that’s why they have flaws. It’s the story that should matter now. Flesh out a prompt that would help you visualize clearly the character’s role in the story and the character’s journey.

At this point, many character designers already have an almost clear idea of what the character will be like, their favorite sources, and the story idea. They take all these into the next stage where they breathe life into the character.

Create A Thumbnail

Creating a thumbnail is where you begin to breathe life into the character. The artist has the freedom to experiment with an illustration or draw their loose sketches to get an idea of the direction they want to take.

There is a variety of approaches to thumbnails. Starting with silhouette sketches is a common and effective strategy. Silhouettes help character designers create a blueprint that can be worked on with more depth. Download your free banner templates and start your creatives.

Finalize details and linework

Once you’re satisfied with the thumbnails and sketches, you can begin finalizing the design.

Character designs are fully developed by adding linework, color, and detail. Get creative with your design – add accessories, exaggerate, give your character a sidekick, customize their armor, or give them a funny pose.

However, you might not get the full character design at first. That’s why character designers often refine their character designs by finetuning and improving the quality of the design.

You also want to consider making the design flexible and in 3D so it can accommodate the improvements and fit into different media.

When your design is done, don’t forget to get feedback from others on the design you’ve created. This would also help to identify areas that need improvement.

Creating a character is a headache-inducing job. Crafting different full-fleshed personalities with unique qualities from thing air is everything but an easy job.  Although character design relies heavily on creativity, the design process as you’ve seen isn’t spontaneous- it’s deliberate and requires a considerable amount of artistic and storytelling prowess. 

Character design ideas

When it feels like you’re running low on inspiration, check out these creations to get you inspired.

Cartoon character ideas

 drawing character design ideas
 cool character design ideas

Fantasy character ideas

 fantasy character design ideas
 concept character design ideas

Animation character ideas

 ideas for character design
 design character ideas

Anime Character ideas

 character design ideas anime
 cartoon character design ideas

Comic character ideas

 art character design ideas
cute character design ideas


There’s no limit to the type of character you can create. Determine the key feature of your character based on the genre and your imagination. Experiment with different features to make your character look interesting.

The next time you see a great character design or go back to your favorite designs, try to focus on what keeps you drawn to the character and the features the character designer has put to make the character great. Check out some amazing Discord pfp and banners.

August 3, 2022
10 min read
12 reads

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