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Character development

Illustrating with character!

I have started creating character moodboards (Sample above of my digital), physical, digitally and on pinterest. (below) Characters really do interest me, I’m going to continue to make mood boards as the list is endless!

Aaron Blaise
I cannot talk about character design without talking about one of the biggest influences in my work and that is Blaise.
Most noticeable work is for disney, he also offers classes/courses on both youtube and his website (which is well worth watching)

A style that I’ve been enjoying of late is that of Netflix The Dragon Prince and Spirit riding free.

I think my first idea is to pick a character and do as if I was creating for for a Netflix kind of show.

Skillshare classes
Character Design Crash Course: Dynamic Design in Four Steps – by melissa Lee

Level Up Your Characters: 5 Techniques for Creating Better Character Designs – Haydon Aube

OCA - Character warm up

Digital warm up sketches (character warm up)
When I feel my characters are looking samey and if need to warm up I find pictures on pinterest and magazine and draw them, trying to take in the character differences and make into something more.

“Any time you design a character for a Disney picture, especially a fairy tale, it’s going to become the definitive design for that character, so you don’t want to hack something out. You need to put in the kind of care it warrants if it’s going to live in history.”

Glen Keane

I will be picking my character from a book, the main reason I’m picking a pre-existing character is that the character has a set personality. I create my own characters all the time for my stories and webtoon so I wanted to do my own version of a character for the first time!

Character One
Mary Lennox – The Secret Garden

Quite possibly the first character other than the “classic” disney princesses I truly loved.
I still own the book secret garden from my childhood, pages worn and yellowing but this book is of great importance to any thing I am as an artist or illustrator today.
Within these pages is an image of Mary, which i loved and this inspired to draw as I wanted to recreate many many times. The secret garden not only inspired me to “draw” but shaped how I do my own characters for things like my future webtoons. I like my characters to be like Mary have a strong character growth arc.


I added the red bow as it would be her “thing” when she is mad would look more like mini devil horns.

digital character sketches

Quick digital sketches / doodles of the other characters

Character Two
Lucy Pevensie

Originally I was going to pick Dickon Sowerby, Marys antithesis in “the secret garden”, however I felt the challenge would be greater if I was to do two children of a similar age, both important characters, but not only look different but their starting personalities different.

For this, Lucy is perfect!
While both Lucy and Mary exhibit a couple of core personality traits such as stubborn, being brave and desire for the truth. Lucy has a childlike innocent, full of love which Mary lacks at first. So the way Lucy will carry herself, her expressions will be very different.
Also the two girls stories mirror each other greatly in many ways, an example of this is relationship they both form with in Lucys case Mr. Tumnus and Marys Ben Weatherstaff / Robin.

I know it is a bit of risk, as characters indeed are of a similar age and gender. This poses more of a personal challenge for me and a serious area of growth. I have been known for the same face syndrome prior and it is something I’m still tickling, more so as I come to do my webtoon. With these characters see the two girls having very different facial expressions, shapes, eyes and so that is the main reason for my choice.

Another reason I think there is an interesting challenge in making “normal” characters without defining features, just how to make them interesting and more dynamic !


One problem I would face with Lucy is her “thing” as she changes outfits throughout the book and she needs to be recognizable on sight. An option I thought of was to have her to have huge doe like eyes that seem to “peek” at the viewers. Another way long term would be her movements and actions.

I learn a lot about character design following ROSS DRAW on youtube. He talks about a THING that makes a character instantly recognizable!

As I was about to publish this post Ross posted a new video titled “top 5 tips for character design” while a little late for my exercise, I found these had applied to my work anyway.

Digital character designs


OCA - Character design mary


OCA - Character design Lucy

Considering that I really love character designs, I’ve never actually done a character turn around before so that was a new for me. I am pleased with the result and feel they look really cute, most improvement will come with me growing as an illustrator and doing more character designs.
Next time I will explore more with shapes, movements and facial expressions, you can see this self study in my sketchbooks. There is the thought I could have played this exercise too safe, but I feel personally it is harder to create a well rounded “normal” character. If I can create the good foundations of a basic character, then the slope of growth will be better for the rest I will design.

Credits, references and research
Mayan Engelman

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