Thought some of you might like to see my process for designing a character. This one is filled with cocoa love and chocolaty goodness. I'll take the concept from sketch through to vector final. You'll learn the process of making a fun loving character based on a clear concept. Also, a quick warning - you may be overcome by the urge to consume copious amounts of chocolate by reading this, but fortunately it's all part of the creative process.
Decide What it is You are Going to Draw
I've never been one to just start drawing something without having a point, that is to say 99.999% of the time I say to myself "I think I'm going to draw a (insert name of thing)," so the thing for this project is a chocolate bar character. Next is deciding (at least in your head) what you feel the characteristics should be.
Writing this stuff down when there is a client paying would be a good thing, but since I'm the client and I'm a pretty agreeable guy when it come to pitching ideas to myself, we can be a little less formal. We can just make a quick list...
So, let's see:
- Chocolate bar guy
- Full of cocoa love
- Hands and feet would be good
- Unwrapped to show chocolate
- and cute!
Now on to gathering images for the right visual references.
The "interweb" is your friend. I don't like spending to much time on this part, if I can help it. Since I know what I'm after, I can focus on the task. If I had said I want to make some kind of candy character, then I would spend more time exploring possibilities, but I already have a goal. I've spent many an hour searching for reference material on projects in the past. Try to cover the elements you need without overkill: shape, style, texture, color, etc. Once you've got the goods, move on.
First let me say that I'm a chocolate snob when it comes to the bean. Dark, rich, high quality chocolate is the thing I love. My chocolatier friend Gabor can expound on the virtues of Theobroma (the scientific name translates to "food of the gods") all day, and I gladly listen and not just because his teachings are accompanied by delicious samples…really, the man knows much about the bean. My point being, most of the chocolate candy we love (and I for one get cravings for Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, and After Eight often- shhhh, please don't tell Gabor) is just that, candy, and not what a selective palette would call real chocolate.
So let's get to the next stage. I'm not going to lie to you, this is arguably the best part of this project. Go out and get yourself some product. Seriously enjoy it. If you were designing cover art for a band you would listen to the music, or creating a bottle for a new fragrance you would want to smell it to help evoke the right feeling, which you then translate to a drawing or physical form right? So then indulge...
Once you've finished "researching," we need to take the info we've collected to this point, and put it down on paper or straight to digital if that is the way you like to go. I was outside at a café without my computer, so it had to be analogue. This is the super quick (5 second) and very small thumb to get my angle.
I know, yikes with the oogly thumbnail sketch. Sometime that's just the way it goes (who am I kidding, this is the way most of my stuff begins).
Then after about an hour, I get this, minus the hands. Left the café and finished the hands back in the studio.
Note: Drawing while people watching tends to affect your productivity.
There's no really magic formula for the colour, I simply drop in colours that feel good. If this were a client project, they may have a specific colour palette request, or ask me to build a palette based on their market research. Once I have my palette picked out, I apply it in Illustrator after creating my line work and shade key.
Here's a look at the vector line work after three hours of clicking away in Illustrator.
Depending on the complexity of the design and the desired effect, I plan out my shade keys as a separate layer to be applied in multiply mode. Sometimes I do this digitally straight in Illustrator, or if I'm tired of looking at the computer screen I'll print out the line work and hit it with COPIC felt pens.
The shade key is simply an exploration of basic lighting scenarios. I kept this one simple, lighting it from the top left. I also use the shade key as a guide for more specific shading that employs deeper and more saturated colours to create the shadowing on each area.
A few things to note in the final piece. I felt like the upper portion of the character while fine, was missing a little something to balance the lower half. So I added a curl of hair in the form of a little wisp of chocolate . It seems to have also added more personality to boot (Characters/Mascots can never have too much personality).
I also made an adjustment to the back of his left shoe (A) (see earlier version) and added another shoe lace thingy (B).
So there you have it. That's how I make a character. Hopefully this little guy will make it onto T-shirts this summer and be available for purchase on my website. As always, interaction is welcome so if you have any questions and or comments, fire away.