Comicking Part 3: Character Designs
This is Part 3 of a series of posts I’m writing about how I made Final Track, a 34-page shojo manga I worked on as my submission for the Yen Press New Talent Search.
The next part of the process is a little bit like the preparation people need to do before filming a movie. Much of it involves research, gathering references and choosing the visuals that will be appearing in your story. And it doesn’t necessarily have to come after parts 1 (generating ideas) and 2 (writing and thumbnailing) either. For this particular project, I had some ideas how my characters were going to look like but prioritized getting the story right first.
I refer you all to a wonderful series of posts Aaron Diaz wrote up on figure design, costume and silhouette. There’s plenty there to digest and I certainly can’t say I’ve mastered all these basic concepts myself.
For Final Track, I wanted the personalities of the main characters to clash. One of the easiest ways to do this was to convey their differences through what they wear. I wanted the male lead Drake to be loud and confident so his design had to be somewhat vibrant with lots of great angles like spiky hair, and a faux fur-trimmed jacket. In contrast, the female lead Jen was smaller, had smoother lines and less of a flamboyant style (basically boring XD).
I like to keep my character designs simple and streamlined. If I have to draw details, I try to make them manageable. You are after all drawing them over and over again. Having a bajillion details on your character’s epic armor is just a recipe for disaster. If you don’t have assistants and you’re on a tight deadline, KEEP IT SIMPLE!
It’s also a good idea to have some kind of model sheet which you can consult as you work on the comic. It’s very easy to get “off-model” especially if you’re drawing your characters with varied expressions and from different angles.
Here I just sketched out Jen’s wardrobe throughout the comic. Sometimes it’s nice to externalize the change or growth of your character visually, as opposed to spelling it out via dialogue (I heard Hitchcock used to do this in his films).
This was a pretty useful thing to have when you design complicated accessories for characters. You could easily forget a ring or necklace somewhere.
As always, it’s best to have other people give you feedback on your designs to help you discover things you may have overlooked.
Questions? Suggestions? I’d love to hear from you!