Updated: Jun 7, 2020
Whether you are drawing an image in 2D on paper or using a computer programme to create digitally generated imagery in 2D or 3D, there are a few factors that you need to keep in mind when designing, in order to give the image the best chance of being appealing rather than including aspects that may distract from the intended association or characteristics of the image you are trying to put across.
If we wanted to make a character as an example, the key things that we have to think about include; artistic style, how much detail to include, and consideration of subjective reactions that an audience may have to the image.
Artistic style covers the range of ways different images can be represented – think of Pak 'n Save's “Stickman” ads (he is 11+ years old now BTW) versus all the very realistic animal characters created by Weta Digital for the CGI movie "The Jungle Book" (2016). The particular style isn’t always that important, but the ways an image is made to look, by enhancing some characteristics or clothing or expression, will definitely help to make a character more appealing or not.
Less is more. When you make a character, sometimes you don’t want to add too much detail, into what your characters are wearing for example, otherwise it can draw attention to things which are unintended. What accessories to include is also important, the show RWBY used to have their characters wear 1 or 2 belts, but recently I saw that most of them now wear 5 or more – which I found unnecessary and drew my eyes away from the main character look and what they were doing. Another good example of this is when considering colours to use in a character that you create – using only 2 or 3 colours, instead of having 5 or more, can sometimes be better. However, even if a character has too much of something, it can still look appealing to some people. Which brings us to the next thing…
Subjectivity. The thing is, not everyone likes the same character design aspects, even if we have a character that is easy to look at and has recognise features, not everyone will like the character represented that way. However, there will still usually be a more universally accepted opinion when it comes to whether or not a character looks appealing, so can be important to consider. Sometimes people don’t like the way a character has been designed, but they may also still find it appealing or recognisable.
Transitioning from 2D to 3D. Another common challenge is experienced if you are trying to convert an appealing looking character that’s in 2D into 3D. Some design elements might be changed or to be altered when recreating it in 3D. An example could be details like the hair, in 2D you can draw the hair however you want and make it look good, but when it comes to 3D, sometimes you have to limit yourself with how much detail you can put into the model in an aspect like hair – which in reality can be very complex! It all comes down to the time and methods available to you and what you decide are the important aspects to the character you are creating that are required in terms of appeal and whether these are important to what you are trying to get across.
Hair in 2D
Hair in 3D
So, how do we make an appealing looking character? Well, for the most part, when you make a character, you want to make it easy to look at, but also, a character that fits within its universe, setting, and theme helps a lot. In general, we teach that a character should have a main colour and distinguishable features so that people can remember it when they see the character over time. Unique clothing, hair, or even a specific accessory can also help.
Have a go – see what appealing character you can create.