How does your character look? This is likely the first thing you’re going to have ideas for when creating a character for visual media. That doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of characteristics to consider besides height, weight, coloration, etc. Think about the personality of your character; you want to let their characteristics shine through even when they aren’t interacting with others. Choose stances that clearly display the excitement, snark, or timidity of your character. Decide on resting facial expressions. Consider atypical physical traits and imperfections: Maybe your character has a scar, a notched ear, a chipped tooth… something you can hide and reveal as an artist as you choose. Think about where your character lives: would they have evolved different characteristics or adopted a certain style to live in their environment? It’s always a bonus when your designs can also have a visible function. Are they strictly one type of being, or a hybrid? If they’re a hybrid, what are their more dominant traits?
I highly recommend making a color sheet for your final choices. If you’re using traditional mediums, write the names of the colors on your off-character samples so you can find them again quickly. For digital media, use the eye dropper tool. This is a great reference tool that takes the guesswork out of repeat character appearances.
There are a lot of potential ideas do consider. Don’t be afraid to try several drafts. Let your imagination run wild!
Fashion and Style:
Your character’s fashion is yet another excellent way to outwardly display their personality. Do they value comfort over fashioning? If you have an active character, put them in clothing that is easy to move in and get their hair out of the way. Does the character have a go-to color scheme? Moody disposition? Consider a darker color palette. OR do one of my personal favorite tropes and turn expectations on their heads: give a gloomy character ironically bright clothes featuring ironic cartoon characters. You’ll also want to consider outfits for the various life situations they’ll encounter. Do they need a school or work uniform? Whatever you choose, be clear and consistent.
Chances are, like most artists, you are haunted by your own personal style. As frustrating as that can be, it means you have a distinct look! Keeping that in mind, there are still stylistic decisions to consider when developing a character. What medium are you using this character for? With something like character portraits or fashion drawings, detail and intricacy can be your friends. However, for animation and comics, you will want to consider simplifying your designs. You’ll be drawing a lot more of these characters for these storytelling methods; you don’t want to burn yourself out. Also consider the tools you have at your disposal. Traditional and digital media will read differently to your audience. Painterly styles will elicit a different emotional response than clean lines. You can use the same character for multiple purposes, but if you do, consider doing drafts of the different ways you want to implement them to use as a cheat sheet for yourself in the future.