Having done the research, we now have all the information we could possibly handle, right? Now do we start to draw? Nope, we move on to the next stage: preparation. We need to gather reference material and compile a style sheet.
At this point, we know what the character will look like and we have a pretty good idea of where to start. What I like to do next is compile a style sheet to hold all the relevant images I find while collecting my reference material. The Internet, with its unlimited image resources, is an excellent source for the gathering of material. Other great sources are magazines and even DVDsyou can get references from anywhere, really.
Looking at the information on our characters so far, we can see that Kila is a casual, average-looking girl in ripped jeans and a T-shirt. So to start, we can go to one of the many Internet search engines that have the option to search for images, and do a search for "ripped jeans" or simply "jeans." After quickly scanning the results for anything relevant and grabbing it, we move on to the next item of clothing we want to design, and so on and so forth. Maybe we even add a belt of some sort. After we have enough references for her clothing, we can move on to her hairstyle, makeup, and other elements. The earlier bio table specifies a large, gothic tattoo, so we look for references on tattoos. The main idea of a style sheet is to gather every image you will need into one location, and you then only need to refer to this when you begin to sketch. The style sheet is also useful for showing to others, to give them a feel for the style of the character.
Good Web sites for clothing images are online catalogs and shopping sites. These contain images of people in various poses wearing entire outfits; these pictures can also be useful references for your concept drawings.
Once you have all the images you need, you can simply load them all into Photoshop and compile them into one large image, usually an 8.5" by 11" sheet at a resolution of 300 dpi. Then print it, and it's ready for you to use. Don't be afraid to compile a number of style sheets if you feel you need them. Or, if you are lucky and have access to a larger-format printer, produce one to that size.
Figure 1.1 shows an example of a style sheet layout. (Unfortunately, due to copyright restrictions, I cannot show the actual images I compiled for Kila and Grae but this should give you a general idea.)
Figure 1.1. Sample layout for a style sheet
We are now at the final stage, designyou are now ready to begin drawing. Although the first two stages of research and preparation may seem like a lot of work, believe meit is worth it. Without the proper preparation, you could end up stumbling ahead blindly, but having help at hand early on will keep you from falling later. It's trite, but true: "If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail!"
Let's have a look at some of the key points to consider when fleshing out the design of your character.
Your Early Sketches
Using your style sheets, you can now begin to roughly sketch out some ideas. Take your time if you have it, and spend a few days playing around with ideas. Figure 1.5 shows a few early sketches I produced for Kila; you can probably see the progression of her design and the deep contrast between the first idea and her eventual look.
Figure 1 5. Brainstorm sheet for Kila
While designing Kila, I tried to make her look normal but with subtle differences. Early on, I gave her wild hair and extravagant clothing, but this all looked over the top. I also tried to tone down the amount of symmetry she originally had. Notice that her hair is now longer on one side, and across her waist the belt and sash cross from opposite directions.
Figure 1.6 shows the sketches I produced while creating the concept for Grae. My initial idea was to have Kila visible inside his chest, with all the tendrils wrapped around her. I eventually dropped this idea, first because of polygon restrictions, and secondly because it could have caused problems when animating.
Figure 1.6. Brainstorm sheet for Grae
Once you feel confident and comfortable with an idea, you can create a cleaner piece, which you then show to your lead artist and game designer. Again, this should be a quick image to give an idea of the design. It's likely your collaborators will want it revised; you can pretty much be sure your first idea will not be the one they like.
If you have the time and are given the freedom to do so, why not render some nice color pieces like the ones in Figures 1.7 and 1.8. Some companies encourage this step. They also like you to present the characters in a well-arranged sheet showing the final render along with a few sketches. These summary sheets look professional and impressive, and at the end of the day you will end up with a nice piece of artwork to go in your portfolio.
Figure 1.7. Kila renders
Figure 1.8. A complete render for Grae
Creating the Model Sheets
Great! They love your idea and give you the go ahead! But before you or someone else starts to model, you need to create a few model sheets to work from. These sheets show the character in many different ways; they are the blueprints for building the character.
Imagine someone else is going to be building Kila, and plan out everything for that person.
First of all, you should produce a turnaround view (Figure 1.9). The basic images included in this are a front view, side view, and rear view. You can also include a three-quarter view if you have time. If there are any design areas about which you can already be specific, or if you feel something needs more explanation, include these specifics in this turnaround sheet.
Figure 1.9. Kila model sheet, turnaround view
Notice that the silhouettes for the front and back views are the same. You may be able to make out faint lines across the image; these are important because you need the proportions to be the same for each angle.
To help the person who is going to model your character, you can produce a head sheet like the one in Figure 1.10. This is like the turnaround view sheet but focuses on the head's front and side views along with any additional information needed.
Figure 1.10. Kila head sheet
Whew! With concepting complete, you should have a well thought out and great looking character to work with. So put your crayons away and boot up your computerit's time to build your creation in glorious 3D.