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