Creating Stylized Characters

Book Review: Creating Stylized Characters by 3DTotal Publishing

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There’s a lot to say about the massive 260-page book Creating Stylized Characters.

At first glance it’s clearly a firm and well-designed book. I figured it would have some tips and interviews but it’s actually formatted like a bird’s eye view of real-world projects.

A handful of pro artists tackle various character design projects and show their steps along the way.

Each chapter covers tips related to different subjects like gesture, color theory, and stylization. Then you’ll find 6 different character projects that you can follow start-to-finish from 6 talented artists.

If you’re interested in character design as a career I’d highly recommend this book. It’s got some invaluable tips along with some really cool artwork.

But let’s crack this open and take a look inside.

Inside The Book

Once you get past the introduction there are two “main” parts of this book.

First is a 50-page section titled “Getting Started”. This breaks into sub-chapters on figure/gesture, pose, faces/expressions, color theory and stylization.

If you’re not familiar with the fundamentals of art it’d be wise to really read through this section.

Gesture pose examples and tips
Photo by Concept Art Empire

There are no explicit exercises here but you can glean some ideas on how to practice just from these pages.

The bulk of the book is taken up by sample character projects. Featured artists share their advice and the many ways they tackle character designs.

Basically 6 different artists are given 6 different prompts and told to design a character from scratch.

They each get their own chapter to discuss the creative process including character research, thumbnailing, shape design, facial expressions, picking a color scheme & finalizing the design.

Color scheme painting samples
Photo by Concept Art Empire

Most of these chapters also have variations where the artist follows the exact same prompt but they design a totally different character.

This all feels very reminiscent of working as a real character designer on a real-world project in the entertainment industry.

You can follow along studying the design process from start to finish with plenty of tips along the way.

Here’s a breakdown of the artists and their featured projects:

All of these artists have their own specialties whether it’s character design, game art, visual development work, or even animation work.

This massive variety means you’ll find a ton of unique styles, techniques, and ideas on how to approach your own character designs.

All of the tips are incredibly practical with advice on how to draw really specific things. The artists explain their design choices from why they drew a nose a certain way to why they chose certain types of clothing.

Truth be told I’m pleasantly shocked at how much detail there is for each project.

The artists go as far as detailing different styles of backpacks, different weapons, and even different rocks to place in the background.

Rock sketches samples
Photo by Concept Art Empire

Beyond incredible artwork with some of the most detailed explanations I’ve ever seen.

Who’s This Book For?

If you’re interested in any character design then absolutely grab a copy of this book. You will not be disappointed.

And the illustrations inside can serve as creative inspiration for your own pieces.

But this book touches more people only aspiring character artists.

I’d also recommend this book for anyone who likes to design characters. Specifically artists with a propensity towards illustration and stylized designs.

Character sample finished design
Photo by Concept Art Empire

The advice and step-by-step diagrams in this book will radically improve your own design process.

And it doesn’t matter whether you’re designing characters for a children’s book, a webcomic, your own storyboards, or just for fun.

These ideas are directly applicable to all projects and you don’t need to aim at becoming a professional artist to get value from this book.

You just have to enjoy designing your own characters and truly love the process of creating art.

Who this book is not for: environment artists and realist painters.

If all you want to do is paint environments that’s awesome. But this book probably won’t interest you.

And if you’re mostly focused on traditional mediums like oil painting this book may feel a little too loose, too digital, and just not aligned with your goals.

Researching parts ideas for characters
Photo by Concept Art Empire

That said I would highly recommend Creating Stylized Characters for anyone into digital illustration work or even traditional cartooning.

If you do traditional work in a sketchbook and like to sketch cartoons then you’ll probably enjoy this title. The target audience really falls under what kind of work you do(cartoons, stylized art) along with the focus of your work(characters).

It’s a fun read and it comes with some incredible artwork so you’ll at least get plenty of quality inspiration.

Not to mention this book comes from the same publisher as Character Design Quarterly so it’s fair to say 3DTotal really knows how to handle this subject.

Take a peek at the preview photos here and see what you think.

But if you’re curious then definitely grab a copy if you want to improve your character design process, or to just get a peek into the creative process of professionals.

Creating Stylized Characters - Full Book Cover

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