Consistently Drawing Characters

How do you get your characters to look the same? This is a question I’ve seen asked on many forums and in discussions. It’s something I’ve grappled with myself. It’s not easy, to get a face to look the same time and again.

The answer? Practice. Shocking, I know. Once you have a completed drawing that you like of a particular character, draw them over and over again, paying attention to the details. Draw the same arch to the brow, the same width of nose, the same size of lips, the same breadth of chin and jaw. Draw the same hands, the same hips. Draw the features from different angles, with different expressions. Draw until you are consistent (you will never be perfect, but you can get close 😊).

There is more to a character than an arched brow, however. They need a consistent clothing style, which does not mean drawing the exact same outfit over and over again (though that is often used in animation to speed up the process). Is your character a t-shirt and jeans person? Or do they prefer suits? Do they like dresses or are shorts more their style? Deciding what clothes a character wears coincides with the personality you’ve created for them, and can make them recognizable in a crowd even if their faces cannot be seen.

Clothing goes along with the character’s personality. A character will stand a certain way, behave a certain way, and capturing that in every drawing will make them immediately recognizable, no matter what they wear (after all, superheroes often wear masks and unconventional clothing, but we still recognize them as their alter egos).

For my Wellspring Dragons character, Sikode, I have always drawn him with sleek, long black hair and turquoise eyes. You can tell the character is Sikode, even though my style’s changed drastically over the years (the drawings I did when I first created him over fifteen years ago…ah hahahaha). I consider these two things his main attributes, but there are other ways to signify him. Some of it is clothing style—Sikode tends to wear Rakan martial outfits, which are similar in design though not identical—some of it is his use of magick, and some of it is his poise and behavior.

(The above is a two year difference. Surprising what changes when writing/drawing full time)

Sikode is confident, so I draw him that way. He doesn’t look down, he doesn’t hunch his shoulders. He doesn’t hide his face behind his hair because he is shy. By looking at him, no one would ever think they could take advantage of him. Poise and behavior are important parts of his character, and they combine with the smaller details of his body features to create a whole.

There is a faster way to consistency, which is often used by animation artists. They develop templates for a certain type of character (the young hero, the young heroine, the bad guy) and reuse them over and over, changing the hair color and style, the eye color, the clothes, but nothing else. In this way, you are basically drawing the exact same character, over and over again, and you get very good, and very fast, at it (and you can reuse drawings at will!). The downside is that you have to fit everyone you draw into one of the templates, which can interfere with creating truly individualized people.

In the end, what you really need to do is pay attention to all the small details, which combine to a greater whole. And to get good at that, it takes practice.

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