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A guide to making original characters

Below I will outline a few things to keep in mind when creating an original character for the first time. These are all my opinion and none of these things are ‘rules’, just things to keep in mind while creating characters you want to be aesthetically pleasing.

Simplicity

on simplicity

An over-complicated design can lead to an OC that is difficult to draw and write and ends up not getting used, or rejected for commissions / art trades. Keeping things simple has several benefits with very little drawbacks. For example, if your character has an eye-patch, you will need to remember that daily things like driving, or depth perception, will be difficult for them with the eye-patch on. They will bump into things, or accidentally bump/hit people on their blind side. If you have to keep track of several things like this, (such as cat ears + extra hearing, night vision, special powers, etc) you are more likely to forget details when drawing or writing about them later. This leads into my second point, keeping practicality in mind.

Practicality

on practicality

Characters with a lot of piercings + metal tend to not fare well in cold environments. On the same token, very long hair is also cumbersome for movement and getting wet. Consider your character’s daily routine and ask yourself if that character trait ‘fits’ with that person’s lifestyle. Sporty characters often wear their hair up if it’s long, or keep it short on purpose and for easy maintenance. The same goes with coloured hair, if your character doesn’t live in a fantasy environment with everyone having strange natural hair colours, it’s worth considering the cost of maintaining hair streaks and dyed hair.

It might be the case that you love to see characters with eyepatches, tattoos, piercings, funky hair, bandanas, etc. It’s totally fine to love and to use these traits, but it doesn’t work for every OC. If you tried to wear a bandana every day, you might find it hot and uncomfortable. Characters may wear bandanas regardless of the discomfort for several reasons, like working in a dusty/dirty environment, or they live in an area where anonymity and privacy is a concern for them. But generally, people don’t wear bandanas for just ‘looking cool’. (it’s a fine and valid reason if you want it to be, but consider the character’s personality as well.)

Symmetry

on symmetry

As a part of keeping things simple, try to keep things symmetrical as well. This is less about a character’s hairstyle and more about clothing choices and other details. (I’m guilty of having done this myself.) In general, people’s socks are the same colour, any arm bands / wrist bands are usually the same style and pattern, it can bring a sense of completeness to a character and keeps images from appearing too ‘busy’. It also is easy to draw your character from different angles without struggling to remember which side each detail is on. Just like anything, a LITTLE asymmetry goes a LONG WAY.

Uniqueness

A unique hairstyle is a great way to have your character stand out without having too many details. Above I’ve shown a few different examples of bangs / fringe / back as well as eyebrow thickness and shape. There are several ways you can mix and match different combinations of these 3 to create your own original and unique hairstyle and have your OC stand out without a lot of unnecessary details.

Other things to consider when creating your OC include:

  • age
  • height
  • weight
  • education level
  • universe
  • interests / hobbies
  • style

Final Thoughts

If you are not an artist, or have trouble putting your thoughts into words, I recommend using one of several online character creators to help bring your character visually to life. You can also consider making a collage of different things you’d like to see on your oc and consider asking an artist or a friend for advice.

This is not a comprehensive list and I expect it to change over time, but experiment and find things you like! If there’s something you absolutely love in an OC, ‘steal’ it for yourself and make something unique out of it! The best OCs are the ones that you can tell the creator loves immensely.

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