A character design technique

A few days ago I came across a YouTube channel called Trojan Horse Was a Unicorn. The Sketchbook Series is filled with priceless words of wisdom from many great artists. I took notes while watching the episode with Carlos Grangel. He’s an amazing character designer who’s created many well-known animated characters. In this post, I will share what resonated with me.

Carlos Grangel will use any type of paper or cardboard for designing new characters. He shared beautiful examples of character designs drawn on the back of cereal boxes. I am going to be mindful of any paper or cardboard that can be reused for drawing.

He used the word patina which I had to look up. Patina means a surface appearance of something grown beautiful especially with age or use. He uses this word when talking about the drawing on the cereal boxes.

He talks through his process, below are a few bulleted notes:

  • He starts by drawing very loosely
  • He uses pencils (Blue, Orange, and Red colors for sketching)
  • He hardly ever uses graphite pencils
  • When designing the figure, anatomy is important but it’s really important to visualize the character and their personality
  • In the loose sketch, he will define the face, the colors, and inks come later
  • Fluidity is one of the main goals
  • Animation is character-driven
  • He starts with blue pencils
  • Then uses Micro, Pilot, and Uni-ball pens, etc
  • He starts very loose with small thumbnails
  • Next step he will finalize it with two types of markers
  • Uses thin pens, Micro, Polit or Uni-ball
  • Color (black only( uses the brush of Copic Markers
  • His process/method of working
  • He starts by exploring the shapes of the characters on the corners of the pages
  • He then develops the character on the page
  • It starts like drawing musical notes
  • You start putting in the shapes
  • Use basic shapes
  • Then you balance everything out
  • Every character needs a distinctive shape
  • They should be different from each other
  • Everything is a balance of rhythm
  • Put them in a lineup
  • Change character shapes that may be too similar to another
  • This is a fast technique
  • The color pass
  • Start with black and white
  • Bring in warm and cool grays
  • Add a little bit of blues and violets
  • Mix the markers to get shades and get that #D effect
  • Be careful with skin tones, that they are not too pink
  • Patina Unifies everything

I was inspired by Carlos Grangel and decided to give his technique a try. It’s not great by any means, but it’s a good first try. I’m going to keep working on this technique and will share my progress. If you’re interested in being a character designer, this video is a much watch.