Thorough research is one of the key factors that distinguish professional artwork.
Your aim is to become an expert on a given subject so you can create believable characters and environments with a sense of authenticity.
If you have the time to do firsthand research -- sketching on location, life drawing sessions, etc. -- then be sure to take full advantage of the opportunity.
Once you know what emotions you want players to feel, begin researching images that abstractly embody these feelings in the form of visual metaphors.
Creating a mind-map will help you research diverse concepts and images, so you can avoid drawing the first, most obvious thing that comes to mind.
While the character concept is based on adjectives that describe desired emotions and feelings, the mind-map looks for nouns that reflect the character concept's emotions. Let's go through the research and development process for our character together.
Structure the mind-map like this illustration, placing your high concept in the middle with key categories radiating out. These categories will help get your ideas flowing.
Combining word associations from your mind-map categories with keywords from your character concept can uncover an array of seemingly disparate reference images that you can use to create an interesting character.
The character keywords delicate and natural beauty produced the visual research results of flora, leaves, and trees. When you make a study of each research image,draw it as a simple silhouette without details. You're looking for a design that abstractly communicates the keywords in the character concept.
By drawing every photographic image that interests you,you'll begin to get a feeling for the lines and shapes that will eventually be incorporated into the character design.Usually the character begins to evolve naturally through this repeated process of researching and sketching.
Research into the character keyword silence yielded images with sparse and simple composition elements composed of vertical and horizontal lines. Therefore, the goal for this particular character design is to avoid using too many diagonal or curved lines and noisy details. Feel free to annotate your drawings to highlight the key design features that you'll want to incorporate into your final character design.
When it comes to your characters' clothing, think about the resources and textiles available in their environment.In this example, the nature references in the character concept led to research of African tribal groups, although you might choose different ethnic or geographic avenues of research.
Often you just stumble upon interesting and suitable reference images by chance. In this case it was the garments of the Ndebele tribe of South Africa. They have simple design patterns and silhouettes that will be helpful in designing a simple character shape, which is the goal here.
Visual metaphors for the keyword delicate were found in"dry, dying leaves," some of which resembled a poncho,which was then likewise researched. Keep in mind that the quality of these research sketches doesn't have to be great, as they're primarily to be used as your own personal library of reference images. Draw only as long as it takes to visually note the main element of interest and ignore or suggest the rest.
Keywords light and gentle also influenced research for the character's feet, starting with the search term "tiptoe."This didn't seem light enough, so further research was made into "ballet feet" and there was even a brief investigation of "grasshopper leg." You can never predict when and where you'll discover suitable visual metaphors,so it's worth exploring everything that comes to mind for the chance that it'll take the design in an unexpected and exciting direction.
Research for the character's eyes began with sketches of images from a great book called Decorated Skin: A World Survey of Body Art, by Karl Gröning (Thames & Hudson). But the eyes appeared too alive and visually noisy for the keywords in the character concept, so the search term"quiet face" was researched, which uncovered images of"ancient Chinese sculpture" that featured more suitable eyes. Notice how even the eyes echo the leaf concept of the character.