Comic Character Design: Tips & Techniques for Beginners
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 11 min read


  1. Study your favorite comic characters
  2. Practice drawing different body types
  3. Develop a unique character personality
  4. Play with expressive facial features
  5. Design distinct costumes and accessories
  6. Experiment with color and shading
  7. Try different perspectives and angles
  8. Use references for authenticity
  9. Practice consistency in your character design
  10. Get feedback and improve your work

Designing a comic character is a journey that starts with a single stroke of your pencil. It's an exciting process where you create a whole new world of characters with unique personalities, faces, body types, and costumes. If you're a beginner in comic character design, you might be wondering where to start. You're in the right place! Follow these tips and techniques to get started on your comic character design journey.

Study your favorite comic characters

Starting your journey in comic character design can seem overwhelming. But don't worry, you're not alone. Your favorite comic characters can be your initial guides. These characters didn't just spring up from nowhere—they were meticulously designed by artists who spent countless hours refining their looks and personalities. So, let's learn from the best, shall we?

Take a close look at your favorite comic characters: Study their facial features, their body types, their costumes, and their accessories. You might notice some patterns or recurring themes. For example, superheroes often have exaggerated muscular bodies and vibrant costumes, while comedic characters might have exaggerated facial expressions.

Understand their personalities: Good comic character design is not just about the physical appearance—personality plays a huge role too. Think about the character's backstory, their motivations, and their quirks. These elements often influence the design of the character. For example, a character with a tragic past might have a darker, more somber color palette.

Take note of artistic styles: Every comic artist has their unique style. Some might prefer more realistic designs, while others might lean towards cartoony or exaggerated forms. Pay attention to these styles as they can greatly influence your own comic character design.

Studying your favorite comic characters is an important first step in your journey. It helps you understand the basics of comic character design and provides inspiration for your own characters. So grab your sketchbook and start studying—it's time to step into the exciting world of comic character design!

Practice drawing different body types

Now that you've studied your favorite comic characters, you may have noticed that they come in all shapes and sizes. The variety in body types makes each character unique and relatable. So, grab your sketchbook—it's time to practice drawing different body types.

Start with simple shapes: Before diving into detailed anatomy, begin with simple geometric shapes. Circles, rectangles, triangles—they all can form the basis of your character's body. For example, a character with a muscular build might have a torso shaped like a broad rectangle, while a petite character might have a more oval-shaped body.

Try various proportions: In comic character design, you're not confined to realistic proportions. Sometimes, exaggerated proportions can make your character more distinctive. Maybe your character has an unusually large head compared to his body, or her legs are longer than usual. Play around with proportions and see what works best for your character.

Vary body types: Not all characters are super muscular superheroes or dainty princesses. Some might be lanky, some might be chubby, some might be short, some might be tall—the possibilities are endless. Varying body types can add diversity to your comic and make it more interesting.

Practice makes perfect: Drawing different body types can be challenging, especially if you're just starting out. But don't get discouraged. The more you practice, the better you get. So keep drawing, experimenting, and learning. You'll see your progress over time.

Remember, in comic character design, there's no one-size-fits-all. Each character is unique, and their body type plays a huge role in their identity. So don't shy away from creating diverse characters with varied body types—it's what makes your comic unique and interesting.

Develop a unique character personality

Alright, you've got the visuals down, now let's add some life to your characters. A character's personality can sometimes outshine their physical appearance. It's what makes them memorable and relatable. So, how do you develop a unique personality for your comic character design?

Define their backstory: Every character has a story. Where did they come from? What triumphs and struggles have they faced? How have these experiences shaped their personality? A well-thought-out backstory can give depth to your character and influence their actions and decisions in the comic.

Identify their traits: Is your character cheerful or grumpy? Are they brave or timid? Outgoing or introverted? Identifying their personality traits can guide how they interact with other characters and react to different situations. For instance, a brave character might charge headfirst into danger, while a timid one might hesitate or try to find a safer solution.

Create their quirks: Quirks make a character unique. It could be a catchphrase they always say, a habit they can't break, or a peculiar way they react to certain things. Think of these quirks as the spices in your comic character design recipe—they add flavor and make your character stand out.

Think about their motivations: What drives your character? What are their hopes, dreams, and fears? Their motivations can shape their goals and the actions they take to achieve them. It's like the fuel that powers your character's journey through the comic.

Developing a unique character personality can be just as fun as designing their physical appearance. And when you blend the two together—well, that's when the magic of comic character design truly happens.

Play with expressive facial features

Now that we've breathed life into our characters with engaging personalities, let's emphasize that life with expressive facial features. In comic character design, a character's face is a playground of emotion and expression. Here's how you can use that to your advantage:

Focus on the Eyes: They say the eyes are the windows to the soul, right? A slight change in the shape or angle of the eyes can dramatically alter a character's emotion. Experiment with different sizes, shapes, and positions to see what works best for each emotion you want to convey.

Manipulate the Eyebrows: Eyebrows are like the punctuation marks of facial expressions. Raised eyebrows can indicate surprise or fear, while furrowed brows might suggest anger or concentration. Don't be afraid to exaggerate these features for a more impactful comic character design.

Work on the Mouth: From a wide grin to a thin line of annoyance, the mouth can mirror a wide range of emotions. Consider the shape and size of your character's mouth and how it changes with each expression.

Nose and Cheek Expressions: While often overlooked, the nose and cheeks can also be part of the expression party. For instance, a scrunching nose can indicate disgust, while flushed cheeks might suggest embarrassment.

Remember, comic character design is all about exaggeration and stylization. So, let your imagination run wild and play around with these facial features. You'll be surprised at how much emotion a few simple lines can convey!

Design distinct costumes and accessories

Let's move onto another exciting aspect of comic character design: costumes and accessories. These elements play a key role in making your character stand out. They tell a story about who the character is, where they come from and what they do.

Start with the Basics: Before you add any fancy bits, build your character's basic outfit. Is it a superhero suit, a casual outfit, or perhaps a medieval armor? The clothes should match the character's personality and the setting of your comic.

Add Unique Accessories: After the basic outfit, think about the unique items your character might carry. A magical staff, a high-tech gadget, or a simple backpack; any of these can add depth to your character's story. Remember, each accessory should serve a purpose or reflect the character's personality.

Consider the Colors: Color can communicate a lot about your character. A character dressed in darker shades might be mysterious or brooding, while bright colors could suggest a cheerful and energetic personality. Experiment with different color combinations and see what suits your character the best.

Think About Practicality: Last but not least, make sure your character's outfit and accessories are practical for their lifestyle. An adventurer wouldn't wear high heels to a mountain trek, right?

Designing costumes and accessories might seem like a daunting task, but it's a lot of fun once you get started. It's where your creativity truly shines in the comic character design process. So grab your sketchbook and let's start designing!

Experiment with color and shading

Now that we've designed some eye-catching costumes and accessories, it's time to add another layer of depth to our comic character design with color and shading. Harnessing the power of these elements can help your characters pop from the page and take on a life of their own.

Understand the Color Theory: Colors aren't just about making your character look pretty; they can also convey emotions and set the mood. A character with a lot of red might feel passionate or intense, while a character with a lot of blue might come across as calm or melancholic. Do some research on color theory and see how you can use it to enhance your character's personality.

Utilize Shading: Shading isn't just for 3D effects; it can also highlight your character's form and emphasize certain aspects of their design. For example, you might use darker shading on a muscular character to accentuate their strength, or lighter shading on a slender character to emphasize their agility.

Experiment with Different Techniques: Don't limit yourself to just one way of doing things. Try out different coloring and shading techniques to see what works best for your style and your character. You might be surprised at the results!

Keep Consistency: While it's great to experiment, remember to keep your coloring and shading consistent throughout your comic. This will help maintain a cohesive look and feel, and make your comic easier for the readers to follow.

Color and shading can be tricky to master, but with some practice, you can use them to take your comic character design to the next level. So keep those colored pencils or digital tools ready, and let's bring your characters to life!

Try different perspectives and angles

After we've added color and shading to our comic character design, it's time to put them in action. One way to make your characters feel more dynamic and alive is to try drawing them from different perspectives and angles.

Explore Various Perspectives: Drawing your character from different perspectives can give them a lot more depth and dimension. Try sketching your character from above, below, sideways, and even from the back. This exercise not only provides a complete view but also helps you understand their 3D form better.

Play with Angles: Just like a movie director uses different camera angles to tell a story, you can use different drawing angles to give your character more depth. For instance, a low angle can make your character look powerful and intimidating, while a high angle can make them appear vulnerable or small.

Break Free from the Front View: It's easy to fall into the trap of always drawing your character from the front. But remember, comic character design is all about motion and action, and your character is not always going to be standing still. So try to capture them in different poses and movements to make your design more dynamic.

Practice, Practice, Practice: Drawing from different perspectives and angles can be challenging at first, but don't let that discourage you. The more you practice, the more comfortable and confident you'll become.

So grab your sketchbook or digital tablet, start experimenting with different perspectives and angles, and watch your comic character design come to life in all its dynamic glory!

Use references for authenticity

When it comes to comic character design, authenticity plays a big role. And using references can be an excellent way to add a touch of realism to your characters. But how do you use references effectively? Let's break it down.

Collect Visual References: Start by gathering a set of images that inspire you. These could be photos of people, animals, clothing, or even sculptures and paintings. The goal is to find elements you can incorporate into your character design to make it more believable and engaging.

Inspiration from Real Life: Real life is full of interesting characters. Whether it's a unique facial expression, a quirky way of dressing, or a distinctive body posture, these details can add depth to your comic characters. So the next time you're out and about, keep your eyes open for inspiration.

Use References for Poses: Drawing poses can be tricky, especially if you're just starting out. Using a reference image can help you understand how the body moves and reacts in different situations. This will add dynamism and movement to your comic character design.

Respect the Reference: While references are great for inspiration, it's important to use them respectfully. Avoid copying an entire image or design outright. Instead, use it as a starting point to create your own unique character.

References can be a powerful tool in your comic character design toolkit. By incorporating elements from real life and other art forms, you can create characters that are not only visually interesting but also authentic and relatable.

Practice consistency in your comic character design

Consistency is key in any form of art, and comic character design is no exception. But, how do you maintain consistency while keeping your characters interesting? Let’s explore some strategies.

Maintain Proportions: Consistent proportions are vital in comic character design. If your character is tall and lanky in one panel but short and stout in the next, your readers might get confused. So, keep a check on your character's proportions throughout your work.

Identify Signature Features: Every character should have one or two signature features that make them stand out. This could be a hairstyle, a tattoo, or even a particular clothing item. Having a 'signature style' will help your readers instantly recognize your character, even if other aspects of their design change over time.

Use a Character Sheet: A character sheet can be your best friend when it comes to maintaining consistency. This is basically a cheat sheet that contains all the important information about your character, like their height, weight, eye color, clothing style, and so on. Refer back to this sheet whenever you're in doubt.

Be Consistent with Colors: Colors can greatly influence how your character is perceived. If you decide that your character always wears a red scarf, then that red scarf should appear in every panel where your character is present.

Remember, consistency in comic character design doesn’t mean that your characters should look the same in every panel. Rather, it means maintaining a sense of continuity that holds your story together and makes your characters recognizable and relatable to your readers. So keep practicing, and soon, consistency will become second nature!

Get feedback and improve your work

Feedback is an incredible tool for growth, especially when it comes to comic character design. It exposes you to different perspectives and can help you identify areas for improvement that you may have overlooked.

Embrace Constructive Criticism: It can sting a bit when someone points out a flaw in your work. But remember, constructive criticism isn't a personal attack—it's a valuable insight that can help you improve. So, listen with an open mind and don't hesitate to ask questions to understand the feedback better.

Seek Out Diverse Opinions: Don't limit yourself to feedback from fellow artists. Non-artists can provide a fresh perspective on your work. They might not know the technicalities of comic character design, but they can give you insight into how engaging and relatable your character is to the average reader.

Act on Feedback: Feedback is useless if you don't act on it. Once you've gathered feedback, take some time to reflect on it. Then, make a plan to incorporate the useful suggestions into your work. You'll be amazed at how much you can improve by making small adjustments.

Stay True to Your Style: While it's important to listen to feedback, you should also stay true to your style. You're the one who knows your character best. So, while you should consider all feedback, remember that you have the final say in your comic character design.

Getting feedback is a continuous process. It helps you to grow as an artist and refine your skills in comic character design. So, don't shy away from it. Instead, embrace it and use it to fuel your journey towards becoming a better comic character designer.

If you're excited about developing your skills in comic character design, we highly recommend the workshop 'Creating Characters: The Design Process' by Kit Buss. This workshop will provide you with valuable tips and techniques to create unique and captivating characters for your comic projects. Don't miss this opportunity to learn from a professional comic artist and take your character design skills to new heights!