Designing Bold Animated Characters: Tips & Practices
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 11 min read


  1. Character Design Inspiration
  2. Sketching Your Character
  3. Defining Character Personalities
  4. Character Color Selection
  5. Creating Character Movement
  6. Designing Character Costumes
  7. Developing Character Backgrounds
  8. Character Animation Techniques
  9. How to Revise and Refine
  10. Showcase Character Design

Creating a unique, bold style for your animated characters is a journey—exciting, challenging, and immensely rewarding. It's a process that requires a good pinch of imagination, a dash of creativity, and a hefty spoonful of patience. Let's dive into this adventure together, exploring strategies and techniques to bring your animated characters to life, bursting with personality and style. Ready to make your characters unforgettable? Let's get started.

Character Design Inspiration

Finding inspiration for your characters is like going on a treasure hunt. You never know where the next golden idea might come from. Here are some tips to make the quest for your perfect character style a tad easier:

  • Start with Real Life: People you know, people you see on the street, even your old school teacher, could be the spark for your next character. Real life is often stranger than fiction and makes an excellent starting point when creating a strong style for animated characters.
  • Explore Various Art Forms: Don't limit yourself to animation alone. Explore fine art, graphic design, comic books, and even sculptures. Different art forms can offer fresh perspectives and innovative ideas for your character's style.
  • Travel Through Time: History is a treasure trove of inspiration. The flamboyant styles of the 1920s, the sleek minimalism of the future—different eras can provide unique style elements for your characters.
  • Dive into Different Cultures: From the vibrant colors of India to the elegant simplicity of Japan, exploring different cultures can provide a feast of inspiration for your character design.
  • Embrace Nature: The animal kingdom and the natural world are rich sources of inspiration. From the sleekness of a panther to the colors of a tropical bird, nature can inspire dynamic, bold character styles.

Remember, there's no limit to where you can find inspiration. Stay open, curious, and ready to discover. The world is your oyster when it comes to creating strong style for animated characters!

Sketching Your Character

Now that your mind is brimming with inspiration, it's time to put pen to paper. Sketching is an important step in creating a strong style for animated characters. Here's how you can make the most of it:

  • Start with Basics: Before you get into the details, start with simple shapes. Circles, squares, triangles—basic shapes can help you define the overall structure of your character.
  • Experiment with Proportions: Playing with proportions can dramatically change the look and feel of your character. A character with a large head and small body can give off a cute, cartoonish vibe, while long legs and a sleek body can suggest elegance and grace.
  • Focus on the Face: The face is the most expressive part of the character. Spend time on the eyes, nose, mouth, and other facial features. Experiment with different shapes and sizes until you get the expression you want.
  • Don't Forget the Hands and Feet: Hands and feet can be tricky, but they're crucial for conveying character personality. Practice drawing different hand gestures and foot positions to create a well-rounded character.
  • Iterate, Iterate, Iterate: Don't settle for the first sketch. Draw and redraw your character several times. With each iteration, you'll discover something new and inch closer to the perfect character style.

Sketching may seem daunting at first, but remember, every great character started as a simple doodle. So grab your sketchbook and let your creativity flow. You're on your way to creating a strong style for animated characters!

Defining Character Personalities

Creating strong style for animated characters isn't just about how they look—it's also about who they are. Defining your characters' personalities is key to making them engaging and memorable. Here's how you can do it:

  • Character Traits: Start by listing out traits for your character. Is your character shy or outgoing? Kind or mischievous? These traits can guide their actions and reactions, making your character more believable.
  • Backstories: Every character has a story. Where they come from, what they've experienced, how they've grown—these elements can deeply influence a character's personality. Plus, a compelling backstory can make your audience more invested in your character.
  • Goals and Motivations: What does your character want? What drives them to take action? Whether it's saving the world or simply finding a lost item, having clear goals and motivations can give your character a purpose.
  • Strengths and Weaknesses: No one is perfect—and neither is your character. Their strengths can make them admirable, while their weaknesses can make them relatable. Strike a balance between the two to create a well-rounded character.
  • Interactions: How your character interacts with others can reveal a lot about their personality. Think about how they speak, what they say, and how they react to different situations. This can add depth to your character and make them more interesting.

Remember, the best characters are not just visually distinctive, but also emotionally engaging. By defining their personalities, you are not just creating characters—you're creating beings your audience can connect with.

Character Color Selection

Now that you have your character's personality nailed down, it's time to give them a visual identity. Color plays a significant role in creating a strong style for animated characters. So, how do you go about selecting the right colors for your characters?

  1. Emotions and Personality: Colors can represent different emotions or personality traits. Warm colors like red and yellow can denote energy and optimism, while cool colors like blue and green can suggest calmness and intelligence. Let's say, if you're creating a fiery, passionate character, you might want to use reds and oranges, while a serene, wise character might be better suited to blues and purples.
  2. Contrast: Contrasting colors can make your characters stand out and be more visually appealing. If your character has a lot of one color, consider adding a few elements of a contrasting color to balance it out and make your character more interesting.
  3. Consistency: It's also important to keep your character's colors consistent. This will help your audience recognize your character quickly and easily, even in different scenes or scenarios.
  4. Environment: Consider the colors of your character's environment. If your character spends a lot of time in a green forest, for example, you might want to avoid making them green too, so they don't blend in too much.

Color selection can be a fun and creative process. But don't forget, it's not just about making your characters look good—it's about using color to enhance your character's personality and make them more memorable.

Creating Character Movement

Once you've added color to your vibrant character, it's time to bring them to life with motion. Animation breathes life into your characters, and the way they move can say a lot about who they are. Creating strong style for animated characters involves paying attention to their movement.

  1. Character Personality: Just like colors, the way a character moves should reflect their personality. A nervous character might have twitchy, erratic movements, while a confident one could strut with big, bold strides. Think about how real people move and express their personalities through their body language.
  2. Physics: Even in the world of animation, the laws of physics still apply. Whether your character is jumping, running, or just walking, their movements should align with how things move in the real world. This doesn't mean you can't exaggerate for comedic or dramatic effect, but a basic understanding of physics will make your animations more believable.
  3. Consistency: Just like colors, your character's movements should be consistent. This helps your audience understand and recognize your character. If your character is usually slow and careful, it might be surprising if they suddenly move quickly without a good reason.
  4. Animation Techniques: There are many different animation techniques you can use, from traditional hand-drawn animation to modern computer-generated animation. The right technique can depend on your skills, your resources, and the style you want for your character.

Remember, creating a strong style for animated characters is not just about how they look, but also how they move. So take the time to consider your character's movements and how they can enhance their personality and style.

Designing Character Costumes

What your animated character wears can tell a story on its own. Costumes are a powerful tool for character development, setting the scene, and creating a strong style for animated characters. Your character's wardrobe can speak volumes about who they are, where they come from, and what their role is in your story. Here are some points to consider when designing your character's clothes:

  1. Keep it Relevant: The costume should fit the character's persona, environment, and era. A princess would probably wear a dress while a detective might sport a trench coat. Also, consider the era and location your story is set in. If your character is in a futuristic city, their attire should reflect that.
  2. Uniqueness: Uniqueness in costume design can make your character stand out. But remember, it should still be believable within the context of your story. A pirate with a neon tutu might be unique, but does it fit your story?
  3. Colors and Patterns: Just like in character design, color theory plays a big role in costume design too. Colors can represent personality traits, moods, and even allegiances. Patterns can also add an extra layer of depth to your character's attire.
  4. Functionality: Functionality is key, especially in action-packed animations. If your character is a superhero, they'll need a costume that won't restrict their movements. A ballerina wouldn't be able to dance in a heavy, cumbersome outfit.

Remember, creating a strong style for animated characters extends to their costumes too. A well thought-out costume can make your character more relatable, interesting, and memorable.

Developing Character Backgrounds

Developing your character's background can be quite the adventure. It's like piecing together a puzzle, where every detail adds depth and substance to your animated character. This background helps shape their motivations, attitudes, and actions, playing a big role in creating a strong style for animated characters. Here are some elements to consider when working on your character's past:

  1. Family and upbringing: A character's family and how they were raised can greatly influence their personality. Were they brought up in a loving home or did they have to fend for themselves? This aspect can play a significant role in their behavior and motivations.
  2. Education and skills: What kind of education does your character have? Are they a scholar or did they learn everything they know from the school of life? The skills they possess can be a direct result of their education and it can also influence their occupation.
  3. Experiences and traumas: Past experiences, especially traumatic ones, can have a profound impact on a character's personality and actions. Maybe your character is a brave warrior because they had to protect their family at a young age, or perhaps they're scared of fire because their house burned down when they were a child.
  4. Values and beliefs: A character's values and beliefs can tell us a lot about who they are. These can guide their decisions and actions throughout your story. For example, a character who strongly values honesty will have problems lying, even if it's for a good cause.

Creating a strong style for animated characters involves more than just their physical appearance and actions. It's about crafting a complete persona with a past, present, and future. So, take your time when developing your character's background. It will be worth it in the end!

Character Animation Techniques

When we think about creating a strong style for animated characters, we often focus on design and personality. But how a character moves and interacts with their environment is equally vital. Animation techniques can bring your characters to life, adding depth and relatability. Let's explore some fundamental techniques you can employ:

  1. Squash and Stretch: This principle involves distorting an object or character to emphasize their speed, momentum, or weight. It's a great way to add a sense of elasticity and exaggeration to your animations.
  2. Anticipation: Before any significant action, there's usually a build-up. For instance, before a character jumps, they bend their knees and lower their body. This technique creates a sense of realism and expectation.
  3. Staging: Like in theatre, staging in animation is about directing the viewer's attention. You can use it to highlight important actions or changes in your character's emotions.
  4. Straight Ahead and Pose-to-Pose: Straight ahead animation involves creating each frame one after the other, while pose-to-pose involves creating key poses and then filling in the intervals. Both techniques have their pros and cons, and your choice should depend on the scene and your animation style.
  5. Follow Through and Overlapping Action: These techniques are about portraying inertia and timing in your animations. They add a sense of fluidity and continuity, making your characters feel more realistic.

Animation techniques are tools to help you tell your character's story more effectively. When done right, they can provide your characters with a strong, distinctive style that sets them apart. So, don't be afraid to experiment with different techniques until you find what works best for your characters!

How to Revise and Refine

Creating strong style for animated characters is a process — it doesn't happen overnight. But with each revision and refinement, your characters will become more vibrant, unique, and compelling. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you through the refining process:

  1. Step Back and Analyze: After you've sketched out your character, take a step back. Look at it from a distance. What stands out? What fades into the background? This perspective can give you fresh insights on what to enhance and what to tone down.
  2. Seek Feedback: Sometimes, we can get too close to our work and miss out on glaring issues. That's where feedback comes in handy. Show your work to peers, mentors, or anyone whose opinion you value. Their fresh eyes can point out areas you may have overlooked.
  3. Experiment with Variations: Don't be afraid to try different things. Experiment with colors, shapes, and styles. You might stumble upon a combination that clicks perfectly with your character's personality.
  4. Refine the Details: Details can make or break your character design. Pay attention to the small things — the curve of a smile, the tilt of an eyebrow, or the texture of clothing. These elements can add depth and complexity to your characters.
  5. Retest Your Design: After making changes, retest your design. See how it looks on different platforms and in various contexts. This step will help ensure your character's style remains strong and consistent.

Remember, revision is not a sign of weakness or failure. It's a crucial step in the creative process, one that brings you closer to creating strong style for animated characters. So embrace it, enjoy it, and watch as your characters come alive!

Showcase Character Design

Creating strong style for animated characters is a rewarding journey, and the final destination is well worth it. But, don't let your bold, animated characters stay locked away in your sketchbook or computer — it's time to showcase them!

  1. Portfolio: Your portfolio is the perfect place to show off your work. It's a resource for potential clients or employers to see what you're capable of, and a well-curated portfolio can open doors for you.
  2. Social Media: Platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, and Behance are great for showcasing your work. They allow you to reach a wider audience and engage with fellow artists and potential clients.
  3. Animation Festivals: Submitting your work to animation festivals can be a great way to get exposure. And who knows? Your animated character might just win an award!
  4. Community Events: Participate in local art shows, comic cons, and other community events. They provide a platform for you to display your work and interact with potential clients and fellow artists.
  5. Online Marketplaces: Websites like Etsy or Redbubble allow artists to sell their work. You could create prints, stickers, or merchandise featuring your animated characters.

The journey of creating strong style for animated characters doesn't end once you've finished your design. By showcasing your work, you're not only sharing your talent with the world but also building connections and opportunities for the future. So, go forth and let your characters shine!

If you're excited about designing bold animated characters and want to learn more about the design process, be sure to check out our 'Daisie Original Animation Course' with none another than Alex Jenkins who will you take you through his complete animation process. Dive in and take your animation skills to the next level!