As a pre-amble  to this lesson, here is an example of a children’s book re-illustrated:

Sarah Maycock re-illustrated Audrey and Don Woods Quick as a Cricket

This is the Original:

This is Sarah Maycock’s remake (she’s changed the wording which you don’t have to):



In this lesson you should learn the process that illustrators use to design characters.   The main character in a children’s book needs to STEAL THE SHOW.

You will:

1.  learn three important rules of character design

2. Practice designing your main character, and

3. Revise and refine your main character’s design.

You will need: 

-the materials that you choose to use for your children’s book project (pencil crayons, crayons, paint, collage, plasticine, felt pens, digital program, paper cuts, or any others y0u choose) Remember: use what YOU want to handle for this project

– And your sketchbook

Before beginning drawing/making your character please write a list of 8 personality traits that your character has in this story.  Your character’s appearance must represent these traits.  It is important that you are very clear on what those traits are.  Your story’s character has already been developed by the original author.  You are not changing the character’s traits, only the character design.    What are your character’s personality traits?  Evil? Heroic? Kind-hearted? Bold and outgoing?

Once you have made your list…. It is time to design.  How do you show his/her traits visually, in the character’s appearance?

As you are designing be sure to keep it simple because in children’s book illustration you will need to draw the character many times.  If its a complicated design it is too difficult to remake on so many pages.

FIRST: The first most important principle of good, memorable imaginary character design is that the character’s SILOUETTE needs to be distinguishable.  For example, if I blackened in the body of Mickey Mouse, or Bart Simpson everyone would know who the character was simply by its silhouette.  So to draw an imaginary character with a unique and distinguishable silhouette you need to begin designing using a basic shape, either a square, a circle, or a triangle –which of these three shapes best speaks about your character’s traits?  Select ONE of the three shapes and draft a design of your character.

Also, what 1 or 2 things could you give your character to hold or wear that could help to describe his/her character?  It should be something that can be uniquely attributed to that character (Superman has a cape and an emblem on his chest and Mickey Mouse has red pants and white gloves).

SECOND: The second important principle of a good, memorable and effective character design is the colour palette that you use for it.  You know that colour is psychology, so colours speak about the personality of your character.  What Colours represent your character’s personality? Delicate, soft colours? Harsh one? Dark ones? Child-like bright colours? A character should have NO MORE THAN 3 colours on it.  The colours you select and use need to explicitly represent your character’s traits.

THIRD: The third important principle of good character design is you need to exaggerate, I mean REALLY exaggerate some of your character’s features.  What attributes about your character could you Exaggerate so that his/her character is better described (Superman has an extra big chest and arm muscles)?  Select the features that speak of its traits -for example the nose if it smells things in the story, or the soft fuzzy fur if it does cozy soft behaviours.  It is not enough for its traits to be subtle.  Kids are not subtle.  You have to be blatant and big about traits.

LAST: The character’s eyes are the one area that will change and show expression as the story changes.  Therefor the eyes need to be simple and clear.

I’m using my friends at BaM Animation to better tell you about these three important factors to consider when designing a great 3D imaginary character:  CLARITY of Silouette, Colour palette, and  Exaggeration.  Please watch their video:

After watching their video please make a final version of your character’s design USING THE ART MEDIUM THAT YOU WILL USE TO ILLUSTRATE YOUR CHILDREN”S BOOK with.  When you think your design checks well with these three important qualities: SILOUHETTE, PALETTE, and EXAGGERATION,  oh ya! And EYES!,   then send me a photo of your character’s design.   I’ll give you feedback.

Please complete your design and send to me by THIS FRIDAY, May 15.   I will give you feedback over the weekend.

Criteria for your character design:           Character Design assessment           /20  (each out of 4)

  1. Silouette is simple and recognizable
  2. Colours are a simple scheme (no more than 3) and are symbolic of the character’s traits
  3. Features of the character are exaggerated symbolically of the traits
  4. Character’s eyes are clear and easy to manipulate for different expressions
  5. List of 8 character traits included