Illustrator maestro Alexis West demonstrates how to magic up appealing characters using a pencil, a computer and bags of imagination.

The ability to dream up and design cool, dynamic people is a good skill for any graphic designer to have under their belt, whether you’re basing whole graphic novels around them or just using them to add a quirky twist to flyers or T-shirt designs.

Character design is a great chance to really let your imagination run wild – the sky’s the limit. In this tutorial, you’ll learn some basic skills for converting your character from a pencil doodle to a complete, fully-coloured image – learning some crucial Illustrator skills along the way.

Step 1
The best way to begin creating a character is with pencil and paper. Doodle your ideas, keeping your mind open: the results will speak for themselves. When developing your character, don’t force it, let it emerge naturally: think of personality and even names. Try not to make any of these elements overly ‘wacky’ for the sake of it. Think of a way to further intensify emotion and expression – one of my personal stamps is that I rarely give my characters large or distinctive mouths, thus emphasizing their eyes.

Step 2
Once you have developed a character, a great way to express their personality is to imagine a scenario that depicts a sense of narrative. My character is a bit punky, so to further emphasize this, I have developed a little scene where she is disrupting a peaceful scene. Another great way to emphasize your character is to place them in a scene that contrasts with their personality.