Life & Style tutorial: Design a character for a T-shirt print

Speakerdog creator Ben the Illustrator, guides you through your own character creation – and then from screen to printed T-shirt.

Character creation is a personal thing. Anyone can doodle stick drawings and scrappy characters, but armed with an insider’s knowledge of cracking character design, you can breathe life into any design.

Characters can be created in any application – from 2D pixels to 3D models – but vector-based artwork holds a special place in any creative’s mind. And vector-based characters can make the jump from screen to screen-print with ease.

For this tutorial, Ben the Illustrator reveals the process he goes through to create one of his famed characters – and he has created a special character just for Digital Arts readers.

His original sketch is also included on the cover CD so you can follow along and learn that good characters come down to background, colour, and line control. The secret, though, isn't just about pixel pushing.

Character design involves actually getting to know your character and its reason for being. One trick is to keep a scratchpad handy with you at all times, and especially on your studio desk.

When you fancy, doodle, draw and explore character shapes and designs, gradually building up a look-&-feel to your design. At the same time, explore what motivates your character – and what message it is trying to bring to the viewer. Once this is solved, the actual design in Illustrator is made far easier – and designs can be modified for a genuine reason.

Step 1
Before sketching your character on paper with a pencil, you need to decide what it will be (human? dog? flower? suitcase?) and think about its personality and the feeling of your piece. Is it to be heartwarming, intelligent, or violent? Keep experimenting with your sketches to find the perfect design. Try different ways of drawing facial features and body shapes.

Step 2
It’s also worth giving it a purpose. Is it to be informative or entertaining? What will it bring to the viewer? You may want to add props to strengthen its integrity or charm. In this tutorial, we’re going to be working with Sanchez, an office boy/flower that tells us all to spend less time in the office and more time outside.

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