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How to Draw Unique Characters by napalmnacey How to Draw Unique Characters by napalmnacey

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Hey everyone. This is the tutorial that goes with the 25 Essential Expressions exercise sheet.

Now, I want it to be understood that I don't think this is the only way or even the best way to make unique characters. The beauty of comic art is that it's infinitely varied and approached from all different angles. I just wanted to share how I do it, and a couple of weaknesses I've noticed in the dominant styles and how I personally try to work around those. Remember that above all, you gotta play to your strengths. I remember agonizing over my style to a colleague once, and she said to me, "Yeah, but that's your style and it's great." So often in comic art guides I see instructions that basically tell you to drop everything that makes your art unique - don't do this! In the final figure in the tutorial, you'll see me try to do traditional western comic style, and then I do my own style. The first style is neater, but the second style, as bobbly and loose as it is, has a lot more emotion in it.

I'm rambling. Thank thank thank THANK you for all the wonderful feedback with 25 Essential Expressions! I'm touched beyond words. Feel free to share any good sketches you might make from this tutorial - I love to see if I've helped anyone out!

Lots of love and hugs,
Nancy.
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:iconadoptsbot:
adoptsbot Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2017
every real human face that you showed looked exactly the same to me, so i don't understand your first point that all faces look different. they all look the same! every last face!
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:iconthemagicalbean652:
TheMagicalBean652 Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2018  Student General Artist
I know right? Kinda confused me....
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:iconrobhadford:
RobHadford Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2016  Student Traditional Artist
Thank you very much for your tutorial!
Maybe to you it might be a bit outdated (as I don't know how your way of working charcters out has changed) but I consider it a very helpful source.
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:icondarkmusou:
DarkMusou Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2015  Student Digital Artist
I'm not sure how old this is, but I am really grateful to have stumbled upon it. It's great to know that I need to think about the features first, and feel comfortable with my style. (whatever it may be)

Thank you very much for this tutorial!
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:iconumbrella4c:
umbrella4c Featured By Owner Oct 14, 2015
thanks it really helpful ^^
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:iconmiriadel15:
Miriadel15 Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2015
Thank you for the tutorial ^^
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:iconrufah7:
Rufah7 Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2014   General Artist
Thanks a lot for doing this. .n.
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:iconnealin:
Nealin Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2014  Hobbyist
FINALLY! ;_; *weeps honest tears of relief and happiness*

Every few years I remember this and that I need to re-review. Every few years I mentally (and sometimes quite audibly) scold myself for not saving it to favourites and to my computer and question why on earth I wouldn't have done that. Once I've checked every piece in my favourites, gone through my harddrive and searched DeviantArt (wondering why this doesn't appear at the top or even middle of DeviantArt searches on character creation guides and tips, worried that might mean it has been removed) I go to google and rinse and repeat. Google likewise turns up nothing.

And then, when after hours or even days I find it (searching through my browser history from years back or, less obsessively and creepy, restrict time period and google some more) I ... yet again don't do those things because I figure I will remember this because I have "25 Essential Expressions" saved. I never do. I do stare at the essential expressions (on DA favs, and DA search and on my HDD...) and think really hard that "didn't I find that around the same time, could this be a clue?"

Well, I am an idiot, you are a brilliant genius and I am immediately saving this to harddisk, favourites and USB.

So in closing: thank you so much for both this and "the 25" and for keeping it up on DA for everyone to benefit from! I wouldn't be going through this insane goose-chase every few years if I didn't love it so much and if it wasn't amazingly well-made. When I found this I was 100% into cartoony-mangaish characters and all the guides for creating unique characters felt like they were telling me that unique characters meant: 1. making them less cartoony; 2. I would have to draw hours upon hours of pure realism to get it right, and: 3. make sure my characters were all sort of "ugly" (their words, not mine). If I hadn't found this inspiring guide I would likely have stopped drawing once I realised I wasn't progressing and all my characters were dull and generic.

Sorry for being a doofus. I mean, am I even following you? Probably not. *shakes head and does so* Much love! <3
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:iconelrhiarhodan:
Elrhiarhodan Featured By Owner Aug 8, 2014  Student General Artist
This is really good stuff! Thank you.
Reply
:iconandromedano:
AndromedAno Featured By Owner Jun 27, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
This is excellent, very useful! Thank you for sharing!
Reply
:icontalisath:
talisath Featured By Owner May 30, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Great tutorial, thanks a lot:)
Reply
:iconaevrynn:
aevrynn Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
This is really helpful. ^^ My problem is I can't draw people realistically... So even if my characters have unique faces, I can't capture them on paper. I hadn't thought of piking a certain actress/model to use as a reference. Greta Garbo still doesn't look very much like the character I'll be using her for, but she's got some of the same facial features and that helps a lot. :)
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:iconviktorio:
Viktorio Featured By Owner Apr 22, 2014
I just have to print this. Thank you very much!
Reply
:icontherebelcats:
TheRebelCats Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2014  Student Traditional Artist
Thank you :D this is fabulous XD
Reply
:iconinvaderzina1214:
Invaderzina1214 Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
This has helped me out a lot thank you!
Reply
:icontekitomadachi:
tekitomadachi Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Awesome! Thank you for making this! :hug: :D
Reply
:iconlil-lion-cub:
lil-lion-cub Featured By Owner Oct 14, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
This is so helpful, thank you so much! I have over 50 (I'm actually not exaggerating, I think it's 54) characters, and I feel they're all the same, but they're also all really different, but with my drawing style there is literally only hair colour and style, and eye colour, and what they wear that sets them apart. I'm going to spend the next few days improving my drawing, because so far all I do is quick sketching, and of course developing my characters. You're awesome, this was so helpful.
Reply
:iconforeststone:
Foreststone Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Oh my God thank you :tighthug:! This is going to help me so much! YOU are AMAZING dont let ANYONE tell you different!! :heart:
Reply
:iconavathae-mangaka:
Avathae-Mangaka Featured By Owner Sep 16, 2013  Professional Traditional Artist
this is the fifth time I have read this; I have to say, each time I do, I enjoy it a little more. I would like to thank you for taking the time to share this amazing tutorial, and in turn, providing a plethora of tips, guides, and lastly, hints on how to make the characters more unique. Your artwork is very unique and is very appealing to the eye. Keep up the amazing work! :)
Reply
:iconbjoernsiebolds:
BjoernSiebolds Featured By Owner Jul 13, 2013   Digital Artist
Helpful! :)
Reply
:icondinosapien:
dinosapien Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2013  Student Artist
I HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR THIS MY ENTIRE LIFE
Reply
:iconinkcharmer:
inkcharmer Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Very helpful...
Reply
:iconchucklingdevil:
ChucklingDevil Featured By Owner Jun 12, 2013
Thank you so much for this! I've been trying to come up with a unique style and this will definitely help :D
Reply
:iconookami-kuchioshii:
ookami-kuchioshii Featured By Owner Jun 2, 2013
Thank you, this should come in handy, as well as your meme. I often try to think about varying character designs, but sometimes I do find myself recycling ideas. However my art style is constantly evolving, so in a way they look different, but I also don't want them to look like they all come from different universes. I will refer to this in the future. Thank you!
Reply
:iconfuyu-oleander:
fuyu-oleander Featured By Owner Apr 4, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This is a great guide!
Reply
:iconsmoothcolor:
SmoothColor Featured By Owner Apr 2, 2013  Student Digital Artist
Love it!! It will get good use in my upcoming project!
Reply
:iconthelytlemonster:
thelytlemonster Featured By Owner Jan 27, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
This is brilliant! Thank you for sharing :3
Reply
:iconyo-yo-girl12:
Yo-yo-girl12 Featured By Owner Nov 23, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
Incredibly useful.
Reply
:iconamy-hands:
Amy-Hands Featured By Owner Oct 15, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
This has been featured in my journal [link] !
Reply
:iconanthum:
Anthum Featured By Owner Aug 27, 2012  Student General Artist
I could only get 15 of the 25 to fit on my paper ha!
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:iconmiisladesuenos:
miisladesuenos Featured By Owner Aug 14, 2012
Really helpful; thanks alot! :)
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:iconjburns272:
Jburns272 Featured By Owner Aug 2, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Nice tutorial. I haven't tried out the 25 Essential Expressions yet, but I'm very keen to now :)
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:iconmisstooni:
MissTooni Featured By Owner Jul 11, 2012  Professional Filmographer
Saw the link to this on the 25 essential expressions chart, and it's very helpful! Thank you~!
Reply
:iconx-rayi3:
X-RayI3 Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2012
Thanks a lot ^-^
Reply
:iconmrpuffydragon:
MRPUFFYDRAGON Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2012
Thank You for this class. It will help me to get started with the anime characters for the short movie I want to do. Thank You again.
Reply
:iconkonikaa:
Konikaa Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2012  Student Digital Artist
Wonderful job :) Sure to be helpful to all!
Reply
:iconcomicscomixcomikz:
comicscomixcomikz Featured By Owner Jun 20, 2012  Hobbyist Artist
I honestly appreciate your presentation of the material as much as the material itself. THX so Very Much.
Reply
:iconamyaddict1:
AmyAddict1 Featured By Owner Jun 16, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
I've read this over. Looks very good and I love how you tell people to adapt to their own style and not just copy what's in a book, comic, etc. I think my main issue with getting into drawing is that I focused too much on making my characters look just like other people (deviants) or the professionals (SEGA, Sonic Team, Nintendo, etc). I'm hoping I will take the advice you've put here and be able to be pleased with my work. Thank you for creating this guide.
Reply
:iconrx31:
RX31 Featured By Owner Jun 15, 2012
Thank you! Very useful.
Reply
:iconthe-led:
the-LED Featured By Owner Jun 11, 2012  Student Filmographer
Great! Very much help, particularly with animation. I can see this sort of planning and reference research as being very useful to an animator :) Thank you for all the time you spent on this!
Reply
:iconthe-led:
the-LED Featured By Owner Jun 11, 2012  Student Filmographer
Arg! I have to go to work now, but I will certainly come back and read this later. Love the 25 Essential Expressions worksheet that goes with it, great tool!
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:iconnebetseta:
NebetSeta Featured By Owner May 25, 2012  Student General Artist
Thank you! :heart:
Reply
:iconkielrae:
Kielrae Featured By Owner Apr 5, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
you know what's kind of funny?

about a year ago, i ended up at your deviantart account while investigating your 25 essential expressions meme. i faved it and downloaded it with the full intention of filling it out, but i never did it. when i got a new computer, i forgot about it.

well, today i stumbled across a lovely tumbler called 'comic art corrections' and am in the process of reading it from the beginning. its message, apt! its corrected anatomy, wonderful! its commentary, insightful!

and there was a link and i clicked it and, lo! 'twas you. it was your tumblr. so, umm, wow i don't remember where i was going with this beyond an excuse to use melodromatic prose, but anyway! thanks for doing what you're doing.
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:iconox-cab:
OX-CAB Featured By Owner Jan 16, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
very helpful
Reply
:iconcacophonyy:
cacophonyy Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2011  Professional General Artist
Will be helpful, thanks!
Reply
:icontopdownshooter200:
Topdownshooter200 Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2011  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
what ever helps me.
Reply
:iconexurgentnight:
ExurgentNight Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2011  Student Digital Artist
Wow. I wasn't really expecting this much... this may take me a while. But it's great advice!
Reply
:iconmoomoomilk147:
MooMooMilk147 Featured By Owner Apr 29, 2012
Is that a song or a poem? Could you tell me the title. I like it! :)
Reply
:iconexurgentnight:
ExurgentNight Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2012  Student Digital Artist
What?
Do you mean my signature?
Reply
:iconskylar-bane:
Skylar-Bane Featured By Owner May 6, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I love the poem in your signature.
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