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How to Draw Unique Characters

By napalmnacey
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,
© 2008 - 2021 napalmnacey
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darkhjustice's avatar

I did it again! Thank you so much for making this <3

25 Essential Expressions - Chid
FirescalesComix's avatar

adoptsbot's avatar
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!
TheMagicalBean652's avatar
I know right? Kinda confused me....
RobHadford's avatar
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Maybe to you it might be a bit outdated (as I don't know how your way of working charcters out has changed) but I consider it a very helpful source.
DarkMusou's avatar
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!
umbrella4c's avatar
thanks it really helpful ^^
Miriadel15's avatar
Thank you for the tutorial ^^
Rufah7's avatar
Thanks a lot for doing this. .n.
Nealin's avatar
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
Elrhiarhodan's avatar
This is really good stuff! Thank you.
This is excellent, very useful! Thank you for sharing!
talisath's avatar
Great tutorial, thanks a lot:)
aevrynn's avatar
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. :)
Viktorio's avatar
I just have to print this. Thank you very much!
TheRebelCats's avatar
Thank you :D this is fabulous XD
Invaderzina1214's avatar
This has helped me out a lot thank you!
tekitomadachi's avatar
Awesome! Thank you for making this! :hug: :D
lil-lion-cub's avatar
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.
Foreststone's avatar
Oh my God thank you :tighthug:! This is going to help me so much! YOU are AMAZING dont let ANYONE tell you different!! :heart:
Avathae-Mangaka's avatar
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! :)
dinosapien's avatar
inkcharmer's avatar
Very helpful...
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