Designing characters with 7 basic shapes
Learn how to design characters with 7 basic shapes, how breaking characters into 3 sections helps when creating unique designs, and other practical character design tips with the Etherington Brothers!
Learn how you can draw… or learn how to THINK when you DRAW with the Etherington Brothers!
Creating Characters with 7 Shapes
All character designs, no matter how complex they seem, can be broken down into a set of simple shapes.
The more through lines there are from one shape to another, the better the shapes combine as a single form.
Bold silhouettes come from a symbiotic combination of shapes.
There are only 7 shapes you need to design any character.
If you can draw these shapes, you can draw anything.
The less shapes at the core of your design, the more iconic it becomes.
Building your design around a primary and secondary shape is very effective.
Primary / secondary can be applied to the face as well.
Using one shape in multiple positions and angles allows a more complex design to remain visually balanced.
Sometimes combining shapes inharmoniously can work well.
Dividing Characters into 3 Sections
A great approach for designing a wide range of distinctive characters is to divide them up into three sections.
1. Begin by randomly choosing the height of each section as either short, medium or tall.
2. Next, randomly make the width of each section narrow, medium, or wide.
3. If we just draw these as standing boxes we can already see the range of body proportions.
4. Connect the shapes using either curved or angled lines.
5. With your proportions in place, draw small thumbnail sketches of characters within them. try lots of designs for each shape, it always works!
The 3-shape approach is so effective, you can use it to take one character and generate endless variations! Let’s start with this simple robot…
There’s no end to the options, just change the width and height of the three sections!
Although the 3-shape process is just one of many approaches to character design, it also helps you to better analyze other characters’ proportions.
Notice the effect on the feel of the character when you cluster the main volume around different areas.