Creating a Character Concept Art


Hi there. In this thread I’ll share with you how I make a character concept art. I’m just a hobbyist in 2D and 3D but I do hope I could provide you with some tips and at the same time learn from you - my fellow artists as well. Feel free to provide an insight or ask a question about the art or the workflow I adapted. Let’s learn together.

Let’s start with goal-setting. As of now, I’m working on a personal project (a short 3D film clip) that revolves around combat. I want to capture the intensity and wonder of free-form combat or anything-goes combat. Perhaps use characters such as broom-wielding assassins, vampire-clown hybrids, or flower-arranging ninjas. Crazy isn’t it?

As a first step, I decided to create a male fighter - nothing fancy. Then and there, I took inspiration on how to create a character from the book “The Skillful Huntsman”. It’s a great book that teaches about creating concept art for characters, transports, environments, and the like. If you’re creating a concept art, it’s best to have a great guide beside you.

  1. Creating Thumbnail Sketches[/u]

The first thing to do is to start very rough. Creating small sketches forces you to draw the larger, more noticeable details and check for interesting silhouettes. Creating a number of these sketches helps you to see which one mostly stands out, or is mostly interesting, or is mostly suitable for the project. It is also a great warm-up for your hand and brain.

In order to be inspired, I advise you to have some reference you’re excited about. For this project, I searched for ‘Fighter Concept Arts’ in Google and chose the images that interest me. The fourth thumbnail was based from Ryu of Street Fighter. Ryu’s torn-off uniform inspired me to draw this character’s one-sided shirt and one-sided skirt.

Just remember to be loose. Choose interest over accuracy. Accuracy will come later. Use the medium and technique you so desire. Mine was drawn mostly in lines in Photoshop because that’s what I want.

2. Incorporating Story in Your Design

In real world, everything has purpose. Hairstyle is not only a matter of aesthetics but also of someone’s personality, convenience, and culture. Clothes are not just a matter of style but also of someone’s occupation, social status, and environmental habitat. If you add purpose to your design, you add interest, depth, and believability into it. It also enriches the story you are creating.

At this stage, I refined the early thumbnails to more detailed sketches. I worked on smaller details but I still kept it loose. The goal is to add story in the character’s body, clothes, and even pose.

Take the third sketch for example. I still used Ryu from Street Fighter as my reference. Ryu’s bulging muscles inspired me to imagine an armor that is some sort of bodily tissues. Then, the idea eventually developed into what I called “Eye-mor”. These Eye-mors are bioengineered and attached to the body of this blind character. But since these Eye-mors have no eyelids, he needs to pour eyedrops all over his body from time to time to avoid drying them out.

3. Finalizing Your Design

Okay, so now that we’ve finished exploring interesting shapes & styles (Step 1) and added meaning and story into them (Step 2), it’s time to cleanup and finalize the design. Starting from polishing the line art and finishing to a fully rendered design. Again, it is important to get inspiration from reference and the things around you especially when building tones and colors for your character.

For my male fighter character, I finally chose the fourth sketch from the previous. I like the idea of this character who can make ordinary props and toys come to reality and use as real weapons. I’ve added details such as a paper plane which could be used for flight and a bag which could contain other stuff.

4. Creating the Character’s Back View

As a final step, I created the back view in simple tones. The back’s line art can be derived from the front that is flipped. The back’s color is the same as the front’s so there’s no need to render a fully-colored back view. Instead, I rendered the back in tones which helped me see if the tones are helping or hurting my design.

So that’s how I created this character concept art. From here, I’ll be modeling and animating this character in 3D. If you ask me, I think the most important thing about concept is story. Design must have a purpose. Additionally, it’s important to get inspiration from the things that excite you. If you’re inspired and excited, you will create interesting pictures.


For a moment, I thought the character’s right leg is twisted way too far and should be broken, but then I tried to do the pose and it’s actually possible, although not natural or comfortable at all.

BTW, since your film is all about fighting, you might want to check out Monty Oum’s animations. He’s famous for his fight choreography (and unfortunately passed away not long ago). His fight choreography/animation for his RWBY series (the first couple of seasons) and his fan work on the Dead Fantasy series are all excellent.


Hi Lunatique. Thanks for taking the time to try the pose. You’re right! The pose is uncomfortable and I never would’ve thought about it. I’ll be conscious of it from now on. And yes, Monty Oum’s Dead Fantasy is actually my inspiration for my project. But still, I’ll check his other works for additional ideas.

Many thanks! I appreciate it.