How to Design a Unique Picture Book Character


Finding inspiration

Sometimes, creating a character can inspire your next story. Authors often create an inspiration board during the planning stage of writing a book. I think of the character sheet as a necessary piece for my inspiration board during the planning stage of illustrating a book. It takes time to illustrate a character sheet. But knowing how to draw your character will save you time in the long run, and will keep that character consistent-looking.

Character sketches

Character sketches are a must before illustrating a picture book. Sketching a character in different poses on one page is what allows me to draw my character in a consistent manner- size, body shape, facial features, clothing, etc. It’s also a good way to practice drawing them with emotions they’ll experience in the story. This sketch shows the rough figures I begin with. Even in these simple sketches, you begin to see the emotions in the body language.

Character poses

Phase 2 of developing the character- the body and clothing. I want to make sure I’m keeping everything the same size and length across the poses. It’s easy to make the arms too short in one pose, or the legs too long in another. These discrepancies may be tough to pick up on across the many pages of a book, but an art director will pick up on them, or worse the reader will. Getting the proportions right up front is worth the effort.

Unique character details

I roughly sketch the expressions in before I begin painting the features and hair. The play of emotion on the features imbues the character with their unique personality. I created this character sheet as a series of vignettes to add some story to the illustration- angry about bedtime, sad about a dropped ice cream cone, amazed while reading a magical book.

Helen Deasy
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