With the digital art movement taking a major leap forward in popularity and practice during the last few years – Including the prevalence of CGI and animation within major industries like Film, Television, and Gaming – the demand for artists is always high. With a highly demanding lifestyle and the constant need to keep evolving and improving and an industry that upgrades itself on a regular periodical basis, the ability to properly showcase their work is a must. Before we dive into how to make a Character Design Portfolio, we must understand what it is first.
One of the most profitable and interesting segments in the industry that offers work regularly is definitely “character design”. Character design, as the name implies, involves the creation of art and concept pieces for characters based on various franchises, personalized marketing designs, and concept art for bigger projects like cartoons and comics, Animations, Video Games, Illustrations, and more.
What Is a Character Design Portfolio, and Who Needs It?
To that end, “Character Design Portfolio” is a collection maintained by the artist to showcase the artist’s potential skill and style in character design. It is also useful to give any potential employer an idea of the artist’s work history. It is useful to an artist in many ways. Allowing the artists to build their portfolios gives them a measure of control over the kind of work that they are interested in working on. It allows them to solidify their Commercial intent and the kind of work that they are willing and able to put in their commercial work.
Who Needs a Character Design Portfolio?
In this day and age, every artist who wishes to take his/her career to the next level needs a Character Design Portfolio. Concept artists, Fantasy Creators, and Graphic Artists are just a few of the kinds of artists who surely require a portfolio to display their work.
Although there are no rules that state this, if you are a beginner and are looking to make a mark in the industry and avail yourself of the opportunity to work on your life’s passion, working on the character concept art, or even if you are an Art school student who is beginning the process of improving your art. You should begin working on your portfolio. It is the best possible step that displays your growth in Character Design. It would help you out immensely with commercials if you have a polished and finished Character design portfolio to display the level you are at now.
There is no rule as such for who needs a portfolio. If you are a novice and have just started working on creating characters, or an art school student who has taken the first steps in learning fantasy character art. You can start creating a portfolio showcasing your step-by-step growth within the field. You will have a great portfolio by the time you get to the expert level if you start now.
Needless to say, if you are a professional artist, it is always good to have your portfolio ready!
What Are the Steps Involved in Creating a Perfect Portfolio?
When you are forming a character design portfolio, you need to keep in mind several aspects related to it. Now here’s a list of what should be included in a character design portfolio for you to have a clear idea:
You need to be good at sketching multiple different kinds of subjects like animals, humans, etc. You need to have fluency in designing the base structure of the subject as well as the final one. In your character design portfolio, you can add different kinds of sketches to show that you have proficiency in different kinds of drawing.
You need to have a script or a scenario for your subject. Your subject should be able to tell a visual story. So when you are designing your subject, think of a storyline that you are interested in making characters for, and then create your subject based on that.
Once you have thought about the story behind your subject, you will be able to figure out the personality of the subject, their mood, their role in your story, etc. This will give your subject a strong look and make it realistic.
Show the Steps Involved in the Character Design:
Another important point to remember here is to present the step-by-step process of how you reached the outcome in your character design portfolio. For example, your rough draft of the sketch, the corrections you made, how you improvised on the skeletal design, how you added details to them, and finally came out with the desired result. The entertainment industries or the designing studio want to see your ability to think through your designing process in detail.
You need to make several versions of your subject like different angles, different looks, different expressions, different postures, etc. before concluding and finalizing one.
Adding Appearance to Your Subject:
You need to add a lot of different appearances to your subject to give them proportions, add curves and lines to bring out different kinds of looks in your subject, like different body types, different facial features, etc.
The Outfit of the Subject:
The outfit plays a very important role in bringing out the personality of the subject. For example, if your subject is royal, it has to have a royal outfit, if your subject is a superhero, the outfit should be designed accordingly.
Make Your Subject Versatile:
This means that you need to create your subject in different postures and poses like standing posture, jumping, bending or sitting, etc. this will show the flexibility of your creation and add variety to it.
Add Different Styles:
Now, remember that you are making a character design portfolio here. This means you need to design your subject in such a way that it is suitable for different purposes like making a version that will suit a television show, make one for video games, and so forth.
Bring out the uniqueness in your work. Think and visualize your subject and bring out something unique which doesn’t resemble the regular existing ones. Make a character design portfolio in a way that stands out.
What Template Can You Use:
You can make your character design portfolio in any desired template. There is no fixed format that you have to stick to. Be free to create your presentation designs. Remember that your portfolio should bring out “You”.
Arrangement of the Characters:
You need to present your skills in the portfolio and the first impression should be good. In this scenario, you need to make multiple versions of the subject in different styles, concepts, postures, etc. Once you have sufficient work to present, you can arrange them the way you want them to be placed in your portfolio. Put the ones that bring out your skills in the strongest way first, and then place the lighter ones towards the end.
You can also narrate a story behind the animation designs if you wish to do so, but that is not mandatory.
Painting Your Subjects:
You do not need to necessarily paint the subjects in the character design portfolio. The draft and the designs that you add are more important than coloring your subjects. With that being said, if you are great with the painting you can make copies of your final character and paint it to show how your subject will finally look like.
Keep It Simple:
Don’t complicate your portfolio by adding too many unnecessary designs that are not relevant. Keep it clean yet display a good amount of relevant work that will not confuse people.
What Is Fantasy Character Concept Art?
In fantasy character concept art, the character designers or the artists create fictional subjects out of imagination and creativity. They visualize the subject’s personality, style, a concept to bring out a character. It can be from any genre, for example, it can be a comic character, or a horror one, a superpower figure, or a cartoon.
If you want to take a look at some fantasy character concept art, you need to check out the portfolio of these concept artists on Behance.
Pricing Your Work
Now that you know what are the essential things you need to keep in mind to create your portfolio, let’s get to some other important things that you will need in a commercial world like the pricing of the subjects meaning how much can you charge for your creation and what are the parameters you need to consider when charging for your creation.
In case you are a freelancer, what are the prices you can charge for creating character designs and concept art? What is the going price in the market right now for such a skill?
In today’s digital world, designing fictional figures or fantasy character concept art is in high demand especially when it comes to industries that relate to animation or gaming, filmmaking houses, CG hubs, etc. While the clients look for experienced designers with diverse skills, they also underrate the work of the artists.
Many clients fail to understand that there is a lot of work involved in creating a character; numerous details involved in creating the subject- the subject itself, the costume of the character, color combination, theme, the gear, the number of hours you invest in creating your subject starting from the draft to its finalizing stage.
Now you must be wondering, “how much should I charge for a character design?” If you are a freelancer, you need to be aware of the market rates when it comes to selling your artwork.
The key criteria that you need to consider before you determine how much you can charge for your character portfolio:
Nature of the Project:
One of the key criteria in determining the price of the project is how complicated the project is. While creating a character itself is not an easy task, at times, meeting the client’s criteria in developing it can be challenging. There can be complicated specifications that are difficult to create, or the client may limit your ideas based on their demand. You may have to do numerous drafts and multiple changes to get the perfect result your client is looking for. The price may also differ based on what kind of project it is – a 3D figure will have a higher cost than that of a 2D creation due to the detail involved.
The Details Involved:
The price of the end product is directly proportional to the details involved in the work. Sometimes the clients demand intricate designs like the texture, color, posture, costume, and the various additional effects that you need to add to give it a look that is desired. This may take much longer than the usual time and much more hard work to get the finished product. Obviously, in this situation, the price of the final product has to be higher if more details need to be added.
Scope of Work:
Oftentimes, the artist may need to create a subject right from scratch instead of using inspiration or a model because the client needs it to be unique. This means there is a lot more time and hard work needed, and much brainstorming is needed before the initiation of the actual work. This happens in the video game industry when the developers want to release a new game. You may also have to work on numerous frames to make them more realistic
If you have a complicated project and have to complete it within a really short time, which is much lower than what it normally takes to build a character, you need to work for extra hours a day. Sometimes the client may show urgency, and you need to finish the project within a given time frame. There is a lot of brain work and skills needed to finish an animated character design within a really short time. The cost in that case will go high under those conditions.
The Number of People in the Team:
It also depends on how many artists are involved in designing the character.
Now, as far as the hourly rates are concerned, concept artists from different countries charge differently. As far as the United States is concerned, the freelancer concept artists charge anything between $100/ hour to $150/hour based on the above-mentioned factors.
However, some artists do feel that charging the clients ‘based on projects’ is a much better option than charging on an hourly basis because some of them had bad experiences in the past when they worked through freelancing platforms. The hourly rate the clients offer through these freelance platforms is less, plus if you complete 6 hours of work in 4 hours, you end up making less money. If you charge the client based on projects, you can charge higher based on the quality of work and the result, and not just the hours invested in doing the project.
The choice is completely yours on how you want to charge your client. Do keep in mind the above factors when negotiating on the price.
What Are Some Tips and Tricks to Fine-tune Portfolios:
Every concept artist wants to build a strong portfolio that depicts their talent as well as market their skills and ability in the world of business. In the previous section of the article, you must have already read about how to make a character design portfolio. Here are some tips and tricks that may help you refine as well as redefine your portfolio:
Always Stick to Originality:
Create the characters that you visualize, rather than working with references. You can always take the help of reference characters, but if you build one of your own, that adds more value to your portfolio. The studios always look for originality.
Select an appropriate digital art software that will cater to your needs and help create your character.
Eye to Details:
Once you are ready with the initial draft, you need to focus on every small detail that will make your subject look natural and visually appealing, for example, the skin, the folds in the costume, the details in the hair, etc. Keep the tones, color control, lighting control in mind.
This is an important aspect that needs to be created with care, keeping in mind the environment of your character, the mood, the storyline, etc. It should be aesthetic yet match the personality of the character. Add fashion elements, intricate designs, motifs, suitable accessories, etc.
Your subject needs to draw the attention of the audience, therefore, you need to exaggerate the features of your subject to make them loud and memorable.
Materials to Create Your Character:
Visualize your character and then choose what materials you are going to build your subject with, pencils, pens, blending brushes, 3D tools, etc. The materials will largely depend on what kind of character you are working on. For example, if you are working on a 3D animation character, you will need a different set of tools and brushes than that of cartoon or comic characters.
The Background of the Subject Plays a Vital Role:
If you are creating a warrior, the background has to be set as a battlefield. Similarly, if the subject is a farm animal for one of those comic scenes, then the background should be a lush green meadow or a field with other distinctive elements to add to the scene.
Last but not the least, the subject you are designing should not be boring! Bring it out in such a way that it portrays the right emotion yet an interesting persona that may impress the audience.
Here’s a character design portfolio training program that you may want to take a look at.
Creating fantasy character concept art needs a lot of patience and levels of hard work to be perfect. You just need to keep practicing and nurturing your concept art skills; hope you find the tips provided in this article, and don’t forget to check out some of those amazing portfolios given as links to get an idea of where to start from. So, go ahead and make some breathtaking portfolios!
Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ’s):
You need to choose your tools according to what you design. If you are doing a 3D animation character, you can use Zbrush, Mudbox, Blender, 3Ds Max. If you are up for some comic or cartoon characters, you can use Procreate, Clip Studio Paint, Adobe Illustrator Draw, GIMP, etc. for 2D character design there are tools like CelAction, TV Paint, etc.
You do not have to follow any particular template for your portfolio. You can arrange your characters as you want to. Just make sure to place your strongest and best work at the beginning, followed by the lighter ones.
Various factors need to be taken into consideration when determining how much you are going to charge for your creation.