Character Design

by Grant Howarth

“We can rebuild him, make him faster, stronger, or anything you want…”

Welcome to character design. I know everyone has their own process, and unless you are creating the character entirely yourself from scratch, you are collaborating with a writer’s vision of the character. The writers description may be minimal and vague to exact and rigid but you should always have that opportunity to add your own little touch. Hopefully you might pick up something new on how I went about designing the Maury / Moriarty character in “Old Wounds” written by the talented Mr. Mike Marano.

These days it’s pretty much impossible to create something truly original. Most Importantly you want the character to be recognizable, and look different from other characters so they aren’t confused with other characters and stand out. If you need to use reference, whether you browse the web, books, or life. It’s all about the details, those little touches of appearance and personality that will breathe life into your character. Realism is key.

Mix and mash ideas and motifs a create a new spin, or use shapes and themes that will help convey a classic archetypal character. These classic archetypes are represented by certain features, ie. a broken nose gives a vibe of a crook or where big ears someone who is dumb. Even using characteristics of animals can give you a direction to go in to achieve a look, especially for a cartoony style. Take Ty Templeton’s Bootcamp classes and learn more, trust me you won’t regret it!


First off we look at the character description in the script. Mike left the Maury the lab tech character pretty open, other than the fact he had to have long hair that could be tied in a pony tail. Maury would later turn into a formidable, menacing villain for the Holmes Inc. crew.

I tackled Maury first, it was clear he had the lab coat, dress shirt and tie. He had to be in shape and thin. So the basic shape was covered, just leaving the details. Since I could only add to Maury and not alter him drastically physically, when he became Moriarty, I figured he had to have tinges of that villain look, sort of a meet halfway there thing. So I used that kind of a jerk look to begin with, a chiseled jaw, and piercing eyes. A crooked nose, with pointy and sharp lines

Plus I wanted to give him some personality, something that would show that he had a life outside of being a Holmes Inc lab tech. So I gave him some of those ear lobe stretch rings, for a bit of hipness. and then the soul patch that show’s a sense of style yet will help add to the bad guy look later on.


As we disused, we wanted to try a original look on the techno organic villain, and also to stay clear of any Iron Man, Terminator knock offs. So coming up with the look for Moriarty was a bit more of a challenge for me. I knew from the script he had to have the lab coat on to conceal the tech suit that had taken over him. I tried a few different looks, but I didn’t feel I was where I wanted it. I was stuck. So I went in other directions. I found that if I just sketched out ideas even if they went outside of the description the script called for, they might still give me ideas I could use.

The final idea for the bio tech armor actually came strangely enough from one of my fish that had died. The armor bone plating of a Pleco became the basis for the chest plating. I had to tweak and add bits of course, but its essentially the same design. Finally the circuitry veins were added over his skin, as well wires at the back of his neck.

Turn around…

Once you nail down your characters look, do a turn around and some sketches of them with different expressions. A turn around should consist of every angle of the character, so that there is no confusion what they look like from any angle. It will help yourself and others who may have to use the character in the future.

Bing, bang, boom, there you go. Thanks for reading, hopefully you’ve gleaned something new.


Posted on July 28, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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