What Does A Character Designer Do? And How To Become One

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 11 August 2022

Published 22 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Character designers create some of the most well-known characters we see in cartoons, films and advertisements. They use their artistic skills and cultural knowledge to create realistic or imaginative characters that people can connect with and find entertaining, educative or inspiring. By understanding the role of character designers in creating different, memorable characters, you can decide if you might enjoy working as a character designer in the long term. In this article, we discover the answer to "What does a character designer do?" and learn about essential character designer skills and how to become a character designer.

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What Does A Character Designer Do?

To learn the answer to "What does a character designer do?" it helps to understand that they plan, design and create characters for animation, advertisements, films, television shows, books, comics, cartoon strips, games and toys. They take character briefs from clients or directors, review story scripts and make notes about the characters' personalities and physical traits. They then use the information to come up with various design ideas for the characters. They give each character specific facial expressions, physical movements, clothing styles and colour schemes, which make it easier to convey the character's personality visually and make them unique.

The character designer may depict these characters in different poses, at different angles and with various props. For doing this well, character designers require excellent drawing skills, an in-depth understanding of anatomy and a good knowledge of perspective. They can also benefit from knowing about different cultures, costumes, accessories and styles to include those appropriately in their character drawings and make them seem more authentic or relatable. After making character design roughs, the character designer submits them to the client or director for approval and then works on the final versions and sends them on the specified deadline.

Related: How To Become A 3D Artist: Skills, Qualifications And Duties

What Is A Character Designer Good At?

A character designer is good at depicting the physical build, personality, temperament and mood of a character. To thrive in a character design job, it is necessary for a 2D character designer to have a good grasp of the following:

  • Drawing

  • Anatomy knowledge

  • Shapes

  • Line movements

  • Body poses and movements

  • Head movements and facial expressions

  • Body and hand gestures

  • Eye movements

  • Hair movements

  • Cloth drapery and movements

  • Colour schemes

  • Light effects

  • Perspective

  • Psychology

  • Moods

Related: What Is An Animator? Definition, Qualifications And Skills

What Skills Are Necessary To Become A Character Designer?

You may need the following skills to become a character designer:

  • Drawing skills: Since the work involves drawing characters manually or with digital tools, it is essential for character designers to have excellent drawing skills and the ability to draw almost anything.

  • Anatomy skills: A good understanding of human and animal anatomy can help character designers to depict various characters in different positions and movements.

  • Observation skills: Character designers can benefit from having sharp observational skills as these can help them add nuances and depth to their characters and make them more distinct and memorable.

  • Creative skills: Being creative can enable character designers to devise unique character concepts and design entertaining and attention-grabbing characters.

  • Technical skills: A lot of character design work requires advanced knowledge of and proficiency in various design software and digital tools, so having technical skills is essential for character designers.

  • Communication skills: Excellent verbal, writing and listening skills are necessary for character designers to understand their work requirements and discuss work progress.

  • Interpersonal skills: As part of their work, character designers interact with designers, animators, writers, directors and other creative personnel. Knowing how to get along well with different personalities can benefit them.

  • Time management skills: Most character design projects have strict deadlines for completion, and it is necessary for character designers to create and deliver the final character designs within the specified time.

Related: What Is Creative Design? Skills and Popular Careers

Who Does A Character Designer Work With?

Depending on where they work, a character designer may get feedback from and collaborate with various creative professionals on a range of entertainment, educational, informational and promotional projects. They work with directors, supervisors, other character designers, background artists, animators and writers. They may also interact with clients and make presentations to introduce and explain new characters.

How To Become A Character Designer?

You can become a character designer by following these steps:

1. Develop drawings skills

Excellent drawing skills are more important than formal educational credentials for getting a character design job. You can develop your drawings skills by sketching every day, undertaking gesture drawing and practising drawing everything you see. You can cultivate your creative and artistic skills with conceptual drawings. Studying human and animal anatomy in depth is also essential for character designers. Additionally, you can become proficient in using different physical and digital drawing tools. You may also study the work of established character designers to inspire you.

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2. Complete basic education

Aside from developing strong drawing skills, character designers can benefit from formal education in expanding their knowledge of art, their writing abilities, reading comprehension and interpersonal skills. You can complete your 10+2 Higher Secondary Certification (HSC) in any stream from a recognised board. It can help if you pass the Elementary and Intermediate art exams while still in school, taking online or offline drawing classes to improve your skills and read books on art, animation and character design.

3. Clear college entrance exams

It is necessary to clear various competitive college entrance exams to gain admission to art colleges. Some of the exams you can take are:

  • Delhi University Entrance Test (DUET)

  • Jawaharlal Nehru University Entrance Exam (JNUEE)

  • Banaras Hindu University Entrance Exam (BHUEE)

  • University of Petroleum and Energy Studies Design Aptitude Test (UPES DAT)

  • Jamia Millia Islamia Entrance Examination (JMIEE)

4. Get a bachelor's degree

You can do a four-year bachelor of fine arts (BFA) and specialise in painting, applied arts, digital arts or animation. The exact syllabus of each specialisation may differ, but some of the important topics are drawing, life study, anatomy, illustration, figure painting and composition painting. You may also study design theory, aesthetics and art history.

Related: What Is A Bachelor In Fine Arts Degree? Definition And Careers

5. Earn a master's degree

A master of fine arts (MFA) degree is not essential for character design jobs, but it may help you improve your art skills and knowledge. You may also be able to get senior roles or teaching positions with a master's degree. The course takes two years and you require a BFA with at least 50% marks to gain admission to it.

6. Build a portfolio

Most employers base their hiring decisions on artist portfolios rather than their educational credentials. That is why it is essential to build a strong character design portfolio on a website or a blog. You can include varied work examples of different media in it, showing a wide range of people, animals, things, places, poses and expressions.

It can help to review the online portfolios of established character designers and find out about the artistic requirements of the leading companies that hire character designers. You can then create a list of in-demand character design concepts, and you can use these in creating work for your portfolio. Keep refining, improving and updating your online portfolio.

7. Prepare a resume and a cover letter

Along with building an excellent online character design portfolio, prepare a well-written resume and cover letter. Proofread them for spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. When you send a job application, you can customise the resume and cover letter to suit the job requirements and include a link to your online portfolio. That can make your application stand out and improve your chances of receiving an interview call.

Related: How To Write A Game Design Resume (With An Example)

8. Network in the industry

Networking with established and upcoming character designers and other creative professionals on social media and other online sites can help you gain valuable industry information. You can find out what type of character design styles are prevalent, what companies look for in character designers and how to prepare character design portfolios. You can learn about new design software and tools and hear about available character designer positions.

9. Complete an internship

Many animation and advertising companies offer internships for character designers. You can also research the companies you are interested in working with and find out if they offer internships to art students. Such internships can provide you with useful real-world work experience. It can also give you an opportunity to build industry connections that might prove helpful in your subsequent career. Depending on your performance during the internship, the company could also offer you a position with it later.

10. Send job applications

You can find jobs for character designers on job sites like Indeed, animation and advertising company websites, professional networking sites and social media. Review your cover letter, resume and portfolio to ensure they meet the job requirements before sending out job applications. It may help to compile a list of frequently asked interview questions and practice answering those. That way, you can be well-prepared when the employer invites you for an interview.

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Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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