How to create an original character design in Adobe Photoshop

Document and brush settings

Step 1

We can make our document any size, but for this tutorial, I've selected a format that's more square.


Step 2

Let’s make sure in the brush properties that we select “shape dynamics” and “transfer”, which are the most important because they give us the pressure, and the fine tip to make our sketch!


Sketch and clean-up

Step 3

We'll create action lines for our character and then create the body based on these lines.


Step 4

We'll work on the details of the character still as a sketch.


Step 5

We'll  cleanup the lines in a new layer.


Step 6

Add a grey background which will helps us later to achieve the lighting effects. In this design the overall scene will be a little dark. 


Step 7

We can correct our final lines and add some story telling to the drawing, and not just end up with a static pose.


Base colors and lighting

Step 8

Add the base colors for our character.


Step 9

Select the sketch line and put it in Multiply mode with a moderate transparency that allows us to see the line as a guide.


Step 10

We'll take the layer color of the face and start to paint over it, suggesting areas of light.


Add details

Step 11

Create a new layer above this layer, and holding ALT between the two layers, make an arrow which links another layer, so we can paint without going out of the lines.


Step 12

We'll make sure that every part of the body has a layer group, and a folder to organise the layers.


Step 13

In this step, we can correct some things of the body proportions and rethink parts of the original design.


Step 14

If you want to add details that were not in the sketch, it's best to have references to be sure what you want to do.


Step 15

We've added some new details.


Step 16

To do a color correction for the new details, create a linked layer in Multiply mode and select a color that is within the arm's color palette.


Step 17

We can add extra details to the character without losing our color palette.


Step 18

We'll do the same step in the areas you want to add details, although this is up to you.


Step 19

We can also adjust the legs in their color or add more details.


Step 20

In the painting process, we might get new ideas, such as redesigning parts of the character. For example, the sword.


Step 21

Add the final details to the accessories of the character.


Step 22

When we're happy with our work, it’s time to move on!


Step 23

This way we can paint more freely, and we'll do this directly with the brushes, sketching without guides. Just think about the colors of our illustration.


Step 24

When we're satisfied with the color palette, It’s time for the next step.


Step 25

Let's add some extra paint effects on the body.


Step 26

We'll turn off the character's layers paint some lighter stains on the dark background to make the character stand out.


Use filters

Step 27

We'll put everything in a folder called character design and create a photo filter.


Step 28

We can see that the color temperature is consistent with the photo filter.


Step 29

We can let loose our creativity when painting the details of our illustration.


Step 30

Let's balance the colors out a bit and add to the ambience of the scene. We can create a new layer in Multiply.


Step 31

Now we'll make a new folder with everything. Duplicate the folder and then we'll merge everything in one layer and turn off the first folder to keep a copy of our painting.


Step 32

Now we'll add noise to our layer. But be careful not to add too much.


Step 33

And now we've got a character with a great presence and an amazing color palette.


There You Have It! Our Character Design is Ready!

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Javier Salas
Javier Salas
Javier SalasTeacher

Javier Salas, colombian freelance artist and designer working for the entertainment and videogame industry. Enjoys sharing his knowledge as a teacher in an art academy and creating tutorials for the web. He also a lover of classic art and good movies.

To learn more, visit


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