Hello! My name is Yaroslav Primachenko and this tutorial is all about designing cool looking cartoon animal characters.
Design and Sketching
The first thing you need to know is how you are going to make your character unique and recognizable. This is really the first and main goal you want to achieve. You could do a great job of the modeling, spend half of your life on the lighting and texturing, ruin your health while setting up the render through sleepless nights, but if the design doesn't work, neither will the image. So let me walk you through the process of designing my Emu character and explain the basic principles I used while creating it.
The first thing that makes the viewer pay attention to the character is its silhouette - its proportions and contrast. And I'm not only talking about the contrast in color, but mainly the contrast that defines the basic shape of your design. Strong characters can have a very small head and legs, but a huge body and muscular hands. This is just an obvious example; there are millions of different combinations, so think of them when designing your characters. Make it visually strong and recognizable so that it works even in a low light or strong back-lit situations, when the beautiful color or all the lovely details that you put into the character really doesn't make any sense. Take a look at some really successful characters and ask yourself what makes them work. Try to analyze and understand the principals they are built on. But don't stare too much, especially right before the designing process - you could end up copying someone else's work. Do it in your spare time - when watching TV, eating your cereal, talking to other people or planning an evil plot against the world!
First of all I searched for some reference images of a real emu. What I liked is that its feathers look like hair both on its head and body. I checked the internet and found out that emus have much softer and more flexible feathers than other birds. I thought that it would be a good idea to exaggerate this feature. I had several ideas about the main proportions of the body and after some thinking I decided that the first design in Fig.01 was the one I liked best. Though I liked the idea of making the head of the character very big, or making it hardly visible, I didn't like that it made my design look too childish or created the situation where the face would be very hard to read.
I started with some quick pencil sketches (Fig.02). As I didn't need to present them to a client I made them quick and dirty. The main goal at this stage was to work out the basic proportions of the character, its silhouette and facial features. I also had to give it a stylized look whilst making sure it remained a recognizable animal. I quickly moved to ZBrush as I find ZSpheres a unique and handy way to create basic topology and work out the proportions and silhouette of a model (Fig.03).