This is a guest post by Emmanuel Sackey, popularly known as Kofi Ofosu, a character designer from Ghana. This post was originally published on his Medium and is republished here with permission.

I asked my followers on Instagram for the topics they would like to see answered on my podcast, Fiko’s Corner and this is one of the questions that came through.

Q: Hi! I’m learning the fundamentals, do you have any tips and resources for character design?

When studying the fundamentals of art, there are a number of key areas that you need to cover:

  • Colour and light;
  • Anatomy;
  • Perspective;
  • Composition; and
  • Gesture.

Every accomplished artist greatly respects the basics; these are the building blocks of what we do. You need to learn them so you know how to break them in new and refreshing ways.

Any complex thing is made up of very simple things.

Kofi Ofosu
Skater Boi character design by Kofi Ofosu

To stress the importance of the basics, we will use the analogy of writing. First, you learn how to write your A, B, Cs. Then you learn how to write words and phrases. Then we move to sentences and paragraphs. Beyond this point, you are equipped to go ahead and write your own books because you’ve learned the basic principles of writing and grammar — the same applies to art and drawing.

Understanding the fundamentals gives you room to express your vision and ideas in whichever way and medium you desire to utilize. You no longer have to be actively thinking about the principles anymore, you just let your ideas flow onto the canvas. You will be able to manipulate the knowledge to create the kind of images like and tell the stories you want to tell via images

Always remember this, “any complex thing is made up of very simple things.”

Book Recommendations for Learning the Fundamentals of Character Design

  1. Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter by James Gurney
  2. Figure Drawing For All It’s Worth by Andrew Loomis
  3. How To Draw: Drawing and Sketching Objects and Environments From Your Imagination by Scott Robertson
  4. Framed Ink: Drawing And Composition For Visual Storytellers by Marcos Mateu Mestre
  5. Force: Dynamic Life Drawing For Animators by Michael Matessi

There are certain things that cannot be learnt by reading a book, you can only gain that knowledge through the physical activity of drawing and painting.

Richard Williams

Tips for Character Design

  • Draw from life as much as you can (carry a sketchbook with you everywhere you go and observe life and the things around you, record what you actually see);
  • Learn the fundamentals of character design (shape language, gesture, silhouette etc);
  • Do master studies (pick the works of artists you enjoy and study their work, break down what you see by the principles you’ve learnt);
  • Surround yourself with artists and artworks that inspire you; and
  • Draw a ton (the only way to do good drawings is by getting through your bad drawings).

Drawing is a skill…and as the saying goes, Repetition is the mother of skill.

You need to draw over and over again in order to cement the principles you learn. In The Animators Survival Kit book, Richard Williams said something that struck me. To paraphrase, he said, “there are certain things that cannot be learnt by reading a book, you can only gain that knowledge through the physical activity of drawing and painting.”

Hope this helps!

Connect with Kofi Ofosu on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and iTunes and check out his podcast for even more tips.