14 brilliant character design tutorials

Jim McCauley digs through the archives and unearths everything you need to know about character design.

Character design - it's easy, isn't it?

Draw an interesting shape, stick eyes and a mouth on it and Bob's your uncle! Anyone can do that! However, you might find that despite the apparent simplicity of character design you just end up with characters that don't actually have much, er, character.

So to help you out we've burrowed through our files and come up with 14 tutorials that'll help you polish your character design skills. From initial sketches through to finished characters and the advanced matters of making them move or turning them into vinyl, flat-pack or even plush toys, this collection covers all the bases, with advice from experts including Peskimo, James Jarvis and Christopher Lee. Enjoy!

1. Design and build a flatpack toy

Use one of your favourite character designs to create a flatpack toy you can give to friends and clients.

2. Character design: the Warbot MkIV!

Jonny Duddle reveals how to create a turnaround sheet for a computer game character.

3. Creating vector characters in Illustrator

Characters can add a recognisable face to your work. But how do you go from a sketch to the finished product? Peskimo talk through their process.

4. Animate your vector characters

Animating characters is the ultimate way of bringing them to life. Peskimo talk you through importing, setting up and animating in Flash.

5. Make a plush toy

Use a simple digital process and a variety of sewing techniques to make your own soft toy character.

6. Photoshop character faces

The faces of your characters, regardless of their final destinations, should be designed to facilitate changing emotions and diverse facial expressions. Derek Lea demonstrates facial awareness.

7. Creating the Bird God

Illustrator James Jarvis explains how he designed his new vinyl toy, and then turned him into a Computer Arts Projects cover star

8. Create an interactive web toy

Web toys are fantastic applications for generating buzz around a website. Peskimo show you how to create an interactive plaything with unique looks and bags of character that will make your site stand out from the crowd.

9. Virtual vinyl

The vinyl toy is now a truly iconic form of design, but it can be difficult and expensive to create a one-off original. Chris Weston shows you how to make a life-like design using Cinema 4D.

10. Add character to your virtual vinyl

Up-and-coming vinyl toy designer Chris Weston shows you how to use 3D skills to add personality to your virtual toys.

11. Digitally sculpt a vinyl character

Turn a funky character sketch into a detailed digital model suitable for rapid-prototyping.

12. Adding dimension to your characters

Are your designs looking a little flat? We show you how to make your creations leap off the page with startling dimension.

13. Build your character's back story

Danilo Brand£o reveals a simple yet effective way to breathe life into your characters by developing personality and creating their environment.

14. Real-world effects

Peskimo reveals how to put your vector creations out into the real world, using Photoshop and Illustrator to combine the illustrations in your head with the realism of the world outside your front door.

What, all that's not enough for you? Okay, here's a little something extra from the archives: 20 great character design tips from the king of doodling, Jon Burgerman.