Even if you have years of experience, character design isn't always easy. But having a decent character design book can help you on your way. We've picked our favourites below, based on those we've read and reviewed ourselves, as well as reader reviews from artists and illustrators across the web.
Some titles are better suited to beginners, while others are ideal for those with more experience. They're written by some of the biggest names in animation, cartoon and design, and there are plenty of insights from seasoned professionals throughout.
The best character design books available now
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Best character design book overall
+ Covers various areas
This book offers a detailed overview of all elements of character design, making it suitable for beginners or people looking for a reference book to dip into. It's not the cheapest book out there, but it makes a good investment if you're after an insight into how the professionals work.
Best for beginners
+ Step-by-step guides
+ Covers all bases
- Lack of info on non-human characters
We like that this book is split into two sections. The first explores shape, space and force, while the second looks at the characters themselves, and how they act and convey emotions. There are step-by-step guides and exercises to allow you to practise your skills as you develop as a character designer.
Best book to dip into
+ Easy to read
From artist Stephen Silver, this book is a valuable resource and insight into his work and the process of character design more generally. Whether you're a beginner or you're more experienced, there's something for everyone, and this is a useful book to dip into if you need advice on designing your strongest characters.
Best for industry insight
+ Professional insights
+ Shape language info
- Lack of facial info
One of the more recently released books on our list, Fundamentals of Character Design is ideal for anyone with an interest in character design regardless of experience or skill level. With contributions from a number of professionals, this book looks at the most crucial character design principles as well as how to build relationships between characters.
+ Character design and animation explored
+ Behind-the-scenes insights
It's one of the most expensive character design books on the market, but Creating Animated Cartoons with Character is a fantastic resource if you're interested in both character design and animation. From the Emmy-winning animator Joe Murray, this book will help you develop your characters in more depth, as long as you can afford it.
Best for the basics
+ Easy to follow
+ Explains the fundamentals well
- Not as in-depth
Chris Hart's drawing books are wildly popular, and this is the best title for character design. He shows us how to draw different characters, beginning with the basics, and makes use of easy-to-follow step-by-step guides. It's better suited to beginners, as it lacks the depth of some of the other books here.
Best for creating cohesive characters
+ Useful industry knowledge
+ Digital and traditional
- Not as in-depth
With insights from professional animators, cartoonists and illustrators, this book helps you create cohesive characters for your project. The tutorials are easy to follow, and you can explore various different styles and genres as you move through the character design process. It's a great resource whether you work in traditional or digital media.
Best for drawing characters
+ Outlines essential concepts
+ Insider advice
- Lacks different styles
From Disney animator Tom Bancroft, Creating Characters with Personality is a great introduction into character design. It goes over classic concepts and techniques, applying them to different industries, and features tips from many seasoned professionals. It focuses on 2D animation, so it's perhaps best suited to designers interested in this style.
Best for developing character
+ Mix of techniques and theory
+ Classic character types explored
- Some characters not as in-depth
Creative Character Design features a combination of drawing techniques and character design theory to allow you to develop your characters. Bryan Tillman also includes Character Model Sheets for advice and guidance on how to create new characters, and he takes a look at classic character archetypes to explore what works best.