The simple answer is to tell the character's story in his or her clothing. Every day, we wake up and put our clothes on and we tell a little story about ourselves – where we shop, what colours we think look best on us, how we want people to perceive us and suchlike. Character design is all about telling a story, too, and clothing is an excellent medium for doing just that.
Take for instance the image above. We see two characters in this scene who appear to be part of some sort of bird-worshipping cult. They are wearing clothing that has bird-like qualities: headdresses mimic bird plumage, small masks provide them with beaks, thick layering indicates layers of feathers, and the colours are vibrant and expressive like birds.
In the second image, above, we see a shaman-like character who incorporates bones into his clothing. Why? Perhaps he draws his powers from the bones, or perhaps the bones are from spirit animals? The bones are clearly functional, serving as protective armour, so perhaps he is a warrior-priest. Most of all, have fun with your clothing design and don’t feel restricted to standard tropes.
Word: Sean Andrew Murray
A freelance illustrator and concept artist, Sean is also the creator of Gateway: The Book of Wizards, and has worked for WotC, EA and Turbine.
This article originally appeared in ImagineFX magazine issue 102.