Character Design and Costuming for Games

Alexandria Neonakis
7 Lessons (3h 48m)
7 Week(s)
English French Spanish Portuguese

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  2. Assignments Included
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  1. Watch Video Lessons with a Planned Curriculum
  2. Scheduled Assignments with Deadlines
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Course Description

This course will aim to teach fundamentals of character and costume design for video games, breaking down a character holistically throughout the narrative, exploring who they are when the story starts, how that changes throughout their arc, and how that is reflected in the choices of clothing, hair, design and styling. We will go over designing narrative illustrations that help sell the characters, gathering photo reference and making mood boards to create an overall view of their arc and designing costuming throughout the story based on that. 

By the end of the course, you will have a good understanding of the basic workflow for creating character and costume designs for video game characters, from receiving the script/character prompt to creating the final illustrations, and you will have completed 3 fully detailed costume designs for a character. If you’ve ever wondered what designing characters and costumes for video games encompasses, this course is a must-watch!

  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Drawing Tablet

Lesson Plan

One of the most important questions we ask ourselves as character designers is who the character we're designing is. What is their personality? Where do they work? What are their likes and dislikes? How do they wear their hair and what clothing do they choose? How does any of this change as their arc progresses through the story? All of these are choices we make that impact the player's impression of a character and are pivotal in driving the narrative in cinematic story-based games. In this introduction, we'll talk about characters who have resonated in film, TV and games and discuss choices that were made in their designs that helped define who they were for us. You will hopefully gain insight on the fundamentals of solid character design before we move onto designing your own characters.

Reference gathering is a step that can easily be tempting to rush or even skip entirely,

but it is an extremely important part of the process of creating believable characters. In

this lesson we'll talk about things to look for in reference and how to ensure the poses

and angles you're choosing help sell the character as clearly as possible. We'll also

discuss more technical considerations like shooting, sourcing and then arranging and

utilizing reference for your sketches.

We've figured out who the character is, plotted their arc and how their costume changes throughout the story, thought up a design for a costume we’d like to create for them, and we've scoured the internet for reference images or even shot some of our own. We’ve got our first round of sketching done, now it’s time to do the base which we’ll use for all costume designs for this character.

Now that we’ve got the base ready, it’s time to start painting costume variations. In this lesson, I’ll walk you through this process by focusing on 2 characters to show you how, with a strong base, you can achieve really easy variety and use them as a form of digital paper doll.

A thing that I often come up against (and I came up against it with this project,

conveniently enough) is making mistakes that stop me in my tracks. Sometimes it’s

something minor, just something off that needs a bit of polish. But other times, as is the

case here, a whole section of my character needs redoing. In this lesson, I’ll go over recognizing when you need to fix stuff, when it is good enough, and what separates professionals from students.

You’ve wrapped up your first character costume - congratulations! Next, I’m going to show you my process for designing characters for blue sky or pitch work using narrative

illustration. The previous lessons demonstrated a very production-forward way of working, showcasing pieces I do mid-to-late in production that reveal the entire

costume on the character and not much else. I do tend to inject personality into them,

as I discussed, but the primary objective is costuming a character that is already figured out. In this lesson, I’m going to talk about designing for characters and story moments that are still in development.

In our final lesson, we are going to finalize the painting and then give everything a look over and polish it up before sending it off for approval. Looking back over my earlier intentions, did I hit all of them with these pieces? If not, I’ll explore some things I can do to help ensure my design pitch is as clear as possible.


Alexandria Neonakis

Alexandria is a freelance concept artist, fine artist and illustrator from Nova Scotia Canada, currently residing in Los Angeles. Previously she was a senior concept artist at Wonderstorm and a character concept artist at Naughty Dog. Shipped titles include The Last of Us, Left Behind, Uncharted 4, Lost Legacy and The Last of Us Part 2.

Through her agents at Bright, she's worked with several publishers such as Simon & Schuster, Random House, Macmillain, Scholastic and Inhabit Media.

When she's not working, you'll find her at home with her husband John and their way too many pets, out in nature painting and shooting reference, or at the barn she rides at hanging out with horses.