Designing Characters

Today I’m going to be talking about the process I went through to design the characters for Ristorante Amore :)

Designing characters is something I find to be very enjoyable. It’s fun to visually design a personality to create a physical person. What I am trying to do is visually communicate everything I can about this character to the viewer and I use all the visual tools at my disposal, from line to colour. I have to communicate who this person is, what they think, how they act, what their personality is like. This will need to work with the written information provided to create a greater whole, a more fulfilling character.

The process starts with Camille and I talking about the characters, who we want them to be and what their role is in the story. It’s usually a back and forth of questions, ideas and suggestions until we arrive on a solution. Characters will revolve around their purpose in the story, and so we discuss the plot in relation to them. Usually by this point I have a fairly clear mental picture of who I want the characters to look like. Sometimes this is not the case. Sometimes the characters don’t want to work with me at all, and other times they go off on the weirdest tangents. This time it was Laura who was a little difficult to pin down visually.

For this project we had 6 characters to design: Lilly, Pierre, Liam, Ethan, Angelina and Laura. But there were a couple other factors I needed to consider. One was speed. This project was for Nanoreno, we only had one month to get this done and sprites were only apart of that. I had to consider how fast I could get something like this done, so I had to try and pick a level of detail and difficulty I could achieve. I was already sure I was going to be using a fairly simple shading style. The other was that I was going to be designing for duality, as those of you have finished the game will know. I’ll go into that as I talk about each character.

*Please click on the images to see a larger version*


Lily was the only character who was going to be a side sprite and the only character who wouldn’t have an alter ego. She was meant to be the epitome of, well, normal. Pretty, but not too pretty. Average and not unusual. Generally I tried to pick out a bunch of common features for heroines. Brown is a popular hair and eye colour. Short hair, bright eyes, smiles. She isn’t meant to be anyone in particular. These type of characters can be a little hard to do because of that. I’m NOT really meant to be communicating anything in particular about her, she doesn’t really have a backstory or even that much of a personality. Well, apart from clumsy and happy. I’m not a fan of the *self-insert* protagonists since I rather a strong, story driven one, so this was an interesting experience. There isn’t really much more to say about her. She is what she is.


The first of the dual characters~

In the first half of the game, Pierre is meant to embody the trope that is ‘The Prince Character’. He is elegant, charming, never gets angry ever. But in the second half he is a rough and ready chain smoker who become the main character. I had two different personalities that I essentially had to communicate with the same design. He really, really reminded me of the Sun Knight from Legend of the Sun Knight (Manwha). There was going to be two outfits, but I still had to make sure everything else would communicate okay. I started by designing him as the prince character, but always keeping his other side in mind. I gave him the blonde hair and blue eyes of a pure prince. I choose a ponytail because it could swing either way, from a refined man to the guy who can’t be bothered getting his hair cut (also, I have a thing for ponytails on guy characters… Well, no-one said I couldn’t draw things I like at the same time. It’s the same reason Liam has earrings). His pose was chosen because people cross their arms for many reasons. In this case it could communicate ‘relaxed’ in both forms, though I would say Pierre’s is more of a ‘friendly-relaxed’ and Josh’s is more of a ‘I-don’t-care-relaxed’. Pierre got to wear a chef uniform, which did suit his character as a prince because of all the white. In the second half I gave him a very relaxed, tough look, including singlet, tattoo and cigarette. I remember the first time I heard about this character I said I would have to make him a smoker because it goes against the prince character hahaha. Plus a character choosing to smoke says a lot about them and it’s not only bearded older men who do it.

This guy’s double personality reminds me of Pierre.


Angelina is the sexy competition in the first half of the game, and in the second half she was meant to be a fairly relaxed, normal women. I’m not sure why I decided to give her red hair, but I think it looks great on her… I’m pretty sure I have a thing for red hair too on women. Originally, as you can see from the sketch, she was wearing a different outfit. I didn’t like this one too much, it was too casual and not classy enough for her first personality. So I gave her a very sexy and high class outfit for the first half instead (dark blue of course to complement her red hair) and a expensive pendant to show her family wealth. Her secondary outfit is very casual, jeans and a slightly baggy top. Angelina is a little self conscious about her looks so I think she would normally try to hide her body a bit and go for comfort. I also had her with her hair up so it would be out of her way as she worked. Her pose again was a fairly standard one because I knew I could draw it quickly and it would suit both sides of her character. Probably the most specific thing to Angelina that might not be very obvious is that she has two sets of emotions. One with makeup and one without. She even has freckles when she isn’t wearing it!


Liam is the jock type in the first half, super friendly and a little dense about his feeling. I have a massive soft spot for this type of character so I had fun designing him~ In the second half he is very different. Cocky, arrogant and not above pushing people’s buttons. He becomes a model, so he had to be good looking. I gave him dark skin on a bit of a whim, plus it looked nice with uniform colour scheme. Shortish messy hair gave him the roguish charm. He wears the standard waiters uniform to begin with and in the second half I gave him a t-shirt and jeans. I figured a tight t-shirt would suit him because I think he would be the type to show off even in casual outfits. He has more muscle than the other two, both because of his role in the game and because he would have to keep himself fit to be a model. He did originally have a goatee, but he ended up with stubble to show how lazy he can be in the second half (I will eventually give a guy a goatee in of our games ///>u<///). His expressions for the first half had to be very bright and friendly, so there are big grins and big eyes. In the second half his expressions are a lot darker, his eyes more narrowed and he is more likely to have a smirk and a raised eyebrow.


Laura was the problem character I had in the game. I knew who I wanted her to be, the shy character shows up a lot as a trope, but trying to figure out how to show that was a little harder than the rest. Her duality is probably the biggest change as well. I really wanted to show her going from being a shy wallflower to someone who was very strong willed and spunky. I eventually choose to have her fringe covering her eyes in the first half, which helped create the feeling she was a side character. Plus, I’ve always wanted to try doing it. It also gave me a good way of showing her real personality when she pins back her fringe. I gave her an eyebrow stud to show her more rebellious nature as well. Her and Liam are cousins so they have a similar look with their skin tone and hair and eye colour. Her casual outfit was something that I thought she would wear, a little tomboyish and easy to move in. Yellow is such a nice colour to go with darker skin, it compliments it so nicely.


Ethan was meant to kind of be the emo type in the first half, but he kind of ended up being more the jerk with the past instead. In the second half is is a super nice guy, too nice most of the time as people tend to walk all over him. I can relate to that since I have a hard time telling people no and I often end up working myself into the ground as a result. He originally didn’t have glasses but once I added them they just fitted so perfectly. Plus, you can’t have an otome game without a megane character. The word that popped into my head for him was ‘cold’. So I gave him pale skin, dark hair and grey eyes. Literally a cold colour scheme. His glasses for the first half are small and very refined, which fitted with his uptight personality. In the second half he is a totally different person and I wanted to represent that with what he choose to wear. I gave him indie-chic glasses and almost a preppy but relaxed look with the cardigan. His expressions went from being very sharp with lots of glares and frowns to being very soft. I think his expressions tend to give him the greatest change of personality.


This isn’t a character to do with RisAmo, but he has a pretty different thought process so I thought it would be good to discuss him. This character is for a short game that Camille is making for one of her classes, and there are a number of considerations with his design. He was described to me as an attractive but gritty middle-aged detective. His story is set a bit into the future as opposed to noir detective stories and the audience is the wider public and so there is a good chance they would not have come into contact with visual novels before. Since we want the audience to take the story seriously we decided to go with a realistic style so they wouldn’t dismiss it as ‘just a cartoon’. This was going to be an interesting experiment for me because realism introduces a number of unique problems when creating a sprite. Given the time consuming nature of the style, it’s also good to be trying this out on a small game.

The first thing I did was research. Attractive middle-aged men that is.

I swear this was for study.

I ended up focusing on Hugh Jackman, George Clooney and Gerard Butler since they all have a certain grittiness to them. Visual research is important to do. What I was specifically looking for were the visual cues for age, attractiveness and grittiness. I looked at their facial shapes, their eyes, their hair, their mouths, trying to pick out the specific shapes and lines that told me about who they were. Some of the things I found I needed to focus on where the shape of their jaw and the lines that formed on their checks and around their mouths. The thinness of their lips (fuller lips tend to be a more youthful thing). The way their eyes were slightly hooded and the way their brow was quite low. The lines around their eyes that indicated age. The way their stubble was formed and what it said about them. From this I started to sketch my character, doing my best to keep in mind those details.

I was very unsure of what style I was going to use. I was pretty worried about the issue of producing the different emotions in a realistic style with consistency. I first tried to keep it kind of loose and simple, but I wasn’t terribly happy with it. I was having trouble trying to figure out how to make the shadows consistent. After that I decided to go all in and see how I went with it. It was the first time I had painted something properly in a while. It’s time consuming, but the effects can be quite nice. It will be very interesting to see how it goes within a VN. Camille thought he looked a bit old in that version so I went back and softened the lines around his mouth and eyes to make him more age appropriate. I haven’t done his emotions yet but I think the best way to do it will be to duplicate the layers and change only what I need to change. That way I won’t have to worry about what I repaint not matching what shouldn’t have changed, like some of the skin shading. Might still be a little difficult, but I’ll see how it goes. Below are the steps he went through to get to where he is now.

And that’s all :)

I hope it wasn’t too hard to follow, sometimes my thought process isn’t the most linear in the world. Some other posts I want to make are on making sprites, making backgrounds from photos, making CGs etc, so if anyone has any questions or suggestions, I would be very happy to hear them :)

Thanks for reading!


  1. Designing characters is fun. It’s interesting when people talk about how they came to their designs, too. :’D Are Liam and Laura of South Asian descent, then? Indian, perhaps? (Mmm… Indian dudes. *shot*)

    Who’s that guy on the phone in the very good looking men picture?!?! And the guy above Gerard?? They both look familiar but my brain sucks. I need to know for… research purposes.

    • I really enjoy designing characters! I really should revisit this subject at some point since I’m sure my processes have changed a lot over the time. Liam and Laura are Maori (people from New Zealand) :)

      And omg I’m not entirely sure who those two are any more, I’m not very good with stars :’D Sorry I couldn’t be of more help!

  2. Yeah. I pretty much just… do whatever, so it’s interesting to read how other people do it. Ooh! Maori is also good. :> *shot again*

    Hahaha neither am I, no worries. I will try asking around. FOR research.

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