The following books were my most used resources during the writing of my master thesis on the topic of character design. They helped me a great deal to find my topic in general, to break it down into sections and to find interesting viewing angles. Of cause they also helped me on the practical part.
“Exploring Character Design” by Kevin Hedgpeth and Stehphen Missal – This book covers nearly every aspect you can think of in combination with character design. Whereas nearly every other book just concentrates on the practical part or on some more trivial parts of the process, this book really broadened the horizon for me. Although it has a limited amount of practical examples, for me it was the most inspiring and informative book of all. My favourite chapters included: “What is Character Design?”, “Research-O-Rama!” and “The Resources that Time Forgot”. One clearly notices that the authors have an academic background and a fable for prehistoric animals. 😆
The only point I did not like about the book was the fact that it somehow seems to be a little chaotic organized as I always found myself getting lost in the chapters as many topics are addressed repetitively.
“Creative Character Design” by Bryan Tillman – First I was distracted by the simplicity of the used examples in this book. I also needed some time getting used to the writing style of Bryan Tillman. But in the end the book was very informative as it showed me the detailed view of an other artist on his process of designing. Some of his examples were quite funny and I used his introduced character design template in the design process of my practical project: Chris Creature Design.
For Bryan Tillman the most important part of the process of character design is the story. Although this point should be obvious, it made me think on the fact that a fictional story may also be helpful for designing a character which is not necessarily included into a given environment.
“Creating Characters with Personality” and “Character Mentor” by Tom Bancroft – Those two book first had the impression of “how-to-draw” books for me. They give step by step explanations of the design process with appealing examples and short descriptions. But in general both books also describe the thoughts Tom Bancroft has while designing and show his recommended process. While “Creating Characters with Personality” gives a nice introduction on the different types of designers and a general outline on how to create a simple character, the second book “Character Mentor” deals with use and presentation of the developed figure.
Both books are also including parts where other artist create something on a given task and tell some of their thoughts and tips on the process. Also some interesting small stories about Tom Bancrofts work on Disney projects are included.
“Imaginative Realism” and “Color and Light” by James Gurney – Due to its high recommendation on various places, I first bought the “Color and Light” book by James Gurney and as I came to love it a lot I later also got his first book “Imaginative Realism”. Both books are characterizes by the presentation of a new art related topic on every turn of the page. This encourages me to have it lay at my side and flipping through the pages from time to time feeling inspired by it.
Although the artist James Gurney seems to work traditionally on illustrations in a high degree his information on the painting process are crucial and include basic knowledge which every digital artist should be aware of. I also appreciate his descriptions on the use of simply build models during the illustration process.
“The Art of 3D Computer Animation and Effects” by Isaac Kerlow – I first got this book from the library just skimming through it for the small part on character design. But then I came to realize how informative it was on the whole process of modern digital animation creation. I still need to read it completely but so far I especially liked the illustrated integration of character design as only a small part inside the big machinery.
There were several more books which were a big help to me while writing my thesis and although I was basically hoping to find information for my theoretical part I was amazed on how each one has also changed my view on the practical part of the process. Seriously trying to get to know the bigger picture and the thought patterns behind the process of the artists also changed my own attitude. 😮