KAB.N! with Character Design through Vertical Symmetry

Symmetry can be your friend for bodies as well as heads!

In my last post, we looked at using vertical symmetry for brainstorming character head designs. Did you know that the same technique can be applied to body shapes as well? Well, Virginia, now you do!

I typically start with a blank digital canvas in Photoshop, turn on vertical symmetry, and let the fun begin. Each design is placed on a new layer in case I want to expand or revise the idea. Below are some of my sketches using the vertical symmetry tool. Using symmetry speeds up my ideation process since I draw only one side while Photoshop “draws” the other.

Character silhouettes through symmetry

The characters are not posed, but I don’t worry about poses at this stage. Instead, I’m focusing on shape and silhouette. Some of the thoughts as I work my way through designs are:

  • Does the character read clearly as a friendly character, or a malevolent threat?
  • Is the character athletic, heavy set, or rail thin?
  • Is the character Male, female, or androgynous? Old, young, or somewhere in between?
  • Is the character a biped, quadruped or an arthropod?
  • Can we infer something about the character’s personality and/or occupation?
I’ll expand on the initial design by working out the pose I want for the character.
The symmetry study is lifeless, like an action figure in its package. It comes to life when you give it a pose!

You are under no obligation to work with the exact silhouette that you started with. Treat the character design like moldable clay and add / subtract elements as you work. Play with size and scale. Vary the proportions of the head, torso or legs to give the drawing more visual interest and appeal.

Remember: the silhouette study is merely a starting point. You can generate dozens upon dozens of characters very quickly – go nuts with vertical symmetry and have fun!