Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Character designs: Kukru, etc.

I haven't been able to establish the other characters in as much detail as the previous post... I also haven't been able to complete a turnaround for the others (although I suppose Signit's isn't a proper turnaround).

Nevertheless I do have general ideas, which I'll write below. It's better than nothing!

The Kukru

As I've written before, this rainforest-dwelling race are non-human - I wanted them to have anthropomorphic qualities, but not be too human in appearance. I took inspiration from a range of animals, including birds, reptiles, monkeys... Here were the quick silhouettes I drew out to think of different, dynamic shapes.

I like the visual features of marmosets, and used this as reference whilst developing concepts from these silhouettes. I studied aspects of their facial design, ear shape and fur growth and incorporated it into three rough concepts. 

I wanted to draw a male and female, but for now, I only have an iteration of a male design. No doubt they would vary greatly in appearance in terms of colouring, fur style, etc. so I'd have liked to have drawn a larger number of variations. I also haven't been able to develop the Kukru culture and history, so haven't been able to incorporate this into the design through items like jewellery, ornaments, clothing, etc.

I'm disappointed at how little I've managed to develop these, as it was a lot of fun drawing non-human concepts for a change, and it's something I'll experiment more with in the future.

Other characters

Willen is actually supposed to be one of the main characters, but I haven't really been able to write about him at all.

This sketch was derived from one of the rough Romerri drawings I produced, though doesn't really reflect what he looks like at all as I haven't established his personality yet. He looks a little too much like a teenaged Goth here...

 I've so far thought of him as a sort of typical rebellious, wisecracking ex-guard type - one who worked as an apprentice or initiate guard (or an older, more experienced guard) in the cities but who grew fed up of the misery there and ran away.

Again, I'm quite sad I haven't had the time to develop the Romerri as I have such a strong idea of their style and presentation...

Asquith is supposed to be one of the more unfortunate characters. He was inspired almost solely by the lower photo of the fashion model on the bottom image. I found something about his look very intriguing and evocative, although I haven't quite managed to capture it in drawings yet.

Half-Shai, half-Romerri, his father was one of the more adept crafters, who built an extensive library in the Cities - practically the only resource of knowledge of magic. Following his death, Asquith, his only son, inherited the library, though he has little use for it as he possesses no magical inclinations, despite constantly being influenced by his father. He struggles with intellectual pursuits, and things such as reading and writing, and has thus grown up with a considerable inferiority complex. As a result he is mostly sullen and glum-looking, and desires strongly to be the 'intellect' that his role as librarian suggests, though he is incapable of it.


Aaaand I think that is as far as I got with this project. It's been an influx of ideas, but poorly executed (as is probably typical of a beginner at this sort of thing). I'll be carrying on throughout summer, hopefully working on finishing designs and looking into sculpting them - I don't particularly want to leave it as unfinished as it is!

Character design process: Signit

Throughout the process of sketching rough concepts I was thinking of this character's personality. I knew one particular point of their story - when they are discovered and revived in a snowstorm - but little else. In these images I thought she looked quite fierce and lone-wolf-ish, so I thought this could be an interesting route to look at considering how at odds it seems with her people's culture. I knew that Signit would have to be strong to withstand the world around her, though at the same time it was important to think of her internal conflicts, motivations, vices, etc.

I pushed the personality, as written below, in her design through the use of a dark red and black colour scheme - colours that evoke danger, independence, passion, anger, blood. The muted, dark tones fit the overall style I'm going for in these designs as I want to push the idea that none of these characters are clearly benevolent or malevolent - everything is a little murky.

For most of the story she is accompanying another character, Willen, who is in appearance very much the opposite - white-pale, white-blond hair and light eyes. As I mentioned, I wanted the Shai to be darker in complexion to visually counter the other groups of people. I made Signit's brows and eyes particularly intense to express this part of her persona. 

Her outfit hints at the luxurious textile-work of her people, but in a subtle way. As a skilled textile artist herself, she prizes her more fanciful clothing, though prefers to wear loose-fitting garments to cover her, both to keep warm and act as a symbolic 'shell'. 
A long-winded character sheet (I should probably make these more concise...)

Name: Signit Minoha
Race: Shai
Species: Human
Age: 25
Physical description: Of average human female height. Slim frame, wider at the shoulders than the hips - body is made of more straight angles than curves. Skin is a pale, greyish peach tone. Her hair is raven, and long, thick and messy. She often wears it in a long plait. She is mostly seen wearing an embossed, lace-up shirt, dark side-split skirt with ragged leggings underneath, and a thick burgundy knit shawl. Her face is not typically feminine - she has thick brows, a slighty hooked nose, and intense, shadowy eyes. 

In movement, she is somewhat aggressive, though not intentionally. 

Personality/Traits: Signit is serious, driven, fearless and independent, and sees everything and everyone as either 'good' or 'bad' even though she lives in a world of very hazy morality. In any dispute she gets straight to the point, and never hesitates to fight until there is a fair resolution. She prizes fairness above all else. She hates feeling stagnant, or as if events aren't moving forward; she must always be pursuing some sort of goal. 

Others perceive her as fairly intense, complex and brooding, but she feels she has little choice when faced with a world where the majority of her people and culture have been lost. In true Shai nature, she doesn't consider herself as having a 'place' in the world, but must be constantly dismantling and rebuilding her life in the pursuit of something better. She doesn't believe in having a 'destiny', though ultimately longs to find some sense of peace.

She struggles with the conflict between her Shai upbringing as a pacifist and a desire to lash out against the obvious mistreatment of her people from other groups, particularly the Romerri. Over time, as she becomes more aware of the world, she becomes increasingly manipulative in nature in order to achieve her desires without resorting to violence. 

She generally tries to refuse to acknowledge the dying of magic and it's impact on her. Although she suffers the typical symptoms - moments of faintness, hallucination, confusion, and general illness - she never lets her concern over her own mental or physical wellbeing show.

Secrets: She battles an ongoing to desire to learn to fight; she sees her physical inferiority as her biggest weakness.
Shai people in general are very opportunistic, and rarely harbour ill feeling towards others - as such, she desires to hate the Romerri and avenge her people, but at the same time is curious about them and wishes to immerse herself in their world. 

Background: Signit is a member of the Minoha Shai clan, a group who, following their escape from the Cities when under siege, settled in a camp South-East of the cities near Skeltin. Skeltin is a Shai village that has largely been abandoned and left to ruin, though the Minoha were intent on rebuilding a life there. 

When crossing the wilderness north of the Restway, the clan were caught in an unexpected snowstorm; many froze to death, and Signit was trapped alone inside a small cabin, where she collapsed. Fatefully, that night, a rebellious Romerri traveller named Willen was crossing the area. When the weather became too much for him to bear, he sought shelter in Signit's cabin and discovered her body. Through considerable effort he managed to revive her, and they had no choice but to accompany each other on the road after that.

Skills: Her role in the clan was as a textile maker. She is skilled at sewing, and initially doesn't see herself as capable of much else. She finds great satisfaction in giving gifts of garments, either as an act of charity or as a way of expressing her gratitude or loyalty to a person (however rarely that might occur). 

5 Common Pitfalls Of Concept Art & Illustration Portfolios

Although I think it's quite early days for me to thinking about my portfolio, the link above goes into detail on a few key points to consider. I'll summarise them here.

1. Unprofessional communication

How you communicate says as much about you as your art does. It might seem like common sense, but make sure to pay a lot of attention to spelling and grammar when communicating with potential recruiters. Keep your standards high and be concise and efficient but without coming across as self-entitled - "Humility and gratitude create a strong foundation of true relationship. And true relationship is the foundation of true success."

2. Your portfolio doesn't fit the job your applying for

Customise your portfolio to suit what is required of the job you are going for. For example, if you are applying for a storyboarding job, your portfolio should show mostly storyboards with maybe some of your other very best work at the back. Taking the extra time to do research into the position you're applying for, and presenting your work suitably, goes a long way.

3. Ambiguous intent

You should decide where you fit in the industry, not your employer. When asked "What kind of job are you looking for?" avoid saying "Anything." If you're unsure of where you fit in, seek advice - but not in a job application.

4. Unprofessional presentation

(This is probably my biggest issue.)
A portfolio should not show your growth as an artist - it should only show your best work, and reflect your potential as "an artist and human being". If it is unprofessional then you will be unprofessional. Be creative and take the time to make it look its very best.

For Digital Portfolios (Website, iPad, PDF etc.) :
  • No haphazard collection of JPG or PSD files.
  • No pixellated, low-res images.
  • No huge PDFs (manageable file sizes only).
For Physical Portfolios:
  • No loose pages.
  • No original work.
  • Website address on every page.*
  • Design it like a nice “Art Of” book.
  • Try to maintain consistent design from page to page.
  • Leave space on the page to let the art “breathe.”
5. Too much art

Less is more. If you don't have enough work, get a smaller portfolio (or make more work!). Around twenty five pages is the limit. If you have too much work to show, it will be overwhelming and confusing - it's better not to overstay your welcome.

Chris Oatley has a lot of other articles of this nature on this website (like this) - it's an overall excellent source of advice. 

I certainly don't think I have enough work finished to my highest standard to put together a portfolio, and I'd like to avoid filling one up with unfinished and/or mediocre work in the meantime. I'd prefer to put more time into creating good work so that it will reflect me in my best light. I also still really need to work on the presentation of my work - have some sort of logo/signature maybe, and a consistent font to give brief titles on my concept pieces to give some sort of context. 

A big focus for me next year will be on making my art appear more neat, presentable and professional.

Books on Character Design and Development cont.

The Art of Game Characters by Leo Hartas takes a look at the range of popular character types we see across the medium, and features interviews with a variety of practitioners and more technical insights into the processes of creating concept art and models.

Whereas the last book I mentioned seemed to strongly hold the view that stereotypes should be avoided, this one states otherwise: the book is in fact organised in categories of character stereotypes and archetypes, including the "sexy and sassy" female protagonist and the "avenging muscle-bound hero". - these characters barely need explaining before you can get a general idea of what they're all about. However, although the book says that featuring games with stereotypical characters can be a shortcut to commercial/financial success, it is at the cost of them holding no surprises, and "very rarely results in a hit", so the general view is still that it's always good to play with audience expectation and fresh concepts.

This book overall is more relevant to me at the moment as there is a lot of focus on the visuals of games. There's pages of colourful rendered models and concept drawings that cover a range of styles and genres. Sandy Spangler, who has worked in the industry for over ten years as an artist and animator, gives a lot of valuable and practical advice on the process of character creation. (The only part I disagreed with was where they said that character customisation in a game is pointless - that personalised characters are reduced to soulless avatars. I think on the contrary it opens up wonderful creative opportunities for players who like to write their own characters, particularly in vastly open world games).

Unfortunately I've messed up fairly early in the process by not solidifying my character's backgrounds and personalities before moving onto drawing up designs. This has all been due to an overall lack of time, and I'll make sure in the next project I'm more understanding of just how much is involved in that part of the design process.

Important advice on creating concept art:

- Less is not more - more is more. "A true concept artist has a flexible style and can create dozens of very different versions of a character." That isn't to say artists with a stronger and more limited style can't work in concept design, they just need chosen more carefully to suit the style of the game. I hope that my style is broad and general enough to cover a range, from cartoonishly exaggerated games to slightly more realistic ones.

- The character concept-art cycle
1. Generate the first round of sketches. These should be rough but expressive, and should be created very quickly with lots of variety.

2. Narrow down which ones have features that work well. Get multiple opinions on this to help ensure broad appeal.

3. Do another round of drawings, a bit tighter this time and combining the features that were selected from round one.

4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you have a 2D version of the character that seems to work well. Expect at least three or four rounds of artwork, not including colour tests. The final version should include colour and a 'turnaround' view showing the character's front, back and side.

5. Get feedback on the design, through focus testing or internal company review. Make any needed adjustments in response to feedback. One or two people, usually the Lead Artist and/or Lead Designer must have the final say.

6. Put the character into its final state; usually this means modelled and textured in 3D. Ensure that the character's integrity and appeal are maintained.

- If a character is effective, players will remember it long after the game play has ended. This maximises the potential success of sequel games as well as a possible future in other media. From a cultural standpoint you will be providing a richer and more meaningful game play experience for thousands, possibly millions of people, as well as making a positive contribution to modern mythology. It's high time we in the games industry took some responsibility in that. 

- Ultimately, characters should come from the heart, not a spreadsheet. If you, their creator, don't understand their inner workings and believe in them, no-one else will either. The world is full of empty characters; do not create more. 

Reading this has made me realise just how important the role of a concept artist is. It defines the game in many ways, and could make or break it in terms of commercial and/or cultural success.

The points above touched on how if a character is memorable enough it increases the chances of them appearing in other forms of media, which is what this module is focussing on - how to make our projects transmedia. In this case, I would hope that if I design characters that are richly detailed and believable, it will be easy to envision them in other mediums, such as cinema or graphic novels, as this undoubtedly seems to be the route that modern media is going.

Looking back at the 'character concept art cycle', I can see that I haven't followed this as successfully as I should - again due to lack of time. I certainly don't have the volume of work I should have, showing a range of experimentations between different designs and styles. I will, for now, have to settle on some designs for my deadline, but then perhaps continue working on the project afterwards and produce art more like what I envisioned at the start of the project.

Books on Character Design and Development

I picked up two books to read over this module to hopefully expand my knowledge and awareness of both the process of writing/designing game stories and characters and designing concepts: Character Development and Storytelling For Games by Lee Sheldon and The Art of Game Characters by Leo Hartras.

Something I found interesting is the variety of approaches these two books take to developing characters. Lee Sheldon comes from a background as a scriptwriter for television - he has worked on shows such as Charlie's Angels and Star Trek: The Next Generation - and his job is primarily as a game designer and writer, so obviously aspects such as concept art are much less of a focus in his book. He believes writing characters and narratives should not be thought of lightly - considering we spend days on end experiencing a game whilst only a few hours watching a film, it is deserving of just as much respect and attention than it receives in other mediums.

He covers a wide range of topics, including an informative introductory overview of the history of storytelling, from cavemen telling tales by campfires to Aristotle and Homer; references to Jung's psychological theories of the ego, the personal conscious and the collective unconscious, and his writings on symbolism, dreams and myths in Man and His Symbols as valuable sources of knowledge for the writer - "great fuel to fire our creative thinking."; he also covers Joseph Campbell's The Hero's Journey, or the monomyth, which is said to be found in countless stories from around the world:

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

The monomyth is said to consist of up to 17 stages and is a fascinating focus of study in its own right.

On top of this the book covers designing successful and intuitive game worlds, and writing effective and interesting characters that avoid stereotypes and cliches:

"To recognize when you are writing stereotypes, as yourself questions: Does the character look, talk, and act exactly as you'd expect her to? If there are no surprises, you've got a stereotype. Do the concept sketches the artists are making from your description look a lot like the concept sketches from other games? Stereotype."

... "We must give them a life within the game, not just a gameplay reason for being there. We need to choose how they will grow, and how much they will learn about themselves."

It isn't easy avoiding stereotypes. Sheldon gives a few reasons of why we can quite quickly fall into the trap of creating characters of this nature, including us not realising they are stereotypes, which is usually the result from having too narrow a focus on your favourite mediums and genres, and not observing and 'absorbing' the world and as many stories as possible (I'd very much like to keep myself from falling into this).

As an important note, it is fine to use archetypes in a story - it is entirely possible to have "goddesses in leather" or "dashing, romantic hero" and allow players to live out their fantasies, but they have to be turned into "living, breathing individuals", otherwise the experience is hollow.

Another passage which was of interest to me was about the fantasy genre. Of course, my project falls under this definition as it involves creating a fantastical world which bears no real resemblance to our own (no matter how poorly I might be doing it - it is my first attempt!).

Sheldon gives some reasons as to why fantasy and sci-fi are so popular in the game industry:
- The roots of games are in tabletop games like Dungeons and Dragons and films like Star Wars which were popular at the beginning of the "personal computer revolution".
- The primary crossover audience from other media is still a fantasy/sci-fi audience -  young males. And with "cross media fertilization" (i.e. transmedia) being a big market focus, companies are bound to feed audience expectation.
- These genres are often preferred by game developers who are attracted to the idea of using technology and interactivity to create "anything our imaginations can conjure".
- It allows a wider range of solutions to fiction-breaking game problems like player-characted death, healing, etc.
- In games set on earth we're more likely to spot details that aren't correct, or shortcuts taken to make it manageable to a game engine. Alien worlds are much more flexible.

(for some reason I wrote a lot more than this but it disappeared, and the draft that's saved is missing it. I don't have time to write it out again, so I will have to leave this blog as it is!)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Looking back at the Xmas Exhibition

Towards the end of last year we hosted an exhibition to showcase the work we created for the Game Art and Machinima module. I wanted to get involved in planning the exhibition - this was our first time showing our work to anyone beyond our own course, let alone the general public, so I wanted to help in making sure we were shown in our best light.

Different people were given different roles in planning; some focussed on naming the event, some on organising refreshments, creating name tags, etc. I thought I'd put my Photoshop skills to use and make a poster/flyer that could be displayed around the college and also given out to passers by.

(I think I actually changed the font of the address in the final iteration in case it was difficult to read)

I decided to showcase all of our models together in the poster; to do this I had to gather as many of them as I could from the class, put them together in a Maya scene file, and render out an image against a plain white background. I thought it'd offer a glimpse into how our course covers a wide range of genres/styles but ultimately our focus is on creating and giving life to interesting and charming characters. I couldn't get the scaling of some of the models right, which is why some of them seem disproportionately large, but I didn't think it would be too noticeable.

I also, with the help of my tutor, printed out a large banner to place on the walls at the event, this time showcasing the characters in a long line so they could be looked at individually.

(I had to take some of Wisdom's photos as I have none of my own!)

The unique aspect of a DFGA exhibition is the interactive element: as well as showcasing prints of our models and concept art, we had a laptop connected to a projector which showed both interactive character turnarounds and Unity-based playable environments that the guest could 'walk' around in. I think this was the most interesting part of the exhibit to people who maybe aren't familiar with the process of 3D modelling and animation, and I think in future exhibitions it would be beneficial to place more of a focus on this part of our medium as it offers something novel and enjoyable as opposed to just having pictures on a wall.

There were a few hiccups for our project - our final cinematic which we gave to the tutor for showing at the event was missing the soundtrack, so it was just silent, which robbed it of some of it's impact. Tabitha's model's normals were also showing the wrong way in the interactive turnaround (which was my own fault - I should have properly reversed the normals instead of just applying an occlusion shader). Regardless we got some positive comments on our work, and it's always exhilarating seeing others looking at and enjoying your creations, especially when it's the result of so much hard work and stress.

I felt a little concerned about the location of the venue. It was fairly difficult to find, and was far from the town centre - many people weren't sure how to get there even with the address given on the flyer. I also found it fairly dark and unwelcoming as the entrance was a tiny, slightly dishevelled looking door and the gallery space looked a little worse for wear. It was also a freezing winter's night and definitely not the greatest weather to attract a casual audience who maybe aren't sure what our work is all about - the cold put a bit of a damper on my mood, so I probably wasn't as sociable as I should have been (as usual!). On top of all this I also think we didn't leave enough time to advertise the event properly, meaning many potential guests probably weren't even aware of it.

As a result of all this I worried that we would get next-to-no guests, and I think in the end the majority of the guests were students' friends and families, but even so it still turned out to be an enjoyable evening - it was good to be in the class' company somewhere outside of college as it always helps develop friendships. It was also definitely a good introduction to showcasing our work professionally somewhere outside of the computer - everything from mounting our prints on card, to being there in person to explain our work to onlookers, was a new experience for me. I now have a better idea of how I'd like my work to be presented in this sort of space, and of how I could attract more guests to a future exhibition.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Developing ideas for the Shai/Romerri

The Shai are people who lived in the northern parts of the particular continent I'm creating (called Algen) . They have been driven from their home - the vast Imbued Cities - and only a few hundred of them are still living. The Shai were the most naturally adept at crafting magic, and many of them believed this to be a sign of their closer bond to the Earth and nature, which they took pride in. They believed in peace, and rarely used it for selfish acts or acts of violence, although they did use it as a means of protection when needed. They were renowned for their skills in creating potent medicines, beautiful clothing and jewellery and, more notoriously in the eyes of the northern world, hallucinogenic substances. Many of them used their crafting skills to create art, perform dance and compose music.

Since the apparent expiry of magic, the Shai have significantly weakened. Many of them died of illness, and the majority of the rest killed by invaders who sought to steal their (now useless) magic artefacts for their own use. Clans of them still exist in tightly-knit groups that travel the lands, trying to adapt to a harsher world without magic and to cling on to a culture which has largely been forgotten.

For their appearance I did take influence from Romani and other nomadic (or gypsy) peoples' culture and traditional dress, and also traditional embroidered clothing from Albanian culture. Since the Shai express their talents through crafting, clothing would no doubt be richly embroidered and coloured and worn in often quite extravagant fashions.

The remaining Shai, following their downfall, would still be wearing these fabrics but they will have lost a lot of their vibrancy, and would now tear and become worn, which will be apparent in their character designs.

So far my designs have unfortunately been a little unorganised. I created some silhouettes for the Shai:

I created the bottom set as I thought the ones above weren't dynamic and interesting enough. I've found it difficult considering interesting silhouettes when I don't want the characters to look too over-the-top and impractical - they will mostly be wearing ragged, heavily layered clothing to express the general downcast 'mood' of the world. I also found it generally difficult to draw so freely without thinking too much.

I nevertheless took a couple and adapted them into some fairly quick concepts of what they might look like. To contrast with the pale skinned and haired people from the snowy northern countries, I want the Shai to be darker in their complexion and hair colours (although I'm aware the guy below is looking very pale...). I think perhaps the Shai survivors will have a sort of muted/greyish tinge to their skin to reflect how an important part of their lifestyle and being has faded. 

This is an example of a generic male/female. I have tried not to be too bright with the colours, and to create more of a ragged or thrown-together feel rather than making their outfits too precise and neat, whilst still adding small ornate or colourful details to hint to their past culture. 

Following this I took some more silhouettes and adapted them to create initial ideas for my Shai character - the one who was discovered in a snowed-in camp and revived by a Romerri traveller. I wasn't sure on whether they should be male or female; at this stage I've settled on female, and below I experimented with different personalities and dress styles - more typically feminine or tomboyish, vulnerable or powerful? Roughly drawing out my ideas while I think of the character's personality helps establish them in my mind and see what works and what doesn't.

I don't actually like any of these very much - I don't think they're very interesting. An outfit like the one on the left would probably be the most practical for someone living on the road, although I do prefer the one on the right and I think adapting to create some sort of combination of the two might work. I think the split skirt is quite striking and recognisable, though I'd probably add some sort of leggings or trousers underneath. The lace-up top shows a feminine side, although I want to avoid making her too 'sexy' so I'm not going to have any obvious cleavage or anything like that - she is going to have a thin frame, slightly wider at the shoulder than the hip, and won't have many curves. I plan on experimenting more with hairstyle and face ideas.

The Romerri were slightly easier to draw up silhouettes for as they are quite 'angular' in their appearance. Something I'm very much aware of at this stage is how they might seem so at odds with the Shai that it might seem infeasible for them to exist in the same world - they are more inspired by contemporary fashion than traditional cultures, and are therefore a bit more modern in their look.

I didn't add as much detail to these as my last rough concepts, so it's hard to get an idea of texture and material - they look a little too sleek here, when I want them to have a slightly more roughed up appearance to suit the somewhat 'post-apocalpytic' tone of the world. I've already shown some of the moodboards I've gathered for the Romerri, but I've expanded beyond looking at 'dark fashion' to 'post-apocalyptic' fashion as well. There's endless inspiration and reference in this particular fashion style that capture what I want to express in this particular group of people.

As I've mentioned I think the heavily layered look, and combining different materials, fits them as they live in a colder climate. Their people are eager to find a means of creating magical artefacts for themselves, often to the detriment of others, but they have yet to accomplish this. They are, in comparison to the Shai, generally considered quite harsh and selfish in their nature, although in reality they have a different sense of morality. Many of them struggle to get by in the harsh cold climate of their home country, and so those who rule over them seek the answer in magic.

The subtle, monochromatic colour palette of their outfits reflects the general amorality of their society - there is no black and white. 

For now I'm going to focus on establishing the Shai character. Tomorrow I will begin working on the Kukru. As these two are slightly more typically 'fantasy', I think if I define what their looks are, I'll be able to adapt the Romerri suitably so that they fit in a little better. At the moment they seem to modern, and not quite fitting for a pre-technological world.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Character Design Tutorials

I've been trying to gather general knowledge on the process of character design from a variety of sources.

There are, of course, endless resources online for this sort of thing. has a great range of video tutorials, particularly for an insight into the process of digital painting. I will no doubt go back to this site when I reach the stage of creating final, refined digital paintings of my characters.

At this stage, however, I'm mainly working on creating a range of thumbnail sketches and silhouettes, so for the moment I don't need to worry too much about detailed pieces.

The concept artist Mark Molnar has uploaded a serious of videos detailing his character design process which has been very useful to me. He begins by using a plain round brush in Photoshop and creating very loose thumbnails, with the intention of creating a range of shapes, both male and female. He then takes the ones he finds most interesting, and adds more definition using a 50% grey brush. He then erases parts around the silhouettes to add more suggestions of detail and shape. He then uses the same brush with the added 'transfer' attribute to push details back and create more of a sense of atmosphere.

When he has finished, he adds a background to make it more presentable. He advises that you should always try to make your work, no matter what stage it's at, look interesting and well-presented. This is definitely something I need to do more, as I tend to be messy and unorganised, particularly with early draft work.

He gives lots of useful tips and advice during this video on the process as a whole. I will be checking out the whole series to further develop my understanding.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Collaboration - creating a character design

We've been encouraged during this module to collaborate with others in our class to get more experience of working as part of a team and defining our specialist skillset. I offered to help with any drawing or illustrative aspects such as texturing, storyboarding or creating concept art. My classmate Sarah asked if I'd be interested in drawing concept art for her character, for which she was composing a musical theme. I was more than happy to, as I have little experience of adapting other people's character ideas so I thought it'd be very useful.

She gave me a character sheet, an outfit concept she had drawn and a colour scheme to work with. The character sheet was very detailed which is always great, as it helps establish their personality and history in your head to inform the designing process.

This can be read here:

As Sarah had already drawn up the concept for his hairstyle and outfit it was really just my job to translate this into a T-pose turnaround and one dynamic pose to show off his character. At her request I didn't change her original design, though I did add a pair of glasses as I thought this suited his personality and occupation as a librarian.

I'm still very sketchy when it comes to digital painting, particularly on shading fabric and trying to colour highlights and shadows. This was valuable practice, although I find that the dynamic pose lacks sharpness and definition and doesn't show light and shadow very well, and his legs are positioned awkwardly.

I kept in contact with Sarah as I was designing to discuss the poses, and to show her the final product. Her feedback can be read here :

I'm happy that she likes the outcome - it was a fun character to work with!

Creating the Kukru - Inspiration from wildlife

Once I'd settled on the idea that the Kukru live in a tropical rainforest climate, I found a little opportunity to explore more about this environment at the local Roundhay Tropical Park. Not only is it always beneficial to get away from the computer screen and get a fresh perspective on your work, I thought visiting the park would offer inspiration for the Kukru's habitats and appearance in a uniquely immersive way as opposed to just browsing the net.

Wandering around the park and listening to the ambient noises, experiencing the heat, looking at the flora and fauna, and looking and learning about the animals all helped to picture what a real rainforest is like, and to develop my basic understanding of them. There were also sections of the park for desert environments, nocturnal animals and underwater life, which although aren't directly relevant so I haven't included the photos here, were a fun opportunity to experience and study a wide range of wildlife. 

I only had my phone camera with me and couldn't take any decent photos, but I managed to get a few of the general wildlife as inspiration and reference for textures and forms. I also photographed some of the information boards of animals I found particularly interesting so that I could research them once I got home.

Through my research at home I looked at a whole range of animals - I won't create moodboards for all of them here! One that I discovered that particularly like is the marmoset, especially the Wied's marmoset, pictured below (there's also a Tamarin monkey). I just find something about their look very intriguing and intelligent. Although I'd been considering basing my race on reptilian creatures, I'm now interested in pursuing something along this route, or somehow combining the two. I will sketch out ideas in another post. 

Here's some small sketches I did of animals using images from online. The purpose of this was just to try and get used to drawing non-human shapes so I can hopefully stop myself from falling into my usual habits of drawing human-like faces. I plan to do some more of these for body type as well, as that is obviously a major part of the design, and if I want to move away from drawing human bodies I'll need to practice and develop my understanding of other types. 

Initial ideas sketches

At the moment I am focussing mainly on establishing the Kukru's appearance before I work on other characters, as they are the ones that require the most research and experimentation in terms of their physiology. 

The idea for this race was the result of this sketch I did a while back:

All I knew when I drew this was that I wanted to draw something that wasn't a person, as I feel like that's often all I can draw. I did no research and didn't use references, so there's lots of room for improvement, but I liked the overall impression I got from the sketch - I began to envision ideas of what their towns and villages would be like, about their culture (for some reason drinking teas from a bowl was something I wanted to incorporate), and about their voices and hairstyles. So, I decided to use all this as part of the basis for one of the races in this project, though none of these ideas were set in stone and I knew I wanted to develop them a lot more. 

The sketches below are further experiments. Like the concept drawings I posted below from the Mass Effect art book, I mainly wanted to sketch out a range of shapes and looks and to play with different features. I was leaning towards the idea of them being reptilian and/or bird-like, so I experimented drawing with and without beaks and varying degrees of human-like skull shapes.

(Sorry they're so messy... Being a lefty means that working on pages of drawings like this tends to cause them to smudge all over the place)

So far none of these ideas really grabbed me - I found many of them to look like Turian rip-offs (why does this seem to happen in each of my modules?!) - so I intend to do further research and look at different animals for more inspiration.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Non-human fantasy races

Quite a few of the fantasy races that I can think of from the top of my head - other than orcs and elves - resemble animals that we're familiar with: the Argonians and Khajit in The Elder Scrolls series are like reptiles and cats, the Charr in Guild Wars are also like cats, and the Tengu from the series are based on the Japanese legendary creatures from folklore and combine human and avian characteristics.

Even in sci-fi, many artists draw on the 'alien' features of reptiles, birds and other creatures for inspiration and reference. In the book The Art of the Mass Effect Universe it is explained how the concepts of the alien race, the Drell, drew upon combinations of aquatic and reptilian characteristics. 

Similarly, the Turians are very birdlike in many aspects, with added alien elements to keep them unique.

It's interesting to see the vast number of ideas the artists came up with before settling on a final design. It's definitely important to not get attached to a 'look' too early on in the concept-design process, as it's highly likely a more interesting look will result from experimenting with many ideas.

One thing I've taken from having this quick look into fantasy humanoid races is that I'd like to avoid the route of placing an unusual head on a muscular, human-like body (like the Argonian). I'd like to play a little more with anatomy, whilst keeping the species humanoid enough to be relatable and able to speak.

Lots of moodboards!

I've spent a lot of time gathering inspiration and reference images for each race and the overall tone of the game world. I've purposely tried to gather most of my references from sources other than existing games as I'd like to go for a slightly fresher, edgier look. For this reason I've spent time exploring a range of media including late 19th-early 20th century photography and a lot of contemporary high fashion, particularly avant-garde fashion and hair design. I've ended up with many (probably too many) moodboards to inform the design process.

The following two moodboards are not intended to inform any particular design choice, but more to study a range of features and hairstyles which I could incorporate into my characters. I chose to look at photos from these eras as I feel modern actors and actresses tend to look too artificial, particularly women - many photos are airbrushed and they mostly wear heavy make-up which hides the natural 'look' of the face. I would like my characters to be different to the modern convention of good-looking (slender, flaw-free women and rugged, muscular men) so I thought it would be interesting to look back to a time when beauty standards were quite different. 

Below are a number of moodboards I've gathered of a particular style of modern fashion (I'm not sure what it's called, maybe dark fashion?). I've been aware of this trend for a while and I've always found it very intriguing, and I thought it would be interesting incorporating it into a fantasy world. The style is almost exclusively monochromatic or all-black, and therefore particular emphasis is put on the silhouette of the outfit, the different textures used and the manner in which clothes are layered. The fact that the outfits have such strong silhouettes is especially useful for game design as it ensures characters are recognisable from a distance. 

I am not thinking of this style to be used by everybody in my world - that would make little sense considering the different cultures and the fact people have individual tastes - but I think it's suitable for the majority of the Romerri peoples as they live in colder climates and would need to wear many-layered clothing. I think it also suits their personalities, as many of them are harsh in nature and their politics are quite chaotic, but they hide it behind a neatly arranged appearance. I think I'll be using a wider variety of colours and tones, however, as a city of people wearing monochromatic clothing would probably be a bit too dark and oppressive.

Also for hairstyles:

I've decided they are mostly white or blonde haired as they live in snowy climates and, though they counter it with their clothing, 'blend in' to their surroundings. Looking at extreme avant-garde hairstyles helps me think about unique ways to push a character's look, even if it's not to the extent that these looks are.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A rant about my personal obstacles

(This is very long-winded and self-indulgent - sorry!)

The PPP deadline isn't too far away, and I'm very aware that I probably haven't been doing as much as I should in this module - investigating ways to engage with the industries I'd like to work in, gaining experience, taking part in competitions, networking and developing skills. I feel like it'd probably be best to just be honest and up-front about this, as it might be easier to face my worries if I express them publicly on this blog so I can work things out and develop from there.

As an aspiring artist I find the internet pretty scary - the vast number of extremely experienced and talented writers, designers, game developers, illustrators etc. can all be great sources of knowledge and inspiration, but they can also seem to be at a level of skill and talent that seems way beyond my capabilities. I often feel like a very small fish in a giant ocean of thousands of other artists, and I feel like most of them seem to simply be better -not necessarily in a skill sense as I know that comes from practice and learning techniques, but in the sense that they seem to have more interesting things to say, or are more skilled at finding opportunities and using their time productively and wisely.

Whilst some budding artists find this motivating and strive continually to improve, I seem to go the opposite route, and retreat further inwards - I share less and less of my art and judge it even more harshly, and I grow increasingly frustrated at myself for being unable to reach the standards I've set for myself and for where I want to be. This causes me to feel disheartened and apathetic, even depressed - it's like an ongoing cycle.

At this rate I'm lucky to update my art blog once every few months, and even then I feel like it absolutely doesn't reflect the sort of artist and person I want to be seen as. Even my close friends and relatives hardly ever see my work, and many of my acquaintances on the likes of Facebook probably don't even know I like to draw. These self-confidence issues, I feel, are the biggest obstacles I need to overcome over the next year or so, as I know that working in the industry or as a freelancer requires you to be strong, motivated, focussed and able to take criticism.

We have been asked repeatedly over this module to think of our specialism, or ways of branding ourselves through creating business cards and portfolios, but I know I've been putting off all of these as I feel like my work should be at a higher standard - and that I should even have some to show - before I really start putting myself out there as a working practitioner. When creating portfolios you're supposed to think of your best work, but I feel all of my digital art is unfinished, rushed and poorly considered.

But I know that to get better, I need to stop idly brooding over my work and generally being very negative, and actually put more time each day into practising and growing as an artist.

We are given lots of advice on how to develop our skills, many of them I've already written about, such as engaging in forums, sending out emails etc. For many of these, my next weakness becomes painfully obvious - I'm very introverted. In fact in one lecture we were shown a presentation called "The Shy Connector - Networking for Introverts", which pinpointed many of the issues I feel with things such as networking and showcasing my work: I'm generally very uncomfortable with making small talk, and about talking about myself (even if I can ramble on forever on here), let alone about my ideas and art work and to people I don't know. The idea of attending a networking event, surrounded by strangers and being expected to talk at length, is fairly terrifying.

I also experienced this in the game project I worked on last year with the students from America - I felt out of my depth and way too nervous when it came to exchanging emails with them, and struggled with receiving negative criticism (even though they were tactful and very helpful). I sometimes even delayed in doing the work and sending it to them as I was quite anxious. Obviously I can't afford to do this in future projects as it can be detrimental to the overall workflow. This causes me to also avoid posting on blogs and forums and sharing online, as I experience similar feelings.

The presentation suggests, in terms of networking, changing your focus and to taking it away from yourself ("I need to showcase my work so that I can be recognised and popular") and towards others ("What do other people have to say, how can I help / show interest / share knowledge?"). It said to spend time blogging about your interests to attract likeminded people, and developing good general knowledge and a database of useful books/sites to share with others - this will help build relationships as you are able to understand what people need, and able to help and advise. You are not selling yourself, but helping people and learning along the way. The presentation was reassuring as I know that there are many others who experience similar issues to me, which is partially why I chose to write all this out as I feel people tend to bottle up these sorts of problems.

Starting a blog is something I have thought about, but I'm not sure on what route it would take - very informal and casual about a range of topics, or more structured and only about my progress and findings as an artist? I will probably think about this as I know I need to be more open about my art (and in general), even if I think it's rubbish, or that nobody is interested, as it's probably the best way to establish contacts and share advice, techniques and knowledge.

We're nearly onto the final year now, and although I can look back and see how much I've changed for the better over the course of this degree, I want to be able to put my best self forward when it comes to actually trying to find work so that I can avoid the anxiety I've experienced in these situations so far; I think it'd be more beneficial for me to slow down and think less about establishing myself already as a specialist practitioner, and more about just building my art skills, so that I can be relatively comfortable in my own skin by the end of this course.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Creating my map

Seeing as the focus for this project is actually on character design, I haven't been able to put the amount of time and consideration into my fantasy world and map as I'd have liked. Things such as the climates, how they affect different parts of the region, the construction of the different races' languages, and the names of cities and areas all have room for improvement and I'd spend days mulling them over and perfecting them if I could. However I've reached a point where I need to draw a line beneath this part of the project so I can focus on the characters.

Here's a *very* rough scan of a drawing of the map that I've come up with so far. The names aren't great (many of them were just the results of online fantasy generators), and again I'd like to spend more time rethinking these but I will have to leave it as it is for now.

I will be refining this, redrawing this digitally and colouring it to make a clearer distinction between parts of the land.

The first thing to mention is that this is definitely not to scale, and it is not of the entire fantasy world, it is just a continent. Geography has never been my strong point - in fact I haven't really thought about it since GCSE -  so I haven't been able to create this map with a solid understanding of how lands are built and what sort of things effect their structure. But my general idea is that the northern half is of a colder climate, with the north-east being mostly covered in heavy snow. The southern is very warm, with the south-west being mostly tropical rainforest. The midlands are largely wetlands. Of course, on the map it looks like these regions are barely miles apart which is very unrealistic, but it is actually a very vast distance. I don't really have the mind for calculating exact distances or drawing to a scale, though if I ever refine this project further in the future I would like to do that, and I'd probably re-think the entire map if I could.

But I'm continually making the excuses that it is fantasy and it is not my intention to create a world that follows the exact laws of Earth, at this stage I simply want to have a general idea of the layout of the continent, and to have an interesting variety of climates. 

In a talk I had with my tutor he told me to think about who, in my world, has actually drawn the map as this would influence the manner in which towns and cities have been named and the manner in which it's drawn. Maps have varied a great deal over the years, with medieval maps being very different to the sorts of maps we're used to today, and also used for a different purpose. For example the mappae mundi, medieval European maps of the world, were not intended for navigational use, but were there to teach and inform about different principles, including the known land masses, climate zones, cardinal directions, Biblical stories, mythological stories, flora, fauna and exotic races. ( Some of the more extensive maps were like encyclopedias of medieval knowledge. 

Later maps of the era were more concerned with being accurate so that they may be used for navigating seas. A map made my monk Fra Mauro can be seen as a hybrid of mappae mundi and this 'Portolan' style of mapping. 

Other maps I've been looking at come directly from other fantasy worlds, including Tolkein's map of Middle Earth: 

and maps from the Elder Scrolls series, such as this one of Morrowind:

These maps are a good indication of ways to illustrate a land mass without rigidly following a set scale. What's most important is how they indicate important landmarks, cities and towns. Of course the creators of these have had a lot more time to consider the structure and history of their worlds and how it's made an impact, and they are very inspiring for me in their great attention to detail and believability.

I've also looked at maps from MMOs such as Guild Wars 2 and World of Warcraft as I know they tend to have a wide variety of land types and climates without it necessarily 'making sense', so I don't think I need to worry too much about that side of it, at least not at this stage. I know the more 'serious' fantasy stories take everything into consideration to make a world that is as immersive as possible - one that geographically makes sense. I'd like to do this when I continue thinking about the project after this module. 

So there are a variety of ways I could approach creating the map, without necessarily making it highly accurate, although for the purposes of a fantasy game I suppose it would be crucial for it to be purely navigational so that players are able to use it to traverse lands. (Unless I was to go the route of some games and remove the map completely, meaning the player has to ask for directions or use other methods of guidance). I will probably, at this stage, simply re-draw it and make it clearer what sort of scale it's at, and add a lot more landmarks and towns (it is probably, as I'm thinking about it at the moment, similar in size to Vvardenfell).


Here is my (probably fairly badly written and cliche even though I've said I'd like to avoid cliches) fantasy story as it is so far:

From the beginning I've known that I'd like one of the focuses of the region to be an enormous city, which is the large structure in the north. They are called 'The Imbued Cities' as the people who once lived there, the Shai, were the most powerful in crafting magical items, but since magic has faded, they have significantly weakened and been driven out by another race of people from the country above it called the Romerri. They are largely incapable of crafting magic but believe that living in the cities will help them to do this. This priority has been somewhat forgotten as the city is chaotic and rift with crime - it is a depressing and oppressive place, though it's huge scale means that different districts have constructed their own subcultures and rules. One Shai is held captive in the 'Hall of Leaves'. He is the son of a deceased powerful intellect, and the city governers believe he will teach them the secrets of powerful crafting, but he is actually void of any kind of crafting talent (he has developed an inferiority complex because of this). 

The rest of the Shai have slowly decreased in number, and only a few thousand of them are left, travelling the land in groups and living in camps and on the road. One of the main camps travelled a bit too far north-east and got stuck in a blizzard, killing most of them. A rebel Romerri travelling through this area inadvertently came across the camp and managed to revive one of them. They travelled to safer lands together and developed a bond. 

The southern part of the world is largely inhabited by an intelligent humanoid race called the Kukru. Appearance-wise they will be inspired by rainforest-dwelling animals, particularly birds and reptiles. They prefer to not involve themselves with the issues up north, though they feel sympathy for the Shai and share some of their hatred for the Romerri. 

(I'm not 100% sure on these names yet, especially 'Shai' - I will probably be changing this)

So at this stage I think I will be developing artwork for a generic male and female from each race, and then going on to develop character designs, expression sheets and bios for around four characters. I think I will be creating the captive Shai living in the Hall of Leaves, the renegade Romerri adventurer, the Shai traveller that he/she rescues, and as of yet I'm not sure of the Kukru character.

Next stage is to develop their specific histories, get my silhouettes and rough designs to a presentable standard so I can upload them and develop them from there.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Fantasy worlds, characters and costumes - Game of Thrones

I've been reading various interviews with writers who work within the fantasy genre as I'm particularly interested in how they go about constructing these worlds and creating compelling characters to live within them. An influence for me is George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, although admittedly I've not read it yet and have only been following the Game of Thrones TV series. I think the reason I like it so much is because, although set in a sprawling fantasy world broken by war, the episodes themselves mostly revolve closely around the often unstable relationships between characters and their own moral struggles. Visually it demonstrates a great attention to detail in aspects of hair, makeup, costuming and environment design, and many of the costumes are very lavish, but I'll write about that later.

In this interview Martin goes into detail about how he grew up with books, why he especially enjoys the fantasy genre, and about how his career has progressed. He goes on to talk about the overarching theme of war in the series: ‘I’m fascinated by war,’ Martin admits. ‘War brings out the best and the worst in people. Literature of the past used to celebrate the glory of war; then the hippie generation in the 1970s wrote about the ugliness of it. I think there’s truth in both.’

The article says:

"It is the richly imagined female characters in particular that set Martin apart from other fantasy writers, and have won him a legion of female fans; women readers make up slightly more than half of his fanbase, he thinks. ‘It’s one of the things that please me most. I'm lucky that I've got such a big project; it means I can have lots of different types of female characters and so avoid stereotypes, which is what fantasy writers can end up doing.’

The portrayal of female characters in just about any film, game or television series is something I pay a lot of attention to. Fantasy in particular tends to feature heavily stereotyped and sexualised female characters, with armour bikini-clad warrior ladies and mystical sirens all designed to cater to a young male audience. Whilst there is a considerable amount of gratuitous female nudity in Game of Thrones, there are also many well-established women characters who have a range of strengths and weaknesses and who challenge the perceived roles women play in the story's era. 

Cersei Lannister, for example, is physically beautiful, but she is more interested in achieving political power, something which she clearly struggles with. "She resents the customs and conventions put on her because of her gender, but never realizes that people do not come to her or respect her commands because she is an ineffectual leader". (

"Early in the series, Cersei displays some real cunning in handling the political turmoil and intrigues surrounding the death of King Robert and the outbreak of the War of the Five Kings. As the series progresses, however, the more power Cersei obtains, the more she proves herself to be incompetent at handling it; although she has spent most of her life scheming to gain power, she seems to have little idea of what to do with it once she has it.

Her quick temper and her easily wounded pride frequently lead her to make rash decisions, and she rarely considers what unintended consequences her actions might have. She lacks the patience for dealing with the tedious yet vital details of administration, and increasingly tends to avoid facing unpleasant facts, surrounding herself with sycophants rather than honest and competent advisers..."

It is also said that throughout the books, Cersei begins to gain weight due to her abusing alcohol, something which she resented her former husband for. All of these things establish her as a believable and three-dimensional character who is susceptible to the same downfalls as her male counterparts. 

Another character that challenges female stereotypes is Brienne, who "is considered ugly and ungainly, but is immensely skilled at combat. " ( At over six feet tall, she is often mocked by men for her unfeminine looks, when all she wishes for is acceptance and respect for her sense of honour and physical prowess. 

I think I enjoy the scenes featuring Brienne and her journeys with Jaime Lannister the most, as they make a very intriguing, contrasting duo but somehow compliment each other well. Brienne opens Jaime's eyes to the often disgusting treatment of women in Westeros and earns his respect. But, most of all I like the fact that she is one of the very few female warrior characters I've seen with reasonable looking armour...

I'm happy to see female characters in these sorts of stories extending beyond just fantasy fulfilment. They range from preened and beautiful to scruffy and tomboy-ish, and from weak and impressionable to cunning and proud. Of course, all his other characters are well-written as well, and all are very inspiring and interesting to look into and study how to develop the strengths and flaws of a character.

"Unlike many fantasy novels, there is no battle between good and evil, and the moral ambiguity is something Jane Johnson believes has added to the books’ popularity. ‘Even the most monstrous characters have moments of almost-redemption; and the “good” are shown complete with flaws.’ There are no heroes, and no character is guaranteed to live – a fan on counted 223 deaths in the first three books. ‘He’s not scared to kill off or maim key characters,’ she says, ‘so half the time you’re turning pages in terror of losing one of your favourites, and the rest you’re laughing out loud at some neat turn of events or the witty dialogue.’

This 'moral ambiguity' is something I'd like to feature in my fantasy world as well, as I've mentioned in previous posts. I definitely believe that 'monstrous characters seeking redemption' or 'good characters shown with flaws' are the basis of the most interesting character developments, and is the route I'd like to take with my characters' stories.

"Despite the inevitable comparisons to Tolkien, Martin’s world is initially one without much fantasy; only at the end of the first book does he unleash the dragons, which had supposedly been dead for 150 years. Chapter by chapter he drip-feeds more magic – spells, prophetic dreams, people coming back from the dead. ‘Yeah, I bring it up gradually,’ he says. ‘That was a deliberate choice.’ Alongside the fantastical, realism is hugely important to Martin, and something he delivers via intensive research. The top of his tower is filled with history books – the story most closely resembles the War of the Roses. Physical descriptions reflect places Martin has seen – the 700ft-high wall of ice that protects the seven kingdoms is based on Hadrian’s Wall, which he visited in 1981."

This is probably the most intriguing part of Martin's stories, and one that I find very inspiring. Although appearing in many ways as a typical fantasy world, there isn't a great deal of magic, and he focusses more on developing realism. Magic is something that is frightening and largely unknown. Although I won't have the time to research our world's history to great lengths to recreate it with a different, fantasy edge, I would like to take a similar approach to Martin in his portrayal of magic. It changes our usual perceptions of fantasy worlds as enchanting, bright and wondrous places to ones that are dark, dangerous and difficult to survive in. The focus is less on the world at large but more on individual characters as they struggle to get by.

I've also been reading about the show's costume design. A good article is here:
It writes about the designer's process, from creating moodboards, swatches, and gathering inspiration to considering how the character's stories and the overall plotlines inform the look of their outfits. 

For example, Danaerys Targaryen's outfits have evolved over the series as her situation has evolved. 

"In the first two seasons, Daenerys only wore clothes given to her by men, like her brother and husband. After their deaths, she’s on her own in her quest for the Iron Throne. Her new robe is in contrast to the earthy and revealing garments she wore as queen of the Dothraki tribe.

“[The light blue-hooded robe] is a good example of Dany adopting ideas from those around her now rather than directly copying them,” says Clapton. “ The robe is a way to protect herself from the sun and to appear more modest. As she develops, we try to give her more ways to express herself, more facets to her character.”

For Cersei:

The beleagu ered queen, currently in an unexpected position of weakness, is now accessorizing with armor. Adding delicate neck and chest plates to her opulent gowns, it’s clear that Cersei knows that her enemies lurk everywhere.

“It’s partly to do with the visual battle between her and Margaery, her son’s new bride. Margaery is incredibly disarming in some ways, although of course we know she’s not. She wears very little and it’s a very young, inspired look,” Clapton says about the difference between Tyrell’s trendsetting look and the queen’s old-fashioned glamour. “Cersei, to battle it, tries to dress in a more regal and heavy way. It’s a way of backing Cersei, visually, into a corner.”

There are a huge range of wonderfully detailed costumes in this series, all of which are relevant to their characters and express to some subtle extent their thoughts, feelings and intentions. Thinking of how an outfit does this, and extends beyond just being functional, certainly creates a more interesting character design and is something I will be thinking about during my character design process.