I thought a small guide on this might be helpful. So, here it is! (i think this might be the second time i'm doing this but whatever)
Keep in mind that i'm just an unprofessional 15 year old, so if you are somehow a professional on this subject and you manage to find this, feel free to educate me.First and most importantly: Something to fit the personality
When designing a character you must always keep their personality and if necessary their backstory in mind. It doesn't matter what style you're going for, doesn't matter how detailed or simple, it doesn't matter what world they live in; It's the most important part. You wouldn't want someone that looks like the princess of candy cane country to have the personality of a warrior and the backstory of a skateboarder. Just try imagining yourself wearing clothes you would never wear.
How do you prevent this from happening? Write about what the character is like before you design them. And, if necessary, or you want to be extra cautious about the design, do their backstory before that too. Try to make the backstory an explanaition for the characters' strengths and weaknesses. Then you can start designing once you have a clear image of what the character should look like based on these things.
Keep in mind: If you're planning on having multiple characters, you're gonna need to put variety in posture, body structure, and how they walk and talk. This makes the characters easier to separate from one another and see them as different personalities from the first moment you see them. A good example of this are the Crystal Gems from Steven Universe. All of them have drastically different heights, body structure, a different way of talking (most noticably Pearl) and even a different way of walking and dancing. All of these reflect their drastically different personalities. An example of how not to do this is My Little Pony generation 3. None of the characters have anything but different colors.Second: Don't overdo it
If you want to have a memorable looking character, obviously you want to be unique. This is not accomplished by throwing in a lot of tedious details; the focus of the design shouldn't be how detailed it is. The unique part of the design is how much you play with and diversify the simple shapes and things you already have. Don't be afraid of basing a look on a character you know about; as long as there's clear differences.
How to do detail right? Simple: Put as much detail as you want, as long as you can leave out a lot of the detail and still have it look like the same character. Hatsune Miku and a lot of other Vocaloids are a great example of this. Hatsune Miku has a lot of different buttons on her skirt and her arm-thingies, and a lot of other hidden little things you wouldn't notice the first time looking at her. Ever noticed her arm thingies are transparent in her most recent version? Another trick is that you can have as much detail as you want, as long as they don't distract from the characters' overall design.Third: The colorful stuff
How do you deal with colors? Colors are a very diverse part of character design and usually depend mostly on the setting. However, there are a few basic things to keep in mind.
First off, a great source on different color palettes and the symbolism in colors: www.colormatters.com/color-and…
Colors can be a great way to grab attention in complimentary ways and a great way to express personality in more subtle ways; use this to your advantage! Color can have different cultural meanings too, which is something to keep in mind if you have a character from a different country (but only if you wanna dig really deep into that culture i guess.).
- Contrast. Contrast is the amount of difference in brightness and color. In a very monotone (very similar brightness and colors, similar to monochromatic which is only similar hues of a color) color palette of mostly greys, you can still make it look interesting by adding various different shades of grey and playing with a bit of color. Contrast can also be used to bring attention to specific areas, for example the face. In character design you usually want to bring attention to the face because that's where almost all the emotions of a character can be visualized. You can either put the brightest or darkest color, or the most complimentary color near the face to do this.
- Complimentary colors. Complimentary colors are basically colors on the other end of the spectrum. These are: red-green, orange-blue and yellow-purple. However, you don't have to stick to this too precisely for complimentary colors to work. This is probably the most simple part of colors to understand, but you can also use the warm/cold color trick to do this. The warm/cold contrast is pretty simple to understand too; If you've used too many warm greens, warm purples, reds, oranges and yellows, just spice it up with some teal greens, cold purples, and blues.
- Palettes. Using color palettes is basically limiting how many colors you use. While this may sound restrictive, in most if not all cases it makes the character easier to look at, plus it becomes easier to do the things i listed above. It makes it easier to point the focus on what you want the viewer to focus on, and it also makes it easier to express personality in the colors.
Of course, some of these rules can be bent in one way or another. You don't have to make every character a different height if they have other distinct features, you don't have to give every character a wildly different look, etc. I hope that this guide was helpful in one way or another. Corrections or additions are very much welcome!