A cast of all female characters created for Lightbox Expo's character design challenge, hosted by Artstation. The challenge called for 6 characters that fit each description: leader, brave, joyful, serious, mischievous, and wild.
It was my first time designing characters that followed a brief. I decided to create characters that exist in a fantastical world setting where powers exist. Though fantastical, there are themes of discrimination, sexism, class, and mental health that I wanted to explore with each character's design and story.
Procreate, Photoshop, Indesign
The Leader Character
This is my first character, the Leader. While creating her, I had one phrase in mind and that was "reliable back." To me, a leader is someone who inspires other people and leads by example. They're someone who walks forward confidently, and the view of their back heading towards their goal inspires other people to follow suit. I really tried to incorporate my sketches with that idea.
I imagined Leader being a strong-willed person with a firm sense of justice. Her dream as a kid was to join the city's police force, but she was disillusioned very quickly when she was arrested standing up for someone who was innocent. Leader decided to join the bounty hunter's guild instead, so she could protect people on her own terms. Though she exists in a fantastical world where people have powers, she wasn't born with any herself. Because of this, her strength and integrity as a bounty hunter is often question by people, and her appearance elicits responses like, "Oh, can someone with no powers really do the job?" That doesn't stop her from being a badass and totally wrecking their expectations.
The Brave Character
To me, bravery was always the idea of someone who finds the courage to continue forward even when they have every reason not to. The idea for my brave character was that it would be someone who seemed small and weak, whose mental health and situation put her in a place where she didn't believe that she could make a difference. Initially, I wanted her to have a very strong power, but lacked the confidence to use it until she meets the Leader character, who teaches her how to accept herself. I decided later to give her a weak power — she controls earth elements, but only rocks that are smaller than her hands! I thought that a power like this would be deemed useless by a lot of people, which would set her as a target for discrimination. However, after meeting Leader, she learns to own who she is — weak power and all — and becomes a badass bounty hunter who fights with a slingshot!
Somewhere along the lines, Leader and Brave became a fighting duo in my mind. I haven't decided exactly how it happens, but it's probably something cheesy like "the feeling of having someone believe in you more than you believe in yourself is what gives Brace the courage to be...well, brave."
The Joyful Character
Some of the most joyful people I know are the people who went through the most hardship. This idea is the backbone for my joyful character. My goal for her physical appearance was to make her feel light and airy, while also having elements to make her feel heavy and rigid at the same time. In hindsight, I could have been a lot more intentional with how I contrasted these elements.
Joyful is a solo bounty hunter who is kind and loved by everyone. She only picks up cases that interest her. These usually involve the liberation/aid of people in some shape or form, which is largely due to her past. I haven’t decided what that would be, but in my mind she's faced abuse in some shape or form. Her anklets hide the chain scars on her legs from when she used to be owned by someone else. She uses a weapon that was once used on her.
I thought that it would be cool if she had wind powers, which explains how she floats all the time! When travelling, she carries a big pack with her, and she uses her scarf as hands to grab what she needs from her stockpile. I also thought it could have been interesting to give her control over an element which represents freedom, because it directly contrasts how she had no agency growing up.
The Serious Character
I went through a lot of ideas for my serious character, but a general theme that I saw myself heading towards was someone who was reliable. This reliability is different from the Leader character in that she is someone who is detail-oriented, and always completes tasks quickly, efficiently, and by the book. This character is someone who oversees a lot of information, who has the ability to instruct people quickly and precisely, and could impartially gauge any situation.
Originally, I wanted Serious to be the head architect for an up and coming company. After settling on the idea of bounty hunters, I tried to make her a regal leader of the Bounty Hunters Guild. I even played with the idea of making her an antagonist — the head of the police force which Leader dislikes so much. Eventually, I settled on the idea that she would be the sentient database created for the Bounty Hunters Guild, who matches hunter to target based off of skill and ability. To people within the guild, she appears as a hologram most of the time. Her actual physical size is very big, and she never moves from her position at the guild headquarters. The final result is kind of a mix of all my previous ideas.
The Mischievous Character
For the mischievous category, I wanted to make a character that seemed inconspicuous, but was anything but. This person could look like just about anyone, and didn’t have much defining features other than their smile. With this idea, I wanted the mischievous character to be an androgynous character with a forgettable face, who looked like they could be anybody. They've got the kind of look that doesn't stand out in a crowd. You could drop something and they'd pick it up for you, you'd thank them, turn around, and forget what kind of face this person had.
Mischievous operates by enchanting small objects like spare change, and dropping these items on the side of the road. Whoever picks up these seemingly harmless objects would become one of Mischievous’ sleeper agents, and would stay as one so long as they carried the enchanted object. If they were to spend the change, then the next person who carried the coin would be affected. This allows Mischievous to set up operations through complete strangers, who retain no memory of their actions while being controlled. Due to this ability, Mischievous has been able to elude the police as well as many bounty hunters.
The Wild Character
For my wild character, I wanted someone who might be small but had an elemental power that was really strong and uncontrollable. I struggled a lot with the balance of large vs lithe with this one. Initially I thought it'd be cool to play with the size of someone large, but opted for a smaller, more agile person with a wide strike-zone. This is someone who, because her powers are so violent, has to be very mentally resilient to stay in control all the time or else she might accidentally destroy everything around her. I tried to have her design reflect that power, but also that control.
I'm thinking she'd be one of the most famous bounty hunters, well-known for her destructive fighting power. I draw her in her fighting form, but I thought it would be cool if water was constantly swirling around her (fish included like a mini aquarium). The shape and stillness of the water would change to reflect her mood. I thought this would be consistent with the struggle for balance I talked about earlier, since a lot of people would have their eyes on her as a famous bounty hunter. With such a transparent tell, she'd have to face the pressure of keeping her powers in check everywhere she goes.