Hey everyone! With the Kickstarter looming just 14 days away, we wanted to share the design process for one of the characters of Wander! We will eventually be doing a google hangout before the campaign launches to show the process as its happening for a character that will eventually appear as a a stretch goal, but for now we’d like to show you how we came up with the design for Roland!
We are going to hand it over to our talented artist, Heath “BA” Foley! He’ll take you through the process of designing Roland from beginning to end!


Our lead concept artist and founder, Heath "BA" Foley
Our lead concept artist and founder, Heath “BA” Foley!

Hey guys, I’m really happy to share how the design process works with everyone! I’ve worked both digital and traditional mediums over my art career, but for Wander I’m sticking with digital so most of the work you are about to see was created with a Wacom Intuos Monitor and Photoshop CC. I’ve been designing characters for years, so this is my process for how I handle a new design, step by step.

Roland is a special case, seeing as I started his design around 9 years ago as part of a college project. Typically you would start out with a “brief”, which is just a quick description of what the client is looking for in the design. Briefs can either be a few sentences long or a couple of pages long, depending on who wants the design created. In Roland’s case, most of the previous design basics were already set up, so no “brief” was necessary! You can see the different iterations he took over the years here:
Phases of Rolund

STEP 1: Rough Sketch

So when it came time to start our own miniature line, we looked back at some of these designs and however much we liked some aspects we discovered that overall it didn’t feel right. We wanted something unique to bring to the tabletop world, so I started working on a rough sketch of Roland. Typically this is how it all starts…we knew we wanted a character that was based off a red panda and that fit in a fantasy world but would also make a dynamic miniature. Luckily with all of the previous iterations we knew stylistically what we generally wanted, so I set to work and came up with this as a rough sketch:
Roland_roughI was really happy with this design, but when you are designing miniatures you have got to remember that A.) these designs need to be sculpted and cast at some point so typically dynamic poses end up making for a complicated casting process and B.) all miniature designs need to connect to make base contact! So I gave it another stab and ended up with this:

I wanted to keep the dynamic post but make sure he was grounded, this will make it easier for production and basing! Starting a design with a very strong base helps through the whole process. Figuring out how details work now will help immensely down the line.

Oh, and seeing as this is for a miniature design, I also put together a character sheet for the sculptors sake. This is just to help with a few details that dont initially show up in the base design. It looks a little something like this:

Roland Character Sheet
Roland Character Sheet

STEP 2: Color

From this stage, I typically go one of two directions…either start creating a cleaned up line-art version of this design, which is what I may do with a few companies at this point just based off whatever style they want, or in this case start laying out some flat colors on the piece. The reason I didn’t immediately jump into line art on these characters is that I liked the idea of doing color line-art instead of just black and white. I’ll talk about that more when I get to the line-art stage. Here is flat colors:

You will notice a little bit of the rough showing through…typically these get used as guidelines for the color. Typically you would have line-art to follow and help you keep in bounds, but with the style I’m going for that process doesn’t work as well. Since I’m working digitally on most of these designs, changing colors is easy and quick! Working in layers is definitely key here. I always start on the biggest shapes to block in colors, then use layers to color behind these important shapes until eventually I’ve got all the colors laid out and ready for the next stage. I also set the background to a darker grey to help me really push some contrast in the piece and help me know where to make my shadows and highlights pop.

STEP 3: Color Line-Art

Like I said earlier, my line-art process is different for Wander designs. Typically you would start on line-art before flatting out colors, but here I decided to do this after adding some color. The reason being is that I wanted this to have colored line-art. I wanted this line to look a bit more animated, since most of my work tends to lean towards a comic book super-hero look. This is what I ended up with:
Roland_colored line-art

All I really did was take the base colors and chose much darker shades of them from the color spectrum, then used a more natural edged brush to create the line-art. I really enjoyed the rougher edge to the line-art, it made it feel a bit more natural and allowed me to have some more fun with rendering a few details and playing with the line-weight. Again, I used the rough as a guide for details but it doesn’t stop me from playing around with the details to see what I can get. Its always fun to add in some extra details, like beating up armor or adding in some more folds to the clothing. Alternative I would have started the line-art version earlier by just doing black and white work on top of the rough, which would look like this:


Either way would have worked out fine as part of the normal design process, I just chose to go with the colored-line art for the Wander line.

STEP 4: Shadows

Seeing as I’m working in photoshop for this, I’m doing all of my shadow work underneath the colored line-art layer. This way it keeps that animated look.


Typically in my other work, the shadows will be a bit more critical and dark. Here, I wanted to keep them a little bit less intense to keep the cartoon-like nature to this design. There’s plenty of dark and gritty designs out there, and I’ve created my fair share of them but for this I wanted to keep it lighter and more fun. Rendering shadows is always an interesting process, because its the first real opportunity to help delineate form and really help shape the image in the round! Knowing when to use a hard shadow edge and when to make it softer is also key…every single day I see something that helps me learn a little bit more about shadows. It also is your first opportunity to imply a light source which you need to try and keep consistent. It’s something viewers will notice immediately.

STEP 5: Rendering

I used to think of this stage as “highlights”, but the longer I work in this field the more I’ve come to think of it as “rendering”. I can really dig into some details at this stage and help finalize the lighting:


Again, “highlights” doesn’t exactly cover the jump in detail from the shadow stage. At this point, I really start digging into finalizing the piece. One of the things I’m really working on recently are materials and how to render them. I’ve still got a lot to learn but you can see that I’m trying to handle the metal, leather and fur very differently. With metal, its really fun to start pulling out details from all those knicks and dents. I chose not to render the fur too realistically, for one I wanted to keep the animated style and also I didn’t want to annihilate my time rendering every single hair on these guys.

STEP 6: Finalizing the Design!

With all the details rendered just the way I want, I add in one last layer to help push the roundness of the piece and push the focus to his face/core. This is achieve by darkening out some of the edges of this piece to help push them back into space. Its a subtle tweak but I found that it helps take the piece up a notch, even if its just a little bit. With that done, you drop the grey layer to see finished piece in all its glory!



That is how I design a character for Wander from beginning to end! This is just one process of many that people use to design characters. Everyone tends to find one that works really well for them! I hope everyone enjoyed learning about my process, if you have questions feel free to ask! I’m more than happy to share any expertise I’ve got about illustrating and designing characters! 😀

Oh, and like it said at the top, we’ll be doing a google hangout for anyone interested in seeing the process LIVE! I’m sure we’ll do this through the campaign as well for anyone interested!

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