We all spend a lot of time and imagination on our characters. Their looks, their odd quirks, their outfits (and of course, their epic gear) and their styles are all well-defined in our heads, but when it comes to actually sharing them with the world, sometimes we want more than just a well-phrased description.
Let’s take a look at how to make that happen.
There’s a spot on the 5.e character sheets for drawing pictures of your characters, or their sigils, or something to that effect. If you have any artistic inclination, then you probably don’t need to be reading this article, and you certainly don’t need me to tell you, as you can quite easily use that space, or turn your page over and use the back. However, if you’re anything like me, your artistic abilities are somewhere between “-3 ability modifier” and “struggles with stick figures”. If you are in this category, fear not – as long as you have the idea in your head, you can make it a reality. And the best part? You have options.
Do it yourself
Even if art is a total dump stat for you, doing your own art isn’t impossible. The first rule of art is, “practice, practice, practice”, and while you probably won’t have the patience to completely upskill and become a decent artist, two or three attempts could be enough to make something that at least does a decent job of expressing the way you see your character. If art isn’t your strong suit, remember to take 20 – Even a low – levelled skill can get some decent results if you take your time and focus on the details.
Find a real artist
Again, I assume if you’ve read this far, you either don’t have much art in you, or you’re just here for some light reading. If you are an actual artist, (Hi, Cell) you can ignore this section completely. If you’re not – then you’re here because you want some epic character art that’s way beyond your own skill. Luckily, places like DeviantArt are full of talented artists who make their living (or at least their geekout budget) on commissions for non-artists like yourselves.
There are a few points to remember if you want to go this route. First and foremost, be polite and patient. Some artists have thousands of commissions coming in, some might not be comfortable with the style of art you’re after, and there’s absolutely no guarantee chance that they’ll be magically able to see the picture in your mind, and create something exactly like it.
Second, going this route WILL cost money. If you ask an artist to do something for free, or worse, for exposure, you are the WORST kind of “Asshole”. No, it doesn’t matter that the art will be featured on your (Insert whatever your wonderful “exposed” plaform here). That’s what they are on DevArt (or similar sites) for in the first place. Luckily, that doesn’t have to be an awkward conversation. Most artists in the commissions game have details of the kinds of commissions they offer, and the corresponding rates, on their page. Just look, hit them up with the request, and if they’re keen, you can start talking details.
Finally, be clear from the start on your expectations. Some artists will be willing to show and early draft and edit along the way, some would rather finish the work and then you get what you get. In order to avoid disappointment, be sure to ask the relevant questions. And remember, be polite, and patient.
Having a picture to go with your character sheet is awesome, but there’s another place a character can get pretty mis- (or underwhelmingly) represented: the battlefield.
Anyone who’s ever had an encounter on the grid system can imagine the use for nice miniatures – they’re certainly better than using poker chips and bottle tops. (I’ve used far too many of both in my days as a DM – with my current star wars campaign, I’ve gotten to the point of referring to certain beer brands as B1 or B2 droids). Similarly, you could use some generic ones and save yourself some trouble, but if you’ve read this far, you want something personal. There are a few ways to get your hands on one of your very own.
There are a lot of companies out there that offer customised miniatures. Again, this route will involve spending money, but in all fairness, miniatures, especially custom ones, are actually far, far cheaper than I’d expected them to be when I started digging for some of my own. There are a good couple of sites that allow you to generate a couple of basic things using a built-in app.
Miniatures like the above can price for as little as 10-20 US$, but that’s the cheap plastic option, and different materials can cost more. That said, I can think of few feelings more satisfying than rolling my solid steel d20, though I’m sure placing down a solid metal miniature would feel amazing.
Do it yourself (cont’d.)
Modern technology has gotten to the point where a 3d-printable character can be made with the same type of effort and determination as ink-and-paper art can. Granted, there are a few more technical considerations involved (make sure your scale matches your DM’s battle-mat), but picking up a program like Blendr and fiddling around with it, takes the same amount of effort as picking up a pencil, plus the 3Gb download. There are tutorials all over the internet on how to use it, and a lot of online libraries, similar to DeviantArt, of .obj files.
Once you’ve got your file (STL, OBJ, AMF, and 3MF formats, Blendr exports to .obj), you can pass that onto any company that does 3d prints, or if you happen to know someone with a printer, you can ask them how much the materials would cost and talk from there. (A DM friend of mine is looking at splitting the cost of getting one – they’re not much more expensive than paper printers these days, if you plan to use one heavy enough to be worth it).
Find Something online
This is also applicable to the 2d art for your character – if you don’t have the time, energy or confidence to make something yourself, remember, the internet is a gold mine. I’ve been checking out Free3d for 3d models, and pinterest / DeviantArt for 2d Art. Grabbing 3d models from online would still require you to get them printed (if that’s what you want to use them for) but it can be much less effort for similar gains.
Just remember, if you use something you got online in a public forum, remember to credit whenever you can.
Get to it
With all the options we have available, it should be that much easier to bring your characters that much more to life.
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