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Article - 'The Beauty of Charsets' by Adalmin

An item about Graphics/Audio posted on Jan 14, 2004


Adalman gives new spriters some tips on beginning to draw RM2K character sets.


As you know, spriters are esteemed individuals who can't stand another 'Alex' or 'Arkon' and thus have decided to start making their own charsets. What sets them apart from the ordinary game designer is their ability to shrink their characters from the big and bold character designs into tiny 'chibi' versions. This is by far their biggest asset. Some people just can't work with Idraw Chara Maker because:

a) They think their characters look dumb or ugly,

b) They don't know how to draw 3D perspectives and different postures, and..

c) They are too finicky and end up criticising their own work too hard. Well, I'm here to give some tips on how to make really smashing charsets.

For me, I'm making a Rurouni Kenshin charset. Why am I not making an original one? Since RK is already an established manga and TV series, we have a host of images of desired characters for us to refer to. And that's Important Point A. When you're making charsets, always have something as reference. Be it some drawings you made, or images from your favourite anime, it's crucial to have a concrete idea of the character you've chosen for your charset.

Another good thing to get is an artist's model. Be it those little stick marionettes, or a real living and breathing model, anything that can be used to see exactly how this leg crosses over that leg is a helpful, if not necessary, aid. Don't expect to do really complicated man-pretzels with the limited capabilities of RPG Maker 2000 and Idraw, however, but instead focus on the bare essentials first.

Try selecting a fairly ordinary-looking character for your first original charset. Don't attempt any fancy hairstyles or elaborate clothing, and don't attach any accessories to him/her yet, as you'll have plenty of time to do that later. The favourite RPG accessory, the sword, can be made rather simply (big long chunk of white with a grey handle, outlined in black), but to properly animate a hero with a sword is hard work, especially in side views.

When you begin, first of all shuffle through the existing charsets in your hard drive, like the RTP ones, and find a character that most resembles your chosen one. While it might seem n00bish to merely edit an existing charset, it's actually quite useful, and as long as you change the character so radically that it looks completely different, nobody will notice. Using this method lessens the difficulty by a lot, and as you don't have to tediously construct every arm or pant leg, you can immediately start on the important details of your character.

Which brings us to another Important Point. Review your character design, and mark out any distinguishing features that really HAVE to be in the charset otherwise it wouldn't be that particular character. Standout details like a ponytail, height, weight, hair colour, clothing colour, special pants, have to really contribute to making the character what he/she is, otherwise you can just leave that detail out. You don't want to be making another hotpants Yuna with all those dangly bits, do you?

Finally, begin translating the character design into a charset. It should be relatively easy now that you've grasped the basics of charset-making. Good luck!