Brainstorming Characters in Affinity Designer

When creating new characters and creatures, perfection is not a word allowed in my vocabulary. I rather keep a nice and quick workflow than being stuck refining details in the early stages. If you already read my Jungle Scene tutorial, you should be familiar with my usual workflow with Affinity Designer:

  • Create a bunch of assets
  • Mixing them together to generate ideas
  • Refine one or two ideas until I get to my final artwork

Today we’re going to learn a very similar approach but with a small twist: we’re just going to go crazy! That sounds fun already isn’t it? Instead of start our design inspired in real life and down to earth elements, we’re going to allow ourselves to get lost into our more inner subconscious mind…

I know this sounds like some obscure kind of witchery, but we’re not going to dig THAT deeper okay?… it’s all about INSTINCT. The key here is to keep the energy flowing during the creative process in order to generate as many ideas as we can.


Difficulty: Intermediate

Knowledge required: 

  • Be familiar with Designer’s interface
  • Basic Knowledge of Affinity Designer’s Primitives. You can learn more on this topic: Here and HERE.

You’ll discover how to:

  • Keep your brain working during your creative process
  • Use basic shapes made out of simple primitives to sketch several characters

Creating Basic Shapes

The keyword for this initial stage, will be always: FUN. Sometimes we add constraints to our art from the very beginning without even noticing it. So we’re going to force ourselves to create by INSTINCT, as if we were kids…

One of the most powerful Designer’s Tools is the entire Primitives section located in the Toolbar (picture above). You may pick two or three of this Primitives, start playing with their settings and come up with many interesting shapes in no time.

To brainstorm quick ideas, it’s not necessary to get too fancy, simpler primitives will allow us to create quicker combinations later.

Let’s take, for example, the Cloud Tool. Just by customizing the Bubbles and Inner Radius settings (located in the top Context Toolbar) you’ll be able to generate many different shapes out of one single object within seconds.

The magic of all these Primitives, is that all of them have very particular settings for each shape. To find what you can do with any Primitive, just double-click it and you’ll see that some small red dots appear. These red dots indicate which parts of the polygon are editable.


Let’s play a game!

This task will only take you 15 minutes. I need you to pick up to 4 (or more or less, it’s up to you) tools from the Primitives menu in the Toolbar. Then, with a timer in your hands. THIS ONLINE TOOL would do the job. I need you to generate as many random shapes as you can within 15 minutes. They don’t have to be perfect or to resemble ‘something’, ok? We just need a bunch of shapes. I’ll do my homework also, because homework is more fun when it’s done with a buddy right? So…

Here’s my result after the timer went beep!

As I told you before, the task was to create super simple shapes. This bunch looks like an ordered Kandinsky painting isn’t it? (Yeah, Kandinsky has all the right to kick me in the nuts from the grave) … and next comes more fun…


Grouping shapes

It is time to put some order to our little mess

What I do after filling up the Artboard with random shapes, is to create small groups out of ’em. I duplicate, resize, rotate, recolor and try to find which elements works well with each other. Again, don’t spend too much time doing this, it’s no the final illustration yet, we’re still brainstorming.


Combining all parts together

Now that we have created a fair amount of groups, we can start brainstorming new ideas by combining them in different ways. Remember, flow, flow flow… that’s the most important component of our creative process pipeline. The worst thing that could happen during this creative phase is to slow down our brain or even worse, put it to sleep! It doesn’t matter what we’re doing, as long as we keep the right side of our brain moving it’s tiny ugly artistic ass!

In the image above I went a step further and started to mix up more elements to create a body for our new character. Basically I’ve used the same elements from our15 minutes homework, except for the cape and the thumbs. After we’re happy with a full character design (Fig.A), we could stop there and call it a day, but since you’re more curious than that (I know you are), you can see this first design as a starting point for more characters, by adding, subtracting and moving around our base elements (Fig.2).

Once you’ve started with this simple mix-and-match exercise, It will be difficult for you to stop. You’ll find yourself feeding your brain with more and more possibilities, adding some new shapes, changing colors… and that is the beauty of this process!

Taking away the stressful part of ‘coming up with something cool’ right away and keeping on the fun part, the engine of your imagination keeps always moving forward.


Anything goes…

Try to create as many combinations as possible within that same 15 minutes period. Then make a quick selection process and discard the designs you don’t like (poor bastards),  put aside the ones that you do and repeat the process 3-4 times, until you have a nice ‘casting’ to choose from.


Free Work Files

In the link below you’ll find the work files for this tutorial: the elements I created for this course, the swatches I used and the final characters I created out of ’em. Enjoy!


If you want to PIN this course, you can use this nice image:


If you have any inquiry about a product/order, you can provide us with an order number and attach some screenshots if you need to.

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Enrique, Brenda and Sam, will be more than glad to answer anything you may want to ask!​


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