Characters are the most important element of every story, as they drive the plot, get involved in it, and create conflict and resolution. In branding, where the story is part of the brand’s journey, characters help the brand express and enhance its presence and message, by giving it a voice and a face. Needless to say, good design is essential for a successful character to drive a great story and win the audience’s hearts. This is why today we’ll look at some really good character design examples and hopefully, will inspire you to create even more amazing characters of your own.
We sorted the characters into eighteen different categories to give attention to every class and type and see what works well for each. You can also fast-travel to a particular category of your interest via the list below. That is in case you’re searching for something specific.
Really Good Character Design Examples: Article Overview
“When you look at a photo or realistic drawing of a face, you see it as the face of another. But when you enter the world of the cartoon, you see yourself.”
― Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art
1. Some Top Eye Catchy Examples
Here we have a superb character design for the kid’s online channel TotoyKids. The design easily rivals what we see on Disney Jr.
Take a look at these great character design examples by Peter Slattery. We love his expressive cartoony style and that gives each character personality. In addition to this awesome-looking kid eating a cookie and his dad, you can also check out the artist’s gallery for more inspiration.
The Rocker by Viktoria Egorikhina is another well-designed cartoon that instantly grabs attention. The goofy face and epic body proportions make a tough guy with a lovely tender personality. He only looks scary, I bet he’s the sweetest person you’ll ever meet.
I got your attention now, didn’t I? This cute 3D character by Olivier Pautot sports the 80s sex symbol style and looks absolutely epic in shorts. Whether you believe that hair or not, Guenther rocks socks and sandals better than everybody else.
2. 3D Characters
3D has always been important to animation and widely used in design and it’s not going anywhere any time soon. This is a great example of 3D character design by Mathieu L.B, who specializes in graphic design and 3D illustrations.
At its core, character design, especially when we talk about cartoon style, is all about breaking it down into simple shapes. In this case, we can enjoy an impressive character design in 3D with a pretty simple structure.
The author made a couple of 3D characters on the topic of fashion for a project for Bankia. This character, for example, was made with the designer’s face as a reference and turned out to be a very epic fashionable beard guy.
The next 3D character design offers simple shapes and lego aesthetics for a recruitment agency. With their modern look and fresh cartoon style, the worker, employer, and headhunter tell the story of Jobriver.
Next, we have the final result of a very long process of character creating and rendering. This girl walking her dog rock the popular corporate style most agencies tend to prefer for their branding and websites. We can’t deny the style looks incredible in 3D.
3. Funny Characters
As a fan of wacky cartoon designs, this is probably the best section for me and hopefully, you’ll enjoy the crazy awesome designs as much as I do. This old-school classic rock character by Afmed Nonu, for example, has the old-time cartoon network feel that we rarely see these days. It’s impossible not to fall in love with this guy here.
This funny illustration is part of the artists’ daily illustration series and literally shows how much the little Covid loves this guy when he removes his mask. The design is meant to be funny for the purpose of satirical illustrations and does the job great. Whether you agree with the message or not, those are pretty nice-looking characters.
This little fella is part of a project for Telegram Messenger. Snappy Crab is a funny little crab character easy for animation and the author managed to create over 20 animated stickers with it. Here we see the adorable little character celebrating with two party hats, one for each eye. A good example of original thinking during character design.
Sometimes good character design examples can come from something we’re already familiar with. These designs, for example, come from the game Cyberpunk. What’s amazing about them, however, is the stylization. The artist managed to portray them accurately and make them funny.
We also have this very stressed out Eskimo character by Pato Artist with extreme faces of annoyance, fear, anger, confusion, and shame. It’s a cute cartoon character design that instantly grabs the attention with its personality.
4. Male Characters
When it comes to masculinity and creating strong male characters, the shape is very important. Most character designs of male characters, especially warriors, start with a square of reverse triangle shape to emphasize the upper body strength at the expense of the legs. Just like this commercial character design by Deema Egorov.
The next character design comes in three versions. Although the structure tends to be more realistic, we can still see the rule for exaggerated upper body strength applies here as well.
This author based male character face design on Apple Memoji but with way better customization as they made it from scratch in 3D. What I love most about it, is that I can already see it as a character in a Pixar movie.
This Danny Trejo-looking character comes from the portfolio of the incredibly talented Aleksey Baydakov who specializes in character design. The artist plays around with shapes and exaggerated anatomy, creating memorable cartoons.
Another pretty good character design example by the same artist from the September 2019 issue of Imagine FX. In fact, this one goes to the cover of that same issue of the magazine alongside workshop and video process by the artist.
5. Female Characters
Time for some cool female character designs as well. same as male characters, female ones come in many shapes and sizes but the majority of female characters come with the typical exaggerated feminine hourglass silhouette. Here we have a good character design example of a city girl and her adorable little dog.
This lovely character comes from an Instagram DTINYS (Draw this in your style) challenge and the artist redesigns an already existing character.
This is an example of a modern character design in a trendy flat style. We have a fashionable quirky teenager in an expressive dynamic pose.
Unlike with strong male characters, where the design emphasizes the upper body strength often at the expense of the legs, with strong female characters we see the opposite. Here the accent and strength go to the legs that take most of the character silhouette. As a result, we have this amazingly designed cowgirl that you wouldn’t wish to be messing with.
A great kid character design has to be cute. This is a good example of proportions done right to create a lovable little girl.
6. Kid Characters
Let’s continue with some kid characters. Proportions are essential for children in cartoons, especially when it comes to the head-body ratio and the size of the eyes in comparison to the nose and mouth.
In this example, the illustrator Warner McGee creates a kid character with these exact proportions in mind. A perfectly bigger head that takes one-third of the entire silhouette and eyes that take most of the face, while the boy has a small nose and mouth.
This lovely character design of an angry little kid is from a collection of drawings of children in costumes. As you can see, this one is a ray of absolute sunshine.
A little bit similar to the classic Japanese style of drawing chibis, here we have Kiyoshi the Boy Monster by Dennis Salvatier. An adorable little character design.
7. Animal Characters
Animals make the best and most lovable characters if the artist does the job right. In this case, Sergey Klyuchnikov did an impressive work creating a very expressive adorable corgi character and making it into stickers for Telegram.
Since we all love stickers, artists tend to be generous and constantly create more amazing sticker characters to choose from. Here we have Lama and Roberta.
Here’s a good example of anthropomorphic character design. We see this type of character a lot as mascots in brands as animals have a very strong symbolism in our cultures to this day and it’s easy to relate them to concepts. A fast car? Jaguar character. Durable batteries? A bunny. Cheese products? Why not an anthropomorphic laughing cow? In this case, we have a lovable elephant character for kids’ program.
This character results from a long process of testing different shapes. The author shares the process of creating the squirrel for a major brand tv spot.
Here we have an annoyed cartoon dog by Metin Seven, modeled in Blender.
8. Cute Characters
What’s cuter than nerdy broccoli with an epic afro? The design is based on an original concept and rendered in Zbrush.
A group of cute characters that the artist designed with single shapes. The characters are based on an original concept for Good Use.
Here we have an adorable simple vector character design ob a baby devil by illustrator and concept designer Ilya Polutis.
The next cute character is Little Q, a curious mischievous guy. He is a spokesperson of the mother and baby department store brand HAOMAMA.
And last, here’s a really adorable character design of a T-Rex brand mascot ideal for presentations.
Everybody loves robots and this is why they are amongst the most popular characters out there. We’ll show our favorite good character design examples of robots here.
This is Rory, a cartoon robot in a realistic style. The cute android has simple shapes, big camera lens eyes, and small antennas. Simple and effective.
The next one has an even simpler design of triangle body and rectangle monitor head and looks adorable with its big expressive eyes.
Your story is as good as your villain, they say. This is why it’s very hard to make an effective good villain character design. Lucky for us, these artists did a great job. We’ll start with this maniac news reporter cat.
This is a very very very angry man who is up to no good. His over-the-top expressive face is backed up by a red color scheme that conveys he’s, in fact, absolutely furious.
Just by looking at this picture, you can already tell we have the main villain and his dangerous sidekicks who you really don’t want to mess with. This is a good character design example as you don’t even have to read a description. To be honest, the girl scares me the most.
Classic cartoon network style villain character who would look spot-on in a show like the Powerpuff Girls, for example. Except, that’s Ramen Rider.
11. Duotone Characters
We also enjoy another interesting trend and that is a character design with a limited palette. In this case, a duotone palette. Let’s see some good character design examples with only two colors.
More examples or simple shapes and as least elements as possible. This time, even the color scheme is limited. However, the design is still effective and attractive.
This is one of those weird character designs you can’t take your eyes of. It’s very simple, yet bizarre, and most importantly, memorable.
12. Character Design for Books
These are the art students. Just by the effective character design, you can already tell we have an animator, a traditional artist, the mangaka, and the one who has talent in all media. The Avatar symbol over the bold head is a great reference and indicator for it.
Childrens’ books character design is an entirely different talent. It’s too specific and requires more than artistic talent to make. This is why not every artist can become a children’s books artist. On the topic, here’s a splendid example of character design for children.
This is a microphone singing on a microphone. The author created this one for a music studio and its Instagram.
Another good example of character design for a children’s book by Donta V.
13. Stylized Characters
These simplistic design for the TCL LED TV campaign proves that you don’t need to make realistic and detailed designs to make lovable characters. Here we have a family of five (we include the toaster-looking puppy) ready for a scene.
And here’s the optimist who inspires you to stay positive no matter what. It’s a pretty simple character design of a kid who refuses to give up on their good mood.
Witches are another awesome trend for characters everybody loves. so here’s a couple of good examples. We start with this lovable friendly witch with short jeans and really cool socks.
Although this menacing witch character was made for Halloween, please remember to love your witches the whole year, not just during the spooky celebration.
And for the last example, this cartoon witchy girl combines exaggerated female silhouette with great detail.
15. Green Characters
The best thing about this character design is, it was made by a kid. If you’ve heard about the Moster Project book, it’s a project that teaches children the power of imagination. It also shows ideas are important and exposes them to the magic of art and collaboration. In short, kids draw bizarre monsters while professional artists re-imagine them in their own unique style. Hands down, nobody makes better character designs than children.
His name is Kyle and he’s a piece of broccoli in fashionable jeans, sneakers, and a white t-shirt. You might have already guessed Kyle is a mascot for a fresh healthy food brand.
And we also have an adorable bay turtle mascot by Catalyst, perfect for messaging software stickers.
Cats are the Kings of the internet, so it’s no surprise they are a very popular choice when it comes to characters. Let’s enjoy some lovely character design examples of cats.
Aside from the cute kitty stickers design, here’s one very hungry cat playing with its fish.
17. Monster Characters
Monsters are also a big trend when it comes to character choices. So here’s one very friendly and goofy monster with fuzzy green hair and untied shoes. I love how the head is basically the entire body of the character, yet again proving that simple shapes and silhouettes are half-finished character designs.
This is a very grumpy little monster character with bunny slippers and a happy cup of coffee. It’s basically the concept of all of us before the morning coffee wrapped up in one little character design.
Last in this category, here comes the baby monster and its dog. These designs already tell the story of a world where everyone and everything is a monster.
18. More Really Good Character Design Examples
In many cases, you don’t even need to think of a character design. You can use your own face as a reference and make yourself into a lovely character. In this example, the results can be really amazing even if the character might seem a little bit bored.
Other characters can be inspired by actual people. Many artists vibe with their favorite Instagram influencers and use them as a base for character design. Or the opposite, an influencer might commission a character based on themselves for their marketing. Either way, it’s a very popular practice.
Other popular practices include character creation based on serious social issues, often with the touch of humor.
This bird character should be really watching where they’re going. I guess they can’t help it when the music is so good.
The superhero of quarantine times, the food delivery man in all their glory. They deserve this awesome character design for keeping us well fed during the lockdowns.
Here’s a special design by Indian Stickers of a very animated Indian guy for a messaging software sticker pack.
… and ever more character designs
These very cleverly designed teeth characters are meant for mascots for a toothpaste campaign.
In a place where there is no more water, only Walter the Cactus continues his journey. Even without bravery, he faces his obstacles day after day. Everything changes when he finds a seed and his hope is renewed. Now he needs to go after water in a legendary place, the Oasis. This is a lovely concept for a story named Seed with some amazing character designs of Walter the Cactus, the baby seed, and Claudia the Cloud Child.
Another lovely 3D character by Olivier Pautot, this time a little kid playing soccer.
This badass pilot is part of Nikita Solovyov‘s Formability project with both personal and commercial works.
This is a good example of a cartoony yet realistic mascot character.
To end this collection of awesome character design examples on a high note, here are some fun and goofy characters with exaggerated features and over-the-top personalities. We have a very chaotic little unicorn with a golden tooth.
Speaking of chaos, here are some characters for a heavy metal band that rocks the stage.
And this piggy butcher comes with a plot twist, ready to chop some humans in an alternative universe. Definitely memorable design.
The last character design is of a schoolboy playing an arcade game.
That’s it. I hope you enjoyed today’s picks for good character design examples. This article proves that awesome characters can come from everywhere and with enough creativity, there isn’t a single thing that cannot become a memorable character, mascot, or speaker. The possibilities are limitless in terms of styles, color palettes, shapes, and concepts.
So what are your favorite characters from these examples?
In the meantime, if you feel inspired, there’s more where that came from.