Friday, June 13, 2014

Costume Design Considerations

An illustrator has a lot of issues to worry about, and costume design is the biggest problem. The character designs are not just important for the comic itself, but for marketing, branding, and even sections of the website. There are some basic considerations that need to be taken care of so here's some ideas.

An important consideration: Every detail needs to be debated, but especially if you are doing a humor comic. You can get away with some skimpy designs, especially compared to a lot of other comics, but for those that have some serious designs make sure that you know the genres involved. This means that not do you need to know the genres you are making fun of, but you also need to know them well. If you're making fun of superheroes a hero with lts of pouches and pointed feet with a ridiculously buffed body and huge guns needs to be considered if anything involving the 1990s is involved. Comedy requires a lot of details to be right to work well; keep that in mind and your comic will look great.

It's a great idea to make sure that the costumes are functional as well as great looking. This is a criticism levelled at most science fiction and fantasy comics, but worth bearing in mind for other genres as well. The outfit needs to work with the person's profession as well as the local weather; there is a reason that a beekeeper is dressed so thickly and Pacific Islanders wear so little. If the character does a lot of traveling the character will tend to cover a lot of skin, and the clothes will also be loose. The clothes have to look right for the character and what the character does is important.

Social class also needs to be allowed for. A poor character's clothes are going to have more wear than a rich character's, and the rich person will also tend to have more decoration than a poor person. The key word in that last sentence is "decoration"; it can mean scrolling and piping as well as jewelry, and some cultures do not use jewelry. That also applies to any equipment the character carries, and especially any weapons.

Seriously debate kilts and pants. There aren't enough men in kilts, and they make a great fashion statement for action heroes. I also think that there needs to be more women in pants; it also makes more sense for an adventurer than a dress. This is not to say that the character needs to be exclusively into kilts or pants; they can wear pants or dresses for other functions. It would just be nice to see more of them.

Racial elements also need to be debated. A character with a tail does not need to just wear pants with a hole in them; it needs to be allowed for in the race's fashions. A winged race is unlikely  to wear metal armor due to its weight, and is unlikely to wear much back armor if any. It also bears noting that a thick-skinned race is unlikely to much, if anything, in the way of clothes; there is just no real need for it. This applies to body decorating as well; a furred race is likely to color patches of fur rather than tattoos.

Body decoration needs to be seriously debated. You should not use tattoos just because they look cool; they need to serve a purpose in the world. Consider yakuza tattoos; not only are they worn by people tat need to make themselves known, but their wearers are also forbidden from some areas. In general, poorer cultures with a lot of visible skin have tattoos, merchant cultures tend to favor ostentatious displays of wealth such as jewelry, and more philosophical cultures prefer simpler clothing. For example, the yakuza are from a poor culture (the criminal element outside of society) and one that displays a lot of skin (they do spend a lot of time in baths).

There are some cultural reason as well. Besides concentration camp survivors, tattoos have also been used to show possession (some nobles tattooed their serfs and slaves) as well as military organization (some European militia went sleeveless because their regiment information was tattooed on their left shoulder). It can also show rebellion; Amy Tan is famous for the shock of purple hair she wore to rebel against her background. This also shows up in hair styles; a mullet is rarely the sign of a rich man, while a short hair cut shows someone in the military. In Europe the rich wore long hair for the same reason rich people in China had long finger nails; they had other people to do care for it.

The basic point is that you need to have some serious fun with character designs, and it can help you build the world at the same time. Take some time and have some fun with it. After all, with any luck these are character designs you are going to have to deal with for a while, and you had better have some very good reasons for them.

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