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Making of a unique D&D Bard character
I didn't know you could use Telekinesis and ventriloquism to make a Puppeteer, but it was a very rewarding design experience and the customer was incredibily happy with it!
I was tasked with designing a Dungeons & Dragons character artwork for Benji, a bard who uses telekinesis and ventriloquism to control unique puppets. I honestly can’t remember when it was the last time I designed familiars or companions in a character illustration, but I was very happy I could do it again. In this article, I’ll share my journey of creating this character design, starting from a sketch and all the way through the final coloring and shading.
If you are not into D&D, let me quickly explain a few things about this fantasy character. For starters, Benji is half halfling: halflings are a diminutive and affable humanoid race who are known for their practicality, curiosity, and love of home and hearth.
As for what he does, he’s a bard, and he uses his artistic talents to inspire allies, demoralize enemies, manipulate minds, create illusions, and even heal wounds. Bards are known for their musical performances, and they have a wide-ranging knowledge of many subjects.
More specifically, this bard uses a Telekinesis feat to cast a permanent Mage Hand spell. This allows Benji to control puppets which, paired with his ventriloquism, make for some great companions. In this design I’ll be focusing on just three of them, a wizard, a knight, and his most beloved, the jester. But he has many more, and I wanted to hint to it by showing a smaller vampire puppet at his belt.
We’ll be calling my customer Andrea, for anonimity’s sake. Andrea gave me an incredible briefing, complete with the stats from Benji’s character sheet, a moodboard (in a single image as well, as I would advise any potential client to put together as well), and plenty of additional reference images. I had everything I needed to churn out a preliminary sketch.
As I was writing in my last “making-of” article, although my preliminary sketches are quite rough, their primary objective is to establish the main pose, body shape, general outline of the equipment, and some additional details about the background. I avoid going into more detail at this stage, as revising such basic elements of a composition often requires re-designing the entire thing from scratch, which would consume additional time and money. Neither I nor the customer would want that, so everyone is happy with this extra step.
Andrea requested a few minor edits to the design, and gave me the green light for doing the lineart.
I hope I’m not repeating myself too much here, but this is always my favorite part of the rendering process because I get to add details to every aspect of the character, including crosshatching and different line weights. It’s a calming and relaxing process, and my mind keeps going back to the initial briefing, ensuring that I don’t forget anything.
I greatly enjoyed detailing the various puppets, each of them having its own personality, briefing, and reference images.
Typically, this is the stage where I begin sending my files with a watermark that is not visible in this context. The watermark is removed only after I receive the second and final payment. This approach enables me to demonstrate progress without risking theft and assures the customer that work is being done on their commission.
I sent the linework to Andrea, who requested a few edits:
They needed a more “happy-but-mischievous” type of face
The belt was missing some clothes and the knife was sticking out too much
The wizard puppet needed a more timid facial expression
I am committed to providing unlimited revisions free of charge. My step-by-step process of going back and forth with the customer ensures that I never have to re-draw something from scratch, and I have never had a final deliverable refused. I take pride in having many happy clients, some of whom have become friends over the years. But I digress.
Andrea approved the edits, and it was time for me to color this cheerful bard. I knew this was going to be one of the most colorful designs I would deliver this year, and my goal was to pick a believable color palette from the multitude of tones the customer needed in the final artwork.
If you want to know more about how I flat, please check my last “making-of” article.
After picking the right colors, it was time to add the shading to the character. It’s actually a pretty straightforward process once I have all the colors laid down, so this is usually the least time consuming stage for me - while simultaneously being the one that delivers the most visual impact.
Andrea needed only the hair to be adjusted - unfortunately, I didn’t save a progress image of the before. They were a light brown color, as they were in one of the reference images I got from the client, but I had missed a line in their briefing were they asked me to make them rainbow-ish and colorful. What you are seeing is the final result :)
After they approved the final colors, I sent them the usual closing email containing discounts, links to a physical print, a referral code, and more.
Fun fact: after posting the completed artwork in many subreddits, as I usually do to promote my services, I found the Dungeon Master from Benji’s campaign in the comments of one of my posts!
Thank you for reading this journal-like article. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did writing it. If you have any questions about my commission process, please feel free to leave them in the comments or chat, and I’ll be happy to respond to everyone.
If you’re ever in need of an illustration, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me personally. I’m leaving the link to my landing page for art commissions here, hoping to have you as my client someday. Thank you again for your time and attention!
Please enjoy the rest of your week ahead!