Tips for Character Designing for Explainer Videos

Why’s the character’s design important for your explainer video? It’s quite simple, designs speak volumes and they must be used wisely in an explainer so your message doesn’t get misinterpreted once it’s out there in the wild digital unknown.

The whole point of an explainer video is to encapsulate a big idea in bite sized pieces, so that it’s easy to understand and engaging for the viewer. All of this needs to happen in the span of a 1- to 2-minute video, that’s a tall order.

To serve up your explainer video like a pro, you must incorporate rich graphics with a well-thought-out style and color scheme. But how do you decide what sort of character designs you should go with?

Let’s get you some answers!

How to Design the Perfect Character for Your Explainer Video

Plan and research

Think about how you’re going to use your characters and video.

Are the characters going to make frequent appearances in your other content or are they unique to this particular project?

What is the nature of the content you’re aiming to put out? What kind of reactions do you want your audience to have? Who is your audience in the first place?

Once you flesh out all the details, you’ll have a clearer idea of the direction you need to go in.

Read more: How to Get the Most out of Your Explainer Video

Who are you targeting?

You must identify your target audience before you go ahead with the character design. Are you targeting children or adults? C-Suite executives or stay-at-home moms? Understand your buyer persona before you begin your video project because this will help you narrow your options down to suitable styles.

Read more: B2B Videos That’ll Transform Your Social Media Game

Consider the style of your video

You character designs should work well with your explainer video’s overall style. Typically, curvy and flowy characters work better when you’re looking to give your video a casual and fun style.



On the other hand, if you’re going for a more corporate and sophisticated vibe, then choose characters that are drawn with straight lines and that utilize geometric shapes.



Read more: The Best Explainer Videos – Our Pick of the Finest

Get inspired

Research other characters, from cartoons, anime, CGI, movies, etc. This will help broaden your horizons. Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends went down in history as a one-of-a-kind creation. The show’s character designs stood out from everything else that was mainstream at the time.

Here’s a cool video by Nerdstalgic that reveals how the show’s creators grasped at various influences to come up with the surreal characters.

This is a great segue to another important point. Don’t limit your sources of inspiration to simply other characters. Look at history, fashion, music, period art, movies, nature, books, etc. There’s a lot that’ll get you excited. Go out there and find it.

And remember, once you get that eureka moment, step away from the reference material and let all the different ideas mingle in your mind.

If you keep the references in front of you while you create your own characters, you might not end up with something unique.

Spitball ideas and make a sketch

Once you understand your target audience and have been visited by your muse, start creating the basic sketch. Most designers believe that this is where you capture the essence of the character.

Always keep your sketch with you as you move forward with your design. This is important so you don’t lose that initial magic.

Exaggerate characteristics

Don’t get generic. Introduce unique characteristics to your character. Exaggerate features where appropriate. Just remember that underneath it all, there should be nuance. It should all make sense once you put the characters in context.

Find ways to make your characters distinctive. With designs that are different scores of others, your explainer video will have a much better chance of leaving a solid impression.

Work with cool outfit variations, interesting colors, or time period references, etc.

Think about the colors

Colors have the ability to evoke emotions and can make or break your character designs or overall video. Dark colors, such as black, purple and grey are used to paint the villains of a story. Light colors, such as white, pinks, and yellows express good and purity.

Then again, in the professional world, these colors are interpreted differently. Purple also stands for loyalty, wisdom, and imagination.

Here’s how Vince Gilligan used color in a clever way throughout Breaking Bad.


When you think of color, consider the color theory as well. If you pick colors that don’t look good or create combinations that are a bit to extreme, you could end up distracting the viewer. Here’s a cool video to help you understand colors better.

Visualize the posture and line of action

Think of how your character will carry themselves and how they will move. If you take these things into consideration early on, your character design will exude a personality that viewers will easily be able to pick up on and relate to.

Create crisp silhouettes

When you design characters, think of a clear and distinctive silhouette and edges. If you saw Sherlock Holmes’s or Mickey Mouse’s silhouette, you’d be easily able to identify them, wouldn’t you? So, keep that in mind when you’re coming up with your character design.

Think about line quality

Line quality can convey subtle character traits. For example, characters with sharp, uneven or scratchy may be used to depict a disheveled character. Whereas soft, round and thick line may give the impression that the character is friendly and cute.

Line also help guide the eye. Straight lines lead the eye from one point to another more quickly. Soft, curvy lines tend to encourage slower eye movement.

Consider hair and accessories

The movement of the hair, color, texture, etc. It’s all important to help give your character some depth and dimension.

Consider accessories, too. They add the finishing touch and can give your character a splash of personality, making them more memorable.

So that about covers the essentials. Keep all of the above in mind when you need to think up a cool character design.

If you’d like to work with a production agency to create your explainer video, reach out to us. We’d love to help you bring your vision to life.

Read more: How to Pick an Explainer Video Agency

Posted by MotionCue

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