Original Character Design

It took me a long time to decide on what kind of character I wanted to design for this life drawing project! I tried drawing butler style penguins to human like cheetahs but nothing seemed to be working. All I knew was that I was intent on drawing an animal of some kind.

Finally, after much consideration, I came to decide on creating a character based on the cute Koalas from “Down Under” 🙂 Ever since I was a kid, the main subject matter I found myself drawing were images of animals from National Geographic magazines. I distinctly remember with fond memory, sketching wild animals from far off places. My love of animals has continued to stay with me since those early days.

So without further a do, here is my journey to creating a Koala character!

Before I started any drawing or even attempting to establish the personality of my character, I spent a long time researching what makes a Koala a Koala. I learnt a lot from these videos above on the fun facts about the life of a Koala.

After watching these videos, I noted down the key facts about Koalas that stood out to me. This quickly lead to me drawing up in my head the beginnings of a character idea.

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I got some visual inspiration online when googling Koalas:

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I thought it was best to try and gain most of my visual inspiration from real life Koalas rather than relying completely on drawings that other artist’s have created.

The interesting facts about a Koalas hands and feet made me take a good look at their anatomy:

Koala-paws-caption-A koalas-right-hand-or-forepaw-A-and-foot-or-hind-paw-B

I continued my research with some interesting reading from old encyclopaedias at home. I even found a short story explaining the overall look and behaviour of the Koala!

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And also found more in depth research into Koalas from another encyclopaedia below:

I then went on to make a board on Pinterest with lots of visual inspiration found across the internet.

Early concepts

Trying to establish the key shapes in the underlying drawing to build upon; a mixture of hard edged shapes for the ears/part of the head and softer, circular shapes for the rest

In between my research and sketching out character design ideas, I watched multiple videos exploring the best ways of approaching creating an appealing character.


I thought about if my young male Koala character design could reflect similar traits as the young boy in this character design below. I used both animal and human references as my inspiration in the design process because of the human style job my Koala would have as a coffee barista. It seemed only natural that he would have some human like tendencies in his design and movement.


I also looked at old and recent character designs from successful animation studios revolving around animals when thinking about my character design. This tutorial for how to draw Nick Wilde and Judy Hopps from Disney’s Zootopia (2016) really helped me to simplify and establish the shapes of my Koala character design as best I could.

Below is one of the first sketches I did where I attempted to draw the entire face and body of my Koala character. I liked that he seemed friendly and happy which was what I was going for! The only issue was the eye design. It looked too human-like so I did another couple of sketches exploring the possibilities of a more cartoon style eye.


An early concept, this time adding more character


Developing on the possible nose and eye shapes

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KOALA - character turnaround 1KOALA - character turnaround 2


Giving my character depth

After having spent a lot of time thinking about the visuals for my character, I decided to try and work on giving him more depth. This started with trying to figure out his name.

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I found this name online when looking up Australian style names beginning with “B” to make an alliteration with “Barista” haha.

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The story just kind of took on a life of it’s own from the beginning of this project. Researching a bunch before beginning the initial designs really helped cement in my head the kind of character I wanted to create.


Exploring my character as a solid drawing:

Character Design_KOALA1Character Design_KOALA1version2

Exploring staging and exaggeration:

Character Design_KOALA2_part2


And lastly secondary action :Character Design_KOALA3part2

The main body of the character has moved (including his head) towards the side of the shot to listen to a conversation but his ear then tilts upwards and out to emphasise this action.

This task has definitely sparked my creativity and I feel so invested in my character now and his story that I think I might carry on working and editing this work over summer 🙂


Additional Reading:

Children’s Britannica. (1989). 4th ed. Auckland: Encyclopaedia Britannica, pp.234-235.

Sullivan, K., Schumer, G., Alexander, K. and Mintz, A. (2013). Ideas for the Animated Short. 1st ed. Independence: CRC Press.

Thomas, F., Johnston, O. and Thomas, F. (1995). The illusion of life. 1st ed. New York: Hyperion.

The young children’s encyclopedia. (1985). 8th ed. Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, pp.158-159.

Image references:


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