In this article, I`ll be giving you a quick overview of the workflow that I use to create original, physical, character-based products for my own online store. This first Game Character Product Design Workflow article will give you a general overview of simple and cheap ways that you can begin merchadising your current development project via the use of physical products designed to increase recognition of your upcoming brand, while at the same time increasing public interest or curiosity around the characters and story during the actual development phase.
Visit our Cre8tive Media Vault Design Tutorials page to find in-depth guides and videos on how to get started creating your own media content.
Game Character Product Design Workflow – 1st LT Franklin Spallenni
FrankinSpallenni is one of the main characters from the upcoming C.D.U.L.O. Animated series and Unity 3D game that I am developing. He`s one of the more fun and comedic characters of the crew, so you can read his Character Profile here.
Although the projects featuring this character are currently underway, it`s still a very good to start designing and developing product and merchandise concepts around his story line.
Remember, there`s no rule that says that you must have a completed project before you can start marketing, promoting, and merchandising the characters and storyline for it!
There are a lot of advantages to creating character products, so here`s a quick rundown of how I do it.
1) Research products online that are similar to the one you`d like to create.
While you may already have an idea of a product you`d like to create, it`s a good idea to do a Google Search to find products similar to yours in order to check the following points:
Product Designs – You`ll want to shop around to see which designs are selling (ex. realistic designs, comic art designs, ultra-cute chibi character designs)
Prices – How much are competitors in your niche market selling their products for. Realistically, you won`t really have any competitors for products if you are working with your orn original creations, so you can set prices however you like. But checking out standard rates and shipping on other sites with similar products is a very good start.
Think about how you`re going to sell these products before you begin designing them. Are you going to run a physical store that will require stock? Will it be an online store? Will you use dropshipping? Which platforms are you going to use to produce, ship and sell your products?
These are good things to think about before you get started as they will save you ton of work later. I`ll be posting tutorials on all of these areas later.
But now that you`ve already considered that, let`s move on with the creation process!
2) Sketch out your character
While this may seem rather obvious, you need to have an idea of what your character looks like on the actual products that you`ll want to design. Remember, you`re tring to make something that not only represents your character and your story the way that you personally envision them, but you`re also trying to create a design that customers will want to buy.
That`s where the previous research comes in handy. Find 2 or 3 designs from your competitors that you like and see if youcan mimick those using your own characters! In some cases it helps to try character products with different art styles in order to A/B test results.
Pinterest is a very good place to look for character product references.
For sketching, you can use any tool of your choice (paper & pen, computer, or tablet). I usually just use my iPad Air with either SketchBook or Procreate for base sketching since the design will been to be transferred to digital format anyway.
3) Redraw your sketch in digital format and save as a .PNG
Once I`ve completed my initial rough sketch on iPad, I usually transfer the image over to computer/Mac in order to retrace it using Vector Art format. For this process, I usually use Adobe Animate or Adobe Illustrator because they can easily save as .PNG format with transparency (eliminating the color background of an image) and lossless scaling (meaning the image quality doesn`t drop when the image is scaled).
As you can see in the video above, I was using Animate to redraw and color in the Franklin design. The reason I normally use Animate instead of Illustrator and Photoshop for my character product designs is that it allows me to kill two birds with one stone. Since Animate is primarily designed for making movies and animated presentations, this allows me to break my character design up into individual parts and separate movie clips while I`m still in the drawing and coloring phase.
What this means is that once the initial character re-drawing is done, I can immediately start repositioning the parts to create completely new poses for my store product designs, or I can even start animating the character for other game and media projects. There`s no need to wait or regraw the character for animation later.
That saves me a ton of production time for my other projects, so I would highly recommend it.
4) Export your image to .PNG format
Once you`ve finished coloring your image, you may want to export it into another application such as Photoshop or Illustrator in order to convert the color pallette from RGB (which is the default for Animate and most online Vector Drawing Applications). In some cases, you will want to switch your image from RGB format to CYMK, which is better for printing. If your design does not have a transparent background, then saving as .JPEG format for priting is best.
I normally use Photoshop for this process.
5) Upload your design to your selected item production site
Now you`ll just need to find a way to produce your selected products (t-shirts, coffee mugs, iPhone cases, etc.). While there is no shortage of cheap and alternative approaches to this, if you want good quality products that will sell and people will not have an immediate reflex to return, I would highly recommend skipping DIY product manufacturing methods (unless you have mad skills like a professional airbrush artist), and look for a supplier instead.
When I first started trying to make my own merchandise, I was using a lot of DIY methods, such as iron-on-paper-prints for T-shirts. Of course these products did not look professional, they also felt funny, and I didn`t sell even one of them. I wound up throwing away over 50 t-shirts, just because I was trying to go the cheapest route.
Don`t follow that example! Find good, quality goods from cheap suppliers with a good online reputation and start with those!
Places like Teespring.com, Printful.com and Printify.com have a good selection of items for you to choose from and they are suitable for printing in bulk (for a physical store that requires stock items), as well as dropshipping style online stores (which only prints products once an order has been placed and therefore requires no stock) – the system that I currently use.
I will cover that system in a more in-depth tutorial.
6) Place the products on your website, store or social media profiles.
It doesn`t do you any good to have products that nobody knows about and cannot buy. So once your products and prices are set, start adding the products to all of your blog and social media posts so that people can see what your project already has to offer.
This helps you to start spreading word about your story and gives potential viewers/players/clients something to already pre-invest in – effectively making them a part of the project before it has been completed. Kind of like VIP status.
Why Should You Do This?
Besides the the appeal of having residual income to further fund your creative projects, creating character products is not only a good way to pre-promote your characters and storyline to people who may not already be interested or familiar with your work, it`s also a good way to gauge what products people will actually buy when the project is completed.
People will naturally like and comment on anything – if it`s free.
But if they are willing to invest in purchasing your orginal character goods, that`s a fairly decent indication that they are deeply interested in your projects involving that particular character or storyline, so they`ll probably be one of the first people in line to watch it, comment, review, and spread the word for your completed project when it has finally been completed!
Either way, this is a good way to start building brand recognition for current and future projects, so I would highly recommend that you start playing around with some of the things that you`ve learned here and give it a try.