YouShouldYouShould: Character Design - HIPPO (and some story boarding)

***I'd love to receive helpful input.  Feel free to post comments and thoughts you'd like to share.  For example:  "I think the hippo in the bottom left corner on page 7 is the best, but maybe his nose is too small" or "I hate the hippo on page 9, too fat, what were you thinking!"***

As you probably know, this is the first time I've illustrated a book.  I was all set to start making a dummy book, but then did some quick research and realized I was skipping a couple important steps... Oops!

1. Getting to know your character
 =  draw your character over and over until you've got him down.

So I was drawing my main character and realized I still wasn't satisfied with him, so I researched hippos AGAIN and drew and redrew him some more.  Now I have even more "looks" to play around with and choose from!  Which means I'm coming closer to the perfect Hippopotamus, but also means I have more work to do.






 At this point I started thinking about relating characters to their audience, and wondered if I could give him features that make him look younger.  So I looked up baby hippos and tried altering things a little.

 Do you see the cow??  Sometimes drawings don't come out like we want.



Then the other step I skipped:

2. Storyboarding = drawing out the whole story's design in small sequential "thumbnails."  Page by page.  The standard page number amount for picture books is 32 pages.  Because of the copyright info, dedications, title page, etc.... the actual story usually doesn't start til page 3, 4, or 5.  A successful book has a variety of scenes.  Up close, far away, multiple characters, one character, different environments, etc.  This is also a good time to start thinking about where the text can belong, and how it can interact with the pictures.  As Julie Olson said, this is the hardest, most important and intensive part of the whole process.  This requires the most thinking, planning, designing, doing and redoing, redesigning, etc.  But once this part is done and done well, the rest is much easier from here.  The rest is just actually doing the real thing.

This is what I have so far.  They're a little "sketchy" and messy because these are just a rough start.  The last half of the story is still being edited, and the decisions about which text belongs on which pages will decipher how to design the following pages and I can't move forward until that part is finalized.  So, until then, I can work on more character design!


  1. Good times! It's great to see you so excited about what you're doing. Keep up the good work; looking forward to seeing the finished product!

  2. Amazing. I never realized how much WORK illustration, you're fantastic! I like that the hippo starts in the water, I think that's their fav place to be.

  3. I agree the hippo on page 7 is really cute! I love the laughing one on page 6 too. You have a way of giving your character a very expressive face!

  4. Thanks Daniel! Sandy, ... yeah me neither actually. It's even more work than it looks like from here in fact. And about the hippo being in the water, I agree and actually this is where the story ends too, the hippo back in the water, where he really wanted to be the whole time. :) Rossi, thanks! I appreciate that!!

  5. Hi Ginny!! I am so excited for you!! Good work. I was happy to find your blog. You are amazing. I really like the hippo on page 7- the straight forward one. I also really like the bottom left on page 8. I just love the look it has. So talented! Keep up the good work!

  6. Thanks so much Devilyn that is great feedback! Thanks for sharing the excitment too.


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