Character Design – Spies!

Hey guys! So recently I have really enjoyed coming up with ideas for children’s animated TV series.

Developing ideas, characters and narrative is something I can really sink my teeth into. Not only do I love the literary work, but as an animator and illustrator, I love designing the characters as well!

Below are two characters from my second pitch idea for 6-12 year olds which is still in development (send me a message if you are a producer or commissioner and would like to see my first pitch). I thought I’d share the design process with you guys!

Bro_Sis - Copy

This is Josh and his AI counterpart Sally. Together they are a dynamic team of stealthy cyber-security spies. Josh is a school-boy coding genius who can hack anything, Sally is his programme, who can enter the cyber-world and defeat threats there.


So with the purpose of Josh’s character, I wanted someone like a teenage Sam Fisher from the Splinter Cell game series. I spent some time looking at similar sort of characters in modern entertainment – I took reference from Spiderman (especially the Humberto Ramos designs), Hiro from Disneys Big Hero Six, Car Noir from Miraculous, and Tracer from Overwatch.

I had in mind how I wanted him to look roughly. The body type, the look of the face. I also knew that this guy needed a visor, and so I started by throwing out several faces and body styles, designing the hair, visor and costume.

Face types, hair exploration and visor design sketches.
Various body designs, looking at a range of ages and cartoon styles.

Once I had explored a couple of style options, I settled on a bodytype and developed a couple of the sketches.

Three developed ideas

Settling on the last guy, I got down to finalising and colouring the design.


From the base sketch, I drew the lines, added the base colour, then a couple of lighting layers including directional and back lights, and went through adding more detail. including some geometric/digital details on the visor.

Josh Final Design


I went through a similar process with Sally. She is quite a sociable personality and would be a popular girl in the real world, but I didn’t want to make her too sexualised. She’s kinda like a bossy older sister to Josh, who gets annoyed with her from time to time. She is very superficial, but an effective fighter. Once again, I had a body type in mind, and loved the idea of wild, frizzy pig-tales.

face types and hair exploration
body, personality and costume exploration

As you can see from above, at this point I wasn’t sure whether to take her down a programme or personality focused character. Whether to dress her in a basic dress, as a normal teen, or as a spy.

I loved the idea that she is not just support for Josh’s spy endeavours, but an active part of the anti-virus team, and as such, she needed to be as active as a spy as Josh.

Three developed ideas

Full of action, full of attitude, full of cool abilities and gadgets! The only question was if she had a warm and kind personality, or a cold and determined one. She needed to be both, but for this image, I wanted to capture her happy side.


So I started the process of finalising the design. I cut and pasted the sketch image from the three different designs I had developed, and worked out the lines. I knew I wanted her to be that stereotypical digital green colour, but with different values pointing out different parts of her suit. I also wanted splashes of colour to break up the wall of green. after all of this, I tried out an Ambient Occlusion Pass, as she wouldn’t need shadow, added a few glows, and finally added digital details, like subtle binary and hologram lines.

Sally Final Design

Final Thoughts

I have loved creating these characters, and cant wait to develop the rest of the world and their story. Eventually I will create a pitch bible and try to get the animated series made. But that’s for the future to decide.

For now, I am enjoying the process.

Any questions? Any comments? Any contacts to the heads of major animation production companies who would like to fund development of my ideas? Feel free to give me a shout.



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