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Sonic Character Design Definition Topic


The Deleter
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sonic-the-hedgehog-game-2.png

 

 

 

Everyone knows what Sonic is supposed to look like. Short, anthropomorphic, blue and peach, cycloptic, and wears only shoes and gloves. Anything different than that, and fans will immediately know the difference. Same with Knuckles, Tails, Amy, and all other established characters.

 

But people always get confused around new characters to the series. Why? Well...

 

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sonic_colors_wisp_wallpaper_by_fred32112

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Because sometimes it looks like they could come from a different series entirely.

 

Some say that the numerous monster designs justify such characters, others call them horribly out of place and should never exist alongside Sonic. There's never really been a widely shared view on what characters are and aren't Sonic, because there really hasn't been a true definition for such a thing in the first place.

 

That's what this thread is for. While we can probably never get a %100 true answer on what can and can't fly for Sonic designs, we can see if we can agree on a few definitions, at least.

 

 

So to kickstart the thread, what is the most defining aspect of a Sonic character's design that makes them a Sonic character, in your eyes?

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So to kickstart the thread, what is the most defining aspect of a Sonic character's design that makes them a Sonic character, in your eyes?

 

Well, for one thing, their eyes.

 

Whether it's Sonic and Amy's Cyclops Pupil or Tails's regular oval eyes, I can at least see that it's Sonic-y.

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Even just considering the characters that I personally feel fit the series, it's a little hard to nail down criteria that fit all of them.

But to pick something that fits at least most of them...I guess, that their bodies are built primarily of simple shapes.

You look at Sonic's classic design, he's basically nothing but simple shapes. Circular head and body, triangle ears, shark-fin spikes, noodly limbs, triangular shoes, and hands that are all big round shapes. The vast majority of animal-type Sonic characters in the games, whether modern or classic, follow the same basic structure, just with different details and occasionally different proportions. Even Eggman, despite not being a wide-eyed furry woodland creature, is an egg-shaped body, a round head, and noodly limbs.

A lot of western-designed characters fail hard to take this into account. The horse dude and Underground characters in the OP, for example. Whether we look at their human-like features or animal-like features, they're too complex, too realistic, and/or too detailed. Putting a horse's head and legs onto a muscular dude's body in no way matches the highly stylized look of actual Sonic characters.

On the other hand (and again to reference examples in the OP), the wisps are basically nothing but simple shapes, and they fit the series a lot better than the Black Arms. Even though, in terms of body parts, the wisps are far more "alien" (head+tentacles, vs the basic head/body/2 legs/2 arms that Black Arms soldiers, animal-type Sonic characters, and actual human beings have), they end up looking more appropriate next to Sonic due to their shape-based design, compared to a bunch of scaly buff dudes.

The Deadly Six are a little more debatable, but I think they still fall clearly on the Sonicy side, at least as far as body shapes go. Zomom, for example, is basically a pear with limbs, and Zik could almost pass for a wisp in silhouette. Zavok is probably closest to failing, but unlike other attempts at "muscular" Sonic characters, he's still bulked up with fairly simple shapes as opposed to trying to portray actual muscle definition.

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Well I guess this depends on the context of the species in question, we effectively have a few sub categories here. The anthros ( Sonic and Co.), The humans(Eggman, etc.) and the various species not native to Sonic's world.

 

 

For the Anthros, it was already pointed out but they follow a very distinct style that is encompassed by shapes. This is consistent with pretty much all of the Anthro characters in general.

 

The Humans tend to vary a lot more depending on the game; in the Dreamcast Era, they're drawn pretty realistically, if more stylized. Meanwhile in Unleashed, they take the stylized designs to their logical conclusion and give every human a distinct look. The main human however, Eggman, pretty much is like the Anthros in that his body structure is effectively a shape with limps(With the obvious exception of 06). Humans are a bit harder to pin down since they're not really that prominent outside of Eggman, which is probably why their designs change so much.

 

 

The last group are pretty debatable because none of the non-native species are very consistent, so its hard to say which ones are more "Sonicy" than others. I do think that is generally the point however though, the likes of the Black Arms or Dark Gaia aren't meant to look like they're normal things from Sonic, because they are literally other worldly entities; their off designs reflect the fact that they do not belong on Sonic's turf. The Deadly Six are kind of the same too really.

 

 

 

Truth be told most of the complaints about certain characters being "Out of Place" don't really go into detail on why they're out of place, so that complaint never really made sense to me. Its one thing to complain about a character being out of place due to going completely against the design philosophies pointed out above, but its another thing entirely to say something is out of place simply because it looks "different".

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What I want to know is this:

Charmy(Modern).png

WHAT

THE FUCK

IS THIS
This "character" is named Charmy bee. And yet, he has FOUR LIMBS, similar eyes to other characters, and a god damn antho Sonic NOSE? NO. I can understand this:

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He has the face and underbelly remniscent of a crocodile.

Or this:

Espio_the_Chameleon_-_Sonic_Channel.png

He has the spiny...things, the horn, and the tail of a chameleon (an iguana?)

Or even this:

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At least he has a beak.

 

But no, this freaking...thing looks like Cream cosplaying as a bee, and doing it really badly. And that annoys me.

 

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Not defending Archie at all but Fleetway was a heck of a lot worse when it came to designing characters - They don't try whatsoever to make them look like they fit-in with Sonic and co and look downright "uncanny valley" when compared to them;

Apropos of StC, has anyone noticed that the character design became a lot more consistent after it became Online? Maybe it's because Online has different artists, but still...

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Apropos of StC, has anyone noticed that the character design became a lot more consistent after it became Online? Maybe it's because Online has different artists, but still...

 

StC was professional freelancers just striving to make work every two weeks. There were other priorities and contexts than proper design.

 

StC-O is a fan-made fanzine. Just that fact already means it's mostly fans coming. Fans will care about this with more attention.

 

Anyways, Diogenes got it right. Good Sonic design means simple, distinctive shapes, rubberhose inspiration crossed with children's anime, males nude and females clothed unless it's humans, robots preferentially out of a 80's OVA.

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Diogenes nailed it.  For me, one of the key features of Sonic character design is lack of detail.  The more detail you add to a character, the less like a sonic character they look (though there's some leeway on clothing).  The Fleetway/Archie examples, as well as Black Doom vs. the Wisps, are very illuminating in this regard.

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I believe Sonic was designed the way he was so he could be simple for kids to draw. Boom seems to want to forego that to make the characters look more distinct, but for the most part character designs are the same with some changes (apart from Knux who has gotten a big overhaul).

I wouldn't say that Boom Sonic characters are hard to draw though, just draw a normal Sonic with a neckerchief and sports tape (and extra mini quills) and you're good to go.

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I believe Sonic was designed the way he was so he could be simple for kids to draw. Boom seems to want to forego that to make the characters look more distinct, but for the most part character designs are the same with some changes (apart from Knux who has gotten a big overhaul).

I wouldn't say that Boom Sonic characters are hard to draw though, just draw a normal Sonic with a neckerchief and sports tape (and extra mini quills) and you're good to go.

 

Knuckles redesign for Sonic Boom really isn't anywhere near as drastic as people have been making it out to be, it certainly isn't a "big overhaul." Show anyone who's new to the Sonic series any picture of Knuckles outside of Boom along with a picture of his Boom counterpart and they'll know it's the same guy.

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Sonic_Character_Eyes_Reference_by_darksp

 

It is all in the eyes.

 

We have four types of eyes.

 

Cyclops with two pupils, a drop down trying to point to which eye is which, which we see in Sonic, Amy, Vector, Charmy, Shadow and Silver.

 

Two seperate eyeball slots which poke out and form a very vertical oval shape. This is seen in Tails, Rouge, Cream, Wave and Marine.

 

Something comparable to the first style, except the drop down goes all the way down to the muzzle, therefore creating seperate eyeball slots, similar to the above style, but more... spear-like? This is seen in Knuckles, Espio, Blaze and Jet.

 

And last of all, probably the most stand-outish of the lot, simple circle-like spots with no real sign of an eyeball even actually present. It usually looks like no more but a dot. This is seen in Big, E-123 Omega, Storm and (supposedly, due to his glasses shape) Eggman.

 

These all (apart from the fourth style, which is one of its own) still rely around the same concept. White irises and two vertically-placed ovals inside for pupils, colors of which differ depending on the character, usually to either match their personality or blend against the rest of their color scheme.

 

It's also worth noting the eyeliner that all females seem to have by default. Amy, Blaze, Rouge and Wave also have two eyelashes per eye whilst Cream and Marine have one, indicating that eyelashes are grown during a female Sonic!anthro's life, albeit very slowly.

 

While we have several different body builds, hand shapes, shoe designs, 'hairstyles' and much more, the eyes always tend to be the most iconic part of a Sonic character's design and the one that stays most stable.

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It's definitely in a simple body shape and eyes.

 

Character designs can come in all shapes and sizes, but it's really in how simple their silhouette is and the trick is just not to overcomplicate it.

 

That's not saying that having detail is a problem, and I disagree that it's about the lack of detail. There's nothing wrong with say puting scales on Vector or Espio, for example, or making the fabrics and textures of the gloves, shoes, and clothing of the characters as long as it isn't given too much meticulous detail - although how much is "too much" can vary, so I suppose the real trick is to not hit an uncanny look. But all in all it's down to the body shapes and eyes.

 

Also, minor point, but I can't get with the idea that Sonic characters can't have toes. It's not really an important gripe, but I'm the one who thinks that toes should be a given along with fingers on a character, or at least have a big toe. It doesn't have to be human toes, but you get my drift - if no fingers, then no toes (like Powerpuff Girls); but if fingers, then toes.

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Since a lot of people were mocking those who said Lyric didn't look Sonicy, I would like to mention one thing: the reason for me here is that if your character is an anthropomorphised animal, it needs to follow the rules of the existing ones STRICTLY to fit in.  Lyric doesn't quite manage it to me.

 

Chaos, Biolizard, Black Doom, Dark Gaia?  They aren't trying to fit in, and as such I have less of an issue with their otherworldly designs.

 

 

 

(Though that little animation someone did was still hilarious anyway).

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And this is different for Lyric, how so? Elaborate.

 

Chaos, Biolizard, Black Doom and Dark Gaia are Eldritch Abomination-esque entities that are justified in the way they look strange because of that.

 

Lyric just looks like any snake villain you'd see in any work where reptiles are treated like an abhorrent species when they're a villain. If this guy really is of the same kind of Sonic and co, there's nothing in his design that gives him a thread of familiarity with them.

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Also, minor point, but I can't get with the idea that Sonic characters can't have toes. It's not really an important gripe, but I'm the one who thinks that toes should be a given along with fingers on a character, or at least have a big toe. It doesn't have to be human toes, but you get my drift - if no fingers, then no toes (like Powerpuff Girls); but if fingers, then toes.

 

Well, it's not really an idea so much as the canon look, so take it up with Sonic Team. 

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Lyric is a snake. An ordinary animal. The characters Jez mentioned are all weird monsters.

Biolizard is giant red lizard himself. And what difference would it make? Just because Lyric's fashioned after an animal, does not designate him to have to be restricted to a Sonic character frame that's starting to get rather boring too.

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Wearing armor doesn't fundamentally change your body structure. And again Lyric is a "person" not a "monster", so he should look like "people" do in the Sonic universe. That's not to say he has to look like a green limbless Sonic, but it should be clear he's a Sonic character just by looking at him.

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Since a lot of people were mocking those who said Lyric didn't look Sonicy, I would like to mention one thing: the reason for me here is that if your character is an anthropomorphised animal, it needs to follow the rules of the existing ones STRICTLY to fit in.  Lyric doesn't quite manage it to me.

 

Chaos, Biolizard, Black Doom, Dark Gaia?  They aren't trying to fit in, and as such I have less of an issue with their otherworldly designs.

 

 

 

(Though that little animation someone did was still hilarious anyway).

Chaos 0's design fits right in with Sonic and his friends. It's only his more powerful states that look more monster-like.

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The thing that bothers me with Sonic design is just how uninspired body shapes would get as time went on. Eventually everyone just had Sonic's body mold with slight changes. It's almost always the same bloody head on a similar body. If it wasn't for the hairstyle, colors, and cloths, it's like they're all the same, and while I can tell who each character thanks to these features, I think it's boring to look at, at many times. I'm not asking to abandon the simple shape design, it's just that the same combination is just so often used that I want more variety. This problem definitely applies more to the male characters than females though, that's for sure.

 

Thankfully, we occasionally get uniquely designed characters like Vector, Big, Chaos 0, or Storm.

 

While Lyric looks out of place with all those extraneous details, I do enjoy the attempt at making a different designed character. That's been the case with most of Sonic Boom to me; I like the NPC designs for being both unique and simple in many ways. 

Sonic-Boom-Concept-Artwork-Adjusted.jpg

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