When it comes to world building, one of the questions you have to ask yourself is: How do the people in your story- and on your planet- look like? And why do they look like that? Are their eyes bigger because their sun isn’t that bright? Is their skin darker because their sun is very warm? Are they monsters with tentacles or do they resemble humans? Why are they wearing that cloak, or that hairstyle? You should have a story behind each of these questions. And drawing your characters might help you build your world.
I just wanted to share a little guide as to how I am drawing my aliens. This drawing does have a bit more than 70 layers, and shows Arikmé, the Alonian warlord (on the right) and Dagon Naikkipalli, the Alonian Head of State (on the left) from my series The Chariots of Orion.
When you have an idea how the drawing should roughly look like, dedicate the first layer to make a sketch. Don’t worry about the background just now, you can add that layer later. Note that I have also sketched the body parts that are not visible in the drawing. This is to make sure that the clothing fits the outlines of the bodies.
Once you have decided what your drawing should roughly look like, and sketched the shapes of the bodies, switch to black ink to draw the outlines of the drawing, such as clothes and hair. Leave out complicated parts like hands, or hair (as in this case, Arikmé’s pompous hairstyle), and dedicate individual layers to them, in case you have to redo them several times. This sketch already does have separate layers for both figures, and for body parts such as hands.
It is time to draw the faces! Facial expressions are hard to draw, so you’ll want separate layers for them. Now you ought also determine the body language of the characters. How’s their relation, what are they talking about? Note that Dagon (on the left) is a higher official than Arikmé, and that he is slightly shorter than the warlord, but he doesn’t seem to look up at him. Arikmé is (as the ones among you that have read the book may already know) very proud, and whilst he reports to Dagon, he will still keep his attitude.
4. Filling and clothing
When you have done the outlines and the clothing, you can start to fill. The colour of the officials is black, and a golden and a silver belt signal a very high official, so both men are wearing black. Dagon wears a white cloak, not only because he is a higher official, but because the colour white is reserved for the king. Also, his headdress indicates that he does have more power than Arikmé. Being a warlord, Arikmé wears a cap on his head. This cap does have more than five layers, each for every colour. Note that I still haven’t done the faces.
5. Faces and hands
This is the hardest part. I first did a few layers with the eyes, and later created a layer for the skin colour, and pulled that layer under the previous layer. It’s less distracting when you can draw the eyes on a plain background. The skin colour is always hard. It’s best to try several shades until you find one that fits. The Alonians don’t really have only one type of skin colour, but they all have a shade that is rather tanned (think North Africa, South America).
Now, also Arikmé’s hair is drawn.
6. Finishing touches
Now you can draw things you forgot or want to add. Arikmé got piercings, his crown, and a sword. Dagon got some outlines for his cloak and jewels for his crown. The sign shown on Arikmé’s crown and on his robes is the character Yaxal, which stands for serrated rock, strength, and cleverness, and does have the sound “y”. There is also a female form of the character with the same sound, but a slightly different form.
7. The background
Now you can draw the background. It is easier to create the landscape after you’ve drawn your characters. I went for the city of ancient Meryo in Alonia, with the river and the desert in the background.
I hope you had fun reading this guide, and that it helps you start with your own aliens👽