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Illustrator and Character Designer Allegra Shinabargar wanted to push her character’s costume design to its limit. With a partially-formed idea of a character and world, Allegra crafted costume concepts that were visually stunning, narratively-driven, AND gameplay functional. Follow along with her process, including:

  1. Finding the Story
  2. Face and Hair
  3. Preliminary Patchwork
  4. Action-Ready Poses
  5. Design Details and Colors
  6. Dressing for Various Climates

Hello, my name is Allegra Shinabargar and I currently live in a small Midwestern town in the United States. Creating characters and stories has always been my passion; one that drew me to CGMA’s 2D Character Design Program after I graduated high school in 2016. I decided to further my education through individual workshop-based classes that would help me construct a portfolio, instead of the more traditional (and often expensive) approach to earning a degree at a private art school.

1. Finding the Story

So far, I am halfway through my schooling journey; eager to further develop my personal project: Fe’avi and the Obsidian Isles. This project has become a way for me to practice the design process and explore new techniques while keeping gameplay in mind.

I had a general idea of what direction I wanted to take “The Obsidian Isles” and our main character, Fe’avi. My favorite approach to any new project is copious amounts of research and reference, and Fe’avi’s costume consideration was no different. I wanted to create clothing that was not only visually captivating but also narratively relevant. It was a challenge, but I knew I wanted the world to reflect in her clothes, especially as she experienced the differing landscapes of the Isles.

Fe’avi is the last dragon of the Obsidian Isles, cursed to live in the confines of a human form. She quests through the land, searching for the sorceress who subjugated her. Building believable cultures and civilizations to create a vivid world is very important to me. I really wanted to emphasize Fe’avi’s interactions with the people she would encounter as her journey progressed. I realized I could show this through costume details and accessories.

If you want to learn how to build your story with as much detail as Fe’avi and the Obsidian Isles, check out CGMA course IP Development for Production.

2. Face and Hair

In terms of face and hari, I took a simple but character-informed approach. The initial face studies can be seen in grayscale format. While Fe’avi wasn’t modeled after any one person, I took inspiration from many places, including the Dukha people of Mongolia and the people of Umoja, Kenya. I landed on a strong profile and chiseled, sharp features.

3. Preliminary Patchwork

After many experimental and preliminary sketches, I decided to keep Fe’avi’s first costume somewhat minimal. I imagined that she crafts her own clothes, and therefore they consist of a lot of patchworks until she acquires enough skill to make more fanciful items. Ideally, this would fit the reoccurring artisan theme I wanted to bring into the project.

It was really helpful to have Phil’s insight on how to make the garments appear more homemade, and I believe both the story and the design elements benefited immensely from it. While playing with shapes, I realized the more triangular designs seemed to fit the character’s personality better rather than the ones with more rounded edges.

4. Action-Ready Poses

Fe’avi is a confident and determined character who often finds herself at home in the most unsuspecting places. Creating a pose that would fit her personality was equally challenging, especially when I didn’t want to conceal too much of the costume. In the final design, you can see her pose reflecting her routine of being prepared, almost like she is saying to the viewer: “More adventure? Cool, let’s get going.”

Interested in seeing how this stage can transform a character other than Fe’avi? Read “7 Steps to Create a Dark Elf: Power in Posing

5. Design Details and Colors

By week four, I completely fleshed out Fe’avi’s first costume. It was time to focus on the details. This was a great opportunity to add visually-compelling items that have narrative functions! Fe’avi wears a hand-carved driftwood adornment on her back, in the shape of wings to represent her past. Her hair has the ability to burn like embers given the right conditions and it carries the last shimmer of magic left from her transformation. I considered giving her a hood, but I could just see it accidentally going up in flames if her hair got too hot, so that option was put on the back burner (hah) until I could think of something more suitable. We can also see ceremonial tattoos that mean she is welcomed by the people of Tekriit.

This stage of costume building also helped me add gameplay elements. I added an opaque glass charm around her thigh to serve as a notification. It will ring like a bell whenever a new quest arrives in the inventory. This accessory also connects her to her first encounters in Tekriit, the artisan village on the edge of the Hist’a Desert. These people are known for their ethereal glass-blowing skills, which they survive upon by trade. This small town is one of the first places she discovers on her journey.

Finding colors that worked for this character was a challenge. I wanted to keep that handmade -almost scavenged- appearance going in the beginning, so neutral colors worked best. I felt the earthy tones spoke more to her grounded personality. To keep the ruggedness, I chose dark tanned leather for the main part of her design. All of the eyelets and details were made from waxed thread, rather than metal.

To add more variation, I gave her a red piece of silk fashioned around her waist. Her staff’s embellishment is made from a section cut of the same shell that she wears on her shoulder as a makeshift pauldron. The knee guards are also made from the same wooden material as her back adornment.

If you’re interested in creating a character with unique personality and design, CGMA course Fundamentals of Character Design is for you!

6. Dressing for Various Climates

I decided to play around with different climates to learn more about costume diversity. Having Fe’avi transition from a warm environment to the arctic regions was a way to showcase her personal growth throughout the story while also branching out of my designing comfort zone.

Burning Up

Wanting to try something new, I went with a traditional ceremonial garb she would wear during her welcoming ceremony in Tekriit, where the climate is warm. Painting all these detailed textures was a little intimidating at first, but my instructor gave me tips that helped pull the piece together in a timely manner.

Intricate beadwork has always been something I’ve had a fondness for, and I wanted to explore that in this garb. Since the people of Tekriit are known across the land for their glass, I imagined that their ceremonial clothing would be a spectacle to behold. The people of the Hist’a desert do not have a wide selection of textile options, instead opting to use beads for ornamentation when needed. Most clothes are made from spun silk, which is then dyed various warm tones from surrounding items. Red is a common color that symbolizes the people’s connection to the desert.

Winter is Here

For Fe’avi’s tundra costume, I played with a lot of natural textures. I quite like the look of woven reeds, and decided to make her an insulated outer shell that would almost serve as armor. I also scanned in one of the pendants my mother used to wear and painted it as Fe’avi’s necklace to provide a personal touch. It fit her character and the hand-carved attitude of her journey.

I also ended up giving her a hat in the tundra costume, thinking she might have picked up an enchanted beanie along her journey so her ears wouldn’t turn to popsicles in the cold. Not wanting the design to be too monochromatic, I incorporated Mongolian-inspired fabric patterns, and also gave her a pop of red with the piece of silk worn in earlier designs. You can see Fe’avi’s journey reflected in this silk and its weathered nature.

Final Thoughts

  • I absolutely adored Costume Concept Design with Phil Boutte. He pushed me to explore different textures and incorporate materials into my designs that I would’ve been hesitant about before. It was great to have a teacher who was really invested in helping me succeed. Phil’s mentorship really helped me flesh out this character and the world she resides in.
  • Having a passion for designing characters really benefitted me during this course. I learned a lot about how to render difficult textures and how to build a costume for a specific person.
  • The one-on-one personalized feedback and having someone with a professionally trained eye sit down and analyze your work each week is worth its weight in gold. Phil’s expertise was a huge help when it came to making garments not only visually appealing but functional as well.
  • It is fantastic to have classmates who ask questions and take an interest in each other’s projects. The final critique gave me the realization that I want to pursue this project outside of the class, which has been very exciting.
  • There are so many designs I would still like to explore with her, one being to incorporate obsidian. It’s how the Isles got their name after all, and I would love to find a way to add it to her story.
  • It was a lot of hard work and overall I am happy with the way how my project turned out. I found that well-rounded critique is irreplaceable, and would highly recommend CGMA to anyone who is searching to improve themselves artistically.

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If you want to learn how to build your story with as much detail as Fe’avi and the Obsidian Isles, check out CGMA course IP Development for Production.

Interested in seeing how this stage can transform a character other than Fe’avi? Read “7 Steps to Create a Dark Elf: Power in Posing.”

If you’re interested in creating a character with a unique personality and design, CGMA course Fundamentals of Character Design is for you!

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