Low Poly Character Design | How to Make Low Poly Character Look Good

Every character has a story, and the design should reflect that narrative. Low poly design aims to convey a message with minimal shapes.

When designing a low poly character, the challenge is to tell a story with as few shapes as possible. Whether for a game, movie, illustration, or personal project, the principles remain consistent. 

Of course, it is possible to use outsourcing services for 3d character designs, which can significantly reduce development time.

Importance of low-polygon design

Low-poly design is about simplifying. It’s about removing excessive details without losing the core essence of the subject.

Before we start designing, we need to decide on a character. If we’re limiting ourselves in terms of polygons and textures, clarity in design intent becomes paramount.

Think of it as creating a sculpture with a limited number of blocks. Each block must be placed thoughtfully to convey the character’s identity.

Example: Imagine designing a lion. In a detailed design, you might include every strand of its mane, every whisker, and the intricate patterns of its fur.

In a low-poly design, you’d focus on its broad features: the shape of its mane, its powerful stance, and its piercing eyes. The result is a lion that’s easily recognizable but made with fewer polygons.

Expressions and Details

While simplification is key, it’s essential to retain enough shapes for expressions. Expressions aren’t just about facial features; they can be conveyed through motion, colors, and shapes.

Movement can be a powerful tool for expression in low-poly design. Even if a character’s face is simple, the way they move can show a lot about their feelings or personality.

Colors can be used to show emotion or set a mood. Bright colors might show happiness or energy, while darker colors can show sadness or seriousness.

The shape of a character can give hints about their personality or background. A tall, thin shape might seem elegant or sophisticated, while a round, short shape might seem friendly and approachable.

The goal is to focus on details that matter. For instance, a simple silhouette can effectively depict a working woman, even without detailed features like arms or a face.

Low Poly as related to Cartoons

Low poly art often aligns with cartoons. Cartoons typically use simplified shapes, often exaggerated with vibrant colors. Studios like Disney or RetroStyle Games have mastered the art of using simple shapes to create memorable characters.

By studying such designs, one can gain insights into creating compelling low poly characters.

Shapes and Silhouette

Starting with a silhouette can be beneficial. Sketch out rough shapes, experiment with proportions, and play with poses. If sketching isn’t your strength, digital sculpting tools like ZBrush or Blender can be handy.

The goal is to create a recognizable and engaging silhouette.

The Design Process

For our example, consider a rock figure, possibly an enemy or boss in a fantasy game. Perhaps this character resides in the mountains, formed by a volcano infused with dark magic.

The backstory can influence design details. For instance, if the character was formed by a magical volcano, magma glowing from cracks could be a design element.

Even if your character doesn’t have a traditional face, you can use other elements to show emotion or intent. The way the rock figure moves or the intensity of its magma glow can convey feelings.

Choose colors that fit the character’s story and environment. For a rock figure from a magical volcano, dark grays with bright orange or red for the magma would be fitting.

Materials and Lighting

While the model’s simplicity is essential, materials and lighting shouldn’t be overlooked.

Combining a simple model with realistic or semi-realistic materials and lighting can produce a deep and engaging image. Balancing materials and lighting is key to achieving a professional look.


After creating a high-poly or detailed sculpt, the next step is retopologizing. This process involves using the detailed mesh as a guide to create a more workable geometry. Tools like Retopo Flow in Blender can be beneficial for this process.

Simpler meshes are easier to work with, especially in games. They load faster and are more efficient. But you don’t want to lose the character’s main features. So, you use retopologizing to keep the essence while making the design simpler.

Tips for Effective Retopologizing

  • Keep the character’s story in mind: Even as you simplify, remember what makes the character unique. If our character is a rock monster formed from a volcano, those glowing magma details are important.
  • Work in stages: Start with large, main features. Once those are set, move to smaller details. This way, you ensure the character’s main features are captured first.
  • Check your work: After retopologizing, compare the new mesh with the original. Make sure you haven’t lost any key features.

Wrapping Up Low-Poly Design

Low-poly character design is an art of balance. It’s about simplifying without losing the essence, focusing on crucial details, and ensuring that every shape and line contributes to the character’s story.

With the right approach, even the simplest designs can come to life and resonate with audiences.

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