Character design in inkscape - a dragon's head

This tutorial derived from some feedback given on social media about the approach to creating characters.

The dragon's head is a rather complex shape if you draw/ ink the outline in one go or try and sketch it by hand. This complexity causes problems with the proportions, the placement of details and the shading of the elements later on in the design process.
Using simple shapes, that are easily replaced, moved and rearranged, makes it a lot easier to get to a more consistent looking design.

I like to look at the silhouette when designing a new character to make sure the design works, is clear and recognizable. The silhouette often reveals the elements that do not match or need to be reworked to match the design. E.g. I decided to take off the tusks at the snout after seeing them in the silhouette - their shape bending to the right didn't match the rest which is leaning to the left.

A helpful shortcut to creating variations of repeating design elements (like the teardrop shape) is to keep them in a separate document. Copy and paste them from there into your current design and just adjust the colours to match.

"Losing" your original shapes is one thing to keep in mind when using the path altering tools like division, intersection or union in Inkscape. Remember to create a duplicate of the shapes you want to keep or reuse for another path division. 

As with all the tutorials - variation is the key. Play around with the ideas of the tutorial, make the skin green, grey or purple, add more teeth, horns, angrier eyes open the mouth to have the dragon breathe fire. Have fun with the design!

Chris Hildenbrand

2D game artist, pixelpusher, vector bender, face turner for over thirty years. I worked on more games than I can remember... The most recent release is "Super Crossbar Challenge" for iOS (Android coming soon) with Shattered Box, Fredbear Games and PlayPlayFun.


  1. Cool... Wäre was für ein neues Game ;)

  2. I appreciate your tutorials. I like how this one can be easily translated to Affinity Designer. Keep up the great work!

    1. Hi Tadd... that's funny as I am working on an affinity designer version at the moment... ;)

    2. Awesome! I gave up on Inkscape when I bought Affinity Designer. Was just more feature rich and caused less overall problems for me.

      Looking forward to seeing good, to the point Affinity Designer tutorials!