Designing Your Own Character
For me, I find that it helps if you have some basic information before you begin.
First, I need to know what it is that the character is going to be doing. If it's an action such as lifting an object, it would also be helpful to know what the object is. This simple premise should open up a whole series of questions which will help you decide what kind of character you will need to design.
Is the object bigger or smaller than the character?
You could keep going on and on with this. The answers to the questions should begin to create a mental image of what your character might look like as a body type - no details, just the basic body shape.
There are 5 basic body shapes that you can work with:
From these shapes you can create pretty much any type of character you want.
Here are some examples of cartoon characters, stripped down to just their basic structures.
When you break down the different parts of the body: the head, torso, arms, hands, legs and feet and think of all the different combinations, there are billions of variations available. If there were just 10 different types of each of these body parts, that would be 6 to the power of 10 which is 362,797,056 different characters. Make it 11 and you're up to 2,176,782,336. That's not even counting the variations you have in the face alone (which has 10 parts) multiplied by the number of different animals you could use, and then multiply that number by two for either male or female, could take you forever to do.
Sometimes, if I'm really stuck, I'll use one of the body shapes above and modify it slightly. Don't feel bad about doing this. Even finding a character design from a children's book or comic book or an "Art of..." book or a sketch book that another artist has published. Don't feel like you're not allowed to do this. Use their artwork as a springboard to create your own character.
For more information on this process, you might want to check out my book Designing Cartoon Characters for Animation.