I’ve made a few replies to bigger posts before saying this exact same spiel but I think it warrants a standalone post of its own.

One of the most common questions I’m asked when doing commissions is, “What kind of references do you need?”

To the artist this seems like an almost no-brainer question, but I’d say that at least one out of five commissioners asks me this. And the short answer to this question?


All the references.

Actors/models/stock photos of people eating watermelon/criminal mugshots/whatever you can find that looks like your character, art done of them by you or other artists, written descriptions (RP profiles, story introductions, on the spot descriptions), MMO screenshots. Body type, eye color, visible scars/piercings/tattoos, freckles, acne, birthmarks, missing teeth, preferred hair style, jewelry, personality traits, hobbies, there is no such thing as too many references and too long of a description. If you stop to ask yourself, “Is this reference list too long?” the answer is NO IT IS NOT.

Unless you’re paying someone to specifically design the character for you using their own aesthetics and will be happy with whatever they come up with, an artist cannot have too many ideas to work with to make your character come to life as the little person living in your head. 

When I’m given something like just a WoW armory link (for example), I lack confidence because I don’t really know this character at all— I see them in a static generic pose with the generic expression and a low-poly in-game model. Do I draw them with a huge grin? Or are they more the scowly type? What color are their eyes? Is this their favorite in-character outfit, or did you just log out in your raiding gear? The result of this lack of confidence is a carefully neutral expression and a generic pose with a lot of guessed details (and also a lot of missing ones).

And that’s what sketch reviews are for, but the less an artist has to rework, the more confident and natural an image looks overall.


edit: grammar