How I made character art for free

Loralei and Liam from Tim Koster's debut novel, The Probability of Time

I recently started a project on my website called the Grimwicki Database, which is a repository of canonical information regarding characters, events, technology, locations, etc. within my literary universe (it’s still a work in progress, but you can view it here, if you’d like).

I came up with the idea after remembering a similar database used to exist on the Star Wars website, which gave a tremendous amount of background information about everything from the films and books. I thought it would be a neat idea to create something similar so readers have access to more information about my characters and the worlds they live in than what I could fit within the pages of my stories.

As soon as I started this project, I quickly realized I had one major hurdle I needed to overcome: artwork. As an author, I’ve always envied my peers with fans who dedicate their time to create art for the characters in their books. I’ve thought about commissioning art from one of the fantastic artists I’ve met on social media (and I will some day!) but right now my budget is too tight. So what’s a guy to do?

Well, there’s a trend going around on Twitter right now where people are using the Prequel App to turn their profile pictures into cartoons, and that gave me an idea. I’m no stranger to using stock imagery: I use it for work on a regular basis and I used it to create the cover of my novel, The Probability of Time. So, why not use stock images and an app to create character art?

The website I like to use for stock imagery is called Pexels. The photos and videos on this site are free to use commercially and it has a great selection to choose from. All I needed to do was search for photos of people who looked like my characters, upload them to the app (for this project I actually used an app called ToonMe, but there are several you can choose from), and download the final product. Here are some of the results:

I’m really pleased with the results. They’re way better than anything I could create freehand, they didn’t cost me anything to create, it only took a few minutes, and now I have some artwork to use in my database until I can afford to commission someone for artwork.

What do you guys think? Have you ever done something similar to create character artwork? Do you have another method you prefer? Tell me in the comments!


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Published by Tim Koster

Tim Koster is an American author who was born and raised in Portland, Maine. After graduating from Deering High School, Tim attended Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, New Hampshire, where he studied English with an emphasis on creative writing. In his junior year, Tim enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve as a public affairs specialist and deployed on two combat missions – his first was to Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn (2011) and his second was to Syria in Support of Operation Inherent Resolve (2018). Tim currently lives in Connecticut with his wife and son.

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