This post is from 2018 and badly outdated.
We all know that roleplaying games are a theatre of the mind, but there’s nothing as fun as actually seeing your PC. It helps you to get in character, it helps your party members with visualisation, it makes it easier for your fans/friends to do fanart.
However, for those of us who aren’t artist, it’s either to commission some proper character portraits, do a lousy sketch ourself, or delve into the wide and deep ocean of internet resources. A side note: if you’re going to use somebody else’s art because it fits, be prepared to tell people who the artist is. You’re using their work, so let’s have the basic honesty to credit them when possible (e.g. when someone asks).
If you’re not willing to dig deep for appropriate artwork, or just want something that fits perfectly (more or less), there’s a massive amount of portrait generators out there that can help you in your RPG needs. Almost every RPG/MMO computer game (and Sims series, of course) also has a built-in generator which you use for this purpose (just take a screencap!), but I’m going to show you the free-to-use that you can use without installing anything on your computer.
To make it easier to show differences in the generators, I’m going to create portraits of two characters from a D&D 5E campaign played not so long ago: Enid, half-elven bard/warlock (think trickery with a bit of fae vibe thrown into the mix), and Kronis, human paladin of Kord (straight outta Skyrim).
Although ultimately a website that lets you create and commission the miniatures (definitely a cool thing to have, but a bit expensive, especially if you’re not earning in USD), you can also export the images to use as character portraits.
- a lot of styles and customisation options, including sci-fi
- non-human races, a choice of horns, wings and tails
- optional familiars, mounts and basing
- you can get a mini that looks just like your character portrait
- lack of colour
- you’ll really want to get that mini, no matter the cost
- miniature/comic-booky style might not be a thing for you
If you’re more into drawn, comic book style, this generator might be more for you. It creates 2D images of your characters, just busts with hands attached, but they give you more complicated facial expressions. It often falls short when you’re interested in masculine PCs, as evidently shown below.
- great choice if you’re going for cute, good-looking female/feminine characters
- options for colouring every piece of the garment
- different backgrounds to choose from
- sheer amount of jewellery and hairdos makes my heart sing
- no matter what you do with the male characters, they’re going to look like dressed-up babies.
- won’t be easy to create non-human races
- just fantasy, and with a slight manga vibe – not for everybody
One of my favourites, but it might be due to fact that I grew up watching Sailor Moon, and that I always roleplay female characters. If I ever wanted something masculine, this might not be the best choice (you know, “heroine”). As in: there’s only one body type, and it’s a generic, skinny doll with big breasts.
- lot of colouring options & garments
- useful for making cute characters, but only with human proportions
- I quite like the style
- no masculine characters
- just one silhouette, no poses or body types
- just fantasy and magical girls
Several options here: basic or advanced, or even a downloadable offline version (paid). Basic version covers mostly superhero-style images, the advanced allows for more variations. The images shown below have been made with the basic variant.
- simple & advanced options, depending on your needs
- many features in different style
- colouring options for every piece of the design
- in advanced version there’s a lot of options for body types, disabilities, skin tones etc.
- needs Flash, so doesn’t work on iOS, or on computers that don’t like viruses and malware on them
- interface is stuck in 90s, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to change
- If you’re almost done with the character, and decide to go back to poses – pick ‘keep items’ on the pop-up or you’re lose all of your progress. Guess who did not know that
- Overall quality of the images is not amazing