Puppet Design 101

Puppet design 101 - Louis CK design process Creating a puppet happens in many different ways. For a custom design, since I only need to make one of a certain subject there’s lots of sketching and planning that goes into the process. This helps minimize the possibility of needing to recreate something in felt a couple of times. When I’m coming up with a new design for my shop, though, I’ll often go through a couple of full-out prototypes, in addition to sketches and research, before I’m totally happy with a design.

This wasn’t always the case, though– early on in my finger puppet-making career, the very first prototype was often photographed and used for the basis for creating a particular design. This happened for my first Bob Ross puppet, but I discovered only as I started creating more of them that there were nuances to the design that could be improved on and made better. I’ve learned now that refining the design early is for the best.

I decided as I created my newest Louis CK puppet design to keep a hold of the felt “sketches” I made to give you a little peek into my design and decision-making process.

Louis CK design processAs you can see, since I do a fair amount of research and sketching ahead of time, I go into the first felt versions with a pretty good idea of how I want a character to look so the differences from prototype to final puppet are somewhat subtle. Attempt #1 was pretty good for the basics, but the too-arched eyebrows make Louis look way too worried and the forehead lines were a bit intense.

In version #2 I tried lighter forehead lines and orange eyebrows, neither of which I end up liking. I also adjusted the shape of the goatee but found it too be a little reminiscent of Hulk Hogan. (Yes,I know, Hulk actually had a mustache, but it’s that squared off top shape that did it for me.)

Attempt #3 was definitely closer in terms of details, but the shape was just too tall and thin. Getting the balance between Louis’ forehead (which automatically makes the face look longer) while still having him come off a bit schlubby (Louis CK is forever lifting his shirt and grabbing his gut, so this was a must) proved to be a bit of a challenge. (Also, is it just me or is #3’s facial hair totally reminiscent of James Lipton?).

But finally, my 4th attempt brought everything together– tall forehead but thicker overall body, no forehead lines (too busy), more gentle arch to the eyebrows. It’s the simplest, most refined of all the examples, which is always what I’m hoping for– my finger puppets are meant to be caricatures, capturing somebody in just a few select details.

So what do you think– did I capture Mr. CK? Any details from the sketches that you miss in the final design? I hope you found this little glimpse into my design process to be interesting!

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2 thoughts on “Puppet Design 101

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