Interview: Tristan Yuvienco

Tristan Yuvienco

Character Designer & Illustrator

Character designer Tristan Yuvienco gives some amazing advice on character design, marketing yourself as an artist and how constructive limits are better than a blank check…

Tristan's Website


Tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you, what do you do, and where are you located?


Kumusta! I’m Tristan Yuvienco! I’m a graduate of the University of the Philippines with a bachelor’s degree in Visual Communication. I work from my family house in the perpetually busy metro of Quezon City, Philippines. There I do work as a freelance character designer for animation as well as an illustrator for both local and international children’s books, comics, and publications. Given the nature of my work, I spend a good chunk of my free time consuming related media like cartoons, comics, video games, and anime. I enjoy food, travelling, Dungeons & Dragons, video games and watching cartoons.


What does a good day look like to you? When and where do you do your best work?


I really believe in starting the day right! A good day is when I wake up early feeling energized followed by a nice, hearty breakfast or brunch. I do almost all of my work in my room, lately on my iPad Pro. After going through burnouts and dry spells, the best working condition for me is when the weather is perfect and my mind is focused on the task at hand. Having an inspirational, fun, and properly compensated project is a great motivator too especially when I’m working with amazing and like-minded peers who are equally passionate about the project.

animal cat and feline character designs


Are you involved with the art community? How important do you think social media is for marketing yourself as an artist?


I do my best to stay active with the online and local art community! Currently I’m managing a small community over at my Patreon where I post my processes, studies, and thoughts when I do my sketches. I also often participate in the local comics and art market scene as I get very inspired by the talent of my fellow Filipino artists. I wish to be more active but it‘s sometimes tough to juggle that and focus on work! Perhaps when I get the hang of balancing both! It’s a great way to meet new people which is always fun!

While there are other means of marketing your work, if you’re in an area where the kind of work you want to do is not as available or sustainable, I believe social media is key when it comes to marketing yourself to international audiences. Many art communities intersect one another and getting your work known in one of them is bound to be noticed by another!


If you had no limits on time or resources, what would your ideal project look like?


While I love the idea of unlimited resources, I think having a generous and reasonable time constraint is better especially when working on a dream project. For me, I’d like to create a series of stories that tackle Filipino concepts written and created by local talent. Maybe an animated series or movie based on existing local intellectual properties sounds fun! There are so many talented people here that I would like to see go wild on their visions and sensibilities. I want to help in showcasing those to both local and international audiences and I would love to help out.

girl and wolf character design


What skills, techniques or software would you like to learn in the future?


Generally, I want to learn as much as I can as I feel a lot of skills and techniques overlap with one another. Based on my limited experience, there would come a time where a concept from a certain skill set becomes applicable and relevant to another one. At the very least, I would like to have, a basic grasp on the concept!

As for specific skill sets, I would definitely love to pick up modeling and rigging for 3D. I did briefly dabble in a 3D software course during college. We tackled Blender and it was a vert shallow course. I feel adapting a more 3D mindset can go a long way when drawing and designing. It would be real great if I know how to model, texture, and rig my own characters for my personal projects!


In your opinion, what are the essential elements of good character design?


Personally, it comes down to three elements: thoroughness, appeal, and function. When designing something that will be used for 3D, 2D, or live action, one has to keep in mind that other artists will be referencing your design and idea. For the most part, they will be following your direction. This means coming up with detailed turnarounds, poses, construction notes will make it easier for others to follow your design. Doing so also helps in finding new design problems like when the character is viewed at a certain angle that may not be as appealing as the other one.

Bringing us to the second element; appeal, it all comes down to a certain look that you want your audience to feel when they see your design whether it is cool, nice, cute, smart, etc. It’s a difficult concept to master as it is essentially your taste that is built by looking at other artist’s designs. It really depends on who your audience is! Some like designs that are realistic, while some like designs that are simple. It’s about identifying the purpose of your design for the right audience.

This leads to my last element: function. Having graduated from a design course, I firmly believe in functional design. Certain designs don’t work for 3D, some designs are only meant to be in sequential art— it is all about knowing the intended use of a design and adding design elements that contribute and add depth to the character.

It involves some problem solving which brings us back again to the element of thoroughness. Is your design well researched? Are historical and cultural clothing involved? How does the character use props? Asking the right questions and answering them can go a long way!

girl and wolf character design asian cultural imagery

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