Astral Projections – Finding Art for Your RPGs

Most of us love pictures of our characters. There’s a reason character creation in so many video game, MMO, and RPG character creation includes customizing your avatar. Many a tabletop group has had discussions of how their characters look, complete with references to actors, maybe with different eyes or hairstyles. A medical doctor NPC in a game I play in was jokingly described by the GM as looking like the Tenth Dr. Who in a session, and it is now official. A number of character sheets have a place to add a small portrait.

So, how do you get character art, whether it is a PC or NPC? The coolest way is to have a friend who does good artwork. Take a look at Adam Lee’s article on Marvel Super Heroes or my Toon play experience. Unfortunately, not everyone knows someone who has the combination of time, talent, and willingness to do character pictures. But there are other sources. As I mentioned above, there’s nothing wrong with, say, describing your PC as, “Built like a brunet Prince Nuada with a less-creepy face” or “A red-headed Buffy in Renaissance court dress.” Sometimes you are lucky enough to find photos that are just right in every way.

But that is rare, especially when your PC isn’t human. However, the internet is full of online galleries, many of them for fantasy and/or science fiction. Deviant Art is a popular source of pictures for many RPGers. But it is really, really rude to just co-opt an artist’s work. At the very least, that artist spent a lot of time on that piece, and might just be earning their bread doing art. Generally, if someone is okay with their online art being used for a personal character sheet, they will have that information on their page or own website. If not, there will probably be a request that their work not be used this way. If you don’t see anything, just ask the artist. Finally, please follow their wishes.

Another source is the online paper doll “games” you can find on the web. Candy’s World, Doll Divine and Rinmaru Games have doll builders me and my friends sometimes use for character pictures. There are a variety of genres represented. For example, Rinmaru’s dress-up games include SF/Star Wars, anime, and Hogwarts while Doll Divine has X-girl (female X-men type supers) and historical. There are male paper dolls on these sites as well. Check the FAQs for how you may use them. Generally personal use (not commercial) is okay but posting on your own site may be limited/not allowed. Always abide by the game’s TOS and give credit. I usually use the game’s name and the site.

If you are looking for Star Wars PC images, check out the Star Wars Artists Guild (SWAG). This group has been around for at least 14 years, and there is a wonderful gallery of character, ship, and even equipment art. Many are head and shoulders portraits sized for character sheets. In the past, the SWAG artists have taken requests for free pictures for SWRPG players. Their message board still has the request threads; however, the site has apparently only just resumed operation last month after a long period of downtime, so I am not comfortable suggesting you post requests at this point. This is a shame, as I got a few lovely pieces done before I learned to do my own. However, the SWAG gallery has plenty of older pieces.

Finally, ’tis the season (in several religious and secular traditions) for giving gifts. So my gift to you all is some of my art. These images, some of which have appeared here or on other sites, are licensed to you for personal use in your games. (This means keep the signature & credit me; and no, you cannot sell them.)

Character images (zipped file)

And have yourself a merry little Christmas or other holiday–and a New Year filled with Good Gaming! See you next year!


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Linda Whitson

Linda Whitson

Contributing Writer & Copy Editor at D20 Radio
Linda Whitson is a long-time RPGer, amateur musician & artist, & an officer in the Rebel Legion Star Wars costuming club. Linda met her husband in an AD&D game and they have 2 teenagers, an anime fangirl daughter and a son who plays on his university's quidditch team. She is the Lead Mod of D20 Radio's forums and Copy Editor for the blog. Linda can be reached at
Linda Whitson

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