This is a sketch I did the other night. It started out just as a contour line drawing of the head only, which I molded with values. The idea came from "Noise" ...what I saw in an abstract object.
In this case it was peeling paint on a ceiling. It is a method I use most of the time. It just happens to come naturally to me and works quite well for me. After scanning the portrait sketch in I created the background in Photoshop with a simple custom textured brush and sketched the body in Painter with the default Real 2B Pencil. The textured background help me see a body structure and aided in the texture of the creature its self. Working over a textured background is akin to sketching on textured paper, where the paper adds to the design of the sketch. I then added the dark and lighter values and highlights in Photoshop and cropped it to add to the overall composition.
The one issue with Character Design is what I did here with designing the portrait first and not the entire body. It isn't that bad, but I did go through a few possible body types before I chose this one. I wasn't going to spend too much time on it, but once you start a design you should make a habit of finishing it. I may never use this character for a project, but down the line, I may need the secondary or tertiary character and I can "re-purpose" this one.
This is a shot of the peeling paint that spawned this character. "Noise" is how I refer to seeing objects in the abstract. Very similar to seeing faces or objects in clouds, I see similar things in various materials around me. You can even work a canvas with various brushes, paints or values and then see what you can find with in the noise. For me it helps in opening up my imagination. It is a very useful tool in enabling ones creativity and one of many approaches that are out there for artist trying to design original characters, vehicle or environments.
The value sketch above was done in graphite, which is one of the most versatile mediums to use. It can be easily erased, reworked, mixed with other mediums, used for rough work or fine art. Here I used graphite sticks, pencils and Prismacolor Col-Erase pencils. I also sprayed it with workable fixative to reduce smudging, but is also good if you want to add more value than the paper can handle.
I do most of my sketches in pencil these days and then digitally enhance and colorize them. It gives me an illustrative feel ...and of course I don't have to worry about powering up a PC or dealing with any computerized issue that always seems to crop up. In fact I quite often use my laptop to view images to sketch from, then I move back to Painter and / or Photoshop to finish things up. If you are like me and like to the feel of sketching with pencil, then I would have to suggest Coral Painter 12's Real Pencils. With a Wacom Intuous 3 and above, with tilt, you can use the tip or the side of the stylus and it acts like using the tip or side of a pencil.