Character portraits are vital, whether you’re a Dungeon Master, an author, or a tabletop RPG player! Not only can they help you create and flesh out your characters quicker, but a picture really is worth a thousand words when it comes to describing them.
And of course, having your character portraits on World Anvil is a great way to quickly reference the characters in your novel, or show your players a new NPC!
In this blog post, I go through my favorite options for sourcing and creating (mostly) free character portraits and pics. AND I’ll tell you how I’ve used each one in the past too, to give you ideas for how they can help your writing, gaming, and worldbuilding!
By the way, if you’re not already on World Anvil, it’s the best place to create, expand, and organize your characters!
RPG players can find a FREE character manager, where you can manage not only your character sheet, stats and equipment, but also write journals and updates. It works for DnD, and dozens of other major systems!
Dungeon Masters and GMs can manage all your NPCs, your lore and your campaign, with our campaign management features for Dungeon Masters!
Artbreeder – blend your own free character portraits
If you’re looking for customizable, real-life, artsy, or cartoonish free character portraits of humans, then Artbreeder may be the resource for you!
What is Artbreeder?
In brief, Artbreeder is a freemium service (I’ve only used the free version) that allows you to upload images, blend them with others, and customize certain assets! You can upload images and blend them together, or take images which already exist on the site. For the portraits, there are sliders for many aspects of an image, including Age, Happiness, Anger, Mouth Open, Art Style, Phenotypes, and Gender.
How much does Artbreeder cost?
Artbreeder is a freemium service, and there’s a lot available for free! The paid service comes in several tiers starting at $8.99 per month, and offers privacy, hi-res downloads, and more image uploads and animation frames, which are limited with the free account. I confess I haven’t needed to try the paid mode, as the free account offers all the services I need!
What’s the Art style of Artbreeder character portraits?
Artbreeder’s art style for character portraits varies. You can create portraits that look downright anime, like a watercolor, or like a photograph. Because it works with a neural net (aka artificial intelligence) some of the sliders create some unusual effects. One thing it’s worth mentioning is that Artbreeder does great for human characters, but it doesn’t have assets for fantasy races. Whilst you can create some monstrous things using the sliders, certainly worthy of a horror story or game, it won’t easily produce standard Tielfings and elves for you.
How Customisable is Artbreeder?
Artbreeder offers a lot of customizability of image compared to other software, in terms of facial features, expression, coloring, and more. As mentioned, you can’t create the standard fantasy races with it easily, but it can still make some great and varied character portraits!
How Easy to use is Artbreeder?
Artbreeder isn’t the easiest thing to use, nor does it have great support or documentation. However, with just a little bit of fiddling, you’ll be able to figure out how it works!
Artbreed character portraits license and reuse rules
Artbreeder’s terms of service state that “Each Artbreeder image is owned by the user who created that image.” All images are public domain (CC0) and may be used for commercial purposes. The site strongly suggests (their words) that you cite the Artbreeder image URL when sharing something that strongly resembles an Artbreeder image.
Private mode is available for subscribers to ensure the images are not used by others, and any images you create publically can be used, and mixed, by other artbreeder users.
How I personally use ArtBreeder for character portraits
If you’re creating family trees for your world’s families, monarchies and dynasties – which you can easily do on World Anvil – Artbreeder is a FANTASTIC tool! The image above is the main character of one of my book series. I made her mother and father character portraits first, and then “bred” the images to create hers. You can see them all in the small family tree above. Because you can breed images together, you can get great – and credible-looking – children from your two parent character portraits. Then just upload those character portraits to your characters on World Anvil and enjoy how amazing your World Anvil family tree looks!
The other place I used Artbreeder was to create a family hierarchy for a great house. I wanted an upstairs/downstairs feel, but also needed to make it clear WHO was responsible for WHAT! The image below is a World Anvil content tree – each rectangle is a character article in my novel – and the tree structure allows me to track the power hierarchy of who reports to whom! All the character images below were created in Artbreeder, and the hierarchy itself was made in World Anvil.
This person does not exist – character portraits of fake photographs!
If you’re looking for super-quick, photographic-style free character portraits which give you ULTIMATE PERMS you can’t do better than This Person Does Not Exist!
What is This Person Does Not Exist?
This Person Does Not Exist is a website that generates people…. who don’t exist. Each face there looks like a photograph but is in fact created by a neural net – basically an AI. Whilst the implications of this are truly terrifying in terms of deep fakery, it is a very useful tool for instant, free character portraits that are owned by no one!
How much does This Person Does Not Exist cost?
The website is 100% free to use, but if you want to support Phil Wang, the person who creates the site, you can do so on the “This Person Does Not Exist” Patreon.
What’s the Art style of This Person Does Not Exist?
The art style is completely photographic and disturbingly lifelike! It would work wonders for character portraits in modern games like Vampire the Masquerade, contemporary novels, or anywhere you have humans! Because the neural net draws its information from modern photographs, a lot of the makeup and accessory style is contemporary.
How Customisable is This Person Does Not Exist?
This Person Does Not Exist is not at all customizable! Obviously, that’s one of the drawbacks of the site. You can keep refreshing the page to generate different character portraits, but it’s quite random what you’ll get!
How Easy to use is This Person Does Not Exist?
This Person Does Not Exist is INCREDIBLY easy to use! Go to the site, and if you don’t like the portrait, just keep reloading until you do!
This Person Does Not Exist character portraits license and reuse rules
I asked Paul Wang, the creator, about this! The images are owned by no one, and you can use them for whatever projects you like. HAVE AT IT!
How I personally use “This Person does not Exist” to make character portraits
Well, it’s a site I’ve used a lot, and here’s how! I generate portraits on This Person Does Not Exist, and then upload them onto ArtBreeder to adjust them further. It’s worth mentioning that they don’t always look identical when uploaded to Artbreeder, because as the neural net “understands” the image it’s sometimes slightly altered. This is very minor, though, and still keeps the basic feel of the portrait. Then, once I’m done tweaking, I upload it to World Anvil.
The other trick I’ve used is to randomly generate a character portrait that’s close to what I want, and then further alter it in Photoshop. Image editing software is not in everyone’s budget, although there are some inexpensive or free ones out there. And of course, it’s not in everyone’s skill remit either! But if you have the tools and skills, this website is a great source of original images you can tweak.
Eldritch Foundry & HeroForge – perfect for RPG character portraits
If you want to build full-length character portraits for tabletop RPG characters, Dungeons and Dragons characters, or similar, you can’t do better than 3D mini builders like Eldritch Foundry and HeroForge!
Psst – remember if you’re looking for a character manager or campaign manager for Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, StarTrek, Call of Cthulu or any other major RPG game, World Anvil has you covered with our FREE character manager!
What are Eldritch Foundry and HeroForge?
Eldritch Foundry and HeroForge are the two hottest custom mini-creating services for RPGs right now. For both the model is the same – choose your character’s race (Elf, Dwarf, Goliath, etc.) and then add assets! You can give them cool gear, change their posture, and edit the facial expression! If you fall in love with your character, you can even get it 3D printed and shipped to you!
How much do Eldritch Foundry and HeroForge cost?
The character portrait creation features on both Eldritch Foundry and HeroForge are absolutely free! You can save minis and tokens, and grab screenshots too. Both have excellent image exports.
Here’s a HeroForge character portrait embedded into World Anvil’s free RPG character manager! The sheet rolls when you click it, to speed up your game!
What’s the Art style of character portraits on Eldritch Foundry and HeroForge?
It’s worth mentioning that the art on both of these character creators is made to be printed successfully as 3D miniatures, so it’s not super detailed! That said, they both offer amazing fantasy assets in a traditionally epic Dungeons and Dragons style. HeroForge has the additional option of color. Eldritch Foundry has some truly excellent art, and some unique assets you won’t find elsewhere! Beyond that, it’s just a case of preference for which character image will better fit your world’s style!
How Customisable are Eldritch Foundry and HeroForge?
HeroForge and Eldritch Foundry both have a tonne of assets, and not just for medieval fantasy! You’ll find most major settings represented there, as well as some wacky items like rolling pins and rubber duckies! You also have a lot of control in both programs over how to position your character figurine. You can’t upload new assets, though, so you’ll have to stick to the extensive libraries they offer!
How Easy to use is Eldritch Foundry and HeroForge?
Both Eldritch Foundry and HeroForge are very easy and intuitive to use! Opening the website will take you directly to their character designer, where you can start clicking on the options and designing your character image! Both have screenshot options, so you can export your character image to World Anvil. Remember to use the blue button on World Anvil (fast image upload) to make it even easier!
Eldritch Foundry and HeroForge character portraits license and reuse rules
Because Eldritch Foundry and HeroForge characters are essentially combinations of assets (and the companies own the assets), you can’t use the character images for any commercial use. However, both companies are absolutely fine if you want to use them for your own games, or even put the images publically, so long as you credit them! That’s easy to do on World Anvil under the Images and Files interface!
How I personally use Eldritch Foundry and HeroForge character portraits
As you can see from the examples above (both my RPG characters!) I use these services to make character portraits for my RPG play characters! The art style is great for a player icon, and the fact that you can save the character, and then go and change out the weapons, armor, and gear as the game progresses, is awesome. That means you can track the progress of your character visually, with advancing character portraits to show their increasing epicness!
Another way to use the images is as prototypes for custom races in your RPG world! Dimitris has done this for the custom races in his RPG world, Lyra. It’s really helpful, if you’re homebrewed races, to give your players an idea of what they’re playing!
Portrait Workshop – create character portraits for Fantasy Races
Unlike the other character portrait creators in this list, Portrait Workshop is a mobile app, so you can create character portraits on the go! It’s specifically designed for the standard fantasy races (think Tolkein, or Dungeons and Dragons), and boasts that you can create your character in less than a minute!
What is Portrait Workshop?
Portrait Workshop is a mobile app that allows you to create character portraits for standard fantasy races, quickly and easy! You can choose character traits like class, race, etc. and it’ll autogenerate a tonne of images, with the ability to tweak them too. It’s not yet been released, but it Kickstarted in February and as of writing, the beta has been promised soon.
How much does Portrait Workshop cost?
You can currently (at time of writing) preorder the Portrait Workshop app for $24.99. The publisher’s license is 275$ (see the license and reuse rules!) Both of these are one-time fees, although you will be able to purchase additional art packs too.
What’s the Art style of Portrait Workshop?
The art style of Portrait Workshop is obviously illustration, but fairly neutral, which means it should fit well with a variety of differently-toned settings. All the portraits are exactly that – face on images of characters.
How Customisable is Portrait Workshop?
Portrait Workshop contains hundreds of professionally drawn assets for weapons and gear, and facial features. You can randomly generate portraits, and then further cycle through the assets until your character portrait is close to what you’re dream of! What you can’t do is upload your own assets.
How Easy to use is Portrait Workshop?
Honestly, it’s not yet available, so I haven’t used it! The website boasts an easy to use interface, and having spoken to Darren (who seems really cool!), I’m sure it will be!
Portrait Workshop character portraits license and reuse rules
With the standard license, you’ll be able to create character portraits for your private games and share them on World Anvil (and other places around the internet) publically (please credit them, though!). If you’re creating character portraits for a commercial item, even a PDF you’re setting for a few dollars, you’ll need to spring for the publisher’s license.
How will I personally use Portrait Workshop?
Well, I haven’t yet – it’s not out! I’m thinking this is going to be a WONDERFUL source of quick NPC images for when I GM, though. The art style is unified, which is always nice, but within that, there’s so much variation. It’ll make my Dungeons and Dragons worlds feel so rich and varied.
Dress up doll games – perfect for free full-length character portraits!
Dress up doll makers can be a good fit if you’re trying to delve into a new genre, or you’re experimenting with different costume and attire for a character! They’re quick and easy to use, and you can get good character portraits quickly from them, if you’re not too fussy!
What are Dress up doll games?
Dress up doll games are browser-based games rather like the paper dolls of old. You get a model (or a variety of models) to which you can add pre-made clothing and accessory assets. A lot of these “games” are themed – for example, fantasy, steampunk, witch, or elf.
Contrary to popular belief, you can find them for both male, female and non-binary characters. I recommend this site – Dress Up Doll Divine – as a good collection of dress-up doll games, created by Ola Rogula. Most dress-up doll games give you a full figure, rather than simple bust character portraits, which can be helpful for envisioning physique and posture.
How much do Dress up doll games cost?
All the Dress up doll games I’ve found are free to use! There are a few supported by Patreon and, as always, if you find someone’s work useful, consider donating a few bucks to keep their service going!
What are the Art styles of Dress up doll games?
The art styles of dress-up doll games vary hugely, which is awesome! It means that whatever you’re trying to find character portraits for, the chance is, there’s a dress-up doll game which will have the right kind of assets! Generally, the art styles are relatively whimsical and almost always illustrated. The two I’ve included here – a Hipster take on Ben Solo and a roguish elf – are both typical examples.
How Customisable are Dress up doll games?
Because dress up doll games allow you to swap out assets from a preset library to make your character portraits, there’s a certain amount of flexibility. But of course, you can’t upload your own assets, so you’re stuck with whatever is available in the game.
How Easy to use are Dress up doll games?
Dress up doll games are incredibly easy to use! They’re designed for children and the premise is so simple – click-through libraries and apply assets to create a character picture. Since Flash games are no longer well supported by a lot of browsers, not all of them will necessarily work on your computer, so you may need to pick and choose a bit. Many of the games in Dress up doll divine do work, but many don’t.
Dress up doll game character portraits license and reuse rules
As I mentioned, there is a panoply of different dress up doll games you can use for free character portraits! But the site I recommend, Dress Up Doll Divine, has permissions information in their FAQ. Basically, the TL:DR is that if the owner of the site made the game, you can use the images for whatever (but link back to the game). If someone else made it, you need to ask for permission from the original artist!
How I personally use Dress Up doll games for creating character portraits
I’ve used these kinds of games for a variety of different purposes! If I’m exploring a genre, sometimes I’ll just click through libraries to explore costuming and options. It’s a nice way to start thinking about characters for a new setting, and how they might be differentiated through dress and accessories within the genre.
I’ve also used these for artists mockups! I’ve done a lot of pro-streamed Dungeons and Dragons (and other RPG) games, where I’ve been asked to send a basic pic of my character to a professional artist, so they can make character portraits. As you may know, I COMPLETELY CANNOT DRAW. So I’ve used dress-up doll games to create mock ups, and then added additional notes and images to the brief like “the hat more like this” or “the posture more like that”.
Other free character portraits resources?
If none of these float your boat, then why not try free image sites like Unsplash or Pixlr – we have a big old list right here! Or how about galleries of historical portraits, like the National Portrait Gallery? They’re full of amazing character portraits just waiting to be unleashed in your stories!
Once you have your character portraits, it’s quick and easy to upload them to World Anvil.
If you’re a writer, World Anvil is the very best place to create and expand characters for your novels, fill in character profiles, build out your world and even write your novel! Learn more about our worldbuilding and writing features for writers and authors here.
If you’re an RPG game master, World Anvil has a full campaign manager, perfect for organizing your NPCs, tracking your lore, and playing your game.
And if you’re an RPG player, there’s a full – and free! – character manager. Not only can you track your equipment, your sheet, and your quests, but you can create character journals, add images, make updates and more too!
A quick note about permissions
It goes without saying that you shouldn’t publically post work that you have no permission to use! All the information about permissions in this blogpost was as correct as possible at the time of writing, but permissions can change. If you have ANY queries about permissions, it’s always worth trying to get in contact with a service directly!
Do you have other character portraits resources you can recommend? Or did you find one of these particularly helpful? Let us know in the comments below!
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