There are two ways of creating a new character from one you are copying from a how-to-draw book. A combination of the two methods works really well. Unfortunately, most people only use method #1, and therefore, they don’t really achieve a unique character. I’ll explain both methods:

Method #1: Adding, Subtracting & Altering
This method is simple. If an established character has a beard, leave it off. Change a hairstyle. Give her glasses, or conversely, if the character already wears glasses, take them off. Change her expression. Give him a theme for his clothes, e.g., retro 60s style. This is all great stuff; it will give your character a specific look. But the underlying character will look the same.

Method #2: Core Changes
Now we move onto the basics of the character: the thing that makes the character what she is, regardless of costume of “extras.” Make the following changes one at a time. Don’t do them all at once, or you’ll get lost:

  1. Change the age of the character by at least 5 years
  2. Change the basic personality of the character, e.g., the “popular” girl into a brainy girl
  3. Change the height of the character, and as a result, the proportions
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  5. Change the basic body type: thinner, heavier, curvier
  6. Add a quirky feature that dominates the face, for example, a large nose, or tiny eyes spaced far apart, or a large chin, etc.

You may only need to do one or two of method #2, combined with some items from method #1. But these should work for any and all characters. Be sure to show the original and your new character to a friend, and get their opinion on whether it looks original.