Character design – choosing colours for the cast

Over the last 3 months I’ve posted my rough sketches for all the characters in the book.

I’ve covered Josh’s family, all the Viking characters and the two villains.

This post gathers all the colour reference versions together so you can see the links between them.

I’ve made some notes on each major group of characters and their colours. Most of the time my colour choices were a matter of gut feeling, and it’s only after the fact that I can figure out why certain combinations seemed to work.


First up is Josh’s family.

I didn’t intentionally make Josh’s costume out of primary colours, but it turned out that way – yellowish hair, red helmet and shield, blue shirt. Add a bit of green and you’ve got a bunch of bright happy colours, which all help Josh stand out from whatever moody background he’s in front of.

Wolverine’s colander helmet and collar are the same shade of gold and red found on Josh’s chestplate. This sharing of colour is a simple way to link Josh and Wolverine together.

Josh’s siblings are in blue and red shirts – the same blue and red found in Josh’s costume. Their shorts/skirt are darker shades of the blue and red respectively. All three children have the same colour boots. Again, it’s about linking Josh with his siblings in the eye of the reader using colour.

Nan is the only one in the family to wear a shade of purple. I find it a loud colour for some reason; I don’t wear it a lot, and it seems to clash with a lot of colours I normally use. This fits with Nan’s no-nonsense, outspoken personality. I made it a soft, warm shade of purple though (at least to my slightly colour-blind eyes) as it seemed like a colour a loving, caring (but feisty) Nan might wear. The sneakers have purple trim in the same shade.

Pop is all in shades of grey – warm shades, tinges of brown in there. The dark vest is a strong contrast to the colour of his skin, shirt and pants. His colours seem warm and masculine and strong to me. Bright colours just didn’t seem to suit Pop; he’s silly and child-like, but he’s strong and grounded. I imagine he would give very big bear hugs. His colours make him stand out, not only from his wife but from all the other characters in the family.


Below is the cast of Viking characters. The colours here are mostly earthy and metallic – greys, browns – though there are highlights of silver and gold, which Vikings were very fond of.

The orange of Thor’s beard and Freya’s blue tunic/sheath seem to stand out the most for me. Thor needs his orange beard because it fits his mythological appearance and temperament, and makes him stand out; Freya’s colour is there to add a bit of brightness to what is otherwise a lot of brown. She is the goddess of love and beauty after all, she wouldn’t be drab. I suppose also that I didn’t want her to be in pink  – I didn’t want her to be too girly, but rather as if she could handle herself against the boys.

Sigurd’s colours are not bright at all; his brown leather apron is from his blacksmithing days, while his blond hair provides the only bright colour in his costume and draws your eye to his face. Perhaps there’s a bit of Asterix in that choice of colour too.

The wolves were coloured with actual fur patterns in mind, as well as the stereotypical cartoon wolf colours we’ve seen in Disney films. The colours also link up with Odin’s: appropriate, as the wolves belong to him.

The Asgardian warriors are all in green tunics, dark grey pants, brown boots and silver helmets. They have the only green of any of the Viking characters. They’ve also got the earthiest look of the Asgardians- pine forest green, leather, wood with glints of steel.


The two villains are shown below – Fafnir the dragon, and Viking World’s dragon king. I coloured Fafnir first, then borrowed his colours for the dragon king.

There are some scenes in The Last Viking Returns that work in parallel where the dragon king is on earth, providing an analogy for Fafnir in Asgard; it was important that their colours linked in the reader’s mind.

Costume details were important too – the wings on the dragon king’s bow and the dragon-shaped helmet help to link the two characters.





Author: James Foley

James Foley makes children’s books for children who read books. If you’re a child and you’re eating his books, you’re doing it wrong. His books include Brobot, Dungzilla, Gastronauts, Chickensaurus, Toffle Towers, My Dead Bunny and There's Something Weird About Lena. James lives in Perth with his wife, 2 kids, and a labrador. He is a massive Marvel movie nerd and comes from a long line of queuing enthusiasts. Follow him on FB/twitter/insta/youtube @jamesfoleybooks, or at .

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