Custom character portraits created by substantially retouching generative imagery. While I remain resolutely ambivalent toward the corrosive arguments over “AI Art,” I’ve found that it can be a useful creative tool among all the others I work with. For me (and only me), that means using it for personal (and not client) work, as a way to visualize the places and people in the fictional world I’ve built via fantasy cartography.

What began several years ago as a clumsy and scattershot way of creating avatars for my table-top-role-playing characters has, over about six months, become a standardized (yet often costly and always laborious) process of custom image editing and refinement. I’ve sketched pencil and ink caricatures since high school 30 years ago, but I’m not a portrait artist and don’t claim to be, so designing character images as a hobby this way has been a fun challenge, despite whatever drawbacks are involved.

One of the more interesting tangents of this process is using AI-based image-smoothing tools (either browser-based, third-party GPF-GAN sites or the PS Express app) along with conventional Photoshop to convey things like age or other conditions. Creating, for example, two images of the same character at different ages, or two characters who are parent and child, became possible and successful.

I used these portraits as game-adjacent assets, either as close-cropped mugshot-avatars for digital character sheets or wider-cropped portraits for printable letter-sized character stat blocks. I also included several of them as auxiliary images in my fantasy map atlas, and even created some fun data visualization showing how often I’ve played each character in the past three years. Finally, I compiled them all onto a tabloid-sized “cast of characters” poster.


Print: Upscaled/high-resolution, full-color image assets for personal print usage, publication in saddle-stitched/perfect-bound books, and poster-sized wall art.

Digital: Multi-purpose screen-resolution images at various dimensions for use individually or in PDF-formatted publications.

Custom Character Portraits: Image Design & Retouching

Custom character portraits created by substantially retouching generative imagery.

ClientSelf-directedServicesRetouching, Illustration (Digital)Year2022-2023

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