Use This for That: Hero Machine 3 – Character Planning and Design

(Note: I don’t get paid to endorse this stuff. I just like it and think that you will too.)


Hero Machine 3 is useful. Really. It’s not a productivity destroying distract-o-tron that makes for a great excuse to not write. Well… I mean, sure yeah, okay but it’s also a great character planning tool. Honest.

There are two ways I find Hero Machine 3 to be helpful when I write. My main use is for character modeling and design. Specifically for characters that already exist in my stories.

It’s hard for me to keep track of how I’ve described the looks and attire of all the characters in my novels or short stories or whatever. Did the priest wear slacks or khakis? Was there a blood stain on the microbiologist’s lab coat or her shirt?

I fix this problem by building my characters in Hero Machine then printing them to make visual quick reference cards. These keep my words flowing rather than having to stop and remember or search for details I’ve written about chapters ago. It’s very easy to save .jpeg, .png, or .pdf versions digitally but I have specific reasons why I prefer printing the cards and I’ll get to that at the end this post.

Heromachine 3 Demo1


The second reason I find Hero Machine 3 useful is for idea generation. Take the mean looking lady above. I created her specifically for this post to demonstrate some of the great fantasy options the program has to offer. Now that’s she’s finished, I can’t wait to create a world for her. I mean, come on, you know she has adventure and badassery written all over her.

While not perfect or completely expansive this program has enough options to create a usable approximation of just about any character you could dream up.

HM3 Demo2

Take this guy for example. While he isn’t a specific character from any of my stories, he is a good example of the standard and  modern options provided to you. My current novel is set in the near future so most of my characters were designed with similar elements to the dude above.




And then there is this guy. I dreamed him up simply to show that your imagination is the limit when it comes to using Hero Machine 3. Everybody needs a My Little Pony colored, axe wielding, Viking Rambo Unicorn Centaur, right?

Okay, now for the nitty-gritty and some tips.

The Pros

  • Options enough to easily create superheroes, zombies, fantasy, sci-fi, horror, monsters, military, and modern characters. Plus any combination you could think of.
  • Full freedom of color choice, texture, items, weapons, and body position.
  • The ability to save progress on your browser, print, save as a .pdf, or export as a .jpeg or .png.
  • Backgrounds available to set the mood for your character.

The Cons

  • Very limited body shape selection. Most will look like professional athletes.
  • Clothing options don’t always fit well with alternate body positions.
  • The export function can be a little finicky.
  • Can devour entire writing sessions, evenings, weekends, etc.


To wrap up, I thought I’d give you some workarounds for the cons listed above. My first step is always to print the characters and make visual reference cards. I don’t view the characters I make as perfect depictions but rather a general concept model. Once the cards are created, I can write notes on them further detailing any changes that were not possible in the program. For example a note stating “less muscle, more gut”, or “boots not so tall” may be added. Plus it’s nice to have them stuck to the whiteboard in front of me instead of digging for them in a digital file every time I need them.

When it comes to body position and clothing, it all boils down to how you view the tool. I use it as a mannequin or paper doll to dress in my character’s likeness so I usually just stick with the basic body position and thus avoid any of the problems. If you really want that action pose, you still have options but they become drastically more limited.

Finally when it comes to the export function, give it a go and see what happens. I use Chrome and as of today I was able to export just fine but that hasn’t always been the case.  Just remember you can always print to .pdf, copy the image, and work with it in a program like MS Paint.

So go forth, try it, and see what you think.

Oh, and please don’t get too mad about the time-suck aspect of using this program. Just have fun and know you’ll be at it awhile. It’s addictive. You’ll enjoy it.