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Distinctive Appearances

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This is a concept that transcends almost all forms of media, and even has a related topic even in non-visual forms like radio or literature. When working with a very visual format you do not want people to confuse your characters between each other. You may be capable of distinguishing between your friends but in a story if the random Red Shirt looks very similar to The Hero it can confuse the audience as to why the hero suddenly died with little fanfare. It might seem like a small thing but you do not want to confuse your audience like that.

So in order to make sure the main characters are identifiable you should go out of your way to ensure a distinctive appearance is given for everyone. As a rule of thumb, even though it may seem bad at first, even before you know the person's name other people should know what you're talking about when you talk about "That guy with the nice hat" or "His Badass Longcoat was flowing in the Dramatic Wind." If they are that easy to identify from the start then it makes their presence in the story that much easier to follow.

Another popular thing to do is make their shape so distinctive that you don't need color or even see them, just a shadow cast on the wall is enough to know who it is.

The concept is very well known and applied in the professional level, and many examples of this can be quoted directly off the DVD special features.

And this can go in almost any number of directions.

And compare/contrast any number of tropes, including Cast of Snowflakes, Only Six Faces, Palette Swap, Limited Wardrobe, One-Steve Limit, Uniformity Exception, World of Technicolor Hair, and Flashy Protagonists, Bland Extras.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Cowboy Bebop made the main cast all very distinctive, with the slender Spike, muscular and bearded Jet, curvy Faye and waif redhead Ed. Apparently the designer even said that he avoids drawing characters with perfectly symmetrical appearances and that is why Jet had the mechanical right arm and the metal piece under his left eye.
  • This is probably one reason why the main character in a Gundam show always pilots a Gundam - to stand out from the crowd (and sell more model kits). Only 08th MS Team subverts this by giving Shiro the same MS as his comrades... until it's badly damaged and he gets a customized unit.
    • In a very impressive display of customization and uniqueness despite a common theme of uniformity and blandness, the first Gunpla Mafia member to strike in Gundam Build Fighters: GM's Counterattack controls multiple Gunpla simultaneously. The catch (and joke) is that they're all variations on the 'GM' concept, the mass-produced Mook Mobile of the franchise. In spite of this fact, the show manages to create well over three dozen different GM models that nonetheless all look and fight differently from each other.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Edward Elric's bright red coat. Most of the other State Alchemists wear the same uniform but are visually distinct enough that you can tell them apart, in part due to varying body types.
    • Only in the original anime, though. While he does wear it in the manga and Brotherhood, its appearances become much less frequent as the story goes on.
  • Isumi of Hayate the Combat Butler doesn't wear the standard girl's uniform at their school. This is even lampshaded when Nagi invites her to come see the new kitten: she says she needs to go home first and change out of her school uniform and Nagi responds that she's wearing a kimono already. The Hakuou girl's uniform is already similar to a kimono, but Isumi says it's too breezy.
  • Oda, the creator of One Piece, goes out of his way to make sure every non-mook has an appearance distinct from everyone else (except for a pair of Single-Minded Twins).
  • Sailor Moon has the title character wearing her trademark Odango Hair with long twintails, making her very distinct and recognizable throughout the whole Magical Girl genre. This was acknowledge by the author, and is one of the reasons she created Sailor Moon as a better suited main character over Sailor V, whose straight hair and red bow aren't nearly as remarkable.
  • Let's play Spot the Main Character!
  • This trope plays into one of the many thematic jokes of One-Punch Man. Most of the main characters are very distinctively designed, being super-powered heroes or villains fo some description, often with imposing portraits. Saitama is most notable for not looking particularly notable at all, having no particular distinguishing facial features aside from his total baldness. With that in mind, he does have a distinctively 'classic' uniform reminiscent of heroes from The Golden Age of Comic Books that is not shared by any other character.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman's silhouette is as easily identified as his appearance, most of the time it is the same thing as his insignia. Part of it is intentional, when his body and cape casts a shadow even the mooks know he is there.
  • Wolverine with his claws extended in the crouch stance.
  • Spider-Man: This was Todd McFarlane's objective when he started drawing The Amazing Spider-Man (1963), and it mostly worked. His silhouette is pretty standard... except that it's often contorted into odd poses, and sometimes those big white eyes are staring out of it.
  • In early superhero comics, colorful costumes and iconography were often the only way to tell heroes apart due to level of art (and quality of the color printing) produced at the time. This is why Batman and Superman were able to pass as each other when needed for the longest time.
  • This trope can be difficult to pull off well in war comics. Every character generally must be a young male, wears the same uniform (usually including a helmet or other headgear), often necessarily of the same ethnic background, etc. Giving characters distinctive appearances without violating basic military realities presents a lot of challenges - particularly if the artist already has Only Six Faces tendencies. Joe Kubert's character designs for Sgt. Rock's Easy Company are a good example of an artist successfully giving soldiers Distinctive Appearances despite all those obstacles.
  • Played for Laughs in the Canadian Stevie Diamond book series by Linda Bailey. The titular character has distinctive frizzy hair, and she becomes incredibly self-conscious about it when the lifeguard at the local pool tells her to get out of the pool by yelling "Hey You! The kid with the hair!" That's right, the hair.

    Comic Strips 
  • This is why the main Peanuts characters have different patterns on their clothing. Charlie Brown has the distinctive zigzag, Linus wears stripes, Sally has polka dots. When Charles Schulz realized that Rerun looked too much like Linus, he gave Rerun a flatter hairstyle and ever-present overalls.

  • Anyone who has tried to illustrate My Immortal has run into this problem. Everyone is deathly pale. Everyone has dyed their hair black. Everyone wears the same "goffic" clothes. All the distinctive aspects of any character's canon appearance (Harry's glasses, for example) are soundly eliminated.

    Film — Animated 
  • During production of The Incredibles, an animator did outlines of each of the Parr's heads, to make sure each of them was distinct from the other. Brad Bird liked the sketch so much he had it made into a T-shirt.
    • Yep. Not only color, but also silhouette, pose, and light-to-dark ratio/location.
  • In Turning Red, Mei and her friends all have distinct body shapes, clothing styles, facial features, and hairstyles. This is most apparent in the credits which involve their silhouettes.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Indiana Jones and his hat. He walks into a room and you know it is him. You see his shadow and you know it is him, and just to be on the safe side he carries a whip on his belt in case of other hat-wearing characters. You can see him in a crowd and know which one he is on a bridge. So much so that the filmmakers eventually decided that his hat would only come off if there was a darn good reason. Note the footage of Harrison Ford jokingly offering to staple the hat to his head.
    • Van Helsing of...Van Helsing has a similar hat for similar reasons, as Stephen Sommers has said: makes it very easy to tell who he is, even in a long shot.
  • Several monsters created by Toho certainly apply here. One can easily recognize Godzilla, King Ghidorah, Anguirus, and Gigan for example due to their distinctive appearances.
  • Star Wars:
    • Is there anyone who can't recognize Darth Vader by his shadow?
    • The lightsaber colors were meant to be easily distinctive between Jedi and Sith. And in a literal vein, Luke's new lightsaber in Return of the Jedi was supposed to be blue, but with most of the Sarlacc pit battle being outside against the blue sky they changed it to green to stand out.
      • Also, apparently the reason Samuel L. Jackson wanted a purple lightsaber was so he could pick himself out in crowd shots. It was taken to mean that he was slightly on the verge of the Dark Side himself, hence his lack of concern with killing Palpatine and overthowing the Senate to preserve the Republic. This was also why he was considered the only Jedi that could actually defeat Palpatine, the living embodiment of the Dark Side, as Mace was close enough to falling himself that he could do things like returning lightning without straining himself.
  • This was talked about on the DVD of Spider-Man 2, where they said it was really fun to create Doctor Octopus because all you needed was his silhouette and you can tell it is him.
  • In Rush Hour 2 the fight in the massage parlor had all of the mooks wearing blue robes with Jackie Chan wearing a purple robe and, well, Chris Tucker stands out with little trouble, but they still had him do the fight shirtless.
  • Transformers Film Series:
    • Transformers (2007) was criticized because the robot characters were so complex it was hard to tell them apart in past paced action scenes, especially characters with remotely similar color schemes. The later films addressed this by adding more colored parts to existing characters, and adopting vastly more distinctive appearances for new ones.
    • On the other hand, the movies also paid extra attention to developing different looking character designs that avoided "grill becomes chest, sides become arms, rear becomes legs" that most car-based Transformers used. Such as Ironhide with the front end of the truck split to become his shoulders rather than chest. Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen went way out there on a number of designs like Demolisher and Rampage.
  • In The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes, Balding is a good head shorter and a good foot rounder than Murdoch. This makes a major plot point pretty perplexing.
  • This was an issue in designing the Reliant for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Since the Reliant is also a Federation starship, it had to look like it came from the same fleet as the Enterprise. At the same time, however, the Reliant is hijacked by the villains and is their ship for most of the movie, so there was a concern that audiences would become confused if the "good ship" and the "bad ship" looked too much alike.
  • Lampshaded in A Few Good Men: The main characters show up in Cuba wearing their white dress uniforms. The marines on the ground promptly provide them with camouflage jackets, pointing out that dress whites do indeed give the wearer a very distinctive appearance . . . that the enemy troops outside the base can both readily identify and easily target.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014), the individual turtles are much more visually diverse than in any past incarnation. It goes beyond color coding their masks and weapons, to major clothing differences and physical stature.
    • Raphael is incredibly muscular compared to the other three. On top of that, his mask is a bandana fashioned like a do-rag, and he's covered in training bandages. He also has a character scarred onto his right shoulder.
    • Leonardo sports shoulder guards and other samurai style armor garments. He's also the most "average" build of the four.
    • Donatello is decked from head to shell in various gadgets, including goggles mounted on his forehead and stereotypically taped Nerd Glasses. He's also the tallest and thinnest of the brothers.
    • Michelangelo has a puka shell necklace, sneakers, and a hoodie around his waist. Even when he's serious, his general facial composition still makes him look dopey. He's also the shortest and roundest turtle.
  • The Lord of the Rings: Due to the large number of characters being introduced, Peter Jackson took care to make sure all of the important characters were visually distinctive so audiences wouldn't get confused. Some of the traits he gave them are book-accurate, others are not.
    • Boromir is light-haired and carries a shield, while Aragorn is dark-haired and wields a Bow and Sword in Accord.
    • Frodo is the only dark-haired hobbit. Sam has bright red hair and is overweight. Merry and Pippin look similar, but at least in the first film, aren't important as separate characters anyway.
    • Legolas and Gimli were generally distinctive enough due to being the only members of their respective races in the Fellowship. Same with Gandalf due to him being the only Wizard. However, care was still taken to ensure that Legolas couldn't be mistaken for Elrond, or Gandalf for Saruman.
  • Our Relations: In this Laurel and Hardy film, Stan and Ollie play their usual characters—and their identical twins, Alf and Bert, bumbling goofball sailors. While Stan always had a bow tie, and Ollie had a long tie (which he often fluttered), Alf and Bert are the reverse, with Alf having the long tie and Bert with the bow tie. This helps the viewer keep track of which twin is which as the four scramble about.
  • A New Hope: The differences in color between the lightsabers, the stark contrast in starship designs, and the colors of the protagonists and antagonists are all designed to evoke a strong Good vs. Evil theme.

  • The main Watch characters in Discworld: Carrot is tall ginger, and handsome; Vimes is permanently scowling; Fred and Nobby are the big fat one and the short ugly one, Angua is the beautiful blonde woman (or the very handsome blonde wolf), Cheery is the dwarf in a skirt and heels, and Detritus is the troll.
  • The Dresden Files has quite a bit of this. Harry Dresden is 6'9" and is usually wearing his Badass Longcoat, which makes him easily identified to people who know him. Murphy, on the other extreme, is short at 5'0", to the extent she has to wear lifts in her shoes to avoid being recognized, since everyone in the supernatural community knows by now who the five-foot-nothing policewoman is.
  • Harry Potter likes this trope a lot. Many character have key phrases linked to their appearances:
    • "half-mooned spectacles" — Dumbledore
    • "greasy black hair" — Snape
    • Dolores Umbridge is repeatedly described as looking like a toad, so much so apparently that "short Ministry witch who looks like a toad" is enough of a description for the heroes to be certain that she's the witch in question.
  • Subverted in the Knight and Rogue Series. Fisk and Michael are both plain looking. So plain looking that people trying to catch them have an easier time trying to ask about their horses. However, Michael happens to have a scar on his face that, in the second book, is faked by a framer so that everyone will be on the lookout for that particular distinguishing feature.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who actor Mark Strickson dyed his hair from blond to ginger in order to play companion Turlough because then-current Doctor Peter Davison sported blond hairnote , and it was felt that having both of them blond would easily confuse viewers.
  • Green Wing does something very similar to Scrubs, at least to a certain extent, which obviously makes sense when they're both set in hospitals. Oddly, while all three wear green scrubs in the operating theatre, Mac will continue to wear his while Caroline and Guy change back into their white lab coats.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Gil-galad looks more distinctive than most of the other significant male Elvish characters, such as Arondir, Elrond, Medhor, Feanor, Celebrimbor and so forth. They all sport either short or at most chin-length hair, whereas Gil-galad's hair is pitch black, long, flowing and more in line with the Elves depicted in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.
  • Scrubs had all the people in the hospital separated into colors: white lab coats or blue scrubs for medical doctors, green scrubs for surgeons, pink (or purple) scrubs for nurses and the maintenance/janitorial crew wear black. Even then J.D. usually wears a different shade of blue than most of the other doctors (or at least Elliot, who is also a medical doctor). Dr. Cox and Dr. Kelso are generally the only main characters to regularly wear labcoats.
    • Individual characters usually do something to look unique. The Todd always has his sleeves ripped off to show his "guns." Doug wears a much lighter shade of blue along with a red fanny-pack.
    • In the episode where J.D., Turk and Carla all got scooters, they matched the colour-coding of their scrubs, in a mild Lampshade Hanging. In another episode, Dr. Cox notes with amusement that J.D. and Elliot wore the exact same clothes in a certain scene, a dark olive green, long sleeved undershirt with dark blue scrubs overtop. Because they are at work it wouldn't be an issue at all if it wasn't for this trope.
  • Star Trek did an iconic color coding of their uniforms, along with department insignia on the chest patches and sleeve stripes indicating rank. TOS had Operations wear gold (actually a lime green, like Kirk's wraparound tunic, but the lighting on the standard uniform fabric made them look gold), Engineering and Security wore red and Science and Medical wore blue (McCoy even had a short sleeve tunic to make it clear he was a doctor). In Star Trek: The Next Generation the rank was designated by pips on their collar and the department colors changed: Operations wore Red, Engineering and Security wore Gold and Medical and Science wore blue as always (Dr. Crusher often had a blue lab coat).
    • When Star Trek: Deep Space Nine came out they introduced new uniforms to have colored shoulders rather than colored torsos, originally made to differentiate Starship crews from Starbase crews. In Star Trek: Generations the colored shoulders uniform was given to the command officers on the Enterprise, making it the only time both variations were worn by the same crew.
    • They also introduced a special captain's uniform to make them different from other operations staff. Kirk had the green wraparound tunic (acknowledged with Enterprise's Mirror Universe episode). Picard had a two layer outfit with a velvet jacket over a gray shirt. Star Trek: First Contact introduced the Starfleet uniform change with a black and gray jumpsuit with color coded turtleneck undershirts, but Picard spent most of the film wearing a red shirt under a vest. That same outfit was later worn by Sisko in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
    • Admiral Uniforms also tended to be different, often with more insignias and a front zipper. Star Trek: Enterprise surprised fans by having the Admiral uniforms with a necktie.

  • LEGO:
    • Legends of Chima did this for most of the animal tribes, giving them all a distinctive head mold, even for tribes that only included one member. This was slightly died down in the third year; while the Sabre-Tooth Tribe were distinct from the Lions and the other big cat tribes, the other big cat tribes released in the third year (the Tigers, the single Leopard, and the one lioness) all used the same head mold, while the Ice Bears in a justified example use the same mold as the Bears.
    • The LEGO Ninjago Movie applied this to the main ninja cast, giving them all distinct hairstyles and outfits. It's a downplayed example given that they are ninja and maintain some level of anonymity. Ninjago itself applied these designs to the cast afterwards, with the excuse of the events of the previous arc slightly altering the universe.

    Video Games 
  • Gears of War designed The Hero Marcus as having the default armor style for the game, with everything else being derived from his design. For Dominic they gave him a shoulder light as well as a knife on his chest to give him a different silhouette. Cole has bare arms and Baird has blonde hair with blue armor. The Carmine brothers are always based on a new "generic COG soldier" design that is used for all the extra characters, which incidentally also makes them stand out as a generic soldier who is nonetheless a member of the main team.
  • Valve deliberately invoked this when designing the characters in Team Fortress 2. Every class has a very distinct shape which helps a lot to identify what's coming after you. This also used to make it easy to spot snipers by looking for the hat, until just about everyone gained customized hats that can throw this off.
    • This design philosophy is maintained in the game's equipment as well—with the incredibly diverse range of weapons available to classes, Valve is careful to make otherwise similar weapons have distinct outlines and details to give players a good idea of what they're facing. For instance, all the sniper rifles share a basic shape, but each of the alternate rifles is notably different from the baseline weapon in their visual design: the Sydney Sleeper has a narrow scope and feathers on the end of its barrel, the Bazaar Bargain appears to have no scope and long metal rails along its length, the Machina is an enormously boxy and futuristic gun, and the Hitman's Heatmaker has a short but fat silencer for a barrel.
  • Also by Valve, the characters in Left 4 Dead all have distinctive silhouettes as well as the various special infected.
  • Mass Effect 2 gives geth party member Legion a massive hole through his chest, visible from almost all angles and a chunk of Shepard's N7 armor recovered from the wreckage of the original Normandy welded to his chest, so the player can distinguish him from his hostile cousins at a glance and avoid friendly fire incidents.
    • Most alien squadmates also have some feature to help distinguish them from their cousins. For example, unless you pay attention to skin colour and clan markings, turians all use the same character model, so Garrus gets a bright blue visor over one eye. Liara is the only asari with facial markings that just happen to look exactly like eyebrows, et cetera.
  • Despite being very much a Improbably Female Cast, it's possible to tell nearly every member of the Touhou Project cast apart by their silhouette, as demonstrated in this video. The abundance of nice hats and nonhuman features (ears, tails, horns etc.) and distinct accessories certainly helps.
  • Every single Robot Master in the Mega Man (Classic) series is designed with a distinct body, which helps a lot when you consider how they tend to have similar faces. Many can also be told apart by their silhouettes (much like the Touhou Project example above), if 9 and 10's promo videos are any indication.
  • Every named dinosaur in Paleo Pines sports a unique color pallet that cannot be found on wild dinos. This includes Lucky, who is the only Parasaurolophus in the game that has the "Sky Blue" pallet.
  • Halo: Reach gives Noble Team distinctive appearances beyond the striking colors sported by some major Spartans in other parts of the Halo series and the armor customization seen in different games. Jorge towers over his teammates, Kat's scrawny prosthetic arm is always exposed and Emile's visor (never open in-game) sports a sinister skull while Jun is the only one with anything approximating a sensible camo pattern (makes sense due to his role as a sniper). Carter and default armor Noble Six are the only members whose armor is remotely standard issue; with Carter that draws attention to the fact he is the leader and for Six it leaves them open for character customization.
  • All over the place in Super Mario. Even similar-looking characters like Mario and Luigi are easily distinguished by physical differences such as height, clothing color, and even the curliness of their mustache and sideburns.
    • In an incredibly bizarre aversion, the character Kamek looks exactly like any other magikoopa despite being a major reoccurring character. There doesn't appear to be any specific reason for this and it causes alot of confusion over which magikoopas are or are not Kamek.
  • Vector Thrust's peace-keeping organisation, Legion, boast a black-and-gold livery they use on their very recognisable Su-47 aircraft, with its forward-swept wing design.
  • Starcraft I: as Hero Units are just more powerful units with different portraits and voices, the problem is solved by making them a different team color, usually teal.
  • Warcraft III: Hero Units are not only twice the size of regular units, they also glow with their team's color and have their names hover over their heads.
  • Empire Earth: In some levels, heroes are distinguished by looking like units from a jarringly different era. At the battle of Hastings, for example, William is unhorsed and runs around in a toga (a style last seen in the Greek campaign before Alexander the Great's conquests) until he finds another.
  • Final Fantasy VII gives every party member an extremely distinctive silhouette and colour palette because it was the first 3D Final Fantasy, and the devs were concerned that players might get visually confused. In particular, Cloud's ridiculous spiky yellow hairstyle was designed to ensure that he always stood out on screen in front of any background and from any angle, which he even lampshades in a tutorial dialogue (telling the optional finger-pointer that you can have indicate his position, "you stand out even more than I do"). Later FF games, with better graphics, don't do as much with the character silhouettes as VII, instead choosing to focus on having an attractive cast and a lot of Costume Porn, who are all visually distinct but on a detail level.
  • Due to its nature as a game of fictional Humongous Mecha combat, MechWarrior Online attempts to keep the silhouettes and features of the 'Mechs in the game distinct from each other. Even highly similar 'Mechs such as the Hellbringer and Warhammer are differentiated by features such as the carriage of their shoulders, the shape of their arms, and the differing structures of the chest and waist. Similarly, the diminutive Commando and only slightly larger Firestarter can be told apart by the differences in forearm sizes, shoulder bulk, and facial shapes (with the Commando's "monocle" being a very distinct feature, even at range). Even with the number of 'Mechs in the game and the wildly varying degrees of customization available, it is usually not too difficult to tell what's shooting at you.
  • Gacha games such as Love Live! School idol festival, Ensemble Stars! and BanG Dream! Girls Band Party! have an interesting challenge: the entire point is to make a variety of beautiful, unique cards of the players' favourite characters so they'll want to collect them, but when everyone is cute and you can't rely on a Limited Wardrobe, making the cards distinctive for each character can be difficult. Common tactics include:
    • Limiting the number of alternate hairstyles. This is a mixed bag, as in series with Only Six Faces hairstyles are often the clearest distinguishing feature (meaning that if two people have similar colour and length they can look very similar when styles are mixed up - see Aya and Himari for example), but there is a lot of moe potential to be gained from seeing a character with a new style. Ponytailed characters seem to get this the most, as it's a pretty versatile style and letting the hair down would change the silhouette drastically.
    • Make copious use of Cast Herds and motifs. If the character is part of, say, a traditional Japanese-themed group, adding Eastern touches to their clothing or often putting them in kimonos will keep them distinctive. And this can be done even with seasonal costumes - everyone needs a Santa outfit eventually, but if it's a member of Afterglow or UNDEAD wearing one, you can expect a uniquely punk rock flair to it.
    • Colour coding. Even if two characters are wearing the same basic outfit and have similar hair, shading the outfit their own personal colour (or at least adding it as a secondary colour or highlight) will make it clear who is who. Usually, this will be based on the character's hair colour, and sometimes eye colour.

    Web Animation 
  • The four main girls of RWBY were all designed to have unique silhouettes, which is often used in promo art and season openings. Ruby Rose has a waist length red cloak, Weiss Schnee has an offset ponytail (later changed to a braid in volume 7) that goes all the way to her knees, Blake Belladonna has her cat ears, and Yang Xiao Long has long mane of curly golden hair. It also incorporates Color Motifs into all its characters, making it easy to tell them apart even without distinctive silhouettes.

  • In Awful Hospital, the only characters to look alike so far are the kidney stone children, which didn't have distinct personalities or names of their own. Other characters we have seen include a giant, sentient bacteriophage in a bowtie, a bag of medical waste that fashioned itself into a nurse, a man with a giant syringe for a head, and various human organs operating independently.
  • Due to their unique accessories, and the careful design of their fur and tails, no two characters in Bittersweet Candy Bowl have the same silhouette. Without, however, a few look rather similar - this is most notably played with when Sandy is finally introduced on-screen in the present.
  • One chapter in How to make Webcomics (by Kurtz, Straub, Guigar, and Kellet) even went so far as to describe the (black-and-white) layouts of the different characters in PVP, pointing out the different areas as light and dark, and how no two characters had the same arrangement.
  • It is hard, very hard to mistake one character for another in Tower of God. It could be the fact that one of the main characters is a miniature version of Godzilla. Maybe because that Purple Jumpsuit only belongs to one person. Anyway, despite having very similar faces (except for Godzilla and the other Lizard Folk) character designs tend to so one-of-a-kind that most characters can be identified from afar. That even goes for all the background characters from season one.
  • Cucumber Quest: While the rabbit-people are already quite distinctive they also have ears that correspond to what land they're from. For example Cucumber, his sister Almond, and Sir Carrot of the Doughnut kingdom have plain ears; Princess Nautilus of the Ripple Kingdom has round ears like a cartoon "splash"; Peridot of the Crystal Kingdom has square ears (and hair). There's also the strangely-eared aliens.
  • Girl Genius is very good at this, characters are given distinct body types, heights, hair styles, or clothing accessories that make them stand out. This is all in spite of most characters changing outfits quite often but even then most important characters tend to wear clothes of similar colors. The color of people's hair and clothes are used to visually categorize them, Smoke Knights all wear purple, and all of the Storm King's descendants have bright red hair for example, and Zeetha's green hair, normally blue clothes, and gold accessories make her visually different from the rest of the cast, fitting with her being from a lost kingdom.

    Web Original 
  • Ask the Mane Six, a Tumblr ask blog based on My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, redesigned the ponies as humans. Each humanised pony has a completely distinct appearance (such as an indian Twilight Sparkle, a muscular Applejack, and an overweight Pinkie Pie), which is notable when you compare it to other humanised pony illustrations.

    Western Animation 
  • Arcane uses Jinx's ankle-length braids this way. She gets several shots where she's in shadow, blurred out, or shot from behind, with the braids and their movement being used to reveal her.
  • Ben 10: The aliens Ben can transform into all look radically different from each other, ranging from Humanoid Aliens to Starfish Aliens with a few having distinctive traits like extra limbs. This is helpful in-universe due to the Omnitrix only showing their silhouettes as a way to choose one alien or another.
  • Transformers does this most especially when the toy designs were actually for the franchise and not repackaged from other toy lines. Optimus Prime's chest windows are more the rule than the exception. In fact, since most of the other Autobots have the front grill of the car become their chest, having the front windows become his chest is what makes him visually unique and thereby the leader. With Transformers: Animated, the outlines for every main character is very distinct.
  • Gargoyles come in all shapes and sizes. None of the main crew have the same color scheme, same wing design, or even the same face. In fact, seeing that Angela had Goliath's coloring but Demona's appearance tipped Elisa off that she was Goliath's daughter.
  • The original character design for The Simpsons required the family to each have distinctive silhouettes (only Maggie and Lisa have the same hair). Most other characters could probably be recognised by their silhouette too.
    • It's actually one of creator Matt Groening's rules that the character design department MUST make all new characters instantly recognizable by silhouette, but not draw attention from the main family, or it gets rejected.
    • This can also be seen in Futurama where Matt Groening described Fry's "hair horns" as being particularly useful in maintaining a unique silhouette.
  • The Phineas and Ferb creators used to work on The Simpsons, so they designed the major characters based on the same concept. The title characters are the most obvious examples, especially Phineas, who has a triangular head.
  • [adult swim] had a between-shows promo that mentioned this, with silhouettes of the cast of Futurama clearly identifiable. Done in a few other promos, as well, such as one where, when asked if there were any anime series they were glad to be rid of, they merely showed a silhouette of Alexander the Great.
  • Even if Henry and June from KaBlam!! wore the same outfit, had the same eyes, and sported the same hair, there's a way to tell them apart. Henry has freckles, and June has some baby fat she didn't burn off yet.
  • Steven Universe uses this among not just the main characters, but also the secondary cast. The best examples of this are the three primary Crystal Gems Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl, whose designs are based around squares, circles and triangles respectively and distinct heights and body types that they could be told apart miles away.