The current study describes the in-depth characterization of agar–gelatin based co-hydrogels, emulgels and bigels to have an insight about the differences in the properties of the formulations. Hydrogels have been extensively studied as vehicle for controlled drug release, whereas, the concept of emulgels and bigels is relatively new. The formulations were characterized by scanning electron microscopy, FTIR spectroscopy, XRD and mechanical properties. The biocompatibility and the ability of the formulations to be used as drug delivery vehicle were also studied. The scanning electron micrographs suggested the presence of internal phases within the agar–gelatin composite matrices of co-hydrogel, emulgel and bigel. FTIR and XRD studies suggested higher crystallinity of emulgels and bigels. Electrical impedance and mechanical stability of the emulgel and the bigel was higher than the hydrogel. The prepared formulations were found to be biocompatible and suitable for drug delivery applications. © 2015, Springer Science+Business Media New York.