In this paper we propose a thinning methodology applicable to character images. It is novel in terms of its ability to adapt to local character shape while constructing the thinned skeleton. Our method does not produce many of the distortions in the character shapes which normally result from the use of existing thinning algorithms. The proposed thinning methodology is based on the medial axis of the character. The skeleton has a width of one pixel. As a by-product of our thinning approach, the skeleton also gets segmented into strokes in vector form. Hence further stroke segmentation is not required. We have conducted experiments with printed and handwritten characters in several scripts such as English, Bengali, Hindi, Kannada and Tamil. We obtain less spurious branches compared to other thinning methods. Our method does not use any kind of post processing. © 2011 World Scientific Publishing Company.