The storylines tend to be simple tales of bold adventure. The cast has a simple structure as well: almost all the characters look essentially alike — mostly male, very short (just "three apples tall"), with blue skin, white trousers with a hole for their short tails, white hat in the style of a Phrygian cap, and sometimes some additional accessory that identifies a personality (For instance, Handy Smurf wears overalls instead of the standard trousers, a brimmed hat, and a pencil above his ear). Smurfs can walk and run, but often move by skipping on both feet. They love to eat Sarsaparilla (a species of Smilax) leaves, whose berries the smurfs naturally call smurfberries (the smurfberries appear only in the cartoon; in the original comics, the Smurfs only eat the leaves from the Smilax).
The male Smurfs almost never appear without their hats, which leaves a mystery among the fans as to whether they have hair. The animated series canon state that they may be bald: one episode of the Hanna-Barbera cartoon has Greedy Smurf removing his chef's hat to give Papa Smurf a pie he had concealed under it, revealing a bald head. Another episode, St. Smurf and the Dragon, shows Hefty Smurf's hat rising up off his bald head briefly as he and others slide to a stop. Both Papa Smurf and Grandpa Smurf have full beards and hair visibly coming from under their hats above the earline. In The Smurfs and the Magic Flute, a Smurf took off his hat briefly for a polite gesture.
In the comics, the last page of the first album Les Schtroumpfs noirs (The Black Smurfs) shows Papa Smurf's hat blown off by an explosion, revealing his completely bald head (which may simply be due to old age). In Le Schtroumpfeur de Bijoux (The Jewel Smurfer), Jokey Smurf gets very angry and defensive when a human tells him he should take off his hat.
The Smurfs fulfill simple archetypes of everyday people: Lazy Smurf, Grouchy Smurf, Brainy Smurf, and so on. All smurfs with the exception of Papa, Baby, Smurfette, Nanny and Grandpa, are said to be 100 years old. There were originally 99 smurfs, but this number increased as new Smurf characters appeared, such as Sassette and Nanny. Smurfette is not one of the original smurfs because she was created by Gargamel, the evil wizard.
The Smurfs' community generally takes the form of a cooperative, sharing and kind environment based on the principle that each Smurf has something he or she is good at, and thus contributes it to Smurf society as he or she can. In return, each Smurf appears to be given their necessities of life, from housing and clothes to food. Some have argued that the foundation of Smurf society resembles the basic principles of Communism, although Peyo's son, Thierry Culliford, has stated in an interview that his father "wasn't interested in politics at all".