Notes on Character Design

lackadaisycats:

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Character design and drawing are tome-sized topics and even if I had all the answers (I don’t - I have a lot to learn), I’m not sure I could communicate them effectively. I’ve gathered some thoughts and ideas here, though, in case they’re helpful.

First, some general things:

 - Relax and let some of that anxiety go. This isn’t a hard science. There’s no wrong way, no rigid process you must adhere to, no shoulds or shouldn’ts except those you designate for yourself. This is one of the fun parts of being an artist, really - have a heady good time with it.

 - Be patient. A design is something gradually arrived at. It takes time and iteration and revision. You’ll throw a lot of stuff away, and you’ll inevitably get frustrated, but bear in mind the process is both inductive and deductive. Drawing the wrong things is part of the path toward drawing the right thing.

- Learn to draw.  It might seem perfunctory to say, but I’m not sure everyone’s on the same page about what this means. Learning to draw isn’t a sort of rote memorization process in which, one by one, you learn a recipe for humans, horses, pokemon, cars, etc. It’s much more about learning to think like an artist, to develop the sort of spacial intelligence that lets you observe and effectively translate to paper, whatever the subject matter. When you’re really learning to draw, you’re learning to draw anything and everything. Observing and sketching trains you to understand dimension, form, gesture, mood, how anatomy works, economy of line; all of the foundational stuff you will also rely on to draw characters from your imagination.
Spend some time honing your drawing ability. Hone it with observational sketching. Hone it good.
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  • I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone do this sort of thing better than Claire Wendling. In fact, character designs emerge almost seamlessly from her gestural sketches. It’d be worth looking her up.

- Gather Inspiration like a crazed magpie. What will ultimately be your trademark style and technique is a sort of snowball accumulation of the various things you expose yourself to, learn and draw influence from. To that effect, Google images, tumblr, pinterest and stock photo sites are your friends. When something tingles your artsy senses - a style, a shape, a texture, an appealing palette, a composition, a pose, a cool looking animal, a unique piece of apparel, whatever - grab it. Looking at a lot of material through a creative lens will make you a better artist the same way reading a lot of material makes a better writer.
It’ll also devour your hard drive and you will try and fail many times to organize it, but more importantly, it’ll give you a lovely library of ideas and motivational shinies to peruse as you’re conjuring characters.

- Imitation is a powerful learning tool. Probably for many of us, drawing popular cartoon characters was the gateway habit that lured us into the depraved world of character design to begin with. I wouldn’t suggest limiting yourself to one style or neglecting your own inventions to do this, but it’s an effective way to limber up, to get comfortable drawing characters in general, and to glean something from the thought processes of other artists.

- Use references. Don’t leave it all up to guessing. Whether you’re trying to design something with realistic anatomy or something rather profoundly abstracted from reality, it’s helpful in a multitude of ways to look at pictures. When designing characters, you can infer a lot personality from photos, too.
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And despite what you might have heard, having eyeballs and using them to look at things doesn’t constitute cheating. There’s no shame in reference material. There’s at least a little shame in unintentional abstractions, though.
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Concepts and Approach:

- Break it down. Sometimes you have the look of a character fleshed out in your mind before putting it to paper, but usually not. That doesn’t mean you have to blow your cortical fuses trying conceive multiple diverse designs all at the same time, though. You don’t even have to design the body shape, poses, face, and expressions of a single character all at once. Tackle it a little at a time.

The cartoony, googly eyed style was pre-established for this simple mobile game character, but I still broke it into phases. Start with concepts, filter out what you like until you arrive at a look, experiment with colors, gestures and expressions.
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- Start with the general and work toward the specific. Scribbling out scads of little thumbnails and silhouettes to capture an overall character shape is an effective way begin - it’s like jotting down visual notes. When you’re working at a small scale without agonizing over precision and details, there’s no risk of having to toss out a bunch of hard work, so go nuts with it. Give yourself a lot of options.

Here’s are some sample silhouettes from an old cancelled project in which I was tasked with designing some kind of cyber monkey death bot. I scratched out some solid black shapes then refined some of them a step or two further.
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- Shapes are language. They come preloaded with all sorts of biological, cultural and personal connotations. They evoke certain things from us too. If you’re ever stuck about where to go with your design, employ a sort of anthroposcopy along these lines - make a visual free association game out of it. It’ll not only tend to result in a distinguished design, but a design that communicates something about the nature of the character.

Think about what you infer from different shapes. What do they remind you of? What personalities or attitudes come to mind? How does the mood of a soft curve differ from that of a sharp angle? With those attributes attached, how could they be used or incorporated into a body or facial feature shape? What happens when you combine shapes in complementary or contrasting ways? How does changing the weight distribution among a set of shapes affect look and feel? Experiment until a concept starts to resonate with the character you have in mind or until you stumble on something you like.
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If you don’t have intent, take the opposite approach - draw some shapes and see where they go. (It’s stupid fun.)

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- Cohesion and Style. As you move from thumbnails to more refined drawings, you can start extrapolating details from the general form. Look for defining shapes, emergent themes or patterns and tease them out further, repeat them, mirror them, alternate them. Make the character entirely out of boxy shapes, incorporate multiple elements of an architectural style, use rhythmically varying line weights - there are a million ways to do this

Here’s some of the simple shape repetition I’ve used for Lackadaisy characters.
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- Expressions - let them emerge from your design. If your various characters have distinguishing features, the expressions they make with those features will distinguish them further. Allow personality to influence expressions too, or vice versa. Often, a bit of both happens as you continue drawing - physiognomy and personality converge somewhere in the middle.

For instance, Viktor’s head is proportioned a little like a big cat. Befitting his personality, his design lets him make rather bestial expressions. Rocky, with his flair for drama, has a bit more cartoon about him. His expressions are more elastic, his cheeks squish and deform and his big eyebrows push the boundaries of his forehead. Mitzi is gentler all around with altogether fewer lines on her face. The combination of her large sleepy eyes and pencil line brow looked a little sad and a little condescending to me when I began working out her design - ultimately those aspects became incorporated into her personality.
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I discuss expression drawing in more detail here (click the image for the link):
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- Pose rendering is another one of those things for which observational/gesture drawing comes in handy. Even if you’re essentially scribbling stick figures, you can get a handle on natural looking, communicative poses this way. Stick figure poses make excellent guidelines for plotting out full fledged character drawings too.

Look for the line of action. It’ll be easiest to identify in poses with motions, gestures and moods that are immediately decipherable. When you’ve learned to spot it, you can start reverse engineering your own poses around it.
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- Additional resources
- here are some related things about drawing poses and constructing characters (click the images for the links).

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Lastly…

- Tortured rumination about lack of ability/style/progress is a near universal state of creative affairs. Every artist I have known and worked with falls somewhere on a spectrum between frustration in perpetuity and a shade of fierce contrition Arthur Dimmesdale would be proud of. So, next time you find yourself constructing a scourge out of all those crusty acrylic brushes you failed to clean properly, you loathsome, deluded hack, you, at least remember you’re not alone in feeling that way. When it’s not crushing the will to live out of you, the device does have its uses - it keeps you self-critical and locked in working to improve mode. If we were all quite satisfied with our output, I suppose we’d be out of reasons to try harder next time.

When you need some reassurance, compare old work to new. Evolution is gradual and difficult to perceive if you’re narrowed in on the nearest data point, but if you’ve been steadily working on characters for a few months or a year, you’ll likely see a favorable difference between points A and B.

Most of all, don’t dwell on achieving some sort of endgame in which you’re finally there as a character artist. There’s no such place - wherever you are, there is somewhere else. It’s a moving goal post. Your energy will be better spent just enjoying the process…and that much will show in the results.

tonykillzillustrations:

It’s all about proportions of the body. What are proportions? Boundaries to help maintain the correct size of a character or object. It prevents from drawing way too long torso or limbs. I hope these mini tutorials help and if you got suggestions or question, feel free to ask! #Instagood #cute #art #fun #bestoftheday #instamood #girl #instadaily #sketch #drawing #pinup #pinupart #pinupgirls #wip #tutorials #help #tips #proportions

tonykillzillustrations:

It’s all about proportions of the body. What are proportions? Boundaries to help maintain the correct size of a character or object. It prevents from drawing way too long torso or limbs. I hope these mini tutorials help and if you got suggestions or question, feel free to ask! #Instagood #cute #art #fun #bestoftheday #instamood #girl #instadaily #sketch #drawing #pinup #pinupart #pinupgirls #wip #tutorials #help #tips #proportions

Varying Your Body Types

dredsina:

By me, Sara D. (Heh.)

I think it’s very important for artists to vary the types of bodies they draw! Not only does it add visual interest and diversity, but different body types can enhance your characters! (Plus it’s more realistic; when was the last time you walked down the street and everyone had the same body type?) I know I have a hard time drawing different bodies, especially with men, so I’m making this tutorial to teach myself as well (I’ve heard the best way to cement learning something is to teach someone else).

So! Bodies! I’m going to use women for this tutorial because I feel they have more variety in their bodies. One of the most obvious ways bodies differ is in their amount of fat.

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[Click here for full size]

On average, people store fat mostly in core areas like the bust, the waist, and the hips. It is important to remember that people gain and lose weight differently, and this is true no matter how fat or skinny one gets. However, these are common places people store fat:

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The face and neck can be immediate indicators as to how much fat the rest of the body has; when someone loses or gains weight, it’s initially obvious in the face. This is possibly because the eye is (usually) drawn first to the face.

In addition to differences in the amount of body fat, bodies vary vastly in their proportions. The two main ways they differ is skeletally and in fat distribution. The hip to shoulder ratio is skeletal, and someone with wider shoulders might look more powerful or masculine, and someone with wider hips might look more grounded or feminine.

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The torso to legs ratio is also a skeletal ratio. Someone with long legs in comparison with their torso might look taller than someone of the same height with a long torso, and they might also look skinnier.

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(I say as I finally get some visual variety all up in here.)

Because the hips are also one of the places with the most weight gain in women, large hips can also be a matter of fat distribution. The three main places where the fat ratio really matters is in the bust, the waist and the hips (making up the core of the body).

While men usually carry weight in the belly area, the fat distribution can really vary with women. Some women carry more weight in the bust, some in the belly, and some in the hips/thighs. Some women carry more weight in two areas, like the bust and the hips, the bust and the belly, or the belly and the hips. Some women show no obvious bias to any area and carry weight equally.

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[Click here for full size]

Taking into account skeletal ratios, fat distribution patterns, a vast human weight range, muscle tone and age, there are endless permutations of body types. It would be a shame if you used only one!

Oh, and that first image looks really interesting as a gif.

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HOW TO SURVIVE IN COLLEGE
veggiemonsterblog:

We all have those days where everything is wrong and you just wanna curl up in bed and cry yourself back to sleep. If that’s what makes you feel better, go for it! A lot of times though, this doesn’t help or makes you feel worse; so here’s what I do to turn bad days around. Not every day will be rainbows and unicorns, but hopefully these techniques can ease your burden a little.
 
1. Get Moving
Exercise releases endorphins and can help you to clear your mind. Just make sure you’re having fun and not just punishing yourself.
-       Go for a walk outside. Enjoy the beautiful scenery and center yourself.
-       Do some HIIT (try 30 seconds of jumping, 15 seconds of squats, and 15 seconds of pushups). Pour all of what your feeling into the moves.
-       Put on some happy music and dance. Do it locked up in your room if you want, just dance around like you have no care in the world.
-       Try yoga or meditation. Yoga is a great way to relax while releasing physical and mental tension. You can follow videos on YouTube if you like.
 
2. Spread Some Love
Studies have shown that spreading positivity, even if you feel like you have none, can significantly boost your mood.
-       Call up a friend if you can. See if you can get together for lunch or shopping. Try not to dwell on your problem and just enjoy yourself.
-       Bake some goodies to eat and (maybe!) share. The rhythm of cooking is very therapeutic and the results are delicious.
-       Send someone a nice message to let them know that you’re thinking of them.Even just a simple “Have a nice day!” will do the trick.
 
3. Pamper Yourself
Simple self-care techniques can help you to be at peace. Recognize whatever is wrong and let it go.
-       Take a warm bath or shower. Take as long as you need and enjoy the sensation.
-       Light a candle and put on some yummy lotion. Your skin will thank you and the smell is heavenly.
-       Play around with your makeup and hair. If it’s something you enjoy, it can be fun to try and master beachy waves or a cat eye. Again, you can find tons of stuff on YouTube.
 
4. Find a Distraction
If all else fails, you’re still are allowed to spend the day in bed on Netflix.
-       Watch a movie or show. You can go on sites like Netflix or Hulu. Try and watch something lighthearted to lift your spirits.
-       Listen to some music. Discover a new favorite band. Maybe even try playing a new instrument if you’re feeling adventurous.
-       Scroll through Tumblr. Spend a while on social media to remind yourself that you aren’t alone. If you want to, send a message to me or any other blog you trust.
-       Do some online window-shopping. Most stores sell their merchandise online now and even if you’re not going to buy anything, it can still be fun to look.
Take as long as you need to feel what you’re going through. You’ll be back on your feet in no time!

veggiemonsterblog:

We all have those days where everything is wrong and you just wanna curl up in bed and cry yourself back to sleep. If that’s what makes you feel better, go for it! A lot of times though, this doesn’t help or makes you feel worse; so here’s what I do to turn bad days around. Not every day will be rainbows and unicorns, but hopefully these techniques can ease your burden a little.

 

1. Get Moving

Exercise releases endorphins and can help you to clear your mind. Just make sure you’re having fun and not just punishing yourself.

  • -       Go for a walk outside. Enjoy the beautiful scenery and center yourself.
  • -       Do some HIIT (try 30 seconds of jumping, 15 seconds of squats, and 15 seconds of pushups). Pour all of what your feeling into the moves.
  • -       Put on some happy music and dance. Do it locked up in your room if you want, just dance around like you have no care in the world.
  • -       Try yoga or meditation. Yoga is a great way to relax while releasing physical and mental tension. You can follow videos on YouTube if you like.

 

2. Spread Some Love

Studies have shown that spreading positivity, even if you feel like you have none, can significantly boost your mood.

  • -       Call up a friend if you can. See if you can get together for lunch or shopping. Try not to dwell on your problem and just enjoy yourself.
  • -       Bake some goodies to eat and (maybe!) share. The rhythm of cooking is very therapeutic and the results are delicious.
  • -       Send someone a nice message to let them know that you’re thinking of them.Even just a simple “Have a nice day!” will do the trick.

 

3. Pamper Yourself

Simple self-care techniques can help you to be at peace. Recognize whatever is wrong and let it go.

  • -       Take a warm bath or shower. Take as long as you need and enjoy the sensation.
  • -       Light a candle and put on some yummy lotion. Your skin will thank you and the smell is heavenly.
  • -       Play around with your makeup and hair. If it’s something you enjoy, it can be fun to try and master beachy waves or a cat eye. Again, you can find tons of stuff on YouTube.

 

4. Find a Distraction

If all else fails, you’re still are allowed to spend the day in bed on Netflix.

  • -       Watch a movie or show. You can go on sites like Netflix or Hulu. Try and watch something lighthearted to lift your spirits.
  • -       Listen to some music. Discover a new favorite band. Maybe even try playing a new instrument if you’re feeling adventurous.
  • -       Scroll through Tumblr. Spend a while on social media to remind yourself that you aren’t alone. If you want to, send a message to me or any other blog you trust.
  • -       Do some online window-shopping. Most stores sell their merchandise online now and even if you’re not going to buy anything, it can still be fun to look.

Take as long as you need to feel what you’re going through. You’ll be back on your feet in no time!

coreymarie:

Hello friends!

Here is a little taste of my brand new hand-lettered & illustrated how-to zine, Art Journal Basics. It’s available here, as an instant download, from PAPERCUTS handmade.
( : : [ ♥ ] : : )

The Myth of READY

jenniferely:

I love you guys.  These words are for you, and also for myself.

I thought that by the time I actually got a creative job in the animation industry I would surely feel…  like less of an imposter.  Nope.  Often times when I get an assignment I experience a moment of pure terror.  Afraid that my last success was an accident and I’ll be shown for what I am in front of an audience that grows with each day in the belief that I am something that I am not.  This feeling comes in white hot flashes between fleeting moments of proveable victory. 

A creative act is a leap of faith, and like many who follow something greater than ourselves, we falter often.

When I was in grad school and still figuring out what was possible, I had a revolving door of people telling me to lower my expectations.  Friends and foes alike, telling me I wasn’t good enough.  And I wasn’t…  YET.  But it did not matter.

It does not matter if you are READY.  

Ready is a lie.  It’s a finish line we point to, always far in the distance, where the weather is always sunny and a roaring crowd waits to give a standing ovation.  

Ready is always far enough away to create comfort, but not so far that we need admit failure.  It is as sweet and delicate a fantasy as exists, but in addition to being only mildly comforting, it is ultimately damaging to our artistic goals.

What creative goals have you been putting off because you aren’t “ready”?  

Whether you want to write a novel, develop a video game, be a character artist for animation— whatever your goal is, the only way to BECOME is to do:)  

Apply for that position.  Go to that convention.  Approach that artist for feedback.  Do it now.  Learn what you can, then do it again.  Every time it will become less daunting.  You’ll find new things to be afraid of in no time;) 

Trying to become perfect in a vacuum, and then present yourself to the world like some sort of gift wrapped God of art making is not realistic.  

Immerse yourself in the community.

Fall down and get back up.

Allow people to help you, and help others in earlier stages than yourself.

Be courageous (and positive:)) as you jump in with both feet!!

This year— to take my own advice.  I will be creating a book of my artwork, getting a table at at least one convention (ECCC2015), and reaching out into the world of kids book publishing as it’s a huge dream of mine to work in books.  And of course creating written content for the followers of this blog;)  I may not be ready for any of these things… yet:)  But this is the fastest way I know to get there:)

I wish you all the best!!  Be fearless!

<3 Jenn

Jennifer Ely is an artist working in the animation industry as a Color Stylist on a Dreamworks television show for Netflix.  She has also worked for LAIKA as everything from Intern to Visual Development Artist.

You can follow her here:

@elyjenna   TUMBLR

kibbi:

Face/Nose shapes reference by *Kibbitzer
I remember the time when I drew a lot of clones …a bunch of fucking idealized and young clones… ewww …
then I started to dare and now I love to draw a bunch of fucking old dwarves &lt;3

kibbi:

Face/Nose shapes reference by *Kibbitzer

I remember the time when I drew a lot of clones …a bunch of fucking idealized and young clones… ewww …

then I started to dare and now I love to draw a bunch of fucking old dwarves <3