"...And sometimes, well, he eats you."
Hey there everyone! Yup. That's right. You guessed it. I'm back to boggle your minds, torment your thoughts, and to Tip your Tuesdays!
That's right folk, your friendly inebriated neighborhood Mtn-Man
here with a new installment of Rising-Artists
Tuesday Tip! This time, oddly enough though looks as though I'm going to be working in some strange order that makes this tip fall in line right after my last two. "Chronological order...? That seems to neat and tidy for Mtn-Man, My heavens what is wrong with him?!" Well honestly, this tip is actually going to help lead into my next tip so we're going to experience this weird trend where everything will make sense soon.
Ok, enough pleasantries. Last week was all about getting setting up and choosing our tools to begin the process of doing some sketching and pencil work, that can either be taken to full completion with pencils, or something that would be taken to ink and color. Now whether you're finishing the piece digitally or traditionally, this first process is pretty much the same in both mediums. So lets jump into our topic.
Character Design and Creation
That's right, Tuesday Tip: I Forgot to Feed My Tamagotchi
and Tuesday Tip: Get Off The Phone, I Wanna Get Online
were slowly building into actually
helping people improve their art. Go figure. So character design can be a tricky beast to tackle, because although many of the classic characters familiar to us all through cartoons/comics, movies, anime/manga and advertising look simple, that simplicity usually belies the many hours of work that have gone into their development.
Aside from clean lines and easily readable features, what else are you going to need to know about character design? There's knowing what to exaggerate and what to play down, what to add to give a hint of background and depth, and what to do to develop personality. Getting started can be the trickiest part in any character design project, but once you've got some ideas these tips will help you breath life into your creation.
Who is Your Character Aimed At?
Figuring out the main audience to whom you're pandering to will determine a lot about elements that go into the characters physical design and appearance. If you're drawing a character for younger audiences and kids, usually the design is a lot more simple, and plays off of bright and contrasting colors. Something intended to teenagers and young adults is probably more visually complicated with detail, and the colors follow a more realistic theme. An while both of these are subjective, they seem to resonate as a hint of truth. Not every mature themed characters are nitty-gritty in color and detail, but it is imparted by the writing behind them. That itself creates a juxtaposition that makes the characters stand out.
Also, what medium are you presenting this character in to your audience? While some characters play out nice in imagery created in water color for things as child book illustrations, those same elements wouldn't apply to say, a college based audience. So the limitations of the medium you're capable of working in should be considered in your characters concept art. Just like how black and white ink is as much a part of Comic art as it is Manga art, a lot of people would categorize black and white inking in the realm of comics more than with manga. Though more manga is produced in black and white than in American comics. The audience however is usually looking for color and digital work from people trying to break into the eastern style of art than in western art.
Another big step in character realization through art is something that takes most people a lot of time, that is Research
. The style and look of a character should at least loosely tie into the characters background and origin. You wouldn't draw a figure in 14th century medieval armor if they grew up in 21st century Mexico City. No, you wouldn't, it would make no sense, even with a master tongue of writing ability, you could still not convince me that that kind of character would be walking around in Mexico City and be believable and not a joke. So if you have a character living in turn of the century Europe(late 1800's-early 1900's), look up fashion of the time. Study it, then adapt it to your character design. A lot of your audience might have fluid knowledge of the time periods or culture that you portray your characters at, and could become disenfranchised if they think your character is a cheap parody or complete non-correlating to their environment.
Ok so with my earlier Tuesday Tip about character writing in mind, taking into consideration the tools that we're going to use to create our beautiful characters, and what we've just covered... Then whats next?! Well quite simply, the next step is to flesh our characters out on paper.
Beginnings of Our Character Sketches
Ok so now we're ready to flesh out our characters. So, who do we do that? Well there's a lot of material out there on the subject, but all in all, it can leave people overwhelmed when looking for that clear concise starting line. What do I do though? Well I just take about an hour of my time and start thumbnail sketching things out. "Wait, is this an online short answer tutorial, or just an art 1 lesson?" Well its a bit of both actually. So here we go.
Thumb NAIL That Shit Down Thumbnail sketches are drawing quick, abbreviated drawings. Usually, they are done very rapidly and with no corrections. You can use any medium, though pen or pencil is the most common. Thumbnails sketches are usually very small, often only a few inches high. Thumbnail sketches can serve as a memory aid to help you remember important features of a subject, when making notes for a painting or drawing. They are also useful when visiting a gallery, to help you remember important pieces. Often artists use thumbnail sketches to plan their pictures and characters.
Imagine your subject or picture stripped of all details, through squinted eyes, or in poor light. All you see are big rough shapes and some lines. That's all you need for a thumbnail. First, sketch a rough box(optional), smaller but in the same proportions as the finished picture might be. Rough out at least three or four character designs all with slightly different perspectives, ornamentation, and style. From there you know have a rounded base of all things to incorporate to your character or picture. There are no right or wrong ways, that's just my approach, and it might work for you.
Once you've done your thumbnail sketch, you might want to make some notes alongside it. If say your character sketch is set outdoors, you might record notes about the position of the sun, the particular colors, or make additional sketches to show small details. Once you think you've hashed out all the smaller details to your thumbnail, then you might consider moving up to a working drawing. A working drawing is usually fairly large, sometimes as big as the finished piece, and carefully composed. The subject is sketched in, and potential problem areas might be done in more detail. This is where you can fine tune your drawing before embarking on the finished piece.
Ok, so lets stop to practice a few thumbnails. A lot of times on dA you see artists post deviations entitled "Sketch dump" where there are several or more sketches on a page. sometimes they're spliced together from multiple different sheets of paper or digital canvas, and other times they all come from one. Either way, this is what we're talking about when we say thumbnailing your characters. Before we go in and make the standard straight on forward view and profile view of your character, because that for when we're absolutely sure on what are character is going to look like. Ok, thumbnail time.
Awesome works from fellow deviants.
My terrible crap...
For the basis of this Tip, I went ahead with designing and thumbnailing out some monster works. You can design whatever kind of human, animal, anthro, car, or whatever. I chose monsters though. This is only one page of about 4 that I worked on while doing this, but this page contains the elements of the rough draft which we'll get to in a minute. Besides, Halloween is coming up and maybe that has something to do with a future Tuesday Tip...
Creating Detail and Depth
Now that you've thumbnailed a few practices pieces for your character we can start to lump the elements that you've drawn out into slightly more refined drawings. This is the basis for what our finished product should look like, and as truth should have it... I forgot to do this step myself... But, DO AS I SAY NOT AS I DO
. Ha, not really though, I've just become a bit more adept at doing this step in my mind that I don't always need to refine my character elements into another grouping of possible sketches. Anywho... So in this step, we compile the elements of our characters we like into slightly larger and more detailed sketches out. We also abandon the elements or design features that look to encumber the character, or things that just don't flow too well. This is the brief portion because its pretty much our last section, just with more concentration and detail... So then, moving on!
Starting On Our Working Drawings
So I touched on "working drawings" earlier a bit, but this is where we crack this egg open and get into the meat of things. Our working drawings are going to be more detailed then any drawing so far, and should be a lot more planned out. A lot of times, you're working drawing can stand in the place of a final sketch if you decide to make your working drawing in the same sizes intended for your finished piece. Now here is where I differ a bit from the standard mold found on dA. I don't really like doing those 'front view, profile, happy face, sad face' type character sheets. To me they're just too static and don't serve a real purpose, because a lot of that has already been generated with the stack of sketches you already have. I like my character drawing to be works of art, just like everything else I work on. Probably one of the main reasons so much of my stuff is sitting in my filing cabinet in my "Need to finish" drawer, instead of being up on my dA gallery.
Anyways, for this, I like taking my characters and placing them in more of a moving environment, or somewhere where you might first encounter your character. This helps build the story to follow the character. Its makes you place them in their world, not just floating around on a character sheet. So lets take those drawings from earlier and design our characters to already be slotted in their little worlds. This will bring out the character depth while helping you improve on drawing your characters in space. Again another reason why I'm not too particular on the character sheet look, maybe if its just for the outfit where you need to know what it looks like from all angles, but that again is something I have pined to my wall, and used as reference.(Oh, and if you're use to only using bases to create character, I'm not bashing on that either, its just not how I
was taught and not what I do. Everyone is entitled to their own process though.)
So obviously a lot of my stuff is really rough and looks like garbage compared to my peers on dA, that's ok. I'm not ashamed of my terrible sketching because, again, its a work in progress. Where I lack in sketching detail, and overall sketch "prettiness" I make up for in time conservation and general lack of not giving a f**k. If you spend too much time making every step of your work as perfect as it can be, you can get really bogged down and frustrated which leaves you less enthusiastic about continuing to work. So don't sweat the little things, all in good time my young padawans.
Ok so in conclusion, breaking down the fundamentals of of characters is key before we can build them back up again. All the little things we've learned about anatomy, roughing our work in, picture composition and all that jazz, we're now starting to make sense of all of it. So leading up to what we've already covered, we've touched on writing your characters into their world and making them unique, without being "Mary-Sue-ish". We have covered the basis of the tools that we set out our initial projects with in the sense of doing the piece in a traditional medium. There was an earlier discussion on Gesture drawing (here-->Tuesday Tip: Jump In dA Line, Rock Yo Body In Time
) so that the characters we create and static and lifeless drawings. We've covered the Human Anatomy(Tuesday Tip: Move Yo' Body, Every-Everybody
) for those of you who plan on designing your characters based of of human, or humanoid proportions. And we've even brought you things about going about rough drawing, then inking or doing their line art, and color theory. So with all this knowledge hopefully now we can start really getting some good works piled together.
Another thing I wish to stress it that hopefully, all those scrap and thumbnail sketches you're producing in your attempts to improve, you're SAVING THEM! I hate to hear that some people just discard them as junk, thinking that the skill of those works is so beneath them and embarrassing. These works are all important in the journey to become better artists. So hang on to them, shoot, I use my old sketches all the time. Its when you realize that you've probably already drawn something before in the past that you get that "Ah-ha!" moment. You think to yourself, "Damn, why can't I draw this pose right?" then spend hours looking for references to draw from without finding anything that specifically meats the criteria for what you're trying to accomplish. A quick brows through your sketch books though, and then BAM! There it is, an old character drawing roughed out in the exact same pose you're trying to recreate. So Hang on to your works, you'll never know when they might come in handy.
Ok, that about all the blabbing I've got for y'all this time around. So I'll see you all back here in two weeks when we discuss taking our Working Drawings into finished products.
And just as an extra challenge, I want you all to do some fresh thumbnails and character roughs, throw them up on your Sta.sh or in your gallery, and then post them up here so we can all take a look see. We can discuss on improvements you might be struggling with and then in two weeks we'll be back here to turn your roughs ad working art into finished pieces. Sound like a plan? Ok, GO!
I've already started my finished piece so I'm a bit of a cheater.
Till next time folks!