2D Animation Principles
Illustration by John Hersey

2D Animation Principles

with Dermot O' Connor

Video: Comparing body types

These are five of the most common body types that Now I'd like to show you one of the principles of nice design, and this One other note about this kind of expression, Another principle of good design when you're creating a character is asymmetry.
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  1. 1m 42s
    1. Welcome
    2. Using the exercise files
  2. 18m 9s
    1. Understanding appeal and design
      4m 3s
    2. Comparing body types
      6m 27s
    3. Understanding silhouette
      1m 52s
    4. Creating gesture drawings
      2m 50s
    5. Tying down the drawing
      2m 57s
  3. 18m 10s
    1. Comparing storyboard styles
      5m 8s
    2. Understanding shot composition
      4m 36s
    3. Demonstrating lighting
      4m 8s
    4. Understanding the 180-degree line
      4m 18s
  4. 13m 8s
    1. Understanding X-sheets (dope sheets)
      3m 25s
    2. Comparing frame rates
      4m 39s
    3. Creating sweatbox notes and preparation
      5m 4s
  5. 18m 42s
    1. Understanding arcs
      7m 38s
    2. Squash, stretch, and volume
      4m 59s
    3. Comparing timing and spacing
      6m 5s
  6. 10m 4s
    1. Using anticipation, overshoot, and settle
      4m 2s
    2. Breaking and loosening joints
      2m 43s
    3. Leading action
      3m 19s
  7. 19m 51s
    1. Understanding primary and secondary action
      4m 14s
    2. Using overlap and follow-through
      6m 0s
    3. Applying lines of action, reversals, and S-curves
      4m 34s
    4. Moving holds and idles
      5m 3s
  8. 15m 52s
    1. Understanding walk and run cycles
      5m 24s
    2. Creating eccentric walks
      6m 50s
    3. Animal locomotion
      3m 38s
  9. 14m 31s
    1. Finding dialogue accents
      2m 42s
    2. Creating dialogue through body movement
      2m 46s
    3. Creating stock mouth shapes
      5m 4s
    4. Using complementary shapes
      3m 59s
  10. 13m 8s
    1. Creating thumbnails
      4m 31s
    2. Comparing straight-ahead and pose-to-pose animation
      4m 37s
    3. Adding breakdowns for looseness
      4m 0s
  11. 2m 9s
    1. Next steps
      2m 9s

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Watch the Online Video Course 2D Animation Principles
2h 25m Beginner Apr 11, 2014

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Bring a cast of characters to life. By following the basics principles of animation, you can build characters that interact naturally with their environments, convey realistic emotion, and talk and walk convincingly. In this course, Dermot O' Connor shows how to design a solid character and stage and storyboard your animation before you begin. He'll examine principles like anticipation and squash and stretch, which provide characters with a sense of weight and flexibility, and show you how to animate walk cycles and dialogue. Finally, learn how to thumbnail scenes from start to finish, so you can sketch out the action before you commit to fully rendering it.

These lessons are designed with Flash in mind, but work just as well with any other 2D animation program.

Topics include:
  • Creating gesture drawings
  • Comparing storyboard styles
  • Squash, stretch, and volume
  • Comparing timing and spacing
  • Using anticipation, overshoot, settle, overlap, and follow-through
  • Creating eccentric walks
  • Building stock mouth shapes for dialogue
  • Creating thumbnails
3D + Animation
Flash Professional
Dermot O' Connor

Comparing body types

These are five of the most common body types that you will see recurring in animation over and over again. Now I don't mean to say by this that you will see this exact types reappear but the general proportion of the skinny guy, the muscular guy, the cute little baby figure, the overweight figure and the normal every day go to zany character. So this could be the guy on the right, normal. He could be anything from a Mickey Mouse to Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Donald, that kind of figure and build. So you can build lots of different characters around any one of these types, and then of course, you can also mix and match.

There's no reason why the muscular figure couldn't be a little less muscular or have longer legs for example, but this is just to show you some of the generic characters that recur in animation. It's also standard practice to ensure that each character is a set number of head heights tall. And this enables you to control the proportions of the figure. So you know, for example, that the figure on the left is eight heads tall and his torso is roughly about three heads in length. And that way you don't go completely off model. And this applies more so to people who are drawing traditionally.

If you have a 3D rig, of course, it's much less important to know this. Do also keep in mind if you are drawing these figures, or even modeling them in 3D, that they have a basically simple geometry beneath them, and as you can see, mostly bean bag shapes are the ones I like to draw with. And you can also break them down of course. This the muscular guy has a definite break across his chest, much harder line here, whereas the cute little baby figure has an extremely simple coffee bean shape. Now a quick note on the difference between male and female figures.

In short, the male figure bends outwards, his elbows bend out, as you can see here, as do his knees and this gives the typical average male figure pose. The female is the opposite and her elbows bend in and her knees bend in. Wider hips and then the ankles taper to a point. So as long as you follow this rough outline. And of course you can push these or you can make them less charactured as your character and your project style demands. Now I'd like to show you one of the principles of nice design, and this is from a, a project that I'm working on recently, it's a cartoon of Galileo.

Very simple, very stylized rough sketch, one of the principles that you want to apply is that you don't have the, an equal number of detail all over the figure. So we're, we're going to have big, blank collar areas in one part of the character, where appropriate. And then areas of much higher line density. And if you look around the beard area. And the lines on the face. You'll see a, sort of, high level of detail where you would expect it. Around the face. Less so on the chest area. And to a lesser degree, you can see a line detail around the belt here.

And less so around the groin and the legs. So this creates a nice contrast or texture of high levels of detail and low levels of detail. Same principle applies in these rough pencil sketches from a notebook of mine. You can see much more focus on the area around the eyes and the mouth and less so around the chest and the back of the head. So the same with the gorilla here too. Another quick note on symmetry. A few are under serious time constraints. You might want to consider having a character that's symmetrical. And in this case, now, the good professor has a walking stick.

This means that if I animate him with a walk cycle with the cane in his right hand and I flop that scene, the cane will pop from left to right. If he were to have a badge on his chest or some other asymmetrical detail that one model sheet addition could add a lot of extra work. So think ahead, plan ahead if you're under time or money constraints. Similar principle applies to a detail. I once worked on a project with a character that had a waistcoat that had this kind of pattern on it. And the amount of manhours that got sunk into that model sheet just because of this one design choice was I think fairly considerable.

And once again, if you have a serious constraint with your time or your energy, think twice about adding details like this to your character, especially if you're working in a medium like Flash. One other note about this kind of expression, which the animator John K has referred to as 'tude, meaning attitude, and it's a really horrible kind of grimace, and it's very common. It's become a complete cliche. If you go to Google and do a search for animation chewed John K, you will find his blog post on that and he has many wonderful and not wonderful examples of chewed.

It will give you a very good idea of what not to do, please try to avoid it. Another principle of good design when you're creating a character is asymmetry. And as you can see here, we have an imaginary line from this little boy Dracula figure going from eyebrow to eyebrow. And if you were to follow a similar line along the mouth, we would have two lines that are, and I'm going use my mouse to show one this way and one that way. So, it's a nice asymmetry. It creates a nice dynamic shape. And this, I think, is the origin of the infamous 'tude pose.

It's this principle taken to an absurd extreme. This little boy doesn't have 'tude, he's just, he looks a little bit confused. So don't feel that you have to avoid this kind of technique, the asymmetrical distortion of eyebrows, just beware that you avoid that particular expression. One last note on something not to do especially in Flash would be to avoid stripes or polka dots. Simple reason being, and I haven't gone to any great lengths to make this look good, is to show the, principle and operation where the arm meets the body.

If you watch here he's fine in his interpose, but when we move through the timeline you get this. Were this to be an actual production, the amount of man-hours that would be required to fix that would be mind-boggling. So please avoid design elements like this that have no reason to exist apart from torturing the animator. So that's pretty much it. If you want to experiment with your own designs, in the exercise files folder I've created this file. And it's a very simple selection of different genres on the left column, character types in the middle column, and personality traits on the right columns.

So, if you're feeling a little empty and you're not sure about what you want to sketch and you're looking for some kind of inspiration, it's just a little kickstarter so you can pick at random. I want to design a dystopian goth. Who is a bit of a dropout, so you could do that, or, you know, pick your own assembly of, odd characters, just to get you started. So with that, we'll move on.

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