Join George Maestri for an in-depth discussion in this video Designing characters, part of 2D Character Animation.
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One of the more fun aspects of character animation is actually designing the characters themselves. Now, character design is a whole discipline into itself, so I am not going to get into all the aspects of it but I do want to talk a little bit about how we should design characters for animation. When I design characters, I tend to sketch things out on pencil and paper. This bear is a one example of that. You can certainly design your characters in the computer using a tablet. However you feel comfortable with sketching things out.
Now, when I design a character usually what I do is I just open up my sketch book and start drawing and actually start playing around. Now here are some simple sketches that I have done for character design projects. Here is some more and again, I am just playing and trying to get a sense of what the character is going to be. Now, once I get a design that I like I tend to explore it a little bit more and I tend to draw it out and try different combinations and once I hit upon a shape or form that I like then I start refining it into a more animatable character.
So, for example this one here actually had a bit of an evolution. So, here is the character that I started with from my sketchbook, then I copied him and cleaned him up a little bit as well as changed some of the character. Now, for example, his lengths here are very short and so what was I lengthened the legs a little bit so he would have room to walk and then for the actual animated character, the one that I have actually finished, I even lengthened his legs more. That's so he can walk more easily. Now, other things that I changed here was I had kind of like this hairstyle on the character's head but I decided to go with the hat instead.
So, as you can see your rough sketches can be reworked and redrawn until you get something that works really well. It's really a process of refining the character. Now once you have a sketch that you like, one of the things I like to do is create what's called a turnaround. So, for example that bear that I showed you, what I do is I create a front, a side and a three-quarter view of the bear. Here is another character with a turnaround. Now one of the things I have done here is I have actually drawn some lines because when you animate a character, you want the character to be of the same proportions as they turn their head.
So one of the things I am doing here is I am trying to make sure that the eyes line up, the bottom of the chin, the hair and the feet all line up. So when the character actually turns around, it doesn't shrink and grow and when you start animating characters, you really do need to pay attention to proportion and here is the final version of this character. This is actually been drawn over the original sketch in Illustrator and the parts have been segmented out so that we can actually animate the character.
So, when you are designing characters be sure to pay attention to the form of the character. Make sure that the character can be animated. In other words, make sure that the feet aren't too big, they pass below the body, that sort of thing, and then once you get a design that you like then go ahead and create a turnaround of your character, so you can see them from many angles. This will help you significantly when you go to actually animate your character.
- Creating character joints that really work
- Building with the Puppet tool in After Effects
- Understanding internal versus external forces in movement
- Reading tracks and assigning mouth shapes for dialogue
- Setting up a scene in both After Effects and Flash