Character Design Basics for Animators and Illustrators | Alycia Pace | Skillshare

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Character Design Basics for Animators and Illustrators

teacher avatar Alycia Pace, Fortune cookie lover and art fanatic

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

5 Lessons (22m)
    • 1. Class Trailer

    • 2. Introduction

    • 3. Lesson1 - shape language

    • 4. Lesson2 - straights n’ curves and silhouette

    • 5. Lesson3 - reference and review

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About This Class

Welcome to Character Design Basics! This class will help you as you are designing characters for comics, animation, children’s books, magazine illustrations or anything else you are designing. 

In this class we cover these concepts:

-Shape language 

-Big Medium Small 

-Straights against curves 



PLEASE ask questions. I LOVE questions and it will help me know where you all are at and what I should include in future lessons. 

There is an optional exercise you can upload if you wish. Draw a bunch of fun silhouettes using a dark marker. Scribble and explore the magic of fun shapes! Then create a character off of those fun shapes. Upload a copy of your silhoette and the character you designed from it for all to see and comment. 

Thanks so much for taking the time to view this class! 

Meet Your Teacher

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Alycia Pace

Fortune cookie lover and art fanatic


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1. Class Trailer : 2. Introduction: how their friends, I'm wish a base and this is characters Lima Basics being paid to the assassin. We will be talking in this class about four important principles. First of all, is shaped language a big medium and small. How to use that in your designs? Straights against curves, silhouette and we will briefly touch on, um, Reference way won't go into death on that, Um, because I try to keep this class fairly brief so we can dive into that drew lesson. Now, I would like to show you some examples of how I have used these principles character design in my artistic career. Yeah, all right, let's talk a little bit about little me. My little story, the animation and illustration to be with you and have done a lot of freelance work. Murals, doctors, offices and the like. Characters portend amusement park doing knows lots of Children's books. Probably 15 or so, maybe more, maybe less, having counted it recently, like doing lots of coloring books from some game designs for some board games, character designs for a few short films. When I worked as an illustrator for Studio see, you haven't heard of them YouTube them for a little laugh, some good clean humor. I did some magazine illustrations, and I have started a little publishing company called Fox Co. Books for a lot of my Children's books and coloring books. And, uh, that's that's a little bit about me. Help we can grow together and our artistic endeavors, so let her speak in. 3. Lesson1 - shape language: Oh, ready? Let's get started to begin our character design adventure. Let's begin by talking about shapes. We'll come back to kindergarten. Oh, uh, it won't be long. It'll be quick. But I did want to talk about how these different shapes can affect your character designs. So starting off with physical, if you have a lot of circles, a lot of rounded curves in your design, it will be more friendly. Will be more happy, be more welcoming and inviting as opposed to a triangle. And those angles will, ah, mean that they're more dangerous that, uh, proceed with caution. Uh, the rectangle is solid, secure, sturdy. Think about like a Hummer car. Uh, while we're thinking about cars, everything about like a Volkswagen bug, you've got a lot of those curves and it's more of ah, happy car as opposed Teoh, A sports car which the triangles that creates a feeling of speed And then you've got the Hummer. So some more examples get a grown example again. Clouds Very Ah, soft welcoming, inviting. You've got those those curbs. But then the lightning is ah dangerous. So we've got points in that. So in nature we see it to another place that we see in nature will be a rose. The flower is soft cleats. Um but then you see the thorns and those triangles say danger ahead. Caution. Um, so you put shaves together and you will it well provide a Those shapes will tell you something about the character If you're doing it right If you look at Jacob Romeos awesome character designed on the bottom Uh, you can see how having strong shapes and your design will really help. So let's talk about some examples of that. Oh, Aladdin Trigger Latin's shape language You can see the silhouettes are very strong, uh, and iconic. You can tell what these care who these characters are, even without reading the names above and without a lot of details. You comptel who they are, um their silhouettes are very strong. So if we just fill them in all black uh, you could still get a feel for what? That character, it is who they are. Let's do some more examples. So let's talk about Esma and Melissa isn't my daughter Name was magnificent earlier today. Yeah, bridges move isn't so. Look at all of those sharp angles on those triangles pointy. I wouldn't want to call up any of them for baby sitting my child. Let's just say that much. The color also seems to help, too, that they both have darker colors. But those angular, pointy shape really how we feel about them. You've got this good dinosaur over here. He's very curvy and happy and not frightening, even though he's a dinosaur because of those soft curves we've got Belle's dad, crazy old Maurice, and with those curvy cheeks, you just want a pinch him and give him a big hug. Pinch the cheeks. Not. Yeah, well, I guess pinching my cheeks will be Anyways, he's very soft welcoming, happy, not really intimidated by him. Michael Ziolkowski. Although he is monster, we aren't scared of him either, cause he's round. Even his teeth are rounded, so nothing in his super sharp. So he just looks friendly Puzzles. Cute chameleon. Ah, pass can Oh, uh, if you even look at his hands, everything is rounded out. So he's just so sweet. And Hercules is love interest failing on the Disney trivia here. Big remember? Name? Uh, Meg? Yes. A plus for me. Doesn't trivia who neck? Um Her design is interesting because you see some angles, you see some sharp edges. But you also see some curves because we're not sure about her. She's not like evil, but she's not 100% good. She's got an edge to her. So I thought that was really cool. You could see that in her design, Toothless as well. It's kind of a mix because toothless is dangerous. He has the potential to hurt. So we see those points, those sharp edges. But he also have a lot of curves to him. His faces very circular. His eyes have a lot of a lot of curves to them. His feet. You see some circular shapes there, too, so and his ears have rounded shapes in him. So that softer feel makes him, um, just, um, more welcoming. So let's talk about shape variation. Now, um, ahead of ourselves, we'll start with this tree that I drew that I cut off on the scan. Sorry, who? So we want to think about what shapes were using, but we also want to think about the size of them. Um, you want to work in big, medium and small shapes. That's really important. Um, let me write it for you. Contain me? A few seconds. But this is really important. Calligraphy, A love that's been a big medium in small. Okay, so you designed something like this, like, let's say, like, that's the head. And we're doing like a little ant. Like it's really boring to have the same size of shapes as opposed to you. If you're designing like a little a little guy, got it. His hands, even as a little feet. I mean, is it just like the worst example ever, But just showing you how much more interesting that would be then This guy, everything's kind of balance. Okay, so what's Ah, talk about that in some of these examples. So this treat, we've got a big, medium and small shape that makes it more interesting than let's say this. You know, obviously, quick drying looks beautiful. Um, this ram, he another really good scam that I've been in. Sorry, guys. Big, medium, small. We've got a big body. You've got a medium head and they finally okay, This one I did not do. I wish I had. This is Joe Olsen. He's very talented. Awesome. I took a class from him and here, as well as his very strong Sylhet. We will talk more about later. We see the varying sizes of trees. This is, I mean, kind of big, medium and small, but just showing, um, the variety of shapes here. So if we had just done three trees the same size, spaced apart, you know, I guess that's not spaced evenly apart. But that would even be more boring. Um, that wouldn't be as great as what Joe has done. And if you look at the rocks, the rocks or the the formation of the ground, you definitely see big, medium and small there, Um, which is just tacular. Okay. He also did this cool little guy over here. He's Oh, God. Uh, big body, medium arms, little league. So big, medium small change of those shapes. Uh, maybe you go ahead and experiment right now with your designs. Um, just draw a few characters the medium and small shapes and see how that can immediately help make your designs more interesting. 4. Lesson2 - straights n’ curves and silhouette : Okay, let's talk about straights against curves. I am not spectacular. This not going to lie. But Stephen Silver is a beast, so we'll look at Hiss. Ah, that little zombie guy on the end. You didn't see straight against crew on the arm on it. Just it creates interest in these designs. It helps with weight and balance. Um, but it's just so much better to look at that girl. We see it in her arm. We see, as her hips are curving out and in this drawing to the right, um, streets against curves page, that is by griz and Norm. And they are a fantastic resource. You guys don't even need this class just like go look up Griz and Norm, Uh, they have these pages online readily available for you with so much valuable information, I highly suggest that they have a book to like 100 Tuesday. Somethin book. Look it up. It looks phenomenal. I should buy it. I really want it. Um but that is has a bunch of these worksheets that you're just full of good stuff. So threats against curves, it helps lead your eye. Um, just something to think about as you're designing. Okay? And then now let's talk about silhouettes and more. We briefly discussed it, but so let's start with the's Disney Princesses. Um, if you had a normal childhood, I you could probably recognize all of these princesses, which baffles me. I I was surprised how easy that was to ah distinguish each princess. A lot of them were wearing big gowns. Their dress shapes are, you know, you think so similar. And they're pretty girls. So how much variation can you get? Apparently a lot. So as we're looking through this, I can tell which ones that Allah, which one? Sleeping beauty. Snow white by their silhouette. So you want strong silhouettes in your design that will make him more iconic? That will make your characters recognizable. But eventually you can, you know, franchise and own the world like Disney. Um, your characters are really iconic. So if we look at these other cartoon silhouette, they're also easy to tell who they are. And part of that is the pose. So another griz and Norm page here. If you look at the pose of that guy that's standing there on the left, you can't really tell much about him as opposed to the one on the right where you see the profile of this faces big nose jutting out, you can see a lot more of who he is. So as you're opposing characters, even just in regular illustrations, not just in your, um, character designs for projects and stuff. But has your was your illustrating? Just make sure that your silhouettes a really strong I made a note that I wanted to remember to tell your eyes about a Ryan Woodward project that he has signed us when I was taking his character design class. If you don't know who Ryan Woodward is looking up, he's fantastic. Especially, um, figure drawing. Oh, you will be blown away by his figure drawings. Um, so he had us doing assignment where we created the silhouette first before during the character, just to see how powerful could be. And like, if you're ever in a rut and you can't think of a design, you can start with the silhouette first. That will kind of help you, too. Think about basic things before details because the details, that's all of this. The icing on the cake, you know. But the shape of the cake is really important. The silhouette will, uh, make your break your design. Um, so next off, we're gonna talk about reference, but we're going to go ahead and do that with an example, and I'm going to walk you through a character design. And so I will see you in the next video. 5. Lesson3 - reference and review : Okay, In this final video, I will be showing you my process. And it begins with lots and lots of reference. Reference is extremely vital, um, for your character design process. So I looked at a lot of chubby Asian men because I was hoping to do a jolly, traditional looking Asian guy. Um, and I really like these photos to view all the find. Um um, So I start off just sort of taking the reference and just drawing. Um, it's very loose. Just whatever I can glean off of the photos. Um, I was getting kind of stuck, so I looked up a picture of po for move on because it's kind of the feeling I was hoping to get, and that helps me with the neck. Um, so I continue to explore. Well, explore must oppose. Look. Ready. Similar. So I kind of got an idea quickly of what I was looking for. The 1st 1 didn't have enough variation of shapes like everything was pretty even. So, uh, the other one's kind of exploring, like wider cheeks or wire chin. Anyways, I wish I had done further exploration, but, um, due to time, I just kept going. So I realized I wasn't doing a great job of getting a bulky, chunky body. So I looked at some Steven Silver examples those colored ones air Stephen Silvers, and I just copied those in that Ah, really helped me kind of get a feel for different ways of, ah, showing a heavier body had through exciting shapes. Um, so then, as you can see, I take away all the reference I can keep my sketches, though, um, to help me remember what I learned and then, uh, did a sketch. And it wasn't great, but I moved things around and figured something that I was OK with and just move forward. That's something that I, uh ah, I can't stress enough is just moving forward. Um, obviously, you want the base of your drawing to be good, but especially those reference sketches was just whipping amount and getting a feel for the shapes that work best. Um, yes. So I found some interesting shapes and just went with it, and ah, started getting the line work in there. Um, Stephen Silver and his character design class on school is, um he suggests that you ah, don't trace, but make sure that every line that you're doing is ah better than the last one that you did pretty much so started coloring this in. Um, if you notice thea not buttons and lobster abs. CIA probably didn't even a little bit more costume reference to figure out exactly it was going on, but notice how they're not the same shape or, you know, some of them risk lotus land to hit it. Ah, just to give it some variety at interest to the shapes. Um, I'm adding some texture to his shirt right now. Teoh, um, add some appeal and, uh, says I'm doing these little details. Um, if you're lost, don't worry. Allah explain in further classes, but just having some fun here, Um, I do add a multiply layer and an overlay layer. And that's something that I would love to show you guys later in a future class. Um, to see here it is is just like a quick way to delighting and shadow. Um, yeah. See, it adds a lot pretty quickly, so I don't love the shadow that I did underneath him, but but ah, for this class, the important thing is is focusing on, um, the shape design and ah, the silhouette isn't perfect, but it's ah, it's okay. But the hair kind of added to the silhouette value his hands in his pockets didn't do much for his silhouette, but, um, it did kind of solidify that shape. He's obviously very friendly because we can see round curves, and I'm not a whole lot of angular shapes. Oh, it's just ah, soft friendly guy, um, straights against curves. Like I said, I'm not getting that Mediation added some. Sorry. Um, yeah, but big, medium, small. We have some, some variety there. Yeah, so for your rises assignment, um, you guys should design a character. Take the reference, um, focus on shapes, silhouette, streets against curves. And, uh, I will comment as soon as I can.