Infuse Line Quality Into Your Character Designs | Brian Shepard | Skillshare

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Infuse Line Quality Into Your Character Designs

teacher avatar Brian Shepard, 2D Game Artist and Illustrator.

Watch this class and thousands more

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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

8 Lessons (35m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Your Assignment

    • 3. Boundaries

    • 4. Contrast

    • 5. Shape Versus Form

    • 6. Construction and Implied Lines

    • 7. Body Language and Action

    • 8. Royal Lineage

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About This Class

Anyone who has ever stopped for a moment to make a quick doodle has drawn a line. After all, it's a simple mark that serves as the first step to almost any drawing. But lines can be used in all sorts of ways, some obvious and some not so obvious. This course will teach you just how lines are used to breathe life into fantasy character designs.

We'll take a look at the lines of well-known characters from various media, and we'll even consider lines that exist in the real world to gain an understanding of why they work the way they do. You might use a line to scribble a smile onto a character -- or you might use it to give them a leaping motion in a still drawing. You can even use lines to give flat drawings the illusion of 3 dimensions!

The class is made with beginners in mind, so you don't need to bring any prior knowledge to this course. All you really need is a simple drawing instrument and a clean sheet of paper to follow along. Your assignment is something that can be completed with digital or analog tools as well -- the idea is to understand the theories behind line in character design, regardless of medium.

This class is the fourth in a series about character design and art style. Be sure to check out the previous installments, which focus on shape language, color theory, and proportion.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Brian Shepard

2D Game Artist and Illustrator.


A slightly-above-average illustrator and character designer for video games. Trying to improve my understanding of character design, storytelling, and how we culturally respond to visual cues like shape and color in everyday situations. Making an effort to help anyone else who wants to learn the same things!

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1. Introduction: If someone told you to draw square, you probably grab a sheet of paper and do something like this, right? Or what do you do this? Maybe you try something like this. Oh, actually, that's a cube. But in any scenario, you'd grab a drawing instrument and probably rely on a line to help you get there. Lines are everywhere in art, this around object like a simple square. They separate things that are different, like an object from its surroundings. Simply put, there how we begin many of our drawings. They're invisible most of the time in real life, but their presence is felt nonetheless. Characters are no different lives, or how we create contrast imply facial features suggest light and shadow and all source of other things to breathe life into those fictional creations like in previous courses. In this theories, this class is about character design, focusing on the importance of the humble line. Believe it or not, all lines are not created equal, and we will explore different ways you can use. This unassuming instrument will be studying how lines are used in existing character designed in modern media and how their creators used them for deliberate effect. This course assumes you know nothing about character design, so all skill levels are welcome to participate. Although I think you'll be surprised at how much you already know just about watching cartoons or playing video games, Looking at our doodling during a lunch break. My name is Brian Shepard. I create characters and all sorts of are related things on a regular basis. Most of my work pertains to video games, but I tried to study characters from all kinds of sources, from live action television to film two sequential art. I will be demonstrating certain concepts using Adobe Photo Shop and illustrator, but you can follow along with whatever you feel comfortable with. I think we can all agree that a pencil or brush are more than enough for the subject matter . We'll be discussing no software needed on that note. It's about time we got started, so I hope to see you in the next lesson. 2. Your Assignment: Once upon a time, a pair of identical twins were born to a royal family in a distant land. They had different personalities, but they look very much alike, except for one glaring difference. Once, when was born with thick black contour lines and the other without your assignment for this course, is to design this set of twins similar hair, closed face and so forth. You're free to stress the definition of royal family a bit. They could be stunned or daughters of a president or even the powerful CEO. You're not restricted to a certain time period or a reason of the world. The first twins should be straightforward enough. You draw them with dark, outlined, as you might normally do. The second part of the assignment might require some problem solving. You'll need to imply lines rather than drawing dark marks around different parts of the character. If you're still a bit shaky on the concept of contour lines and implied lines, don't worry. We'll explore these concept in detail in the following lesson. The assignment is actually quite simple. Once you understand what to do, so I hope you'll all have fun with it. I'll go over the project requirements again in the final lesson, and Walker, through an example, assignment. So without further ado, let's talk about the focus of the class lines. 3. Boundaries: This is where I draw the line. You probably know what this means. If somebody says this to you or even you cross the line, you brace some boundary, figuratively that you weren't supposed to. Lines show up in sports to indicate where players can and can't position themselves, and players themselves may form a line to stop the opposing team lines and art are pretty much the same. The act has boundaries for two different elements. They may separate light in the saddle on an object. They might separate two different objects. They might show different parts on the same object. My separate and object from its environment, if you're drawing on paper or some other flat canvas lines, are just the basic useful shortcut to showing a difference in elements. The fact notebook paper is a perfect demonstration of this. Lines were built right into it and make it easier to write horizontally in an organized fashion by separating the spaces where the words should go In regards to drawing, you basically have two different values to work with the paper, which is lighter and you're writing instrument, which makes a dark mark, a dark mark on a light surface stands out, which is why it's the perfect methods for outlining different objects. You could hatch or say things in, of course, but Austin is faster to rely on the line. Also, when we do draw in this manner, what will show is the contour of an object or a character, the outer edge of the subject matter. Let's take this photograph, for instance. There's a lot going on here. It's a very dense image with lots of intricate parts. What if we were to try to trace over it? How would you draw each object? Were first thought would probably be, too. Just so the outermost part of the objects the contour. The same process works for tracing over a complex character. You could try to outline every hair follicle, but is probably not necessary. You just need to get the basic state. What you're really doing is separating the character from the background. If he was taking my class on state language, you may recall our discussion on character silhouettes. We've abandoned every detail except for the hour of shape of the character. What does it tell us about them? Silhouettes are really just lines. That's all the information we're given. Lines are actually very close. Relatives disable language. It's tough to discuss one without the other. Saves comply line and rhythm with our outer edges. How do the outlines and Ed, Ed and Eddy and a Sailor Moon impact the personality of the respective characters? S stated lines are really just separators. They saw it wherever two different elements collide on a character or an object. And the coloring books we used as kids lions separated areas where different colors on a character were supposed to go lies that one of the best ways to break up the basic elements of your character think about the most important parts of their design and how efficiently those elements can work if they're trapped in an outline. 4. Contrast: If you were to ask someone about this character's particular art style, they likely mentioned that it doesn't have outlines. Or, to put it another way, there are no contour lines. However. There are still lines created wherever two different values. Meat, in a way, contrast falls under the umbrella. Topic of line quality contrast creates sharper or fuzzier lines. The more to values blend together, the less distinct the line between them can. Super Maury, one of the key illustrators of the Pokemon franchise, has very distinct contra line in his character work. Conversely, the values within those contours are very soft and suggest light and shadow, with fuzzy edges and low contrast. Compare the contrast to that of Tennessee and the murders. Characters in the world ends with you much sharper. Remember our discussion on paper and pencil earlier? That scenario leaves us was two distinct values. The lighter paper and the darker graphite or ink or what have you contrast can be represented with many different values rather than just to If you've taken my class on color schemes, you're already familiar with value. The scale of lightness or darkness outlines or contra lines are a shortcut to implying value. So someone asked you to draw a cube. You need to find a way to represent distinct values for each face of the cube. You could do it by using contra lines where you could do it by varying many different values. With or without colors, faster is not necessarily better. The point is that these method gives us another option of communicating the same idea. Lines take up space, and they carry their own weight. The closer you put them together, the more space they take up an effect, the value of a character or an object. The consistency and volume of the lines, concert or otherwise attend the personality of the character. Jagged, repeated scrolls feel more energetic than thin. Simplified ones. Contour Alliance create contrast by placing start differences in value Everywhere. They're great for bold proclamations, which is why they don't always look so good at small sizes. In real life, the lives we see in and around objects aren't dark marks. The slight differences in lightness and darkness. We can see a distinct edge with a well lit surface intercepts the ones turned away from the light source. If you have dark Contra lines and lines made with color. You probably want to avoid colors that are too dark. Otherwise they will begin to compete with the Contour Alliance. Likewise, if you don't have dark contour lines, the values that the colors create, she would be bold enough to stand up on their own. Decide how you want to show contrast and values and focus on that particular method. There are some things you could do great with lines and the things you can only do without them. For example, drive your so a character who lit from behind too many competing lives too close together here. Sometimes placing a black market of drawing interrupts the way that light works. Ah, that's much better. Lines are really just approximations. Basil fences, if you will. You usually placed lines were one thing in and another begins. How you do that depends on what you want out of your art. 5. Shape Versus Form: take a ping pong ball in the black string, wrap the string around the ball, so that is ty completely around it. Now, if we look ahead on the strength seems to form a straight line. However, if we tell it the ball up or down, the string appears to curve because of the objects shape one of the more difficult transitions for an artist to make your learning how to add three dimensions to a two dimensional medium. Like I see the paper or a computer screen, if you think too hard about it, is a really odd concept, but it has given us a great deal of incredible art throughout history. Let's take a look at these blocks. Somehow the one on the right feels different. But why both of them were made with dark contour lines. All right, now look at the hand on the left and the one on the right. What does the latter feel like? It has more dimension. The answer in both cases is lying, of course, but probably not in the way you might think. Until now, we've been using lies to separate two or more different things. Light and dark objects and background certain pants. We would talk about adding form. Though the Lions Act Maura's guide, post them barriers. Pretend for a moment that you're as tall as a basketball hoop. Your eye level matches up perfectly with the rim of the goal, so when you look at it, you can't even tell that is round. It looks like a straight line now squat below the who. It looks like an old now, when you're below or above the rim, it takes the shape of a curved line. Your brain has detected this pattern thousands of times without you noticing. So when you see an oval in a line drawing, it can convince you that the object has around three dimensional form, even if it's on a flat sheet of paper. The reason for all this trickery is because of the way perspective works and how the human I perceive space much of arrests on you guessed it a line the horizon line, to be exact. The Horizon line is weird as it sounds, is where the earth ends and the sky begins. In your field division, it's a fancy way of representing your eye level. Your horizon line is different than that of an ant, wherever you are. As you watch this lesson, stop and take a look around you. There are probably some objects low to the ground and some you need a ladder to reach. Any object that's below the horizon line below your eye level is not that you can see the top of you can see the top of your own feet and obviously the top of the floor. If you place the box on the ground, you see the top of that, too. So what would this theoretical box look like if you were standing directly above it and looking down on it? It might look like this, but if it were a short distance away, it would probably look more like this. Notice how we've gotten rid of lines that create 90 degree angles and how that alone has altered our perception of a simple square object. This seems like a very small change on the surface, but it drastically impacts the implied depth into the drawing. Look at any photograph with manmade architect, sir. You can see how many of the lines converge and appeared to be headed in the same direction very few of them are perfectly vertical or horizontal. If they were, the image would appear much flatter. Keep this in mind for characters, too. Lines that appear to converge in the same direction suggest perspective. And three D form lines that formed perfect rigid right angles tend to flatten characters. I mentioned that in regards to form and three D perspective Lions actors, guy posts. So where exactly are these lines taking us? Remember the horizon lion? Theoretically, the earth's horizon is very, very far from wherever you're standing because, well, this planet is really big compared to a human when objects get farther away from us, because smaller and smaller until the advantage on the horizon, a set of railroad tracks is a perfect example of this. Every object, even ones that are really close, is made up of lines that approach these vanishing points. The Horizon Line is really just infinite vanishing points all huddled together. So when you look at a cube from a certain angle, it's size. Leave the I to add vanishing point. If we could somehow stretch one end of the cube to infinity, who would appear to advantage as it got farther away from us. This occurs even when looking at it directly. You just can't tell because the lines are matched up exactly with your line of sight. These lines are going this way. In that way. The lines on the back end are going into the distance in the direction you're looking. So lines lead our eyes kind of like maps. It could be put to good use this way, but it can also be dangerous. Tangents air with multiple lines that are supposed to communicate different things, overlap with each other. See how these cubes overlap. Which one is in front of the other. Things are getting kind of weird, but, as I always say, you learn the rules of art so you can figure out when and where to break them. Sometimes it's OK to use tangents. If it serves your idea. Maybe you want to battle the audience a little. It's a perk of using a two d medium to portray the illusion of three D. There's much, much more that goes into perspective. It is a very important subject for any artist to study. Being able to infuse three dimensional form to her character opens a world of possibilities that flat looking lines can't achieve the best way to learn to draw three D objects. It's to sit down and observe them as much as you can in real life, take objects of various shapes and see how they appear to transform in perspective. When you rotate them in your hands, study material is literally all around you. 6. Construction and Implied Lines: This is a hexagon. Now it's a cube, Hexagon, you hexagon que remember when we said that lines made good separators? This applies even for three D looking objects. In real life, a cube would be affected by some sort of light stores. But in a two D drawing, we can cheat a little without following the rules of realistic light and color. What we're really doing is using lies to separate different faces of the Cube. We're telling the audience, Hey, this part of the Cube is facing a different direction than that part. All of our efforts from the previous lesson are no good, who just throw around angles that aren't 90 degrees. The lines should indicate consistent vanishing points, and they should indicate that the object has multiple surfaces. It's easier with some shapes than others. The Cube has hard, easily defiant places where the object changes direction. But how would you differentiate a circle from us? Fear Onley. Using contour lines is tough without wrapping one around the sphere or relying on light and shadow. You can also imply for him with invisible lines that's right. A line isn't always a dark mark scribbled onto a flat surface lives could be unseen threads that bind a unify elements. First they were bears, and now that time things together. Lines are pretty useful, aren't they? Kirby is a pink sphere with a face and limbs, but the line drawing? How do we tell the audience that this is, in fact, a creature with three dimensions? All right, so imagine that Kirby Space with features are sticker instead against the head. If we curve the eyes just so we can convince the audience that they're reacting to the bend of the sphere exactly like the string from our exercise with the ping pong ball. Objects in real life follow the same principle, which is why we so easily recognize it and drawing lining up features on the human face is a similar way of sewing perspective in a lion drawing. Look at how the eyes than those in the mouth all respect the same vanishing point In these various angles. Characters thing from above can appear small or even menacing, and characters seen from below appear powerful. It's on the lines to trick the eye into assuming a certain viewing angle. This is often my artists will use very basic shapes to start building characters with form to construct them in perspective. If I know that Kirby's body is a sphere and that it's above the horizon line, I cannot lie all of the features of properly. Based on the information, I could use a similar method to construct the hands and feet if I think of them as a belong spheres. If I create a box for a person's head and place it below the horizon line, I can align the features like the eyes in the mouth and chip away. What I don't need. You can apply the same concept not just ahead, and faces but entire bodies. In a way. Drawing in three D is similar to sculpting. It takes a lot of study and practice to remember all the rules and intricacies and being able to line things up correctly from memory. But it's pretty reasonable for anyone to learn the basics that how it works pretty quickly . Try looking at your favorite characters, even really simple ones, and see what sort of shapes they're made of. If you see circles, imagine what they will look like a spheres. Imagine squares is cubes and triangles as cones. Where's parts of the character or above and below the horizon line? Remember that the illusion of form comes partly from those invisible, implied add vanishing point lines. Now these are all well and good, but there's more to character design and just tricking people into thinking that things are in three D. There are great designs that are completely flat and terrible ones with perfect perspective . What else can we do with comply? Line. Let's take a closer look. 7. Body Language and Action: So, as we saw earlier imply lines like the ones that retreat to add vanishing point, our guide posts leading the eye from point A to point B, a slightly different type of imply line. You'll see. Quite often the characters line of action was dictates of particular. Posed cartoon characters are master this to the extreme look at how they squash and stretch and bend in impossible ways, all just to get the right pose. You can summarize the overall direction of their torsos with a single sweeping line. Even though this is a still drawing, you can tell what's about to happen. By the way, he's been backwards. That Hammer is about to drop. The line of the torso creates anticipation for what's about to happen. It's kind of like if you've been back a playing car with one finger, you know that it would snap for the moment you let go. The characters pose has a similar kind of tension. The story that this picture tells is a lot less convincing if he stands like this. It's clear here again from a completely still dry that this hammer weighs a ton and he's slamming it down. Look at how the body is being stressed down towards the hammer center of gravity. The characters lines converts close to the hammer and divers. The farther away we look, it's critical to pay attention to where the lines get close and where they spread apart. Now look at the spine in the arms, work against the weight of the hammer. The hammer is pretty much the same, but the picture tells an entirely different story When we add a curve to the character. Now they're trying to lift it off of the ground. Funny how a few alliance and communicates so much. You could put these three frames together and tell the whole story. All right. Now, these two characters are running, but one feels more convincing than the other. Look at how that later stretched. The other character just seems to be jogging in place. Does it have the same amount of movement? Lines of action are important even in real life. Standing or sitting up straight, at least in our Western culture, is a display of confidence. Bad posture can make a person appear listless, uninterested, maybe even unreliable. When you're about to shake someone's hand, you put yours out firmly, or are your fingers and wrist limply hanging? It makes a difference on the sort of impression you want to make when trying to decide on a character's pose. Another reason for starting with fast basic lines is to get a good, convincing sense of rhythm underneath. Now these two characters are dancing, but which one feels more lively, The one on the right? There are no imply lines. You define the extremities there, kind of all over the place, doing their own thing. The left characters important lines are all working towards a common goal. See how the torso or one limb convict ate the overall line of action, and everything else on the character follows it where the points attention, Where do lions diverge and converge? Remember that perspective could be portrayed by lines alone when lines converge. We can also use that to imply the sense that objects or limbs are getting farther away. Just like the railroad tracks, We can exaggerate things to force perspective and foreshortening Rhythm is something that happens apart from safe language, whether or not we use curves or angles In this pose, the apparent rhythm remains the same The trick is to focus on confirming straight lines and occurs without losing their original meaning. Let's try a points. You could just have a characteristic of fished out, but something is missing. Try to get the whole body involved. You feeling forward? You add power. How does the rest of the body react? Where does the other arm go? How is weight balanced on both legs? All right now, let's try kick sharp angles can convey a sense of action or power and opposed. Look at the angle of the foot in the ankle. Create here. It doesn't work as well when the foot is tipped down more. In this case, state language does make a difference. A curve here is less powerful, but as more of a sweeping movement. It depends on what you want to show. These are all things you've already seen in cartoons and other animation, but because each individual frame moves so quickly, you don't really notice it on a conscious level when it happens, cartoon characters are often simplified for the sake of animation, which makes it easier to see their underlying rhythm. Giant Bravo's lines all curve in unison when he strikes a certain post. You can take some extreme liberties and the characters anatomy to get good rhythm. I'm pretty sure people legs are not supposed to bend that way, but it does look cool, right? Sometimes angles are just too stiff and lifeless for a character's personality. More detailed and realistic actors gonna have great rhythm, too, just like real people, but is less apparent when buried under realistic anatomy. Simplified characters a more streamlined. They've been stripped of most details except for their most important lines of action. So the rhythm is right there. On the surface, it depends on what you really want to emphasize in your character. So when you're posing a character, they don't have to be doing extreme athletics all the time. You know something as simple as repeating horizontal or vertical lines. Crees rhythm If you recall in my previous course on proportion, who compared tall cartoon eyes, The flat ones now imagine that you were drawing eyes represented by thin lines, which Faysal expression appears more calm. A flat line suggests safe, solid ground for a character to rest on turn aside, and the situation is suddenly a lot more tense. There are infinite contexts. But the horizontal lines have a way of appearing stable and calm, and many of them hashing can give you numerous options as well. We can save with lines of the same direction and affect the flow of the characters movement based on what they're doing. This runner has lots of flat lines that go parallel to the direction she's dashing. Sometimes an artist will draw actual horizontal lines to show speed. This doesn't seem as fast if we use vertical lines. Vertical I's gonna feel really heavy, since it's also implied there, following the pull of gravity. Look at how to lock arms. Just tell the story of the weight of that ball. There's a saying that horizontal stripes on clothing make you look wider. While vertical was making appear slimmer. The rhythm of the lines emphasize either the width or height of the person, respectively. Will you make her characters where can have an impact on the inherent movement or rhythm? Faces have rhythm, too. It might be to make the character more memorable, or it might just be to make them easier to draw. When multiple elements line up, you can use them as guide posts for positioning each other. Convergence and divergence happen on the face, just like they do elsewhere. Rail lines, mouth horizontal versus vertical wants attention. The car here as well. Even faces in real life have all sorts of rhythm and implied lines. Look at how the wings of the nose might line up with the edges of the mouth, or how the Kurds that round out the brow, connected the nose, bridge your face and mine and all the rest of the world have their own specific rhythm with lines. 8. Royal Lineage: of the course assignment. Your task is to think about the different ways that lines can work and to design a pair of identical twin characters based on those principles. One twin has Contra lines and the other doesn't for the first step. I wanted to think about your characters poses. The twins are nearly identical in appearance, but they have different personalities. Make a sketch drawing that shows the important lines of action for each character. Remember fast, Loose strokes are all you really need. Decide how the character will conform to those lines. If you're planning to draw a character that exists and three d perspective, I encourage you to also think about making or drawing so in the basic form that your characters will be built from. So these air gesture drawings I'll be using the plan out these characters you can already see a bit of personality come through even in the basic line. The next step is to design the twins highly, recommend spending some time to do a bit of research on different characters, study how they work without bold contour line. Look at cartoons like Samurai Jack or Foster's home for imaginary friends for example, to see how lines I used within and around characters. The first Twin is all about contour lines. These are the bold, dark lines that clearly delineate the different parts of the character. At the very least, you should have a Contra Linus around the outer edge of this royal offspring. This is a method most of us are familiar with, so hopefully is not too much of a challenge. Remember, you have the option of deciding on the personality of the contra as well. Is it a jacket scribble or a straightforward line with the May with graphite, a brush or pixels? You have free reign to decide how this character actually looks. But let's stay away from anything exceptionally Lou or violent. For this assignment, keep in mind that whatever design you use for the first win is basically the same is the second. After all, they're identical. However, the difference between them is all in the lie and body language. So here's my first win. Unlike her sibling, she has contour lines, so she has a very bold, assertive personality. The second twin was born without contour lines. How you handle this part of the assignment somewhat depends on the medium you're using. Imply lines could come into many forms and remember that you can suggest light and shadow. In many ways, you're lies don't need to be sharp, either. Perhaps you opt to use lots of soft, radiant and only a few distinct edges. Some instruments are better suited for this than others. So try to come up with the best solution, depending on what you're drawing with. Despite still looking very much like a cartoon. The characters in The Legend of Zelda the Wind wicker don't have any thick contour lines and are instead brought to life with very distinct edges between light and shadow. Lives were created by the difference in numerous values rather than a consistent dark value . I'll be using this style as inspiration for my second line deprived twin. He's a little more reserved but has a bit of a superiority complex. See how different they are from each other, despite everything they have in common. Their body language also assessed them apart due to their drastically. Different lines of action lines give you a wide array of options for styling your characters and infusing them with personality. So I hope I've given you enough of an idea what lives could do for a character. I encourage you to study lies in real life as well. Furniture, logos, vehicles and see how and where they leave the I. It is my personal belief that lying in state language of the most important parts of character design, they usually the factors I think about most and the ones I've tried to incorporate most prominently. Hopefully, you have the tools to experiment with lines in your future artwork. Thank you for seeing this course through from start to finish. If you enjoyed it, I would highly recommend trying my previous courses on safe language, color and proportion as they relate to character design. Understanding how these different factors work together in harmony will greatly expand the realm of possibility for your future creations.