Illustrating Characters for Animation in Adobe Photoshop | Sarah Beth Morgan | Skillshare

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Illustrating Characters for Animation in Adobe Photoshop

teacher avatar Sarah Beth Morgan, Director + 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

    • 1.

      Class Trailer


    • 2.

      Class Project + Materials


    • 3.

      Introduction to Characters in Motion


    • 4.

      Tips from an Animator, Part 1


    • 5.

      Break Down the Brief


    • 6.

      Quick Concepting


    • 7.

      Theory: Character Proportions


    • 8.

      Sketching Gestures


    • 9.

      Take Your Own Reference Photo


    • 10.

      Sketching Your Reference


    • 11.

      Theory: Abstraction + Exaggeration


    • 12.

      Abstract Your Sketch


    • 13.

      Faces + Emotion


    • 14.

      Tips from an Animator, Part 2


    • 15.

      Color Blocking


    • 16.

      Adding Texture + Details


    • 17.

      Bonus: Draw an Animal


    • 18.

      Theory: The 3 Tiers of Prep


    • 19.

      Prep Your Design for Animation


    • 20.

      Theory: Communicating with Animators


    • 21.

      Celebrate + Pass Off Your File!


    • 22.

      Thank You!


    • 23.

      Bloopers :)


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About This Class

Well-designed characters can truly make an animation or motion design project shine! This class is stuffed to the brim with actionable, conceptual and technical tips for illustrating your own character in Adobe Photoshop. We’ll specifically dive into the *pre-motion* process of designing your character for frame-by-frame or After Effects animation.

As illustrators, we have the unique ability to invent quirky backstories, push body proportions - or even concoct a character out of, say, a rotten apple or a disembodied tooth! We’ll discuss how characters can be used to support animated storytelling. I’ll also begin to walk you through the multiple stages of building your own 2-dimensional character in Photoshop—from backstory, to sketch, to full on design. I’ll walk you through proportion, posing and more! And the best part is we’ll hear from a talented animator—my husband Tyler— who will provide some tips and tricks along the way.

I’ll demonstrate my own personal character design process using Adobe Photoshop. You are also welcome to follow along in Adobe Illustrator or Procreate. A lot of the techniques are concept-based and can be used in multiple programs. 

This class is for you if you’re an illustrator who has never worked with animators before, a professional motion designer who wants to improve their skills, or even a fresh-faced beginner to the character design world.

Lessons Include:

  • Create a character design from scratch in Adobe Photoshop
  • Tips from a professional character animator (Tyler Morgan!)
  • An in-depth look at the pre-motion process
  • A step-by-step guide on designing characters based on a client brief
  • Taking reference photos to pose characters
  • Abstraction, proportion, and distortion in character design
  • Tips for communicating with professional animation teams
  • Setting up your Photoshop file for animation

Special thanks to Tyler Morgan (animator extraordinaire) and Mac Nelsen (amazing editor).

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Sarah Beth Morgan

Director + Illustrator


Hi, you! I'm Sarah Beth - a freelance animation director & illustrator based in Cleveland, OH. I grew up in the magical, far-away Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where I was deprived of bacon and cable television - but was granted a unique and broad perspective. After attending SCAD and a two-year stint in LA at Scholar, I decided to move onto literal greener pastures in the PNW and join the talented folks at Oddfellows. Now, I work from my own little studio with my fluffy assistant, Bandit.


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1. Class Trailer: Illustrating characters is one of the standout parts of my job as a designer for animation. [MUSIC] Well often essential for storytelling and demonstration purposes, characters can also add a ton of charm to an animation. As illustrators, we have the unique ability to invent quirky fact stories, push body proportions, or even concoct a character out of a rotten apple or a disembodied tooth. Hey, you. I'm Sarah Beth, and I'm an animation director, illustrator, and designer. I've directed animated commercials for companies like Bath and Body Works and Facebook, and I recently even directed my own animation shot to premiere at film festivals worldwide. I love to infuse unique abstract proportions and unexpected personality traits to my characters. From working at motion studios like Scholar and Oddfellows to now directing with Hornet, I've especially had the wonderful opportunity to explore designing characters. Well, I don't personally animate on projects myself, I'm constantly leading large teams of designers and animators who bring still illustrations to life. I primarily design style webs in Photoshop at the beginning of projects, and then I pass off my illustration files to talented animators. But in order to pass off these designs with ease, it's always best to consider the full animation process. In this class, we'll be exclusively going over the pre-motion process of designing characters for animation. I'll first introduce you to the world of characters in motion, highlighting cell animated characters as well as rigged characters. We'll discuss how characters can be used to support animated storytelling. I'll also begin to walk you through the multiple stages of building your own two-dimensional character in Photoshop from backstory to sketch to full-on design. I'll walk you through proportion, posing, and more. The best part is, we'll hear from a talented animator, my husband, Tyler [LAUGHTER] who will provide some tips and tricks along the way. So cool. Well, without further ado, let's make a character together, but hopefully not this one. [MUSIC] 2. Class Project + Materials: [MUSIC] In this class, we'll be working together on a project, designing our own unique character vignette. This will be just the design and we'll be approaching this project as if we had an animator to pass it off to like most character designers do in the professional motion industry. The way that I've always approached projects is with a studio mindset. I always feel like it prepares me for the real world, real clients, real paid projects. Even if I'm working on a passion project, I tend to set up my projects in the same manner as my professional ones because honestly it just keeps me organized. With that being said, today we'll be diving into a fictionalized client brief to structure this class. Our client is an IRL gift shop called The Gift Stop. They're looking to you and several other artists to create square social media posts showcasing their amazing customers and products. They also mentioned that they'll pass off your design to a character animator, how convenient, so your design needs to be setup for that. Don't worry, we'll go into what the brief actually says in more detail a little bit later. Now, in order to address this brief, we'll obviously be creating a character from scratch. I'll walk you through my process of creating my own character and you can follow along with me and create your own. In the end, we'll both have a fun, unique character to use in our portfolios or on social media or wherever you want to put it. Over the entire class, we'll go over concepting, sketching, posing, taking a reference photo, adding color in detail, and especially how to set up your character for animation. If you're having trouble coming up with your own character, I've also provided this handy-dandy prompt list which you can find in the downloadable class booklet, which is in the project resources below. This class booklet also includes an overview of the class and has additional tips and tricks. If you're planning on following along with the project, make sure to open up Photoshop and get ready. I personally use a Wacom Cintiq to draw, but a tablet will also work. [MUSIC] You're also more than welcome to use Illustrator or Procreate. But I won't be going over any specific tips for those particular programs because I will be using Photoshop. You could also potentially sketch on paper and then take a photo of your sketch and finish it off in Photoshop. So there are plenty of options. Don't be too worried if you have different tools than I do, it'll all end up the same. On that note, I know a lot of animators prefer Illustrator files and you might be confused as to why I'm using Photoshop. I personally find that as a designer, Photoshop is a lot more freeing for sketches and adding textures. I also personally just learned Photoshop first, so that's what my expertise is in and that's what I feel the most comfortable sharing with you. Everyone works differently and I'm just sharing my own process. Finally, if you want to get the most out of this class, I'd encourage you to get involved with other students and the community here on Skillshare. You can invite your friends to take it with you, ask each other questions, collaborate, maybe you could comment on other students projects to help improve each other's work. As always, [MUSIC] please post in the discussions tab below if you have any questions for me as you're going through the class. I'm pretty active here on Skillshare, so I will likely answer quickly. [MUSIC] 3. Introduction to Characters in Motion: [MUSIC] In this video, we'll dive into the basic conceptual and technical aspects of designing characters for promotion. I'll be helping to answer questions like, what does a character contribute to a narrative? Or how do I set up my character design file for the animation process? A lot of the knowledge about characters I've collected has been on the job at Motion Studios. There is no one correct way to start designing a character. There are endless possibilities. While many other animators and designers may do things in a certain way, I'll walk you through my personal character design process. We'll be focusing on the actual designing of characters from scratch. This involves a lot of things, including the groundwork of concepting and character backstory. You won't be making anything yourself in this particular intro video, but feel free to take notes or leave questions in the Discussions tab. This is important stuff to know before we get started with sketches. I'll be introducing you to the fundamentals of character design for motion, laying the groundwork for our client project. I'll first introduce you to different ways you can use characters to support animated storytelling, looking over examples of different types of characters. We'll talk about using After Effects versus cel, concepting, taking your own reference photos, sketching and abstracting. At the end of the video, I'll even open up some of my own organized character files for you to see. But before we get into the nitty-gritty of characters, which is why you're all here for, I want to dive into a little bit of my own backstory to give you some context, what experience do I have and why am I qualified to teach this class. Well, I've always been interested in drawing people. It started with this and then manga and anime characters when I was in elementary school and slowly progressed from there. After I graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design with a degree in Motion Media Design, I began my first job out of Motion Studio called Scholar in Los Angeles. It was there that I really began to move into my own with character design. In fact, here you can see some of my first ever character designs created at Scholar. I was so frustrated when I drew this. I was really struggling so much with proportion and lighting, etc., just everything, but I pushed through. Towards the end of my time at Scholar, I was getting a better grip on proportion and creating charming character designs. Here's one from a series of spots I art directed for Nexium before I left. This one was animated by Chris Anderson. I need to caveat here that I don't animate my own characters. I understand the processes of After Effects and cel animation at a professional level, but I leave it up to the animation team to bring my designs to life. So everything that you see in this presentation has been animated by another team member. You'll actually see all these credits throughout the video. After Scholar, I moved onto my time at the Motion Studio Oddfellows, where my design and directing skills progressed. I had the opportunity to work on tons of different styles and character variety for clients like Adobe, Google, Airbnb, Capital One and more. Here's some of my collective work today as a freelance director and illustrator. I've designed in a broad range of styles as you can see. Process-wise, I primarily work in Photoshop and pass off my Photoshop files to animators. I'm aware After Effects animators sometimes prefer Illustrator files, but I personally have never run into an issue with this in my process. I believe the most important thing we can do here as designers promotion, is to create purposeful and intriguing characters that answer a client or narratives ask. While I always emphasize the importance of clean functional files to hand off to the animator, my job is less about appeasing the animator and more about getting the characters look right for the project and client. Keep this in mind while you're working on your character. Now that we've gotten to know each other a little bit, let's get started on the stuff you're all here for. Now, what exactly is a character? As cheesy as it may be, let's see what the classic definition of a character is. The aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing. I got to say is not wrong, but this definition is the most basic definition and it doesn't pertain to any specific situation. It's really just a little bit difficult to read. I had a hard time trying to grasp what it meant. Let's try in some different words, my own words. In the context of motion, I personally say that a character is a living or animated personality that is created to evoke a meaningful message. A character could be a disheveled human dad rushing to an elementary school to pick his daughter up in a car rental commercial. On the contrary, a character could also be a depressed bag of chips with a face on it, sitting alone in the kitchen pantry. [LAUGHTER] The real question is, what does a character bring to a piece? In animation, brands use characters for a purpose, to bring their mission statement to life. They use them to humanize and ground their product or other objective. Characters add relatability, people like to see themselves in commercials or short films, they add engaging and endearing meaning to a narrative. check out this piece by Oddfellows where they literally take a real testimonial from a customer and bring her words to life through a goofy character. America loves Prego, but don't take our word for it, take Treyes3s. It's literally the best sauce ever. I would drink it if it was socially acceptable. Go with a sauce America loves, go Prego. As you can see, the character really brings a lot to the literal table. She makes Prego seem fun and enticing, even though they literally just sell basic tomato sauces. We see characters use time and time again to reinforce brands and bring them to life. A popular form of this is actually taking the brand and turning it into a character itself. That brand becomes indistinguishable from a personality like the GEICO Gecko or your classic M&M's. Most people entirely associate Geico with a gecko now. Sometimes they even imagine eating M&M's with little faces on them, which is actually quite disturbing. Think about it. Before the gecko, there wasn't really anything exciting out there about insurance companies. They were boring. The gecko character brought the complicated, boring idea of insurance back down to Earth and made viewers want to interact with the brand. Geico became very memorable. In addition to brands actually becoming characters, there's the more common use of characters as reinforcement. These figures don't actually embody the brands qualities, they just help to tell a story or convey about the brand's mission, like what we saw on that Prego advertisement a couple of minutes ago. Here's another one that gets that point across pretty well for Etsy. These silly characters are reinforcing the message of creating and buying on Etsy for Valentine's Day. [MUSIC] Now, I know not everything is about advertising, so if you were to apply these two different types of characters to storytelling, you can say a character actually embodies the overall concept of your narrative, or the characters are supporting elements that help portray that narrative. As you can see in a few of the examples I've shown, not all characters have to be human or involve human-like proportions, so, when and how do you decide to use a non-human character? Just as with all the questions I propose here, my answer is simple. Do it when it conceptually makes sense. It all really depends on you or the client's objective. This first little animation on the left was a character I created to embody the emotion of creative anxiety. It made conceptual sense for me to create a scribbly, wobbly, yet neutral character for this. If I had used a human character here, I don't think it would really read as the emotion of anxiety per se. The character on the right is from Buck's Seed Matters animation campaign. The non-profit's goal is to increase the yield and variety of organic seeds on farms. Naturally, it made sense to have an actual organic seed telling the viewer the tail from his perspective. This helped to commemorate an engaging story that the viewer would remember. I could talk about the conceptual purpose of characters all day. I could even go into character development for written narrative, TV, short films and so on. But you're here now because you have some interest in characters for animation and motion. Since I specialized in commercial animation, I'm going to speak to my own experience in that avenue. The most important distinction in 2D character animation in my experience has been between After Effects and cel or frame-by-frame animation. There are also 3D animated characters, but that's totally out of my warehouse, so I'm going to pretend that those don't exist for now. Animating characters in After Effects is drastically different than cel animated characters. I'll explain the difference now. After Effects characters are typically rigged for animation, as you can see here in these examples. If you're not sure what rigging is, don't worry, you're not alone. It's pretty technical. It essentially means you're setting up a working armature or skeleton to animate the character's design. The animator has to take your design, break it apart limb by limb, even joint by joint, and then connect it or pairing all of those pieces together so that they react to each other's movement. This setup takes some time, but it gives the animator full control of the character once the rig is setup properly. The downside to rigging characters and After Effects is that there's less fluid movement. You technically wouldn't be able to fully turn a character around using a rig as it still living in a 2D plane. You wouldn't be able to have a character swoop in and do a big perspective shift or drive a transition, etc. I would say After Effects character animation is more accessible to the masses though, as frame by frame animation requires a lot of drawing and training. After Effects animation on the flip side, doesn't necessarily require the animator to be good at drawing. Frame by frame animation is called cel-animation, because traditional animators used to have to draw every frame on a transparent sheet of celluloid. Cel is basically just a shorthand for hand drawn animation. It takes a lot of practice and many art schools have degrees in traditional 2D animation that you can partake in. It's as crazy as it sounds literally. Essentially the cel animator will take your character design and literally draw every version of every frame you see on screen reposing as they go. There are programs used today like TVPaint and Adobe Animate that ease this process. But it still typically takes much longer and is more painstaking. It also may be harder to address client feedback as you'll have to redraw everything. The upside is the results can be absolutely stunning. If you or someone on your team is a great cel animator, you really have limitless possibilities. The only constraint is your hand and the client's needs. As you can probably tell from all of this information is that, the way something is to be animated may actually affect the way you design quite a bit. If you were to design a character for rigging and After Effects, you'd have to be a lot more technical with how you're breaking apart your character and labeling your layers. You'd want to make sure that things like the upper arm and forearm are on different labeled layers, you'd probably need to include rounded joints to make the rig look less obvious. You may need to create different versions of the character for different rigs. Your job as a designer for cel-animation might be to sketch a character in different poses or create a character turnaround sheet so that the animator understands all of its proportions and angles. You may also need to illustrate different key poses in the animation, so the animator knows how to draw the character for different actions or perspectives. Here's a list of the things that you would do to make your file ready for After Effects in cel-animation. Now I will be going over this a lot more in detail in the end of the class after we've actually finished up our character design. But here's a little cheat sheet for you to look at in advance. Here's an example of what a character turnaround might look like. This is a very flattened, very basic character turnaround that I did for a project. As you can see, I also have her in a different outfit because that might affect the way that she moves. But if you're working on a more traditional cel animated character or a narrative film, you might be asked for something more detailed like this, where you can see more angles of the character, you can see more of the volume, more of the shading and lighting. All of this to say, this is why I always emphasize communicate with your animator from the start. Addressing all of these concerns may not always be possible if the animation team starts after the design team for a specific project. But there are ways to figure this out from the beginning, talk to your producer or art director and ask if you need to set up the character for rigging or if you need to design the character turnaround for the cel animator. It doesn't hurt to ask questions and it will save the team a lot of time and effort later on in the animation phase. Obviously if you're the animator and you're animating your own design, you should probably think about your technique before you design your character. Make sure that you have the capabilities in order to animate your character the way you want. That said, I don't want to get too into the weeds of how to actually apply these edits until later on in the class. But I want you to be aware of them from the beginning. Now it's time to actually get out of this presentation for a hot second and open up Photoshop and dive into some of my character files. This first one we're going to look at is a cel animated character. [MUSIC] That was animated by Tyler Morgan, who we're going to be talking to in a few minutes, and designed by myself, also animated by some other amazing people at Oddfellows like Josh Parker and Kavan Magsoodi. But what I wanted to show you here is that there's just so many different poses that we see that character in. Since everything is so quick and fast, it would maybe be a headache to try to rig every single pose. Which basically just means you'd have to set them all up, limb by limb and animate them like a puppet, so we decided to do this one in cel-animation. I have a few different example files here of the character. I just wanted to show you real quick how that would be set up. I always separate the head and the arms and all that, just so that the animator has that to work with. While they may not necessarily use it, it'll be really helpful if they have to go in later and add texture and stuff. For example, all of this texture, probably not labeled a 100 percent, the way I would like it to be. This is an old file. I always like to keep these texture layers separate. All the details and everything in case the animator needs to come in and grab that texture to map onto the character. Then because we have this character and a bunch of different poses, it's going to be a different head for each character, a different arm, a different angle, a different perspective. Everything's broken up differently. Then the other important thing I wanted to show you here was, as you can see in the video at the end we see the character go through all these different perspectives and poses when she's flying through this field of paper. In order for the character animator to actually bring that to life through cel, they need to see all the different poses. So we have our main character here, but then there's all these different poses that were drawn out in order to show how the character will be moving throughout the animation. We have all of those in here so the animator can draw them successfully while moving on. Now this is actually probably more work than you would have to do. A lot of times the character animator will figure this out themselves. But if you want your character to stay really precise, you're going to want to actually draw the poses for them, because you don't want them to get the proportions wrong or anything like that. The second one I wanted to show you was an After Effects character animation. [MUSIC] What is heartburn? Heartburn is an uncomfortable burning sensation in your chest or throat. It occurs when stomach acid rises up out of the stomach and irritates the esophagus. This can be as irritating as fingers down a chalkboard where those fingers are on fire, and the chalkboard is actually your esophagus. Frequent heartburn is heartburn that occurs more than twice a week or more than four times in a fortnight if you're British. Learn more about heartburn at the Nexium 24HR YouTube page. As you can see, there are different poses for this character, but there are a lot more minimal and the character herself is more robotic, I would say. After Effects character animation doesn't always equal robotic. But you can tell the feet are off angle with the pants, and I think this one was animated a little quicker, so it wasn't as refined. But you can see everything's done more with key frames rather than drawn frame by frame. What I mean by that is After Effects rigging, which is a very useful tool. We had basically two poses for this character. We had the walking pose in the beginning and the push-in pose where we look at her esophagus, where the camera zooms into her. You can see all of this, the character has textures and everything. But because I know that this was going to be broken up joint by joint, I needed to make sure that the forearm was separated from the elbow and the top part of the arm was behind the shirt and maybe the bangs are even separate so that the animator can animate her hair moving around. There's just a lot of elements. Then another thing that you would want to keep in mind is if they're doing a walk cycle like this, you would want to separate the legs so that when you turn off the front leg, you can still see the back leg. You don't want to just draw it so that it's not there behind it. But that's pretty much how you would set up your character for After Effects animation. You'd want to be really precise in naming every single layer, which is what I've done here, as opposed with the cel-animation I didn't actually get too precise with all of my layer naming because the animator probably won't use my file as much. They'll just be tracing it. But here we want the eyebrows to be labeled and the eyes and the different parts of the head. The same goes for this other version of the girl. Everything is labeled correctly, has clipping masked textures. The textures are all separate, so if the animator wants to take the texture off and redraw themselves or animate it themselves, they have the capability to do that. Basically, you just want them to be able to break apart anything they need and use it to their advantage. Now that I've shown off how my own character files are setup and you have a working knowledge of character fundamentals. Let's have a chat with a professional animator about their own process too. [MUSIC] 4. Tips from an Animator, Part 1: [MUSIC] Our special animator guest is none other than Tyler Morgan [LAUGHTER]. You may think that I'm just talking about because he's my husband, but no, seriously, he's incredible at what he does. Character animation is just one of his many expertise. Primarily, he does the cell animation and Photoshop using a Wacom Cintiq tablet which is what I use as well. He also knows how to animate characters after effects. What better person to chat about all your burning character animation questions. [MUSIC]. Hi, what's your name? [LAUGHTER]. [inaudible] [LAUGHTER] so cool. I'm an animator, so come in as Tyler under the project after being onboarded by director and I typically take assets from the designers and I will make them move to turn the original design and boards into video. I typically animate and sell animation or frame by frame. If necessary, I do after effects character animation too. With sell, you're literally drawing every frame typically looks more natural. It's much more time-consuming and that's where after-effects character animation shines is for budget timelines with all things with after effects character animation that you can't but I do prefer frame-by-frame, personally. [MUSIC] I may largely depends on the projects, studio everywhere has a different process. Sometimes you brought in earlier own project to help board in which case you would have moral relationship with the designers as things are created. Sometimes you're brought on when the design is completely done and you won't even be talking to designers. You'll just be handed the files and told to make it move this way. If I have the opportunity to communicate with the designer as the design is happening, that's the best-case scenario because then I can ask for a specifics. Relaying my own preferences when it comes to file handoff, suggesting poses or compositions to create dynamic animation or create easier animation depending on the timeline. What does the client want? What are our limitations? This is what I can do in animation and that can help inform design. Maybe there's a bush in front of a character, hence, since the designer was in a hurry, that character doesn't have legs if I turn the bush layer off. Maybe the character and the design is looking at camera, but I needs to turn around and walkaway or grab something off of a shelf. I don't necessarily know what that information looks like. Ideally, there is a designer who created a turnaround or drew an extra asset, it's in a separate file of like, "Oh, well, this is what the hand looks like?" Even though it's off frame right now, but we'll need it to come into frame [MUSIC]. File wise and structure, I would say, no. Ideally, the file is organized with different folder structures, with the layers. Everything is named, nothing is flattened, whether it's textures, line work to fills all on different layers and labeled if possible. Sometimes there's not really time for that when it's getting handed off, but then it just comes down to making more work for the animator. In either case for sell or after effects, it will come more down to composition and design in that sense, where if you're animating a character and after effects, there's certain things you can do to the design to make it much easier on the animator. Whereas with sell, since the animator will be drawing the character, again, essentially, there's a little bit less limitations to how you design the character [MUSIC]. A lot of times when you're creating different assets for the limbs or body parts, they're all going to be split up and somewhat parented to each other. If they don't come to a joint that's a perfect circle, as soon as you see the arm starts to rotate, some of the layer might start breaking out of the elbow [MUSIC]. Number 1 important thing is communication. You can leave notes in a file if you want. You can hide a layer and write out a little note. You can go ahead and create the turnarounds on the assets and hide them in the corner or send a separate file along with your final design. Otherwise, organize your file and don't flatten anything. That's the biggest handoff to do. [LAUGHTER] [MUSIC] Now it's time to actually make some new characters together. Move on to the next video to check out the project brief and get started with ideas for your sketch. [MUSIC] 5. Break Down the Brief: [MUSIC] Get your pen and paper or tablet ready because we're about to dig into it. In this video we'll be working together to analyze the client brief I provided for you from the gifts stop. What's the client asking for? How should we interpret it for animation? What characters will meet the brief stipulations? Our fake client brief is obviously from the gift stop. I keep saying that, but it's super pare down for what a real client brief would be like since I don't want too much focus on the business aspect of things, we don't want to talk about budget and stuff. We're here for the characters. But it is great practice to try and concept around a topic rather than starting completely from scratch. Imagine this company has reached out to you with this information via email. Let's read through it together carefully. What is the gift stop? The gift stop is your one-stop shop for all your gifting needs. Whether it be a birthday, mother's day, or a pride party we've got it all. Everything sold in each location is local, organic, or handmade. The assignment. We plan to release a series of square social media posts showcasing the variety and diversity of our customers. From a single dads to drag queens, to dog walkers, to construction workers, to artists and more, we welcome everybody. For this project, we have contacted a handful of character designers like you to illustrate a customer of their choice. Our only requirement is that you include some gift or product in your design. Perhaps someone who's grabbing a book off of a shelf or checking out at the register. We could even envision someone walking away from the gift stop with their purchase, happy as a clam. Once you've completed the design and we'll pass it off to our in-house animator to bring it to life. That's the gifts stop. As I began diving into the character design for this, I'll be ideating and sketching live on my screen here so you can follow along. You'll also get a chance to conceptualize and sketch your own character. Feel free to follow along with exactly what I'm doing or come up with your own ideas. It's always fun to see new stuff. I would love to see what you come up with. I obviously brought this into Photoshop because I want to break it down manually. What I mean by that is just visually underlining and highlighting things that I think are important to the brief. I do this with all of my client projects. Characters or not and besides making our character of fun and unique, we need to make sure we're staying on track with the client's goals. Before sketching, ask yourself, "Who's the audience? What's the mood?" Start with that as a launching point. Who is our audience? Let's start there. We definitely want it to be on social media, so we've got that as our audience. We're going to be showcasing it to like minded people based on an algorithm, stuff like that. We also want to target all of our customers by showing all this diversity. We want to make sure it's inclusive and everyone feel seen. Obviously, that's going to be done over a collection of different characters. But for our character, let's just try to make them fun and unique. Then what's the mood? Mood wise we definitely want to make sure that the person who's shopping at the gift stop is happy as a clam. We've got happy, they need to be holding a product or their purchase. We also know that it needs to be animated and this is not really the mood. I'm really bought him this up here, but you get the idea. It's not really the mood, but we need to make sure our file is setup for animation. Conceptually, we know our character needs to be unique in some way, showcasing their diverse clientele. We know for technical purposes that this needs to be square, and it's through social media, which is a digital platform. That means we'll need to work in 72 DPI with RGB color. Let's go ahead and make a composition. I'm going to start by just saying 2,000 pixels by 2,000 pixels, because that's what I do with my compositions when I'm making them for my social media, but you're welcome to go bigger or smaller. I would also say that let's keep our resolution at 72 DPI. I know if you're a print designer, your inclination is to work in 300 DPI, especially if you want to print your illustration down the line. But for animation, it's best to keep it to 272 DPI to reduce your file size digitally. If you're going to go with the 300 DPI route, which I sometimes do, let's just make sure we reduce that resolution later after we're done in Photoshop. I tend to use through to DPI for my own work sometimes because I can scale up an animation more with that greater resolution, or I can convert it to a print file if I need. I always, always go back into the file at the end when I make a copy of it and create a 72 DPI version for the animator. Definitely want to make sure that we're using RGB color, which is for digital screens. 8-bits should be enough unless you really feel like using a lot of gradients. If you're using a lot of gradients, I would say go with 16 bits, and that's pretty much it. I would just go ahead and press "Create". Now we've got our file setup, so I would just make sure to go ahead and save that wherever you feel is best on your own computer just because we want to be able to press "Command S" as we're working, so I'll just name this gift stop character 01. We've got our file ready, [MUSIC] we've got our brief broken down. [MUSIC] We know what we need to do here, so let's go ahead and get into the concepting phase in the next video. [MUSIC] 6. Quick Concepting: [MUSIC] We've got our Canvas already. Now we'll dive into a bit of conceptualization about our characters. Since this class is less about concepting and more about the technical details, I'll make it quick. Feel free to vulge on this aspect on your own while working on your assignment between sessions. I also have this handy-dandy character trait list in the downloadable class booklet that you can use to kick-start some ideas. Be careful, they're pretty goofy. I think it'd be fun to see maybe link a princess with a ball of lint. Because I have that on there, fuzzy piece of lint. I don't know why I did that. But anyways, just check it out and hopefully it'll help you with some ideas. If I'm starting completely from scratch, I always begin with a backstory. You need some sort frame of reference to start creating your character. If the client hasn't provided it to you with any of their information, you might want to consider creating your own backstory. This will add depth and personality to your character design and it can make it pretty fun and quirky too. What has your character gone through in life? What's their situation? What's their job? Are they successful? Are they stressed? Are they depressed? And the most important question, how does your character fit into your story and what is their role or purpose in the story or in this case, the client brief? This will help define what outfit your character is wearing? What their idiosyncrasies are or how they will react to certain situations? This obviously gives you a lot of contexts for what you could be adding to your character to make their design more unique. Here's the downloadable booklet. We've got the title page, a little class blurb, and then the prompt, and then also this prompt list and some additional tips and tricks which we can get into later. I just had a lot of fun making this and it's so stupid. I really think you might enjoy making some characters out of this, like maybe there's a cottage core cutie eating cereal only forever. She has a tiny baby sheep by her side or perhaps we've got a witch who likes collecting mushrooms and she plays basketball. [LAUGHTER] I don't know, they're all so dumb, but I think you could use this to mix and match, create some ideas. But I'm going to start completely from scratch here because I just have an idea and I want to rule out with it and I want to see what I can do with it. I think in this situation we can keep it simple. I'm just going to start brainstorming with a mind map. Sometimes I just write things out as I'm thinking about them. Let's just change our font up here a little bit so it's not as hard to read. Then I'm just going to start writing things down. My idea is that I personally am a crazy dog lady and I'm obsessed with my dog. I'll bring a bit of my own personality into her backstory. If you're at a loss for where to even start, I always say like make it personal. Art is always better when you're drawing from the truth, when you're using real life experiences to add intricacies and detail. That applies to characters here too. Use a part of your own story as a jumping off point for your character's backstory and ref from there. Like I said, I want to do a dog lady, so when we were just getting our puppy bandage about four years ago. I always wanted to dress him him bandanas. I'm always buying him way too many toys. Let's just start there, making it personal. Love when my fonts do this. Making a personal crazy dog lady, dog bandana. Having the dog with her bandanna and maybe she's a little crazy. This affects how my character is. Whatever arms are piled high with toys and they're falling all over the place and her puppy has a little bandana, is happily sniffing the toys. I'm just trying to imagine what this scene would look like. Maybe she's a little disheveled, grabbing an arm full of toys. Dog is cute and sniffing. This can sound as dumb as you want it to you right now because this is just for you. You don't have to share this. In addition, I'd also love to give her a little something more unique since I feel like this is basic and I don't want the character to only be me. I want to add a little bit more shine to her. I guess you could say. I think it'd be fun to add to her chaotic clumsiness by adding a pair of roller skates or a skate board or something. Maybe her hair is like a bit disheveled too because you can tell she's in a rush. I'll just say rollerblades in a rush. If I'm going off of me, I guess I'm not probably a great representation of the diverse clientele. Maybe I'll switch her up a little bit as I'm working. Maybe she has a cooler hairstyle than me or she has more tattoos and piercings. Something that makes her feel a little bit more interesting to the common eye. If I look at this list I made and you can make a mind map like I said or whatever you want to do. But I really just like writing things out. If we look at this list, this feeds back to the client's boxes they wanted to check off. She is interesting, nuance. She has more to her story than just a random woman looking at a shelf and the more backstory you add, the more clever idiosyncrasies and thoughtful details you can add in which will shine through in your designs. I'm not going to start sketching just yet because I want to go a little bit into character proportion and how we'll actually create those gestural sketches first. But it's always good to have your intention in mind before getting started. Let's kick that off in the next video. [MUSIC] 7. Theory: Character Proportions: [MUSIC] Proportion is key to making a character unique. You always have the option to go more realistic with your proportions and making your design or animation true to life. Oftentimes, more corporate commercials would like these types of characters, the ones that feel more realistic like real humans. But if you're looking for something fun and quirky, we'll move on to abstracting, distorting, and stretching your characters in these next couple of videos. Just keep that in mind as you're working here and creating your characters to the best of your ability. Here, we'll stay semi-realistic with our characters, keeping them human and proportional. We'll get into more stylization in the next couple of lessons. Before we start drawing a human character or any character for that matter, we need to understand the basics of anatomy and the proportions of the human body. I found this beautiful stock image and it does the job. It's not the most ideal thing to teach with. For the sake of time, and because this is not an anatomy class, I'm not going to go too far into detail. But this is basically how the human form is broken up. The human form is typically seven and a half heads. Obviously, I'm not doing this 100 percent accurately because the head shape is a little off, but you can see it's about seven and a half heads. This is for an adult form and that applies for both male and female. But as you can see with a kid, the head is a little out of proportion with the body because you're still growing into your form. Usually, children have bigger heads. In this class, we're trying to stay semi-realistic with our characters. I'm not going to go into really as much of the non-human characters because I think this is a great starting point. We'll keep them more human and proportional, and we'll get into stylization later on. It's always good to keep something like this handy as you're drawing. I honestly just search for these on Google Images and then just drop one into my file so I have it on hand. For typical proportions for humans, for men, the shoulders are wide and the hips are usually more flush with the torso, and the pelvis gets smaller. Typically with men, we have more of an upside-down triangle shape, and then with women, it's actually the opposite or more square. The hips typically jut out from a smaller waist. Actually, that's where you get your hourglass shape. Like I said, if you're drawing a kid, a lot of times they'll see their heads enlarged compared to adults. Because of that, if you want something to feel more playful or childlike, just try enlarging the head. Even if I enlarge this head right here, you can see it already is becoming more like a cartoon. It feels more playful and childlike, even though this is already a child, but you get where I'm coming from. I also wanted to share this website I found with you because I think it's super helpful. Its If you want to get really realistic with your human proportions, they have this human proportions calculator. You can choose male or female. In addition to that, you can also choose what part of the body we're looking at, the head, or the foot, or anything like that. Then you can also choose the age. You'll see how they progress as they get older. These are some very flattering images, but I think it's super helpful and you can even type in proportions if you want to get it right. In addition to this, also on their website, if you go to the article page, they have some really helpful information. They have this 3D anatomy model that you can use to turn around on their website. If you go to this tab right here, you can actually see the human form from different angles. Unfortunately, I think they only have this one sculpted part. But you can do heads and ears, and different parts of the body. If you wanted to draw something from an interesting angle, you'd actually be able to use something like this to figure out what those proportions look like in that perspective. But back to my document here, I just want to overview and say that creating a character like this in a standing front arm pose is best for the animators' purposes, especially if you're doing cell animations so they can see those different parts of the body clearly. But sometimes I like to start by putting my character in a certain pose because it helps me get excited about the character and helps me imagine the character in a situation. Honestly, sometimes you only need to see that character in that one pose. For example, if we go to my website and we check out my film, here, we'll just watch a little bit of the teaser. For example, in this shot write here, we're only ever going to need to see this character from the side, and we're only going to need to see the character from the back here. Obviously, I had to do a little bit of a character turnaround at some point to show off what this character looks like from different angles. But the animator is only going to be animating one child at a time. You don't always, necessarily need to see all parts of the body all the time. It's not always practical to design your character and oppose or turnaround, especially if the character won't be seen more than once. Maybe we only see a character from the side for one moment. We don't need to draw them from all these different angles. But even if you're wanting to pose your character from the start, let's at least try to keep it in flat perspective while sketching and not worry too much about how we'll see the character from a low or high angle, so seeing them more from the straight-on pose like we see here with these characters. If we go back to my website, we can just look at a few of those. When I say straight-on pose, I mean something like this, or these characters walking, more of like a flat graphic perspective. That's just my quick overview of character proportions. I think that it will be helpful to actually take a figure drawing class or do more online research into how character proportions work. But because I'm doing this for animation and for a more stylized look and feel, I think that this is a really great small overview for what character proportions are like. From here, I'm going to just go onto sketching gestures in the next video. [MUSIC] We'll get more into detail on how to make your characters feel more realistic with reference photos in a few videos. 8. Sketching Gestures: Here it comes apart you've all been waiting for, sketching. [LAUGHTER] Feel free to follow along with me here or just watch. In this stage, you don't really need to worry too much about animation just yet. These are just the groundwork lines. We're getting to work on our rough pose and basic idea and we won't actually be using these lines for the animator. I'm excited to start getting into some thumbnail sketches with you. The only thing you might want to consider beforehand is, are you designing for a cell animation or an after effects animation character that will be rigged? Like we said in a previous video, those are going to be setup differently. Just keep that in mind as you're working. I mean, I think for this one, since the character probably will only be in one pose considering the client brief and what they mentioned about having it be a simple Instagram post, I don't think we need to worry about that too much. But this is a class to learn about how animation interacts with your illustrations so it's really good to keep thinking about this as you're working. Obviously, if you don't know for sure how it's going to be animated, don't worry about it quite yet. If this was a real client project, you would probably want to know more. But I'm not too worried about it at this moment. Especially when we're just sketching gestures, it's not a huge deal yet. I personally, I'm going to assume that my character is going to be more dynamic and have more flexibility. I'm going to just assume that it will be cell animated frame by frame by hand, which gives you a lot more flexibility to do whatever you want with the pose. If you want to create something that will be animated directly in After Effects, you may want to consider drawing a character like in a walking pose or a more of a stiff pose with clear joints that can be easily rigged. I have my ideas here, my silhouette and everything and I'm going to get started on making a couple of gestural sketches. In this phase, don't worry if it looks super rough, our next step will bring out a lot of refinement. Keep it simple while you start drawing here and think about the silhouette. The technical proper way to start designing a character is to create a clear silhouette. Let's look at a couple of examples here. We've got our character proportions, which I talked about in the last video. But the silhouette of a character is what the eye immediately recognizes when looking at a character. You'll probably want to start by making sure the limbs are separated and away from the body so you can define those shapes. Figuring out the silhouette will also help you with posing and gesturing later on. I just wanted to show you some examples of silhouettes. Like I said earlier, a human male character will have a more broad shoulder. If you want to make your character look even stronger, you'll give them a giant shoulder and a tiny waist. That's what this person did with the silhouette here. With this one, we have very nice separation of the limbs. We can see the two arms working separately, and all of these are very stylized. When I talk about stylized, that means really going in to the silhouette and shrinking the head down or elongating the legs or whatever. That will come a little bit after we've done our gestures. But these are fun examples to keep in mind. As you can see, on this one, we have some separation between the waists and the arms. Lots of really nice poses with negative space in them so that you can see the clear silhouette of the figure. All of these are very different, but you can really tell that the silhouette has been taken into account. Even here we can see a fun variety of silhouettes, and like I said, characters with bigger heads look more childish. By childish, I don't mean immature, but I mean more innocent and more infantile. I think that this example really shows that. Smaller heads obviously look a little bit more adult, in my opinion. We'll just keep that in mind, having a clear silhouette as we're drawing here. Since we're starting with the overall shape, don't get too caught up in the details now, experiment, don't fall in love with any one character just yet. You have to be willing to throw out a design if it doesn't serve the story's purpose well enough. Try not to get too frustrated. I'm just going to use a fun color to start sketching here using my thin inkblot brush, but you can use whatever you want here. I like using Kyle Webster's brushes as I'm always saying and all of my classes. I'm just going to start by using really basic shapes for the head, so like a circle for the head is always standard when I'm just doing these really abstract loose gestures. I know that I want this to have a woman on roller skates. Maybe she's disheveled, grabbing an arm full of toys. There's a dog. Let's just keep all that in mind as we're sketching here. She's also supposed to be picking something off of a shelf or something up from the shops. I'm just going to loosely guess how that would look. Maybe she's reaching up and she is on a pair of rollerblades. Obviously this is super out of proportion but maybe her leg is kicking up for a little bit of fun. Perhaps her arms are reaching for something on a shelf. You've got this light shelf behind her. In this flat perspective, maybe she's got her dog looking up at her, wanting to get the toy that she's reaching for. Maybe she's reaching for a bowl of dog bones or something. [LAUGHTER] I don't even know what that is, dog treats. As you can see, this is super rough. Spend 1-2 minutes on each sketch and don't get attached to it. Maybe perhaps she's on the ground bending over, in a squatting position, which in my opinion would probably be really hard to do on roller blades, but let's just see. Maybe she's bending down to grab something off of a shelf that we see the side of. Obviously, I would need to figure out how to actually create these poses. But I think we're off to something. We're off to a good start here. Maybe here's the dog reaching on the other side of that shelf. I also really want to point out here that when you're thinking about silhouettes, think about a line of action. This is animations so we're going to be thinking about how the character moves. When I say line of action, think about just one gestural line that will carry through the whole character. We've got maybe this line here, and for this one we've got a curved line here. If I do a third sketch, maybe I want it to be this curve. You can always draw the line of action first. Maybe she's reaching onto the ground to grab a ball for her dog or something. We've got the legs here stabilizing her. I don't know whether that leaves room for the dog. Maybe the dog is sitting on her back. But I really like using this line of action because it shows the animator potentially how the character will be moving. For this one, maybe the character's swooping in like this and we're using that line of action to create that movement. It's just really nice to have this clear visual line to create some dynamic interest to the eye. These are super rough sketches. I need to make sure that besides the character, I'm also taking into consideration the shop around it because if we look back at the client brief, we really want to make sure the character is happy. We want to make sure that if it's in a square social media post, we want to make sure that we see the character holding the product and everything because it is for the gift stops. Maybe I take that into consideration a little bit more. We'll get into more detail later, but maybe she's holding a bag here, maybe there's a bunch of stuff piled up in a grocery then on the ground, or perhaps in this one she's got more things piled into her arms. Maybe one of the arms is actually down. Maybe it's this one, maybe this arm's down and she's got a pile of toys in there and the dog is trying to reach them. I think that there's a lot of things we can do. This is super rough, but you can see what I mean when I say, this really does not have to be perfect. This is just for you. This is just for you to get those ideas out and then you actually will pick one of them, create a reference photo, and create a more refined sketch from there. I think this is a great starting off point. Just make sure to try and infuse life into your character in these beginning stages with quick strokes and energetic lines. Don't worry too much about unnecessary accessories or details. Try to keep it simple and stick to the basics. Now it's your turn. Take 5-10 minutes to roughly sketch really quick gestural compositions and shapes for your character. These should just be basic thumbnails, don't get too detailed or worried about how they're looking quite yet. This is really just laying the groundwork for you, like I said earlier. Go ahead and do that and I'll meet you in the next video. 9. Take Your Own Reference Photo: [MUSIC] This next tip is my absolute favorite tip for illustrating human characters. Take your own reference photos using photo booth or your phone. I mean, who knew it can be so simple? I usually take reference photos after sketching out my loose idea or character so I know what pose I need to take a photo of. When I first started drawing characters for motion design for personal work, I really, really struggled. For one, I was not great at perspective to begin with. So seeing my character from a weird angle or something other than front-facing was almost impossible to imagine. Two, I just had trouble drawing characters in general and making the proportions look correct. I started taking photos of myself or Tyler or even my co-workers or my dog to get it right. Taking my own photos especially help with hands because hands are probably the most complex part of the body to draw and a ton of people struggle with hands. Just know you're not alone there. I 100 percent still take my own reference photos all of the time to get more interesting poses. These are poses that I would not have been able to come up with without a photo. Not something I could just search on Google and instantly find. I think this will be really helpful for you. Like I said, I love taking my own reference photos. I do this all the time, especially even for animals. I'll take pictures of my dog, etc and I have a few examples of that here. This is going to go backwards a little bit but I wanted to illustrate a fox for this takeover I was doing for Panimation. I didn't really know how to get a unique pose for a fox because if you search like fox pose or something, there's some really cool pictures and stuff but I wanted something a little different. I actually took a photo of my dog and you can see the process here. Just a picture of my dog bended [LAUGHTER] playing with his toy. But I thought it was a fun line of action. Like we talked about in the last video, there's this nice curve in his body. I actually use it to sketch my fox. Then I played with proportion a little bit, added some wings and created this fairy tale version of him. A couple of other examples I have are I did this exercise where I wanted to do warm-ups and I only gave myself like 20 minutes to finish them. I took some [LAUGHTER] awkward photos of me and used them as reference. In this case I didn't actually like trace over anything because I wanted to play more with abstraction and drawing from my vision. But I had fun doing two different versions of it and they became really abstracted and fun which I loved. My final example of this was this illustration that I had about anxiety. I had this idea in mind which I actually sketched out really, really basic. Like you would call this my gestural sketch that I illustrated in my little [LAUGHTER] bedside notebook. Just an idea that had come to me. Then I was like, well, I know I want someone in that pose so I had my husband take a photo of me with the scissors and the brush [LAUGHTER] which became a mirror and scissors. I went from there, and you can see I start with the long hair but I wanted to make the character different so I played around with different sketch and proportion ideas as I went changing everything to feel a little bit more playful, less realistic, more stylized. You can see that's how my sketch turned out. Then I actually went to Procreate and added like the lighting and stuff which definitely was not in my original reference photo but having it there as a base was super informative. As you can see, I love using reference photos. For this one I obviously was like, let's make it a crazy dog lady who is on roller blades. I was like, you know what? Why don't I just try using actual roller blades to do these poses to see if they're accurate. Mind you, I am not a great rollerblader. [LAUGHTER] I actually just got these roller blades recently. But I was like, you know what? Why the heck not embarrass myself? I took some video of myself rollerblading, two screenshots and poses. [MUSIC] Here I am being extremely bad at rollerblading. [LAUGHTER] I'm practicing, I'm going to get better. But I played with some poses so I'm just going to screenshot ones that I think could potentially work. Obviously I'm basing all of these poses off of the gestural sketches I already did. It was really good to have that foundation of what I wanted with my line of action and then I could actually try to emulate that in my poses. Trying a couple of different things here. Obviously not too great at doing this on the roller blades. Let's see where we end up. There's some more over here I promise. [LAUGHTER] This was me trying to do the kneeling pose but it was actually way harder than it looked because I'm not stable enough on my roller blades yet. Very nice poses here. I actually got a second video. Let me try to find something in here. Here's the leaning over one. Wow, what a beautiful line of action. Love that, 90 degree waist bend right there. [LAUGHTER] I also wanted to get one of them from the back so I was reaching with my front arm. Here I got some more pictures. Gosh, the most flattering thing I've ever seen. I've got a few there. But I also just want to emphasize that you don't have to be as awkward as me. You can just go onto photo booth and take still photos. These are also semi awkward but I was like if I'm going to try it without the roller blade I might as well try out a couple of different things. [LAUGHTER] Posing from the back. Obviously I do a lot of the type of posing. [LAUGHTER] Now I have a lot of things I can use, so I'm going to just drag them all in. Boy, I'm making a folder called reference photos and I put all of my old concepting stuff in that concepting folder. I really like to stay organized as I'm working because things can get really messy in Photoshop. I'm sure you know. I've got some nice reference poses there. I've got the roller blades too which is super-helpful. Then also I'm going to grab a couple of these photo booth photos too because I think they might be fun to play with and maybe a little bit easier to read. Let's see. This one could be fun or maybe this one. Remember I want to have the disheveled hair, I want to have my character with her dog too, and also thinking about the shelf and where everything is placed so take all these things into consideration. I also have a video that I shot with my dog just playing. I'm going to get into this a little bit later in a bonus video but I wanted to make sure I got some footage of him moving around so I could use it. I don't know if I have the right footage because he wasn't very cooperative. But this is just something to keep in mind while I move forward. [LAUGHTER] He's basically just standing and, look at that little [inaudible]. I just got to put that in there. This is just something good to have as I'm moving forward. Now that I have all of these poses I'm going to look at them objectively in relation to the poses I sketched and see which one might be the best line of action. If you're really concerned about the motion I would go through and illustrate that out where is that line of action and which one might be the most successful? Looking at this, I feel like the most fun one just without even the line of action might be one of these sitting ones because I think the pose is just actually really interesting and it'll actually take up the square frame really well. If I'm thinking about how this is a social media post and how I actually want to take up the majority of the square frame and make sure it fits accurately, I'm probably going to go with one of these sitting poses so I can turn off the standing ones. I think this one is still interesting but it's awkward. Like who pulls something from a shelf like that? Obviously not me. Let's just use one of these three. Because I really want to include the rollerblading in there, I think it'd be best to use one of the ones with the rollerblade. I'm going to stick with this one for now. As you're sketching that might change, you might choose a different photo, you might abstract a lot from your photo so your illustration might not actually end up looking like that at the end. But now that I've chosen this one I can move on to sketching it in the next video. Now that I've completely embarrassed myself in front of you, you can embarrass yourself too. [LAUGHTER] Though it's nice that you don't have to share your poses with the world like I do so that's a plus I guess. Open up photo booth or your phone, take your photo and begin illustrating over that, breaking the image down section by section. Not everyone is comfortable with taking their own photos so you could ask for a family member or a friend to do this or you could try using Unsplash for reference photos though I wouldn't say it's as easy to resource images online. Taking your own photo is always preferable and much quicker. [MUSIC] Choose your favorite photos and drop those into your Photoshop file for the next lesson where we'll begin creating those characters. 10. Sketching Your Reference: [MUSIC] Now we're going to use our reference photos to really get into the nitty-gritty of posing our character. We will break down your photo into basic geometric shapes. You can use the shape tool or you can draw them by hand. I usually use both honestly. A lot of the times I will trace the photo more proportionally and then begin abstracting as I go. I like to use an even balance of curves and straights to make my character feel more geometric. I actually have a whole class based on breaking down photos, still lives, into geometric shapes. It's called Playing with Shapes in Procreate. It might be useful to take that class as well to learn a bit more. But I'll show you here what I mean. In this video, I'm going to actually start doing a rough sketch of my reference. You can follow along with this too, make sure to pull up your reference photo that you're going to be using and bring it into Photoshop. I usually make a folder called rough sketch. What I do is I turn it onto a low opacity and begin sketching. One of the tips that I love to start with, because starting a sketch can be super daunting, is I try to break down the photo into basic geometric shapes. You could either do this using the shape tool or you can draw them yourself. A lot of times I'll trace the photo more proportionally and then begin abstracting as I go. I'm going to change the color here. Maybe I'll just make a circle for the head and we've got two rectangles [LAUGHTER] for the arm. You just want to break them down into the most basic shapes. That helps you simplify everything. I also want to have that line of action in there. [LAUGHTER] That's like a broken down abstract version of my character. That's one way you can go about it and then you could turn that onto low opacity. Turn it around or perhaps you duplicate it, press Command E to flatten it. Then you're like, you know what, I want her to be bending over more so I'm going to have it like this. You can just play around with the arrangement of everything. Personally, I use this tip. Sometimes it's nice to be able to see, maybe the arm could just be straight instead of having this elbow curve in it. Or maybe the legs are very distinctly square at a 90 degree angle. But I personally, [LAUGHTER] I like to do a combination of tracing and abstracting. I do love those straight arms. Maybe I'll start by just tracing my face loosely. I just want to disclaim that tracing should never happen if you're not using your own reference photo. I full-heartedly believe that we should not be copying anyone's work, even if it's a photograph or someone else's illustration, you definitely do not want to be tracing that, but because this is a photo you took yourself, there's no harm in using it as a tracing reference because this is technically your work. This is you [LAUGHTER] or a photo of someone you took, so there's no harm in that. That being said, I just go right in there. I want to have a more curved look to this character. Make her a little bit more organic, less rigid. I'm going to add a little bit more curve in there as I'm working, add a little bit more angle. But you can already tell that I'm thinking of this thigh as a rectangle. Then this part of the leg would be another rectangle. Then we have the shoe coming down at an angle. Then if we're trying to keep everything more flat, maybe I'm thinking about the wheels from a front perspective instead of in this angled perspective that they are here. I'll just add them in like this. They can be really simplified. Then maybe for this leg, I'm also doing two rectangles. Sometimes it's fun to just press Shift and make a straight line and see where that takes you. It makes this very wide foot, but I like it. Then I'm going to add those three wheels in again, and perhaps I could do the straight arms, so would feel very rigid like this. I could also exaggerate the curve of my arm and make it go a little lower and then keep this one straight. There's a nice mix of abstract and organic in their. Hands are always the hardest thing to do, so I'm going to ignore those for now. But if I turn off my reference, you can see I already have something nice shaping up here, a little bit more refined [LAUGHTER] than those gestures I had earlier. But I also want to explain another way that I like to go about things. This is actually something that I have in one of my other Skillshare classes, it's called Playing with Shapes in Procreate: Illustrate a Graphic Still Life. I know this is done in Procreate, but it uses a lot of the same basic principles. What I love doing is taking that reference photo, obviously, never trace a copy from someone else's photo. But taking that and then breaking it down into those simple shapes, so you can see here, I'm using ellipses, rectangles, and triangles to create those shapes. I even have this lesson called the curve to straight trick, which I highly encourage you to check out. We'll go over it a little bit here, but I don't necessarily want to go fully into that because there's already a class out there for it. But something I like to do is to have an even balance of curves and straights. Like it says here, straight lines feel more angular and create more of a dramatic or angry feel, and then organic curved lines feel more soft and friendly. Keep that in mind as you're creating your character because we want to create a neutral feel for this or even a happier one. We might want to go a little bit more curved because even just looking at this, this character feels like a robot which makes me think of cold and harsh. I definitely don't want that. That's why I'm starting to add some of these curves in here. But like I said, an even balance of curves and straights which I have going here, I've got this curve, I've got the knee curve that meets the straight curve. One classic example of a curve to straight that I really like is just a basic human leg. [LAUGHTER] We've got a straight and then we've got the thigh and the calf and then that just makes a leg immediately, but it's very simplified. You've got the straight on one side and the curve on the other. It just creates this cool abstract geometric look and feel without actually feeling too geometric like this. [LAUGHTER] If I wanted to do that here, I could even make the whole top side of this character's leg curved and then have the bottom part be straight or I could have these two straights meet a point, and then have them be curved underneath. Obviously, I feel like anything that has a sharp corner is going to feel a little bit too intense [LAUGHTER] for what I'm looking for here. But that's your basic rule for curves and straights. I'm going over this a couple of times, I would highly recommend you do this yourself. Start with your basic abstracting of shapes and then bring in your trace sketch. From there you could even push it further. Maybe I'll just do a second one where I'm going even more curved because in the client brief, they say, we want it to be happy as a clam, so maybe making it even more friendly looking. Maybe we see more of a waist here and got more voluptuous curves happening here. If you want to create that more geometric feel like having a flat foot or something that meets a flat plane actually will be really nice and help make it feel more flat. We could even take this knee right here and make that flat. This creates more of a geometric feel. We could have the foot being straight and maybe a curved leg, but then perhaps even the roller blade is straight on the ground, which doesn't make any sense really. But you could potentially have it like that. Obviously, it doesn't have to be realistic. If your pose that you did is not working and you don't love it, feel free to riff off of it here. I'm just going to continue on. Maybe we define the shoulder a bit more and make it more curvy that way. The great thing about reference photos is they really show you how to overlap your limbs and stuff. Because sometimes I'm like, wait, will the line be going this way or will it be going this way? [LAUGHTER] So having that there as a reference, you can see the sleeve of my outfit, that really helps. I'm going to keep the straight arm back here too and have them meet up. We'll just have some glove hands for now. But I'm really liking how this is shaping up. If we go back to our gestural sketches, we have that nice line of action appearing here. It's not necessarily your basic line of action, but maybe it's a little swoopy swoop. [LAUGHTER] I feel like it has a nice composition. If we take that rough sketch and we make it bigger, does it fit in the frame? Well, maybe potentially, this is where the dog would be later on when we go over that, so takes up more of the frame. Maybe the dog is grabbing the booty as dogs do. Just kidding. I don't know why I said that. [LAUGHTER] But we can keep that in. Yes. Obviously, I'm great at just sketching dogs roughly. You know that. It looks perfect already, so no more work needed there. [LAUGHTER] But if we're also thinking about the aspect of it that I had, if we go back to our concepting, grabbing an arm full of toys, in a rush, disheveled, has all these extra details. That's something we'll continue adding. But I want to make a little bit of room for it here. Maybe the dog's leash is in her arm and it's wrapping back to the dog, and maybe she has her bag or purse or grocery shopping bag, whatever it is hanging off of her arm and maybe there's a ball down here and she's just surrounded by toys and stuff. Then maybe if we make her a little bit smaller, we can add a shelf behind her. Maybe it's more of a flattened shelf. Well, I don't want to just see the side of it because I think that's boring and it wouldn't be as exciting for the client to see their products. Maybe there's this shelf that takes up half the frame and we see some items on it. Maybe she's reaching for the dog biscuits like I said earlier. [LAUGHTER] It's just a super rough version of the sketch, but I'm keeping everything on separate layers. If I want to go back in and adjust things or abstract the character like we'll do in the next lesson, I have that capability there. I think we're off to a great start. I would encourage you to go ahead and try out a few different ways of sketching your character and then we'll get into the more refined details. [MUSIC] Using your favorite reference photo, create 1-2 quick sketches. We'll be refining them in the next video. I honestly can't wait to see what you come up with. Have a blast and I'll meet you there. [MUSIC] 11. Theory: Abstraction + Exaggeration: [MUSIC] In this theory video, I'm going to dive into the ways that you can make your character designs more unique by pushing proportion. We'll use abstraction, exaggeration, and distortion to convey different things. For example, if we want a character to come across super-strong, you might want to give them unrealistically wide shoulders, or a trick I always like to use is making the head and eyes much bigger than they should be to create a more youthful or innocent feel. You can even get crazy and make something that just doesn't even come across as human. This is a super fun part of the character design process for me, and I think you'll enjoy it too. Obviously, changing all these proportions will also affect the way characters are animated. If something has huge feet, their biodynamics and walk cycle are going to be very differently weighted than a normal one. This is definitely something to consider as you abstract your own sketch in the next lesson. If you're working with a super experienced animator, you may be comfortable going crazy with proportions. But if you're not sure, it's always good to get the benefit of the doubt and not go too hard with the abstraction. We're at this point in our illustration, which is write out the rough sketch phase. This is where we want to get, a little bit more unique with our characters. Obviously, I've already implemented some abstraction by doing that curve to straight trick and by doing some geometric shapes and flattening everything out. But there's still a lot of stuff we can do. I'm going to show you some of that now. I love using abstraction, exaggeration, pushing proportion to make my characters more unique, and not just my characters, but my designs in general. For example, if we were to look at these glasses right here, a real pair of glasses, the perspective wouldn't look like that and it wouldn't be so perfectly straight and at flat angle like that. But I really wanted to make them geometric and simplified, so I literally just did a couple of straight lines, a curve and two circles, and it becomes really abstracted. We can apply those same principles to characters. For example, here, with the arm down here, I created two straight lines, connecting them with a curve and created more of 90 degree angles everywhere. You can actually start to see some of that abstraction, and the distortion and exaggeration. What I mean by that is the feet are really tiny compared to the legs, or up here, the character's head is very small compared to the body. It's really just taking those elements of the body, making them bigger or smaller, distorting them a bit, maybe slanting them, and coming up with some different ways of visualizing these characters. If we go through my Pinterest, which is always my favorite place to go, feel free to follow along in there because I do love painting all the time. But you can see a lot of the characters that I have saved on here are exaggerated. This character's feet are 50 times bigger than her head. That's an exaggeration, but you know what I mean. It makes it more playful and fun. These characters have some really interesting flattened perspective, and their heads are really tiny, but their hands are huge. For this one, for example, it's like a flattened perspective where we see the hand is in the foreground, but it just looks giant in comparison to the body because it's flattened. Something that I'll say is that using abstraction and exaggeration and pushing that proportion can create a different type of mood for your character. As I said earlier, children tend to have really big heads in illustrations. Even if we look at the suggested illustrations done here, you can see that these characters are kids and they look like kids because their heads are massive compared to their bodies. Even here, for example, this is a project that I art directed, Odd Fellows, and we see this more sophisticated, realistic female character. She's definitely abstracted a bit, but she has more realistic human proportions, and so does her family. In the development phase of this, you can actually see different iterations of that. This character, down here in the middle left is much more realistic looking. Her head is more in proportion with her body, same with this other one on the bottom left. But then this one down here that I drew, and these ones in the middle where we actually made it out, have slightly smaller heads and elongated arms and legs. Even though they're not a 100 percent realistic human proportions, you can still identify them as human. They have a lot more personality in court to them. Now I'm not saying that you shouldn't use realistic human proportions because that's a look. That's a vibe. [LAUGHTER] Some people want to go with stuff that looks more realistic and sometimes your client will ask for that. But this class is about simplifying for animation and creating a stylized character. If we go look at this 3D animation from book, it's super cute, but you can tell they're trying to be more playful because the characters have huge heads and huge eyes. They almost feel like toys. Changing the proportions and everything can really give your illustration a totally different mood. In addition to that, changing the proportions is going to affect the way that your characters are animated. For example, like this dinosaur character has small legs and small arms and the way that it's animated is reacting to the way it's shaped. I guess that's probably the best way to say it. It's taking into account the weight of the character. This may be not 100 percent accurate, but I like to think that the legs are long and the neck is a little bit too long, so it feels really off-balance, and so this drop is just tumbling around. Then this character feels a lot more true to life. We've got more of that realistic movement happening, very stylized wind and everything. But you can really see that there's a lot of weight put into the character. I liked this one as an example too, because the dog's head is huge, so it definitely feels a bit off balance when it's running. This one is just dumb. It doesn't make sense. I love Charles Huettner and I don't even know if that's how you say it. If not, sorry, Charles. But I just loved [LAUGHTER] how the head looks heavier with the upturned butt. The proportions really affect everything and you have to keep that in mind as you're drawing because your character will be animated. Now that we've actually looked at some examples of abstraction, thinking a little bit about all the different proportions of characters, how we can change those up and then also taking into consideration the animation aspect of it, I would love to dive into our own design in the next lesson and apply some of these characteristics to that. [MUSIC] 12. Abstract Your Sketch: Let's put those proportion pointers we just learned into action. I've got my character pose and sketch that I'm really liking. She's still basic, so I haven't actually gotten to attach to anything just yet. This part is really fun for me. We've already talked about what real human proportions look like. I want to take those techniques to the next level by messing with proportion, and scale and distortion using the transform tool. Because we're using illustration here, we have the license to stretch the boundaries of reality. You can use scale and shape contrast add stylization to your work. In a lot of cases, depending on how you're using these techniques, exaggerated proportions can make your characters feel more relatable or unique. That being said, let's look at a couple of ways that we could technically exaggerate our character. I'm going to turn off these extra layers and just use this main one. I'm just going to duplicate it and turn off my sketch layer for now. What I'd like to do a lot of the times is just make a smaller version of my character and create iterations. Obviously this is just shapes right now. But I'm going to go in and be like, what if she had a really big head? That feels more childish to me and not necessarily always the only way to go quirky. You could also give her a tiny head. That might feel more playful in a way because it's out of balance. Maybe the feet are massive. That one illustration I was looking at earlier had really big feet and I liked how it felt more fun and playful. I'm going to make that aversion and I'm going to iterate from there. Perhaps another thing we can do is you can select your character and then you can right-click it, and you have all these tools like distort, perspective, scale, rotate. I like to use the distort tool sometimes, and I'll just drag corners around and just be like, maybe I want her line of action to be stronger, so I'm pushing her more towards the left because she's leaning towards the left. It makes it a little bit more interesting and draws your eye to the other side of the frame because she's pointing towards it. I'm liking how that's feeling. Maybe her legs are even more elongated, so I'll just select one of the legs at a time and drag them and fill in the blanks. Maybe this one is longer this way. You're going to have to make adjustments as you go. But it starts to become something a little bit more unique and interesting. Already if you look above the sketch that I'm working on now and see the original one, it feels like it has more motion to it. It feels more animated already. The more animated we can make our characters before they even are brought into motion, the more visual momentum they're going to have. I personally like this one, but let's see some other ways we could just distort things. If we took that original one again, if we want her to appear really strong, we could exaggerate and distort the shoulders. Like I said, having those massive shoulders is going to make her look more buff, more macho. Maybe she's got a little hat on. Her waste is smaller, so it feels more like the male proportion. Perhaps we have a male character here or a non-binary or genderless character. You can also make the legs super tiny and lean into that a bit more. I think that looks really silly, but if we could do some adjustments, it might work. Perhaps the legs go out this way. I mean this is just ridiculous. I probably want to go with this and the end, but I have my own style and you probably have your own style and they're not the same. I encourage you to play around with what the proportions of your character looks like. I think it's really important to abstract and see different iterations as you go to make sure that you're comfortable with the character design that you end up coloring in. After I've finished abstracting, I want to take this next little bit of time to actually refine our sketch a little bit more. We're going to be going into faces soon and adding color in details, etc. But before we get there, obviously we need to have a more refined sketch. I'm going to choose the sketch that I liked the best, which was this one, and I'm going to take some time to bring it to life. I'll just make this folder called refined sketch. Start with this. This is my rough sketch. I can name that layer. These layers won't yet be used for the animator. Don't worry too much about organizing your layers. But it is always good to see semi-organized because then you have something to look at easily and you can close folders and you can look back at your progress. I really encourage you to stay at least semi-organized here. That doesn't mean naming every layer necessarily, but staying more organized in general has always helped me. Now that I'm looking at this, I'm realizing our character might actually be a little too long for the frame because we see it's square, but we still want to have this other stuff around her. Say there's just like this rectangular shelf. Then potentially, we want to have the dog here. We have all this extra space at the top and the bottom, and I'm trying to fit it more proportionally because the client has specifically said that they want it to be a square social media posts. It won't be really used in any other context. I think it's okay to lean into that square shape. I'm just going to play around again with that abstraction and just try to bring her in a little bit more. Maybe she's not as elongated as I had her before. Maybe her head is a little bit bigger so that she takes up more space on the top. Maybe that makes her appear a little bit more friendly. Perhaps her forearms aren't as long and perhaps she's not as bent over as she was before. That's a very slight difference, but I think it's going to help. In addition, we could make the bottom part of the leg a little bit shorter and even make her foot taller and bigger. But sometimes it's just fun to add a little bit of extra personality to your character. There she is. She's taking up most of the frame. I want to have this shelf thing, but maybe I will give it a little bit more breathing room. It's like framing our character, which compositionally feels really nice. Then when we get to the dog part later on, I just want to have a little bit of a blob shape here to give me some idea of where that dog is going to be. Dog, maybe that's it's nose, and he's got some little legs. That definitely looks wrong foot. That is something we can work on. Since she is leaning to the left, it feels very left-heavy. I'm just going to pull her over slightly. If she's not technically centered, she can still be visually centered. That's what I really want to focus on. Maybe I'll give this a couple of shelves. Make sure to delete the pieces that you don't really want overlapping. I'm going to do a little time-lapse here of me refining this character. What I mean by refining, is going over creating clean lines and clean shapes that I can trace over in my color blocking phase so that I have a more geometric and clean silhouette to work off of. There's not too much to this. It's really just about adding details, making sure we're getting those very straight lines. It's not as sketchy anymore. Making sure we're adding in the things that are on the shelves, adding in that disheveled hair to the character and everything. I think it'll be really helpful to just watch how I'm doing this. Then when we get into the color blocking phase, we can talk more about those details and how they add to the concept. The way I do that typically is I'll just take the entire folder and press Command E and that will put everything on one layer because it's easier to just keep my sketches on one layer. Typically, we don't want to flatten stuff in animation, but we're not quite there yet. I'm going to turn the opacity down. I'm going to create another folder. I'm just going to start diving into this. One tip to keep in mind if you're using Photoshop and especially Procreate, this actually works on Procreate too, is to keep this smoothing tool in mind. If you want to get those more clean lines and make your lines less wobbly, I typically put my smoothing to 15-20%. With smoothing, it just automatically makes everything look really nice. Then if I turn off the smoothing, it's more jagged. I highly recommend using smoothing. It's really good for sketching and making things that look a little bit more refined. Here's where I ended it out with my refined sketch. I did a lot of things to it. I made sure that the curves and straights felt more clean on our character. I went back and I looked at our concepting, this looks insane right now, but I'm just looking at this list right here. We really wanted to have her being disheveled, rollerblades, in a rush. I actually did forget to add in her bag and stuff, so let me do that right now. I definitely wanted her to feel more like she was disheveled. Maybe she's got some more toys tucked into her arm here. Maybe there's a little ball on the ground or a little block or something. Another way that I really wanted to bring her personalized life was potentially through adding patterns to her clothing. Think of your rough sketch as your basic figure sketch. Imagine you haven't attached clothes to it yet, it's more of just a plastic model. Then in this section when we're refining, I'm going in and adding a little bit more interest and detail. That's why I added the pant leg jutting out. It would feel a little more rigid if everything was exactly to the line of the body, everything would be skin tight and that's not really realistic. Not everyone dresses that way. I just wanted to add a little bit more flair and personality to her. Maybe even as I go into color later, she can have a little tattoo on her arm or cool earrings. There's an endless amount of possibilities of what we can add to our characters. The more you add, the more unique this person is going to be. That's where I'm headed with it. I left this spot to her right to put the dog in. I really want to go over that a little bit later because I want to talk to you a bit about non-human characters and animals and stuff like that. Then that will also give us a little refresher for how we did this first character. I'm feeling pretty good about this refined sketch. I made sure to use my curved, straight trick, my abstraction. I stayed true to my silhouette. So we see a lot of negative space between all of the pieces of our character. She's very clear and easy to read. That makes me feel like I'm pretty much ready to move on to the next lesson, in which we'll talk a little bit about faces and facial expressions. 13. Faces + Emotion: [MUSIC] Oftentimes you may not need very detailed facial expressions for your characters. Sometimes they might not even need faces at all, but on the flip side, you may want emotion to be the driving factor for your character. I don't know where I heard this exactly, but I know that humans are scientifically inclined to spot faces and emotions in people. Pets, animals, and even nature, that's probably why I always see a creepy ghost face when I look too closely at my wooden floorboards. But emotion has a ton of relatability and interest to a character and can intrigue viewers to look at your work more carefully, perhaps even give it a second glance. Like I said, I love to talk a bit more about emotion and character facial expressions and everything. If we obviously look back at the brief, they want this person to be happy. Everyone knows how to draw a smiley face. I think we could literally just have a smile on this character and she would feel complete. Sometimes we don't need to show those faces to get across the emotion that we're feeling. If we wanted to exaggerate that more, she could have her little upturned eye or she could just have a little circle eye, she could even have a sly side smile and everything like that. But in order to get these basic facial expressions down, it's always good to look at real-life reference in order to know exactly what we're doing. I thought it would be nice to look at some of these facial expressions. I just grabbed these off of Google. I'm unfortunately not sure where exactly they came from, but I think looking at a real face is going to help a lot. One thing that's very helpful to notice as we're looking at these characters and people in real-life is eyebrows add a lot of expression. The eye width and anxiety, anger, and fear is like almost exactly the same, but the eyebrows are doing totally different things. You can really see that come across more in illustrated characters, like when they're exaggerated, because for animation especially, the animator is going to be exaggerating these facial expressions to make them feel more noticeable in animation. They use these techniques called stretch and squash, which help exaggerate those emotions depending on which emotion you're trying to portray. That's why some of these look a lot more exaggerated than your typical human face. I think this is a really cute example of how the eyes get smaller per expression. It's really good to keep that in mind. But when you get down to it and you really want to simplify things, all you really need is honestly, you don't even need a nose. All you really need is eyes, a mouth, and eyebrows. Sometimes you can even just have eyes and a mouth, like I was showing you a little bit ago. But eyebrows are a huge help to portray that emotion. This is actually from a project that I art directed at Odd Fellows for Google and it was really fun to devise these characters from scratch. We worked with some amazing designers, Odds really was pretty much the one to design the system. But as you can see, we went through a lot of simplified and more realistic iterations of the characters. Then from there we got to design walk cycles and turnarounds and all of that. This is just a nice little simplified character expression sheet. Then if you go down on the page on my website, we've got hair examples of different types of people, races, nationalities, all of that. In addition to that, we also have this expression sheet, which is what I have on the screen behind me here. But as you can see, putting the eyebrows down is going to look more angry or irritated. If you put the eyebrows up, it's going to look more joyful or surprised. If you have upturned eyebrows, it'll feel more sad or anxious. I can show you instantly how that would look on this character here. If we wanted her to feel just happy, it's going to be hard to get this right from this angle, but she's got raised eyes there, maybe she even has a big smile on her face. But instantly, if I do this, she's going to look angry because her eyebrows are downturned. Or if we do this, she's like, I'm a little worried, maybe she's got a little sweat, tear going on there. Like I said, you could just use a mouth if you wanted. I wouldn't say it's a cop out because I definitely think that there's some beauty to the simplicity of it. But I always like to add a little bit more. For her, I can have both of her eyes so we're seeing it on the edge and maybe she's got that little surprise look on her face. [LAUGHTER] She could be turning towards camera a little bit. You could also take that expression and move it around on the face and see how it feels different. Even if you cut that out and then maybe you want to add a nose and the character starts feeling a little bit different with the nose, so you want to play around with the facial expression. There are so many possibilities and it really just takes the swipe of one line to make it look different because as humans, we try to find emotion and facial expressions in everything. Even just adding a little line randomly, like even if you put her mouth over here and you put her eyebrows down, she would look frustrated. Or if you put her eyebrows up, she's like more slightly and curious or almost worried. Maybe she has a downturned expression and she's worried or she's absolutely surprised. My God, look at this dog food, it's insane. I love this so much. [LAUGHTER] There is a lot of ways you can go with your facial expression, but I encourage you to play around and just have fun with it. I think personally, I'm just going to go for a simple soft smile. Maybe she's got a little eyebrow in there and I really do like having the nose on there because I think it gives her face more definition. You can even play around with what the nose looks like or how much it changes the face. Maybe it's just a little button nose or maybe it's a big nose that has more personality to it or maybe we've got a little rounded nose. You can also go back into the sketch and delete the extra line so that it looks more finished. But I like this little pointy nose that I had earlier. I don't want her to look too worried though, so let's make her eyebrows more happy. You could add a real eye in there if you wanted to. It just gives it a totally different look and feel. But I would highly suggest maybe trying out different things that you see on Pinterest or going to a character board and just seeing what types of different faces are out there. We've got some more realistic looking eyes, we've got some more dot eyes, we've got these big, round, googly eyes. I wouldn't say necessarily take exactly what someone else has and do that for the full face, but take bits and pieces of that and apply that to how you're drawing your characters. Maybe I want the eyes to be more half realistic, like those. Maybe we've got that top line and looks a little sneaky and she's looking back at her dog. I like how that turned out. I'm going to actually leave that one. Once we add the dog in there, it'll have a bit more interaction, I think. Either way, this is something you can easily play with because it's so small and interchangeable and it changes the entire direction of your illustration. Make sure to take some time to actually get in there and play around with those facial expressions. [MUSIC] 14. Tips from an Animator, Part 2: [MUSIC] After finalizing our sketch, we're going to be laying down the layers that the animator will actually be using to animate with. I think it's important that we revisit the animation process with our guest animator, Tyler. I'll have him break down one of his animations for you to give you a better idea of what you'll be needing to pay attention to while adding color, texture, and details. You'll also need to pay close attention to how you're organizing your layers and not flattening things [LAUGHTER] of course so he'll go over that a bit too. It's me, Tyler. Now that you've sketched out what your character and your file is going to look like, it's important to keep in mind how you'll structure the fills and shapes for when you refine it into the final design. There's some important things that you need to keep in mind when you're doing so. [MUSIC] This is an animation that Sara and I did. This is the file that she gave me. It's mostly great and I'll go through some of the reasons why it worked out well for me and then there were a few things that were missing that in the end, I, as an animator, had to just make those decisions because she didn't have time to create extra assets for me. I personally use Photoshop to animate anyways so using PSDs directly from designers tends to be a pretty easy hand-off. It's definitely not the traditional, popular way to do cell or frame-by-frame animation, but it's just how I learned it and that's what I still do. Starting out, immediately I'm going to go directly to the layers panel and just see what's going on over here. Typically, I'll assume that most layers that are turned off are probably not going to be important so I'll just start out clearing out the file for simplicity sake for me, I don't need the sketch, I need the fills. This is the final design. Curious what's underneath the fills, that's another sketch. I don't need that. That's another sketch element and since the background is built into this fills folder, I don't need this layer either. Go ahead and just ungroup this personally to make it easier for me to see. Snow falling, that's pretty clear. With the snow it'll probably just be like building on and then going down and disappearing again. With that kind of movement, be tedious to do that and so for every single one when I could do it much easier in After Effects. I'll just turn that off for now and think about it later. Going through. These are all pretty clear. For this stuff, I'll probably just flatten this. Again, I'm the animator in this situation and it is very useful for me to have both those layers possibly. Maybe there would be a situation where I need these snow piles to be separate, but in my mind I don't need them to be so I'll just go and flatten that for myself. Opening up these smaller mushrooms. I'm still having to go through and turn on and off. You can tell what this is by looking at the thumbnail here. But I'm still checking to see what is what. Whereas if this was mushroom red pattern or even if these weren't just numbers. This was front, center, mushroom, top, back, mushroom. Right, small mushroom. This way this isn't much more descriptive and maybe a bit excessive. But if you have the time, it saves brainpower [LAUGHTER]. When I get a file that's complex like this, where this mouse is going to be doing something jumping up and going behind and this end it's going to do something so as this one and this one and this mouse is going to be turning around and smiling at us. There's just a lot of things to think about and to remove that step of having to go through and organize things. It is going to make the animator like you much more and went to work with you again and recommend to you and all those happy things. Here's a good example of designing behind layers. Both of these mice will be moving. Say you had your sketch built out the mouse sleeve and it's on the cheese. You go to fill it in and then you just fill in this brown shape for the mouse. You go back and you only draw this green shape behind the mouse just like this. Ugly, wonky thing back there. When the mouse moves, then I wouldn't have that information behind all of this that was behind the mouse. If you didn't fill it in, then I would just have to guess and redesign and possibly create the wrong looking thing hence maybe it'll get the animation back later and the mouse jumped away and there's some goofy leaf pattern that doesn't match up and the animator was confused. It's not quite right. In many cases, the general ask of the animation is for a character to move away, then the animator is going to need that information for what's behind the pieces and move around. This animation, I had the idea that this bottom left mouse here would be bouncing up and down and we see this ant here. He's probably crawling this way. But this mouse loves his cheese. He's going to slap the ant as soon as it gets to around here. He would shoot over here and hit this little snow back because that's goofy. There's a lot involved in that because it'll be fun to see the mouse's face. Luckily, I have another mouse at the angle that the face would be. I did see if Sara had any preference on what this bottom left mouse should look like when he turns and slaps and does all his silly things. But she didn't have time to draw those poses out. I just referenced the face of this one over here. I grabbed generally what this guy looks like from this profile and then I flipped it and it worked. Then when I animated in-between and posts him to be looking down at the ant and then he has this little arm over here and he slaps the ant. But a lot of times the animator is not going to unnecessarily have the information such as another mouse that's posed how you would want, you might have to provide that information, especially say there was only one mouse in this anyway. Then the animator is like, the mouse needs to look at the camera. Then that's a lot of information for the animator to just come up with themselves. Like what does the eye look like? The animator might give them like a little goofy eyes that aren't early as cute and then just looks like a creepy little small eye mouse now. Sometimes you don't want that. Maybe you want it. But again, that's guesswork for the animator. I just wanted to show you what my file ended up looking like and what the final animation looked like. It's not quite real time right now. Here's the final animation. This was all done in Photoshop over a decent amount of time. There's a lot of textures, animating, and the character animation wasn't the simplest. But I can go into some of what these layers look like. But it might be a lot of information to take in with the Photoshop timeline, which you probably will not be looking at much in this class. This timeline down here is a different way to look at the layers that are also arranged over here. I'll do linework first before going in and doing fills. But if we go look at the texture on this mouse, you can see how I redrew the texture every three frames and the decision that I made with Sara actually was to not have the texture on the tail of this mouse because it wasn't on this one and it made my life a little bit easier to have one less thing to draw over and cut the design a little bit consistent and that's it. Maybe one day, it won't be a Photoshop animation course. But it is not today. [MUSIC] 15. Color Blocking: This is where we, as designers really need to start being conscious of the animation process as we just learned from Tyler. Filling in colors, this is how I actually begin blocking out my designs for animation after I'm done with the sketch phase. Let's dig into it. Before jumping right back into color blocking and our actual Photoshop file. I'm just going to walk through a couple of rules to keep in mind as you're creating these files for animation. I always like to keep these three cardinal rules in mind for bringing your design into any animation ready state and I'd love for you to keep these in mind as you're working on adding color and texture to your design. Number 1 is label everything clearly. If you have Photoshop, if you have Procreate, if you have Illustrator, make sure you are labeling every layer or every object, whatever you're working with. It doesn't matter where, just make sure you are labeling that. Number 2 is never ever flatten. When I say flatten, if you haven't used Photoshop or Procreate much before, this is basically just means taking those individual layers and squishing them down into one layer so that you can no longer edit each of those individual layers. I'll walk through that as I'm designing. But the third one is to delete hidden, empty or unnecessary layers. This is something you can do at the end. But I always like to just delete my empty layers as I go because it just gets really annoying to have to go through at the end and just delete a bunch of stuff. Either way, you have time to do that before you pass it off to the animator. Some other things to keep in mind while you're adding color here, After Effects only works with 72 DPI resolution. But like I said earlier, if you want to use 300 DPI to have a print illustration, you can also convert the resolution after the design is done. Make sure to work in RGB color eight bits, 16 bits if you want to use gradients. Don't flatten your layers and don't crop any of your elements out of frame. Say we have a character that's behind a desk or something, and you just don't draw the part of the character that's behind the desk, when the animator turns the desk off or if the characteristic move anywhere, there's going to be a piece missing of the character. We want to make sure that everything is there to use an animation. Now it's time to design. Let's get back to the design process and integrate those ideas as we go. I will also go further into breaking down your file for animation after we've finished with color in detail. I just wanted to show you what I meant by, say there's a desk in front of our character here. It doesn't really matter what color it is. But say as the Illustrator, this desk was part of the illustration and I was like, oh, I don't need, perhaps you turn the desk off and there's no information there for the animator to you. What if the character has to get up or she's like sliding around and you're like, wait a second. I don't have a leg there. What am I going to do? That's why you want to make sure to have all that extra information there for the animator when you pass it off. Like for example, in this illustration, we have a couple of squares and objects behind our character. We want to make sure that those objects are fully illustrated out. When our character is moving around. There's not just like weirdly missing pieces of the shelves. Hopefully that helps a bit as you're working here. I always start by laying all the main colors out and then I add textures and details afterward, which we're going to do in a separate video. A key thing to keep in mind is organization. An animator or you as the animator, is going to have a lot of trouble sifting through a file and after effects if everything is named Layer 5, layer 253 and so on. As I'm working, I like to make sure everything stays pretty organized from the start so that I don't have to go back in and do guesswork later. Name everything as you go. Don't flatten things. Obviously we'll delete those unnecessary layers as we move on. However, there are some tools we need to get started, as with every illustration. We have our sketch, which is the most important part that actually is probably the phase that takes me the longest. The coloring part is just really fun. In the class booklet that I have for you, I also have these pages with limited color palettes for you to use and suggested brushes. Brushes, I like to sometimes have a textured edge to some of my brushes so that my character has a little bit of texture and organic field to the character and here's some limited color palettes from my color palette class and I don't want to keep plugging my class all day, every day. But if you take my playing with shapes and procreate class, there's actually a downloadable resource in here called playing with shapes, color palettes, and that's what I included for you here. The same color palettes. For this illustration, I'm going to be using a limited color palette, which has six colors or less. These are great for graphic illustrations and they force you to simplify your range, make everything appear more flat. I would just suggest if you're not sure of where to go with your color palette, just grab one of these like screenshot it or whatever you want to do and pull it into your illustration. I'm going to grab this second color palette and just drop it in here. I like to put my color palettes at the top and just keep them there, name them color palette, so that it's obviously separated and the animator doesn't have to animate it. I personally am going to just be using a ballpoint pen brush here because it's clean, it's easy to read and I'm not worrying about texture or organic look and feel for this one. In addition, I also really like to make use of shape layers. They look cleaner, but they won't necessarily translate as editable and After Effects like mostly if you have an Illustrator file, they might, but with Photoshop here, let me show you what a file would look like. Here's just an empty PSD with an actual ellipse layer and hand-drawn textured layer. That's just one basic raster layer. If I bring that into After Effects, you're going to be able to see that this texture layer is just a little object. You can move around. You can't make it any bigger. It'll start to get blurrier. A shape layer and after-effects looks like this. Shape layer and then you grab the shape tool and draw on there. You actually have an ellipse with its path, its stroke, it's fill in everything that the animator can work with. But the ellipse layer from my Photoshop document is actually just a layer with a mask on it. Basically it's just a giant black screen like this with a circle mask on it. It is a little bit different. It's still more editable than using just a hand-drawn shape, but it won't always work for the animator. I just wanted to give you a little bit of insight into how that works. However, like I said, I'm going to teach you what I know. I typically work with raster layers. Sometimes my layers aren't going to be editable by the animator. However, like Tyler and I both always say, communicate with your animator. If you're on a really tight timeline and you need everything in shape layers, your animator is probably going to ask you to work in vector to make sure that you're actually fulfilling those needs from the get-go, instead of having the animator convert your illustration into vector themselves. But our job is also to just make a really charming and fun character without worrying too much about the limitations. I just want you to have fun with this here. Definitely stay organized. But if you're worried about shape layers at this point, you're not going to have as much fun creating your characters. I would say just get your colors ready, get your sketch ready, get your brushes ready. Let's just dive into designing this character. What I'm going do is I'm going to turn down the opacity on my refined sketch layer. I usually turn that to about 10 percent or so. Then I will create a folder that says Color or something along those lines. Then I'll create a background color. Maybe I want this pink as my background color to start with. I usually like to start with a background color so that I can add colors as I go. This won't end up necessarily being the colors I use in the end, but it's fun for me to see how it evolves as I work. Definitely want to rename that background. Get rid of that extra layer and the reference folder and start working perhaps on our character's body first. I'm just going to make a group called Character. Then within that group I'm going to make a layer called Head. This is how I work throughout the whole, entire process, I make sure to stay organized as I go. I don't really have a great skin color to choose from here. I'm just going to make one up to go along with this palette. By doing that, I just chose a variation of the background color. Another thing I really love you to keep in mind while you're creating skin colors and working with colors here is to just think a little bit about diversity. We want to be inclusive, as inclusive as we can. Adding in people have different skin color, as people have different body shapes, people have different hair types is a really important thing to be conscious of these days. Not just making a person blue because you want them to be representative of all different skin colors and races and cultures. Actually intentionally thinking about the characters background, if you're changing their skin color, also think about how their features might be different and how their hair might be different. Don't just slap a color on them. Be a little bit more intentional about what you're creating, who your audiences and just being more inclusive in general. I'm just going to start by creating this character's head in shape layers because I think it's going to look a lot nicer and cleaner. The way I like to add color through most of my illustrations, especially to characters, is by using clipping masks over the base shapes. Using the silhouette of the character and then applying color or shape over top of that and clipping it to the base layer. We create a more slick design. But basically the mask is making it so that I can use that shape of the head and then just put details within the head shape without having to worry about these outer points. Because if I ungroup it, it just looks like a weird rectangle shape, but we've got the head there, so it helps map that up for us a bit. I'm just going to show you a little bit of what I'm doing and then I'm going to into a time-lapse so that you can see how I'm working and when we're done, I'll go over all the little things that I kept in mind as I was working, things that potentially could help you. But for color blocking, we really just want to add these main shapes. Don't worry too much about details like these extra hairs. Don't worry about the eyes and designs on the shirt and stuff like that. Just make sure you start putting everything where it needs to be. For example, this shoulder overlaps the head, so I made sure to keep the neck longer than the shoulder so that when I drop the shoulder over it, we have a complete illustration. I'm going to remove the stroke and hopefully that won't be there. Obviously. Got some awkward fingers here which I can go in and play with and mess with myself and make it look a little better. But we're not going to worry about adding all the details like the lines between the fingers and stuff. Right now we're just getting everything in order. Say I want her shirt to be white. I can clipping mask it to her top and then it'll just fit right in there. I'll make sure to label everything. Front arm torso, shirt, torso. Then within there behind the front arm, I'll put the back arm. Because I was trying to be really geometric with it, I've got basically just a rectangle arm back here, which I can create by actually illustrating the back of the hand here. We want to make sure that the hand is actually still there for when the animator turns this front layer off. If the character isn't grabbing this jar just yet, you're going to want to see at least the palm of their hands for when they're animating. We can put these two layers together, rectangle 7 and shape 3. If you press Command E, they will become the same shape. They're connected now. We can call that back arm. Then between the back arm and the front arm, we can put this jar. Now I like the jar a little bit bigger so you can actually see a distinct separation between the hands. Actually, I'm realizing I need to relay or things. This back arm is going to have to go behind the head because right now you can see it's overlapping with the head and we don't want to see that. Let's put it behind the head, name it back arm. Then this torso can be separate from the jar. Now we have all these really easy, nicely separated layers. That's how I would encourage you to work. Make sure everything is labeled. The jar isn't quite labeled yet. I'm going to make sure to add that in there. Add those little bits of detail. Make sure you're grabbing from your color palette by using the eyedropper tool. As you can see, that's how I'm going to go about creating the whole thing. Once you're done, you'll have a really nice shaped out, layered out character that'll be really easy to navigate. Also, I just want to point out that you don't have to do the exact same process as me. If you want to draw your layers instead of using the shape layer like I am, feel free because like I said earlier, they are the same thing when you import them into After Effects, they're both raster layers. I just prefer to use the Shape Layer tool because I like how those clean edges look, but that's just my preference. If you want to add some texture to your character by using a textured brush to draw. You should go ahead and do that. There's endless possibilities of how to set this up. At this point you might be, Sarah, why are you drawing everything and shape layers, if it doesn't translate into After Effects as vector. Well, that's a great point. I am doing that because I like the look of it. I also am not as good at Illustrator. That's where I'm coming from with all of this. But I love the way that I can combine clean lines using my Photoshop shape tool. Then I can also grab a really fun texture and apply that with a clipping mask to my characters here. That's something that you can really do as well in Illustrator. That's the reason I really like using Photoshop. I'm going to just do a little time-lapse now of me working and we'll look at it together once I'm done Surprise there. I didn't think you'd hear me talking over the time-lapse, well, here I am. This is future Sarah speaking here. I just wanted to point out some of the things I did as I was working, there's lots of things I would go back and reorder. I made sure to turn off my sketch layer every now and then to just make sure everything was looking good and clean without that layer over it. I also messed up numerous times and had to move things around. Then especially when I was working on the shelves in the background, one thing I really tried to focus on was making sure all the colors fit together, but they weren't too distracting from our character. As you can see, I use a shaded version of the background color and made the shelves out of those so they felt a little bit faded and they weren't too intrusive with our composition. This vase is pretty dark. At the end I went back through and I made it a bit more. I basically tried to keep these shapes more pushed into the background. One thing that I also was thinking about as I was working was we are still planning on adding a little doug in there. I wanted to make sure that those shapes weren't too crazy complex behind the doug. There might actually be things that I have to go in and delete later on as I'm working with that doug composition. But for right now, I felt this was in a pretty good spot and I was blocking in all the colors that I felt looked good with how the composition is right now. This is wearing it out, and I'm really excited to talk more about textures in details in the next lessons. Now I'd like you to go into your file and begin adding color to your character and overall illustration. Make sure to keep those three cardinal rules in mind as you work. Label everything clearly, never flattened and lead hidden, empty or unnecessary layers as you go. 16. Adding Texture + Details: [MUSIC] For details, let's add a couple of things in that might add to our character's backstory. Perhaps a pattern would help define our dog lovers' interests. Maybe she has a Paul pattern on her sweater or something. Textures are one of the biggest roadblocks for animators though and they can be a real hustle, so be conscious of this when either diving into After Effects yourself or handing over your file to another animator. In this texturing and detailing phase, I want to take a quick second to just make sure that we're staying on track and we take a look back at our brief. This is just for fun, it doesn't matter as much. But I just want to make sure that you're continuously looking back at the brief so that you make sure that you're following along with your original intention. I think we are. If we look back at our concepting phase, we're going to add these details of her being disheveled, we're going to make her a dog lady. One thing I didn't add right away looking at this is the arm full of toys. I wanted her to have a little bit more of a frantic look and feel so I'm going to include the arm of toys in my color in detailing phase. I'm just going to turn this refined sketch back on so that we can see those little details. But I also want to talk to you a bit about textures in terms of animation, I actually used this for an Adobe presentation a while back, but I thought it would be really useful here. There's different types of textures in animation. These are some examples here, textures that move with the emotion of the animated object, it's as if the texture is actually glued to the surface. If we have cloth that has a pattern on it or a shadow that grows with the object, obviously connected textures is just something I made up, but I think it's a good way to describe this type of texture. Then we also have independent textures. These are textures that either A, don't move with an object, or B, move independent of an object. The object will move while the texture stays in place behind it or vice versa. As you can see with this fish here, the fish is just flowing over top of this texture so it has this semblance of moving, the same thing with the eye. Then finally we have moving textures. These are the textures that are actually animated themselves. They're not just moving with the motion of the object, they're animated separately from the objects. These could be either connected or independent. In most cases, you're probably just going to assume that everything is that connected texture so if we draw this pattern on her pants or something, you're going to just have the animator probably assume that it's going to be moving with her. Texture in addition can be defined as any of the following: lighting you add to shapes, shading you add, rough texture overall, or background textures. I thought this would be a good example of a textured piece I did. Clearly, this one was not set up for animation, and so that's why everything has bad layer names and the shadows are separate. You could say that this layer right here was a texture, say we were just looking at her helmet or something. You would think of that top left texture as shading. Underneath that, we have shadows like this that are connected to the legs per se. If we turn those off, you can see that definition between the shapes. Then there's also details such as the linework on the shoes and I would almost call this a texture in and of itself because it's going to be moving with the object like that connection texture. One more thing is you would never really want to flatten your textures to your object and I know I just said never flatten as a rule, essentially a flattened texture. This layer 110 is a texture and then layer 95 is her leg. Obviously, those would be labeled. But when I say flattened, I mean everything is selected within the leg range and then you press Command E, and that just means it's one object now. If we wanted her shadow on her leg to move around as if she was moving her leg back and forth, you wouldn't be able to do that in After Effects because it would be connected to the shape. You wouldn't be able to isolate it and move it around. You definitely want to be able to have those textures separated, especially for the animators' purposes. Let's apply some of that to my illustration here. Make sure to keep those layers separated from the base layer. Say, for example, here we have the pant leg. I'm going to press Option click to add that clipping mask and I'm going to write pant leg texture. From there, I'm going to choose a texture I like. I like to divide all of my brushes up in fun ways. Perhaps we use, let's see. This is large charcoal square work for the texture. I've already got the wrong pant leg, so let's go back and put it on the back pant leg [NOISE]. Does that look nice? Yeah, I think that's a fun texture brush. I think this is one of Kyle Webster's dry media brushes. I took the background color and put it on multiply to create that texture and that creates some nice separation between the legs too. There, I'm going to turn down the opacity so it's not as strong, and then just to make sure everything's looking good. I'm going to turn that refined sketch off. We've got our first piece of texture on there. Texture can define your illustration. But I can also just be like a big painterly texture, say you wanted her pants to have this cool pattern on them. Maybe you just add some fun patterns, that can be a texture as well. Obviously, probably do that with the circles you see on her pants here. You always want to make sure those layers are named obviously because the animator is not going to know what it is if it's just a little raster layer popping into After Effects. Saying pant texture or pant lighting will actually really help a lot with the process. Then the other thing I really wanted to show you is with patterns. Say you've created a polka dot pattern or something, it's best not to fully clip them. What I mean when I say that is basically, say you have a circle pattern and you want it to be only half showing on the pants and you're like, "That looks fine when I clip it to the pant leg." But in reality, we're going to want to have the whole circle there and then clip it to the pant leg so that the animator can actually go in so that when they have the file, they can move things around and there will still be a full texture there. So definitely make sure to complete those textures and patterns while you're working. Potentially, you could just make a giant pattern for the animator to use. In this case, I'm probably just going to make a bunch of circles, add the ellipse tool and put them in their spots, and remember each leg is going to have a different texture on it because it's the separated element. For this front leg, I'm going to put pattern [NOISE] and do the same thing. If you wanted to, you could just make a giant repeat pattern so maybe you just have a bunch of polka dots everywhere and then you turn that into a pattern so it could potentially move around a lot. I don't know why you'd want to do that with these pants [LAUGHTER] but you never know. Maybe there's some really fun, chaotic animation that the animator can do with it. I'm going to go ahead and I'm going to add those little details like linework and facial expressions that we had already and all the textures and I'm definitely want to make sure that I'm adding all those extra elements into her arm like we have in the sketch because I totally forgot to do that in the last video. The detailed phase is a great place to add that in. [MUSIC] I'm feeling pretty good on the detailing phase. One thing I was just thinking about and trying to keep in mind while I was working here was to keep it pretty simple. You don't have to go too hardcore in all the details, you can keep some pieces with negative space like this vase. I liked that it didn't actually have anything on it and some of the objects like this white ball have no extra texture on them at all. I definitely think that's something to keep in mind, being intentional with your textures and with your details because they are going to mean something to the animator and they are going to be a little bit difficult for them to use, so use them sparsely if you can. Obviously, if the project calls for more textures, use more textures. But if we can be sparse and intentional, I think that also will really help with that process [MUSIC]. 17. Bonus: Draw an Animal: Who doesn't love a pet? Honestly, no one. Now that we've learned all the skills needed to design a character, I'm going to quickly recap everything by designing a pet for our character, from quick sketch, to reference, to full-blown color design. Like I said, we're going to go ahead and design the dog that I've been planning to have in this frame. If we go back to the refined sketch, and the earlier sketch phase, I had this little indicator here of including the dog, so I know where I want the dog to go, so I can turn that refined sketch off. Then if we look back at concepting, we can see that we wanted the dog bandana, we wanted her to be a crazy dog lady, so I think having this dog in here is really going to add some more personality, and backstory to our character, so I'm going to go ahead and just illustrate a dog from beginning to end. Obviously, we had our quick sketch already, we look at the concepting, we have some examples of what these gestural sketches will look like, I can just quickly rough that out inside of my color illustration. I've actually made a folder called dog, and I'm just going to quickly rough out what I want the pose to be. I want the dog to be curious about what the character is grabbing, and you can see she's got a little side eye, she's interacting with her dog, she knows her dog's there, so I'm going to grab just my thin sketch brush, and do a little pose. I was thinking the dog could be reaching onto her. I don't know exactly how that looks, so that's where a reference photo is going to come in, but imagine something like this, and you can see how rough my sketches are. Obviously that's not exactly what I want it to look like, but perhaps that's a good starting off point, and because I knew I was going to go here, I went ahead and looked for some reference photos of my dog Badnit, and mind you, the video I took earlier that I showed you didn't really have any good examples of him stretching up like that, but I did find this ridiculous photo of him. Come on, that is so stupid and cute, so I'm going to use that. Then you can't really see the side view of his head here, so I found another adorable picture by the way, of the side of his head, and so I'm going to match these two photos together as if I took these for my reference photo today. There we go, it's a cute little Badnit. Then obviously he's not in the exact correct pose, but I think this will do us some good. I'm just going to flip him horizontally, increase the size a bit, and put him in context. I'm just going to combine these two layers, by pressing "Command E", so we've got one easy image to work off of, and then lowering the opacity here. Now obviously, this just looks like he's grabbing her butt, so I'm going to probably make the arms go up a little bit, but I think this is a good starting off point. What I can do is, what we did earlier, which was the rough sketch where we just go over the photo with the basic proportions, so I'm just going to trace like I did before, and this will give me a good idea of where to go with my abstraction next. He is such a long boy, I feel like this is going to look really weird, so I'm going to have to play with the proportions a little bit. Look how long he is, oh my god. That looks insane. Does a real dog look like that? Apparently so, but I don't think people are going to fall for it. I'm going to play around a little bit with proportions, so this is more of the abstracting, and distortion phase that we went over in the class already. First of all, I want to fix the pose to be more like my sketch, so perhaps we take the head, and we tilt it up a little bit. Then I did want those arms to be facing up, so let's see what happens when I just command X, cut these out, paste them in, and rotate them upwards. I think that will actually work. However, I want this back arm to be on the other side of our character, so there's more layering, it looks a little bit more realistic, and I think there's going to have to be some work done here to make it look real. I think the legs are a little long, or the torso is a little long, so I'm going to move that up a little bit, obviously my dog doesn't really have a tail, but I'm going to add one, make him a little happy tail wag. Also as I'm drawing here, I just want to point out that, drawing a human and animating a human, is going to be a little bit easier, than animating a quadruped, AKA any animal that has four legs to walk. In a walk cycle, instead of animating two legs like you would with a human, you'd have to animate all four legs, and it's a little bit more complex, it gives the animator a lot more work, so be mindful of that as you're drawing your characters. If there doesn't need to be a dog, and you're on a tight timeline, probably don't add that dog in. But for this class's sake, I wanted you to play around with an animal, or some other character that maybe has different proportions, so it's okay to add it in here. Plus this dog is going to be in a fix pose if we animate it, they might not have to be moving much more than just standing there. I think I've decided I want the dog's legs to be behind the character, so we might not even have to see those feet, unless it looks weird when we're drawing it. I've gone ahead and added more curves to straights, more straight lines by themselves. I've worked on shortening the body to look better in the illustration, we can go even further with abstraction by maybe making this back leg completely straight, maybe it's higher up so it looks a little less awkward. Obviously this dog is way bigger than my dog, but it doesn't have to be my dog. I also logged in my little example right here, that the ears were pointing up, so I'm going to to play around with that, maybe it feels a little bit more playful in my opinion. Then from here we can go into the refined sketch phase. I'm going to turn that on low opacity, and create a cleaner sketch. That includes details like the facial expression, perhaps some spots on the dog, or something of the sort. I'll just do a little time-lapse here as I add those details. I think my refined sketch is in a good place. Now, I'm going to go ahead and do that color blocking. To do that, I'm going to make sure my labels are layered. This is going to be dog sketch. This is going to be my reference photo. I'm just going to group all of these together as dog sketch and then I'll put it above my color section so that the animator doesn't have to use it. Then this is where I will actually add the color blocking. I'm going to just make the front of this dog all one shape because I did say this would probably be sell animated. However, you could probably keyframe, that's an after effects as well. But because I have these clean lines everywhere else, I also want to use the Bezier tool here. That might be a little easier to work with an After Effects. I wouldn't say. It's always ideal to put the whole front of a person or silhouette of a person on one layer. But I have this experience that if someone's animating a dog or a quadrupeds, as I said before, typically they're going to use cell animation. But in this case, let's just say they use After Effects and the dog is literally standing in place and just wagging his tail and panting or something. In that case, you would just need to separate the tail and the tongue or the tail in the back ear. That's what I'm going to do here. Perhaps the legs are staying in place and the arms are staying in place or I guess front legs, whatever you would call them on a dog. Then we have a separate layer for the tail and the back leg as well. You always want to separate those layers of, especially if they're overlapping. Even in this case, we might have to put a layer behind this character. Maybe we have dog front and then behind our main character we have dog back. It'll be straddling our character, in which case you make sure to separate all those pieces. Like I said, you never want to just have a leg that doesn't have shape or definition behind other objects. I'm making sure to include the whole leg there in case the character moves somehow so it's easier to do that if you just turn your layers off and you can see where everything's lining up. Now we've got that layer it out. Then I'm going to put dog back leg, make sure to label things as you go. Dog front silhouette. Then on this dog back layer, I'm also going to add the tail so that maybe the animator just wants to move the tail separately. Having that separate it out for them already will be really helpful. I'm also going to put the back here on this layer or in this group, perhaps, making sure everything looks good without the sketch. Also put the back arm, back, front leg, but I'm just going to call it an arm, that it's behind our character here. We want to make sure it's complete as well. When we turn off our character, you can still see it. Just in case you never know. That's like our main color blocking. Also wanted to add some spots to the dog. As you can see I've drawn in here, so I'm just going to go ahead and add those with a clipping mask. Like I said, remember to not use a clipping mask on a group, but you can use it on a shape layer or regular layer. It should still translate into After Effects. I'm going to add in a little bit of color for the inner ear and the tongue. I think I'm just going to use this color, stay within our color palette and use this peach color that we have in the background. The ear color is looking a little light for me, so I'm going to just use a shaded version of that color and also use the same color for the tongue. If we're going in the process that we drew this character in, now would be the time to add details and textures and shading and all of that. I'm going to go ahead and add that in here as well. I think the best way to do that is to use the same brushes we used on this character. For my back leg shading, I'm going to use that same brush and put it on multiply. Turn down the opacity a bit like we did with the character, same with the tail and the back ear. Remember to label these shading or texture. Now I'm going to add in those really small facial details as well, using this darker color that we used on our character. We've got the little nose and the little mouth, as well as some whisker spots. I also had a line for the ear to create some more separation. Also like to add a little bit of details with the feet as well. Maybe just a little Paul lines can add those on here as well. Then in addition, I'd also like to turn my character off and add those lines to the back legs two, don't want to forget those just in case they're needed. It's always better to not have to have the animator come back to you and ask for that. If it's already in the file, it's going to help a lot. I've obviously done the dog, but then, go back to our concepting and we had talked about there being a bandanna on this dog. I'm just going to go ahead and add that real quick. I think we'll be in a good place with our papa dog. Actually just came back from the groomer like an hour ago. He has a little bandana on and there's the cutest thing I've ever seen. We want to make sure we get that little bandana on there. Maybe add a little pattern. Just some squiggles. I'm feeling like that's in a good place. In addition to having the dog layered on with our character here, adding more personality to the scene. We also made it so that they fit well into the composition. If you turn the dog off, dog front and dog back off, there's obviously still stuff behind the dog, but it's not intersecting too much with the composition. We still get a nice flow of everything. I think that actually wraps up our design for this phase. In the next couple of videos, I'm going to be going into preparing your file for animation and going over what those stages of premolars. 18. Theory: The 3 Tiers of Prep: [MUSIC] In addition to the three cardinal rules we went over, there are a lot of other things we can do as character designers to help out the animator. Characters are a lot more complex than a regular shape-based design for After Effects. I wanted to share a couple of different options with you. As I always say, I would make sure to run these ideas by the animator to see if they're actually necessary. Sometimes the animator may actually prefer doing some of these things on their own. I've divided these ideas into three tiers of animation preps, so you can customize the experience to your own file. Obviously, there's no one way to set up your Photoshop file for animation. People have different processes and you might be using Illustrator or whatever you ended up using. But for me, I've come up with these seven steps to an animation-friendly PSD and I'm just going to go ahead and read these to you here, talk a little bit about them. In the next video, I'll actually apply these to my illustration that I just finished. I always say to save your file and create a duplicate labeled filename or whatever your file's name is, underscore animation dot PSD. If you have a separate file, that means that you'll have your original sketches and everything still included in your illustration file, but your animation file will be cleaner and have less extra stuff in it for the animator. I also recommend deleting that sketch color palette mood board, or empty layer that you have in there. For number 3, I would ungroup unnecessary folders in groups and then get rid of any nonessential masks. If you have something clipping mask to a folder, you definitely want to figure out how to get rid of that and we'll go over that in a little bit. But you also want to check for animation roadblocks, which would be something like maybe your character's leg isn't finished behind something or maybe the pattern isn't fully completed inside of your character's sweatshirt or something. In addition, you'd also want to make sure you're checking your resolution and color space to be 72 DPI and RGB color. Finally, number 7, save your project file and get ready to animate or pass your file off to the animator. In addition to this basic After Effects file prep from the previous slide, there are a lot more things we can do as character designers to help out the animator. Characters are a lot more complex than a regular shape-based design for After Effects. I've come up with these three tiers of prep, these are just my tiers, things that I came up with different levels of ways you can prep your file for animation. But I feel like this is a helpful way to divide it up so you know what you need to do. For tier 1, this would be basic After Effects animation. You can see in the examples on the right, there are characters in these animations, but they're not really moving much there's no walk cycle, they're just either sliding across the frame or the head's bobbing up and down. It doesn't necessarily require any cell animation or anything complicated. This would be your basic After Effects animation. It doesn't actually need rigging or anything, all you would need to do would be to delete unnecessary layers. Don't flatten anything labeled all of your layers and apply layer masks. When I say Apply layer masks, I mean, if you mask something out using just a regular layer mask, you're going to want to get rid of that layer mask so that it doesn't mess up when you import it into After Effects. I'll show you why that doesn't work in a second here. But tier 2, I'd say is more like cel animation, you would do everything that I had you do on the last slide, but then you would also maybe include some character turnarounds or alternate character poses. You can see examples of that on the right here. If you're only going to be seeing your character from weird or awkward angles, you might not want to show them flat on like in the first illustration, but you might need to see them from a top-down view or something. That's when you would include those alternate character poses. Tier 3 After Effects rigging, I would say this is the most animation prep that you'll have to do. You would make sure to do all of tier 1 and tier 2 tasks. But then you would also want to do things like making sure your patterns are big enough to work with animation. Also makes sure that your textures are separated and organized and potentially bigger than they need to be so the animator can move them around. You also will want to separate the limbs and appendages. If you look at this illustration animated on the bottom by Robin Davey, you can see that the characters are rigged, meaning they have their armature setup to where the forearm connects to the top part of the arm, which connects to the shoulder that's something the animator will set up in After Effects. But they have to have the file set up in a certain way, you want to make sure that all those appendages are put on separate layers, labeled, potentially even made into a vector file because you never know sometimes the after-effects animator might ask for that if they have a shorter animation timeline. But like I say, always communicate with your animator. This one depends. I also put a little star asterisk here that says, you may not always need those turnarounds and poses like you would in tier 2. In tier 3 you might just be seeing someone like in these Robin Davey characters just from the side and that's the only time you'll ever see them, so you wouldn't necessarily need to see the back of them or the profile version of them. I have this nice little handy cheat sheet here, which is also in the downloadable class booklet. This is just a comparison of what all these different tiers of prep are. We've got basic AE cel animation and AE rigging. This is something to reference back to whenever you're not sure what you should do for your file prep. This is a very basic overview of how we'd set up our files, but we need to actually put that into action and I'm going to be applying some of these tools here in my file in the next video. I'll meet you over there. [MUSIC] 19. Prep Your Design for Animation: Earlier I was working in a typical design friendly way, by grouping everything and adding masks. But it'll be better for the animator and that process if we remove some unnecessary elements after you finish your design. This will make it much easier on you if you're animating or for whoever else that's animating your work. Here's the best way to achieve that. I've got my file setup here, and I've internally made some adjustments just to give you some examples of how I'm going to change things. But my first rule, as always as I said in the last video, was to actually first before anything else, create a copy of your file and make adjustments. I'm going to do Command Shift S to save as. I'm just going to call it GiftStop character animation. Next, you want to make sure that your file is in the right resolution. For the purposes of this video, I have made my file 300 DPI, but I really need it to be 72 DPIS. I'm going to resample to 72 pixels and inch, and that is at my original size of 200 by 200 pixels. Sometimes if you don't let it re-sample, it gets really wonky with everything. You want to make sure that you go into image size. Don't unclick "Resample", and let it go from there. Make sure the automatic resampling is on. It might take a few seconds to adjust your image size, but it should come out looking just as crisp as it originally did, just at the pixel size that you need and the resolution you need. Don't be alarmed if it zooms out like that, it's still going to be full resolution. Then you also want to make sure that your image mode is set to RGB color, and eight bits per channel. So if it's not, make sure to adjust what you need right here. Like I said, if you're using something with more colors and gradients, perhaps you might want to use 16 bits a channel, but it's really not necessary if you're doing something graphic like I am. Like I've said a few times already, in this class, you don't want to clip something to a group. I'm going to show you why now, I'm going to bring this file into After Effects and just show you what happens to it. I'm going to drag it in, and most importantly, when you're dragging a Photoshop file into After Effects, you want to make sure that it's a composition that retain layer sizes, and you want to make sure the layer styles are editable. Meaning that they're actual separated, they're not just like one layer. Because this merged layer styles into footage basically means it'll flatten everything. You just want to press "Okay". We brought our file into here and I had added a clipping mask to my dog, and since this clipping mask was done on a group and not just over an individual layer, it actually doesn't work. If you go to the color folder, which is where I have all of my information, the clipping mask just completely disappeared. There's no longer this squiggly line that I had clipped to it, so it's just completely gone. If you want that information to be there, you're going to have to do something else different with it. Either get rid of it completely, or apply the clipping mask directly to the thing you want to clip it to, not just the group. Perhaps this would be applied to the dog's silhouette, instead of the whole group. Don't use clipping masks on groups, they will not appear. In addition, you're also going to want to make sure your masks are flattened. I said never flatten, but this is one exception. You're going to want to make sure that these layer masks are applied to the actual shapes. That just means hide that masked out portion to the actual raster shape, and it should import correctly into After Effects now because it's just a raster shape and it doesn't have a mask on it. But [NOISE] there's another easy way to do that, so if you have a bunch of layer mask like this and you don't want to go through and do all of them, which could take a lot of time, there's actually a little script for this. If you go to file, scripts and then you click flatten all masks, it'll go through your file and do that to every single layer mask you have in there, and it will still keep the clipping masks, because when it says masks, it just means layer masks, not necessarily clipping masks. Just keep that in mind. It went through and did all that for me, which saved me so much work. Obviously, there's a lot of extra crap in here that I [LAUGHTER] don't need to use. We don't need the animator to have. I'm going to just go ahead and delete all of those because we're now in our character animation file. We can just delete all these extra groups. I don't even need that background anymore, I don't need this mask. I don't need a lot of stuff that's in here already. I just need the basics and in fact, I don't even need this to be within a group. If we go back to the After Effects file, you'll see every time there's a group, it creates a new composition in After Effects. A composition is essentially like a nested layer within a layer within a layer. [LAUGHTER] The more groups you have, the more complicated it's going to be for your animator to actually go into each one and animate each individual thing. Sometimes it's a lot easier to not have as many groups in there. I'm just going to ungroup this main one, and then within each of these groups, like say that your animator still wanted the dog front and the character and all that to be in its own group or composition in After Effects, you can leave those as it is. But you might want to go into say the character and ungroup the torso section, and ungroup the arm section, and the jar and all that so that you can easily see all of the elements of this character in one composition, instead of having to go into groups and animate them, and I move out back to the group and all that. I'm just going to do that for all of these here. It might look crazy to you in Photoshop, but it actually might help out the animation process a lot. In addition, you don't want to have any hidden or unnecessary empty layers. Another way that you can just get rid of any empty layers that have nothing in them at all, is by going to file, scripts and then delete all empty layers, and that will just get rid of any empty layers that you have in your Photoshop composition. There's a lot of little nifty scripts that you can use in here. I pretty much just used the flattened all masks, delete all empty layers and sometimes I'll use the layer effects. But often I don't add any layer effects, and what I mean by layer effects is just when you create layer styles and you add like inner shadows or strokes that would be called a layer effect. If we bring this new version into After Effects, you'll see that we don't have all these extra reference dog sketch color, proportion things in there anymore. We just have the things separated that need to be animated, and then if you go into the character file instead of having everything broken up, like we did here. Here's what it looked like before. It was torso, jar, head, back arm. All that maybe the animator wants to be able to see all of those in one place. It's not even showing up on my old version, but in the new version you have the front arm and torso together and you can see all these individual pieces, and it might be easier to animate this way. Like I said, always communicate with your animator. They might find this jarring, but this is typically what I will do to set up my file. This file is looking and feeling pretty good. If I go back to this list that I had, I was basically doing this basic After Effects animation setup because I deleted any unnecessary layers. I didn't flatten anything. I labeled all of my layers, and I applied all those layer masks. In addition, I renamed my file, I deleted the extra layers that weren't necessary. I ungrouped things, I got rid of non-essential masks, checked for animation roadblocks, checked the resolution and color space, and I'm ready to animate now. So I'd pass this off to an animator who's ready to use my file at this point, or I would animate it myself. [NOISE] I'm back and I'm here to judge Sarah's file. Opening up Sarah is file here, decently named so far. I'm just going to do my same old turn-off each thing to see what we're looking at. See how the names correspond. It's all right that these aren't in some sort of say group for bandana. Since as eclipse layer, when I import this into After Effects, this pattern layer and this bandana will immediately just be shoved into a pre-comp, and it will be essentially grouped for me. That's all right to look at it like this and not have absolutely everything grouped. I personally wouldn't approach this with a seal mindset because immediately this dog is begging to have some attention from this girl, and I'd say the girl definitely needs to do a full turn to, I don't know, pat his belly as he rolls on the ground or something. But that doesn't mean that you couldn't do something with this file in After Effects. But looking at how things are built, there would be some work for the animator, but it won't be the end of the world. For example, this front arm torso layer wouldn't need to be multiple layers for After Effects with little joints set and separate pieces like this arm. This would be a forearm layer. This will be a hand layer. Being upper arm, all on top of a separate torso. But yeah, it looks pretty good overall. I don't have any horrible things to say. Everything's labeled, and everything is separate. It's not anything crazy maths that I have to worry about. I think that this file itself [MUSIC] would be very easy to jump into and just getting animating immediately. [MUSIC] 20. Theory: Communicating with Animators: I know we've already done a lot of discussing of how to pass our designs off to animators, and we've even spoken to Tyler, who had a lot of great pieces of advice. In all confidence, I believe that if you've made it this far, you likely already know what you need to do to pass off your file. But I also want to briefly recap what we've learned as a soft reminder of what to expect when you're on a project with a full team of designers and animators. Every project, studio, client, etc., is going to be different. Sometimes the timeline may have an overlap between designers and animators, and sometimes you may never even get to discuss things with the animator at all. In fact, you may not even know who's going to be animating your character design. What I always say is, just do your best. If you don't know who's going to be working on your project, just keep your character file as clean as possible. Make sure to pay attention to those three cardinal rules and the three tiers of animation prep. If you can figure out if a seller after effects animator will be bringing your character to life and base your file structure off of that. The most common thing that I've heard when discussing this topic with any animator is, a clean design file is always appreciated. However, if you do have time to chat with the animator, it's just best to show them your file and let them know how you have it setup. You can even ask them how they want it set up, but you won't always have time to get this right. Timelines can be super tight. It's a 100 percent okay if your file isn't perfect, the animator will figure it out. But to make the whole process easier, communication is key. Creating an animator friendly file is a wonderful asset to have as a designer. It could potentially give you a leg up over other freelancers and secure jobs for you. Just keep all of this in mind while you're working on client projects, and best of luck to you. [MUSIC] 21. Celebrate + Pass Off Your File!: [MUSIC] You've made it so far. Seriously, it's time to celebrate your character. [MUSIC] You got to print your character out, put her on a wall, make your character into a pin, the tail on the donkey game, scribble all over your character until they disappear forever. But if you're working on a project at an animation studio right now, you'd be in a phase where you'd pass your file over to the animation team to bring it to life. But, we're not really in an animation studio, are we? Perhaps you're just doing this for fun and animating your character yourself, or maybe you're collaborating with a friend who wants to animate it. You don't always have to be so formal with finalizing your file. There's a time and a place for it, but at least you now know exactly what you need to do if you're ever a character designer on a motion or animation project. At this point, it would be lovely for you to post your character to the project gallery, share your process, your reference photo, your gestural sketches, whatever you feel comfortable with. I can't wait to see your characters. If you have any questions at all, please leave them in the discussions tab and I'll respond ASAP. [MUSIC] 22. Thank You!: [MUSIC] Once again, thank you for taking this class. It's been a real pleasure sharing my character knowledge with you. I may not design characters the same way as other folks, but these tips have helped me so much over the years. I've grown so much as a designer while learning to design characters and I know you will too. Don't forget to check out the Resources tab below to download the handbook for this class, which includes the outline, prompts, and tips and tricks. If you have time, I love for you to share this class with your friends, or you could even take another one of my classes here on Skillshare. I've got a few that will probably work really well in tandem with this class, like my color palette class or my shape class. Thanks again for making it this far. I'm super proud of you. See you soon. [MUSIC] 23. Bloopers :): I'll go over why patterns can be such a hassle. Don't use the last line. [MUSIC] Make the bottom part of the leg a little bit shorter and even make her foot taller and bigger. She has [LAUGHTER] massive feet. But you know what? Some people have massive feet, and it's fine and it's great. [MUSIC] How would you go and animate those? [MUSIC] I want to animate a character. [MUSIC] Naturally, it made sense to have an actual organic seed. But these learned tips have, oh learned. Is an IRL shop called the gift stop. The gift stop. [NOISE] Sorry. [NOISE] At this point, you might be like, "Sarah, why are you using Beziers if you couldn't just put it into Illustrator?" That's a great question. We're going to get to that in a minute. But essentially, before you get mad at me [LAUGHTER] or whatever happens, who doesn't love a pet? [LAUGHTER] Now that we've all. [LAUGHTER] I think I had put a dog in here, did I not? [MUSIC] If I didn't, which it seems I didn't, I can just quickly rough that out inside. This is Video 22 and there's a loud truck. Fortunately, I'm right next to a police station, so that's always good. [MUSIC] You want it to be like. [MUSIC]