Character Animation: Design, Acting, and Expressions

wannabeanimator:

Since these 3 asks were really popular and I’ve had some requests to make them rebloggable, I thought I’d compile them. :)

Q: Do you have any tips/resources for how to get the “acting” in animation?

Getting personality in the character is probably one of the toughest things to accomplish in animation. And since every character is different, there’s no set formula either, so this is definitely a good subject to bring up.

A lot of it boils down to what they talk about in that article:

  • Believability - i.e. emotions, thought process, reactions, and consistency in attitude.
  • Personality - we usually have characters that fit into the archetype (hero, villian, love interest, etc) but we also have to think about how they bend archetypes. What makes them different/interesting?

A really good way to learn about this kind of acting is to study it.

A lot of the acting comes from characters’ interactions with each other and seeing their different responses to the same situation.

image

image

Also the character silhouette and pose is really important.

image

Take a look at the photoset from Cats Don’t Dance. You can see the extreme acting differences between Danny and Sawyer in the scene outside of the casting office.

You may also want to look at these: 

Q: I’ve been trying out different styles as well as expressions for character’s lately and I’ve been having a hard time. Figuring how to make the expressions and actions look more natural on the character, I was wondering if you had any good advice or knew of any books.

One of the best things you could read on this subject is Tracy J. Butler’s Lackadaisy: Notes on Expressions

You may also want to pick up Tom Bancroft’s Creating Characters With Personality

But first and foremost, think about the character’s personality—that shapes the expressions the most. Each character has their own set of expressions.

image

image

image

And one last thing—I wish I could have found the video from the Beauty & the Beast DVD where Glen Keane talks about his process of creating the Beast and his expressions, but I couldn’t find it online. So if you have it on DVD, I highly suggest you watch the behind the scenes stuff. In the meantime you can read this and this on it. :)

Q: Do you have any advice on how to start designing/creating an appealing character?

Appeal can be very much “in the eye of the beholder,” but that’s not say there aren’t some principles we can all agree on. Things to focus on are line quality, straights v.s. curves (line style/variety), proportion, and shape.

image

Freddie Moore, who supervised the dwarves in Snow White, is known for his appealing drawings. Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston even said he was huge influence on the overall Disney style. The Freddie Moore Girl

Freddie didn’t really have a formula; it’s just how he drew. So, creating appeal can be hard to figure out, especially if it doesn’t come as naturally to us as it might to someone like Fred Moore.

But we can look at what we think are appealing characters and try to pull something from them.

imageimage

image

Nico Marlet has some really appealing designs:

image

As well as Chris Sanders:

image

  • Character Design Notes - one of the biggest, most helpful blogs on designing characters. Lots of different styles and artist interviews. Bookmark it!

I could put more, but really, what’s appealing in my eyes may not be as appealing to you or others here, so the best way is to go out and look for what appeals to you and to read up on the artists who drew them. Hopefully this helped! :)

Costumes: the Wearable Dialog

dresdencodak:

image

I mentioned before some of my favorite character designs in the world of comics and have been meaning to tackle this subject again.  I came to realize, however, that “character design” is itself a fairly massive subject, and that it would be best to break the topic down into separate installments.  Today, true believers, we’re going to talk about outfits and costumes, which are often a pivotal part of a character’s design.

3 Essential Questions

Clothing can convey quite a bit of conscious and unconscious information to the reader, but it should never be doing 100% of the legwork.  Body language, shape and overall behavior all come into play when building a character, and the trick is to figure out what clothing can do that these other elements can’t.  To get started, it’s important to ask some basic questions about your character before jumping into costume design.

1) Costume Hierarchy

image

How often does this character appear?  Is it a main character or a side one? Primary characters have more complex needs than side characters, which is to say that the more information you have about your character, the more that can be conveyed in their appearance.  Additionally, the more frequent the character appears, the more versatile the design needs to be.

2) Environmental Relationship

image

If it’s a side character that only ever appears in one setting, for example, you need only design the outfit to fit in that environment.  If they are a main character, though, chances are you’ll need the outfit to mesh with more than one setting.  

3) The Naked Test

image

Is your character recognizable without any clothes on?  Body types, especially those of the main cast, should be distinctive even without the help of any outfits.  The naked form is the foundation of all character design.  Before you start dressing your body, make sure it’s a body worth dressing.

image

Once you’ve sufficiently answered these questions, it’s time to jump into the actual design phase!

Shape

image

Every character, no matter how complex, should be designed around an overal unique visual shape.  This theme should not repeat in any other character.  This shape should be readable enough that if you were to shrink all your characters into a super-simplified cartoony state, they should still be distinguishable.  Character designs follow a hierarchy: you grab the reader’s attention with the most essential information and then invite them to investigate the details.  If important elements of your design are only evident in the details, then it needs to be reworked.  If your character is not completely distinguishable in silhouette, it needs to be reworked.  Detail should always radiate from the core theme.

Kim and Vonnie stay distinct in a few ways.  

image

image

The primary difference in shape between the above two characters is one of curves versus triangles.  Vonnie is very angular, and her clothing’s angles mimic the scaffolding of an art deco building to emphasize her height and posture.  Kim’s outfit makes her look shorter, but jaunty.  There are a lot of soft curves going on there to make her seem younger and more innocent.

Action

image

What does your character do?  In what way would their clothing reasonably convey how they spend their time?  This is an easy question if it’s a uniformed occupation, but it certainly doesn’t stop there.  A more bookish or socially inept character is often prone to mismatched clothing, while a person of a very high social status is often wearing clothing that is physically less practical than those of the working class.

How does your character move?  What are their default postures and body language?  A good outfit should accentuate the body movements that you deem most important.  If a character stoops and hunches a lot, their clothes can augment that behavior.  For example, Kim is frequently hunched over, so I tend to dress her with a hood that’s shaped to go with poor posture, as well as a repeating “arch” shape to suggest this basic form.

Communication

image

How much does the character wish to communicate with their clothing?  Not everyone wears their personality on their sleeve, nor is everyone especially fashion-conscious.  Nothing’s worse than having a cast where everyone is immaculately dressed and overdesigned.  A more outgoing character might be more aware of their appearance, while a more introverted one may be less concerned.  To add another layer, a character may dress a certain way to disguise something they don’t want to show to others, just as someone might act overconfidently to hide their insecurities.  You can tell your audience a lot about your character through what that character chooses to display to others.

Repetition

Core shapes and patterns should repeat on the outfit.  The entire design should exhibit some bilateral cohesion, which is to say if you were to cut the character in half horizontally or vertically, each part should look like it belongs to the other.  

image

image

As mentioned, Kim has a lot of solid colors and arch shapes which are broken up by fabric and metal seams, with very few sharp edges.  

image

Vonnie, on the other hand, is structured almost like a building, with vertical lines and triangles that take the shape of supporting beams on the surface of her outfit.  Her triangles and broad horizontal planes repeat throughout her outfit, including her glasses.

image

This extends to multiple costumes worn by the same character.  Even if a particular character changes clothes, the core shapes should still be evident.  Scott Pilgrim is a good example of this.  Most of the cast change clothes frequently, but in each scene it’s generally easy to recognize the characters by the “type” of clothing they choose.  The details change, but the essential shapes do not.

Color and Contrast

image

Different colors can imply different moods.  ”Winter” colors like cooler blues and purples can suggest an introspective or reserved personality, while warmer colors like yellow or red can imply a more energetic attitude.  If your character only ever interacts in one type of setting, you only have to worry about how those colors will fit in one environmental color palette.  If, however, your character needs to mesh well with more than one environment (as is usually the case with protagonists), you have to make sure your character’s colors will fit with multiple settings.

image

Also, don’t be fooled by superhero comics: it’s generally bad form to have two dominant colors in a single costume.  My personal rule of thumb is to have no more than one prime color in an outfit design, followed by a secondary and then supporting colors.  

image

In the case of Kim’s outfit in Dark Science, the primary color is black, with the secondary being off-white.  These are then supported by the muted blue and silver accents that appear in both her prosthetics and clothing.  Color and value contrast is very important, especially for a main character, which is why Kim’s basic palette can be reduced to black and white without losing any essential information.  

image

Vonnie’s outfit is more colorful, but less contrasted as a whole.  Green dominates and is blocked in by a secondary, warmer black.  Green is the complementary color of red, and so her clothes naturally bring attention to her hair and reddish skin tone, inherently highlighting more sexual elements than Kim (whose black outfit essentially matches her hair).  White is also present, but it’s only a supporting color here.

Simplicity

image

Above all else, keep it simple.  Comic characters are not pin-ups or other illustrations; you have to draw them over and over again, from various angles.  If you pile on too much detail, you’ll wear yourself out slogging through all the bits every time you have to draw them.  

If you follow all these rules, good costume design should create this basic pattern when presented to a reader:

  1. Read:  Silhouettes and essential shapes should be instantly recognizable
  2. Inform:  The costume should then tell the reader essential things about the character
  3. Compel:  The costume should then invite the reader to learn more about the character
  4. Move:  The costume should never impede the flow of action within the comic

If you stick to these basic guidelines, you’ll never fail.  Next up on character design: bodies and faces!

new album art for 8tracks

new album art for 8tracks

A LONG DELAYED REQUEST WOOPS

I love Mikasa ahhh she’s so cool! I used yoyonaki’s palette #4

Doodle of one of my favorite ff ladies, Tina

Doodle of one of my favorite ff ladies, Tina