How can I learn a character design style?

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Thread: How can I learn a character design style?

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    Question How can I learn a character design style?

    How can I learn a character design style? Like say the disney style or an anime style or something. I want to learn to draw faces like that. How do I do that? Just copy them a lot of times? But, when I'm copying, is there a certain way I should be doing it? I feel like when I'm copying, that's all I'm doing. Just looking at a line and imitating it, I'm not understanding it.

    I don't get how am I supposed to understand a design choice of character design. It feels different when I'm copying the body because there I at least know I should be trying to understand the 3-dimensional form I'm drawing. How do I understand the form of unrealistic faces and eyes?

    I don't really know what I'm asking, just hoping for some magical answer other than lot of time and lot of work. But if that's all it takes then that's fine, just need someone to pat me on the back and say, "yup, that's all it takes, have patience"

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    Quote Originally Posted by daeyeth View Post
    some magical answer
    There never has been and never will be any sort of magical answer. Ever.

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    Ah. Well, I have to learn other people's drawing styles constantly in my paying work, since a lot of it involves adapting existing properties (usually turning TV shows and children's books into Flash games and animations and such-like...)

    I'm afraid there's no magical answer. What I do is I get as much reference as possible of the characters or style I'm supposed to be drawing, look at all of it thoroughly and totally saturate my brain with it, and then try to draw new drawings in the same style. Until I get the hang of it, I generally have all the refs I collected next to me while I work, scattered around, taped on the wall, whatever, so I can look at them constantly. The thing is to try to figure out what makes the style what it is - what's the line style - smooth? wiggly? uniform? varied? What kind of shapes do things have - rounded? angular? super-exaggerated? Etc.

    Probably the best way to ease into the style might be first to look at LOTS of examples of the style. Just soak it up. Then maybe try to get hold of some character reference sheets showing characters in different views, with different expressions and poses and so forth - and then try to draw the characters in NEW poses, not exactly copying anything on the ref sheet but using it as guidance. Try this with a bunch of different characters and hopefully you'll start getting a feel for the style...

    For understanding the form of characters, the best thing is if you can find turnarounds - ref sheets that show the character in front, side, back, and 3-quarter view (or more views if possible - looking up and looking down are especially helpful.) These aren't always available, unfortunately. If you can't find a real ref sheet or good turnarounds, collect as many different views of a character as you can and cobble them together into a makeshift ref sheet.

    Some characters are so stylized as to be totally 2D, and simply don't make sense in 3D (this happens in some TV animation, especially...) You kind of have to wing it with those. But Disney characters are usually designed to make sense in 3D, so that shouldn't be a problem with Disney style.

    Last edited by QueenGwenevere; March 20th, 2010 at 04:19 AM.
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    "How do I understand the form of unrealistic faces and eyes?"

    The same way as you understand any form: by thinking in terms of volume. Except there may be some "fudging" on the part of 2-D animator in stylized characters - like Mickey's ears that move with the eye angle to stay en face and separate. But the rest of Mickey's face is still three-dimensional.

    There are designs which are flat. A lot of "new style" cartoons from UPA, Hannah Barbera, Craig McCracken, Tartakovsky use designs that are iconic but work only from several specific angles. It's an entirely different approach.

    But most "round" cartoon characters are all 3-D, including anime and manga. Just look through the stylized contour to see the underlying structure.

    (As for copying, it is not going to help you much. You'll be copying the lines, while you need to understand the structure.)

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    Even the anime masters started with the classics, and then developed there own style based off that. Start with the basics, as you progress things will start to effect your personal style i.e what your passions are, what you watch and read, who you meet, places you go, heck even games you play will influence your style as well.

    and practice practice practice....
    Hope this helps and Good luck we are always here to help if you need it!

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    You just do it. You train your eye to see the differences between styles (shapes, proportions, mark-making) and then you simply apply those differences. Learning to do it from memory is the same as learning how to draw anything else from memory -- a long and tedious process. You're not going to draw dogs from memory without drawing a lot of dogs and you're not going to draw Disney dogs from memory without drawing a lot of Disney dogs.

    I guess because I started out trying to copy Bugs Bunny and such I've never found copying a style to be significantly different from copying an object. Don't overthink it.

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    Think in terms of structure, volume and construction of basic shapes, especially when trying to learn from something made for animation. Get the shapes right and you have yourself that character.

    It's best to find model sheets which dissect things for you, or you could also try to find those shapes yourself.

    EDIT: Of course, arenhaus is right. Structure is fudged sometimes in order to make something more appealing though do it with caution. Note the rotation of Fievel.
    How can I learn a character design style?

    How can I learn a character design style?

    How can I learn a character design style?

    Last edited by Alex Chow; March 20th, 2010 at 11:44 AM.
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    Alex_Chow: Nice examples. Now could you please go tell some of my clients to make thorough ref sheets like those!? (You'd be amazed how many companies seem to lack good ref sheets these days. Or if they have 'em, apparently they love to hide 'em...)

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    If the company does not have a model sheet, offer to make one for them. For pay, of course. Figuring out how to "threedimensionalize" a character is fun, too.

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    How to learn a style? Keep drawin' and you'll learn it.

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    If the company does not have a model sheet, offer to make one for them. For pay, of course.
    Pfff, they wouldn't appreciate it. These are people who apparently produce whole TV series without real ref sheets... (Actually, I'll bet they have got something hidden somewhere in their archives from the character development phase - but all the useful info seems to get lost in the bureaucracy...)

    I swear, there was one job where I had to cobble together "refs" from screenshots of the TV show - and after the job was finished, someone finally found the ref sheets and sent them.

    Another problem is that a lot of shows are done in Flash now, and the animation companies get lazy and rely on a kit of parts for their animations. Which can make it difficult when an outside party (me) has to create some new material. (Though if they can be persuaded to send the kit of parts, it's not such a problem. Even if the parts are unusable in what I'm doing, they work as reference...)

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    No model sheets? Stock parts in Flash? That actually might explain why TV show animation has dropped through the floor again...

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    I know there's no magical answer, I was being facetious lol.

    Huge thanks Queen and Alex, your posts were exactly what I was looking for. Very helpful

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    Quote Originally Posted by FourTonMantis View Post
    There never has been and never will be any sort of magical answer. Ever.
    Except for the "secret brush."

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