So, aesthetically speaking, I am a huge fan of all things cute. Ever since my Lisa Frank binders of the 90's, a part of me has never left my little girl Horsey phase. Because of this, the Sanrio corporation has me in it's adorable clutches for many, many years.
Like most artists, when I see a style I like, I like to try and draw it. I thought I'd design some stationary or memo paper for myself- like this. And I was astonished at how hard it was. They've taken the formula for cuteness and reduced it down to the point it's most basic and fundamental state. If one PIXEL is off, the whole thing looks off. I did notice it's easier to do in Illustrator that other digital programs.
It's embarrassing to admit that I'm having issues with what seems like quite a simplistic style. But I totally am. Any similar experiences? Can someone shed some light on adorable mystery?
I've experienced it. I don't know what it is, but I know completely what you are talking about.
I wish I could help more, but I can only say that you should put your own spin on the design.
EDIT: You are not kawaii desu nyaa enough.
click and crit
They must have noticed that one pixel could ruin it all too 'cause they've pasted the same face on each of them.
And then God said, "Let us make man in our likeness and our image. Let us make him ridiculously hard to draw so that poor artists everywhere will have to spend 10,000+ hours failing repeatedly before they can begin to capture the form and likeness onto a two-dimensional surface." And there was man. And it was good. And artists everywhere lost their minds.
I do not think "cute" is hard to do, but simplistic styles certainly are. There is less going on to hide it if you fuck up a shape or a placement. That's why "simple" licensed styles require extensive model sheets.
Agreed on both counts. My best bet might be to make a ton of small images individually and then piece them together!
I noticed a lot of characters that are considered cute share similarities with babies, namely the proportions and where the facial features are placed. Relatively large-looking head and eyes placed lower on the face, smallish nose and/or mouth, small body and limbs.
Other things to help with adding to cuteness:
- rounded edges
- minimalistic elements
- anything commonly associated with feelings of happiness
"This is a paint and pixel-splattered furnace that forges the swords of artistic mastery. This is a place where swarthy and belligerent dwarves drink turpentine mead, berate their apprentices and slap the trade into their skulls. It's where the anvils are made of graphite, the hammers are as true as rectangular marquee selections and the fires burn with the light of a thousand lensflares." --Jason Rainville
I just worked on a project where I had to cutify a bunch of normal objects.
I can't show them because the games not out but baically making it cute has to do with pumping air into it. Imagine if you were asked to draw an AK47; well to draw it cute you would take the shape and pump air into it. Draw it as if it was a macy's parade balloon. Cute is much easier to do with bunnies and puppies and little kids but we had 100's of normal objects to do.
It's true though that it can be harder to match characters in simple styles than in realistic or complex styles. I do a lot of work with licensed characters, and with the simpler ones you have to be veeeery careful about exactly where you put each dot and dash - just a little off and they're a completely different character, or they turn from cute to scary. Usually there's a ton of model sheets, and boy, do you need 'em...
(Actually, Sanrio is kind of scary by default if you ask me.)
They did have visual examples of that, so it might be worth viewing for the OP.
And these same principles are used for other, more realistic, or slightly older characters. Especially the princesses and such. Big eyes, round head, small nose; very much childlike porportions. Look at Ariel:
Last edited by Choob; June 3rd, 2011 at 03:45 PM.
And it's not true that if a pixel is off it's no longer cute because... there's a ton of cute styles out there and even in reality a baby kitten and a duckling look very different. But the proportions need to be correct, so start by analyzing those.
Personally I lean more towards creepy-cute.
Yeah, the page is definitely from Preston Blair, and while he did do some work at Disney, he was more known for his work at MGM under Tex Avery.
The Nezumi Works Sketchbook - Now in progress
My online portfolio
"Skill is the result of trying again and again, applying our ability and proving our knowledge as we gain it. Let us get used to throwing away the unsuccessful effort and doing the job over. Let us consider obstacles as something to be expected in any endeavor; then they won't seem quite so insurmountable or so defeating." - Andrew Loomis
The secret is babbies. Humans can't help but to adore our young.
15 mins in mspaint.
"Astronomy offers an aesthetic indulgence not duplicated in any other field. This is not an academic or hypothetical attraction and should require no apologies, for the beauty to be found in the skies has been universally appreciated for unrecorded centuries."
Oh My God.
Make a sketchbook happy, feed it a tip to improve!
s.ketch.... wow dude. That's.... that's fucking incredible. XD
And thanks everyone! I can see what you mean about pumping things with hair, everything needs to be soft and round. Here's my attempt at memo pad paper so far. It's not done, clearly, there's not a lot going on yet.
Aside from characters full of cotton candy air,
Have you tried taking any of the notpaper pages that you like a lot, and broken them down to basic art and design principles?
Overall visual flow, page layout, color harmony or contrasts, lot of rythm and repetiton, symmetry or lack thereof etc...
s.ketch - it strikes me that your characters eyes are a bit too small for having a happy star rainbow up his/her bum!
[kitteh ducking and running]
That was my first inclination. There are very specific patterns of placements, color choices, and content (obviously) but for some reason putting them all together into something cohesive is difficult. I must be missing a key element of the design process.
The cup and the bunny don't seem to be related to each other, but random images.
you may want to sketch a page layout first... decide where the major and minor elements will go... then find a theme, tie the theme together with two or three related key images, use some scale variation...
Perhaps read up or see some examples of gestalt theory, mostly rythm, repetition, visual linking, and how they can produce, I think it's called organic unity. It's that same thing about leading the eye around the page.
I agree with black spot about the cup being thematically unrelated. Also, it's scale seems to big for that position. One other thing, the top suggests center justification to the page/design, and immediatly under that it changes to something else...
Boxing in the initial page layout first should hep with that. Certain design layouts, like symmetry tend to add to the cutsey cutsey safe and oozy feeling.
If you want something to cheat with and reverse engineer, I like to use this little booklet to remoind me of things: http://www.amazon.com/Graphic-Design...p/0811831809#_
Your stationery examples are more of a Saccharine Pile than "cute" proper.
On its own, "cute" = "baby", for the most part. Small size, rounded forms, big head, small face, proportionally big eyes - parental instinct is evoked - you squeal "cute!". Since these features are generally due to overall growth pattern of a juvenile animal, people can respond to the same gestalt in almost anything, not just human babies. Puppies have the same qualities compared to adult dogs and in general, so they are cute. But so are many adult dogs, whose features are infantilized compared to the original wolf. (It's survival of the cutest!) Bunnies are rounded and small even when grown up, so they are cute. Cats have small faces and big eyes. And so on.
Not all creatures who have a parental instinct respond to such a broad gestalt, however. For most mammals smell is more important than the gestalt (but still they often seem to recognize other species babies as babies and even adopt them). But birds seem to have their parental instinct locked onto very specific things, like the color of down or the yellow lining of the open mouth - or sometimes even just colored dots around or inside the beak.
It becomes interesting when you start devising superstimuli - things that evoke a stronger response than the actual babies. A classical study on superstimulus was done on gull chicks of a particular species for which the red spot on the parent's beak evokes "food!" response. The study found that you could use just a beak-thick stick with a spot to evoke it, the rest of the parent gestalt was meaningless to the chick. Non-red spots or wider beaks were much less effective. But then they found that a thin stick with three red rings on it worked better than the actual parent. That's the superstimulus: tricking the neural network into firing frantically by abusing its tuning with a specific "key".
To give you a human example, if something is little and round and has big eyes and big head and is also fuzzy, it'll for some reason evoke more squeals than something not fuzzy. Case in point: baby owls. (I have no idea why it works; our babies probably haven't been fuzzy for a few million years. Baby apes are almost naked, they grow hair later. Perhaps it's because fuzz helps to round the shape out and hides detail.)
An even simpler example: increasing the eye size makes something progressively cuter. Never mind that the eyes become impossibly immense and a real animal with such eyes would probably make people freak out, like a tarsier. Drawn on paper, it never fails to work, so you eventually get superstimuli like the Powerpuff Girls that becomes its own parody (or, more in point, the recent My Little Pony reboot which burrows straight through the Mt Saccharine and emerges on the other side in the uncharted territory where you'd expect to be killed by instant diabetes if you don't wear protective gear, but somehow survive. Possibly as a zombie. )
So what you have here in the stationery is an attempt at using superstimulus, combined with several supporting devices. They use bright colors reminiscent of flowers and bright daylight. They have pictures of nice things like cakes and party decorations which are associated with fun and good moods. They lean on the pop culture, using pink and blue shades which are commonly associated with babies, and relying on well-recognized icons like teddy bears. And so on.
As for the difficulty in designing such things... I think it's merely because it is harder to devise simple, laconic things that work well than elaborate things. You can't hide behind technique or detail; every line counts, proportion becomes paramount.
It's also possible that it is easy to botch a superstimulus. To be "super" it has to venture into grotesque, but still keep evoking the precise response from the particular neural network. The more grotesque it becomes, the narrower this constraints becomes, because you stop relying on the general gestalt and instead focus on individual neurons, so to speak. It's easy to miss the target, intentionally or otherwise. Case in point: Ren and Stimpy that should be cute by all the features but instead are zany. But as with everything, it's easy to screw it up unintentionally than deliberately create something so bad it flips over like the Ilwrath and becomes good.
(P.S. Bonus to everyone who has recognized that last reference without looking it up! )
Awesome advice all around, guys. :3
You're right about the bunny and the tea cup being unrelated, in my head I wanted a "Bunny Tea Party" theme to it, but kept adding and removing things until I was left with something that looks disjointed.
As far the examples being saccharine, yeah I know. I still like them, though. They evoke a kind of happy, wall-eyed enthusiasm that I really get a kick out of. I will totally research the recommended reading!
Many of the photos on this blog are so preposterously cute that it is kind of difficult to keep a cool, scientific head while looking through them, but they might be of some use to try to work out just what exactly it is that is the secret of cute:
As others have mentioned, baby-like proportions are part of it.