August 07, 2019

Character Design Course for Animators - Part 1

Here is a 10-part course, comprised of a collection of assignments with 18 different design styles to choose from. This is a different approach to character design learning; very self-directed and based upon analyzing and re-creating established design styles in order to learn from them and apply them to your own style.

This is a simple, straight-forward approach to character design for animators.
To be a character designer for tv/film animation, you must be able to diversify into a variety of different styles of art direction.

It may seem a bit unorthodox and over-simplified to just create new characters based on mimicking someone else's style -- but I've found this to be the fastest way to have an animator (or animator-in-training) to learn about how to adapt to various styles. A career in character design for the animation industry demands the artist to switch to new styles all the time. The more you do so, the more you start to see the patterns and similarities that exist in most styles of art direction. Analyzing character styles and re-creating them to match that look is the best way learn how to have a long career as a designer in animation.

I suppose this isn't so much a "course" as it is a collection of reference material with some structured assignments for you use and try out. You can progress at your own pace. YOU will be doing all the work. By studying certain character designs to reverse-engineer how they look and to replicate a new character in that style will be a total self-educating experience, this course will just guide you along the way.

If you wish to schedule yourself deadlines, here's some suggestions:
If you are a full-time student or you are currently working full time - give yourself one week to do each of the assignments 1-6. Two weeks for each of the assignments 7-10, so this whole course would be done in 14 weeks.
If you have all the free-time in the world, you should be able to complete each of the assignments from 1 to 6 in 1 day each, and for each of the assignments from 7 to 10 in 2 days each, so this whole course would be done in 14 days.

All you need is Photoshop as your tool, ideally a pen tablet of some sort as well.
Gimp or Sketchbook are solid alternatives to Photoshop.

With each assignment, you need to study and practice the design style first, explore what type of character you would like to create in that style, and do loose rough sketches to explore and experiment with before hand.

Practicing a wide range of established design styles is most certainly a key factor on the road to becoming a well-rounded and sought-after character designer. By doing so, you are pushed to draw characters from various properties, making you practice methods that may be far from your own personal drawing style. But most importantly it makes you see how other characters are constructed and learn their shape language, and that is the best way to allow your own draftsmanship to evolve and grow. There's no better way to learn than by doing, so let's get started.

There's several "how-to" videos online about the basics of constructing model sheets for character turn-arounds, however this one by Dermot O' Connor, seems to be the most informative in covering all the fundamentals for the templates and terminologies you need to know before getting started:

Courtesy of Dermot O' Connor

Let's begin.

Assignment #1
Use these two references STYLE GUIDE & MODEL SHEETS to create a new character
that would fit in the Adventure Time animated series.

Designs by Pendleton Ward, Andy Ristaino, and Natasha Allegri.

Produce a 4pt turnaround model sheet;
Front -- ¾ Front -- Side -- ¾ Back

Character Design Tips
Character Design Basics From Robert Cory

Recommended line quality: Tiedowns (see below for definition)
Create one image file (JPG or PNG format)
Dimensions: 1200x700 pixels @ 300dpi
Sample of finished assignment:

Use horizontal lines to keep the rotation consistent through out all your poses.

Other samples of 4 point turn-arounds:

All designs have been sourced from various Tumblr, Pinterest, and GoogleImage sites, all ownership and copyrights belong to their respective properties, artists, and studios. These are all for educational purposes only.

The difference between ROUGHS, TIE-DOWNS, and CLEAN-UP:

I'll be referring to 'tie-downs' often for describing the intended line quality.


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