By: Dave                Categories: General

In the coming weeks, we will be releasing Bill Plympton’s Make Toons That Sell Without Selling Out. I’ve posted a picture of advanced copy that I have here and it looks amazing. It also looks like that photo a kidnapper sends the hostage’s family… but you can ignore that.

If you ever want to see your book again....

Make Toons that Sell

Bill began his career creating cartoons for publications such as The New York Times, National Lampoon, and Playboy. He has received Oscar nominations for his animated short films “Your Face” and “Guard Dog”. He’s made nine feature films and most recently he animated the opening couch gag for The Simpsons which I’ve posted below. His upcoming book teaches you how to start a successful career outside the world of corporate animation–without compromise. You’ll learn fundamental and advanced drawing techniques, the secrets to telling a good story, and the business side of short and feature-length films. And you’ll get to see some of Bill’s art from as early as age 13 all the way to his present sketching and drawing.

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By: admin                Categories: AnimationGamesGeneralInspiration

Disney veteran, Tom Bancroft will publish Character Mentor with Focal Press later this month.  The advanced copy just landed on my desk.  We would like to share an excerpt from the title to give you a glimpse of the amazing techniques Tom has shared with us.  Also, check out some video tutorials Tom shared several weeks ago and if you are already a pro at making illustrations emit emotion and personality enter our Character Mentor Contest for $100 worth of Focal Press books.

This excerpt goes through a pose-based illustration from start to finish to see how I would approach it. I always learn from seeing other artists’ processes, and I think you might get something out of this that you can apply throughout this book.

I gave myself a simple assignment to create a spot illustration of a woman jumping out of the way of something – possibly reacting to someone throwing a firecracker at her. My goal is to create a pose that expresses a powerful leap but also has a strong sense of fear to her facial expression.

Here are the steps I took:

1. I create a quick sketch that is mostly just a line of action with simple shapes on top of it to show her basic anatomy. I’m going for a feeling here – almost like the pose is an exclamation mark. I use a red, erasable pencil to sketch this out. There is no real reason for the color red, but I do like using a color for my sketch so that I can clearly see the changes/final line when I add the black graphite in step 6.

Character Mentor - figure 1

2. I like where the sketch is going, so I stay with it. I add some more details, still using just basic shapes: ovals for the eyes and nose, a shape for the mouth. And I indicate the drag of her long hair, which also accents the movement.

Character Mentor - figure 2

3. I continue to add details. Refining her clothes (and the sense of drag on them). I start figuring out her expression more, too.

Character Mentor - figure 3

4. Because the sketch is far enough along to see some problems creeping into the drawing, I do what I do to most of my drawings – I flip it over. Looking at a drawing backward (via a light box) always helps me see the problems of a drawing. I create a new sketch on the back of the paper, fixing problems I see, like the lower foot placement, the tilt of the chest, opening the hand on one of the arms, and even redrawing the tilt of her head.

Character Mentor - figure 4

5. Flipping the drawing back the original way, I redraw the drawing, transferring the corrections I made on the back. They are minor tweaks, but they helped.

Character Mentor - figure 5

6. Using a kneaded eraser, I “knock back” the red underdrawing (which simply means I lighten the line by hitting it lightly with the eraser). Then I start creating my final, tighter line drawing with a graphite pencil. I want the final line to still feel loose, so I keep it slightly sketchy.

Character Mentor - figure 6

7. After I’ve drawn everything in the tighter black line – adding little details like hair strands and highlights in the eyes – I scan the drawing into the computer. This step enables me to go into the Channels box and select the Red channel, which takes out all the red line underdrawing, leaving only the tight black line. I then tweak the levels and contrast a bit until I have a final, tight black line. Ready for color!

Character Mentor - figure 7

8. In Adobe Photoshop, I start adding color. On a separate level, I cut out a shape for the background color and fill it with a gradient. I start with the background color simply because I already know that I want it to be a reddish-orange to give a sense of danger. Establishing the main color first is usually a good idea so that you can make sure everything else goes with it.

Character Mentor - figure 8

9. I add a white level (in the shape of the figure) in between the line and background color levels. This step gives me an opaque surface to work off of so the girl’s colors aren’t affected by the background colors.

Character Mentor - figure 9

10. At this point, I start blocking in flat color for her. Not all of them are completely flat; in a few places I use a gradient, like for her hair and blouse. There are a million different ways to color this piece, but I wanted a simple, “animated” coloring style for this that I thought would suit the linework style.

Character Mentor - figure 10

11. The last step is to add another layer that has some highlights and darker shadows that are applied graphically. Also, I make a last-minute decision to move her left arm down a bit so that the two arms weren’t twinning so much. I should have caught this earlier (around steps 4–7) because changing it in the color stage is more work. With that change made, the drawing is done!

Character Mentor - figure 11
Character Mentor is available at Amazon, BN.com, and wherever fine books are sold.

Tom Bancroft
is a 30 year veteran of the animation industry. In his artistic career he has specialized in children’s character designs, animation, video game development, and comic books.  He worked at Walt Disney Feature Animation for twelve years, animating on new Disney classics, including Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Aladdin, Pocahontas, Mulan, Brother Bear, and more. He is the author of the popular character design book Creating Characters with Personality: For Film, TV, Animation, Video Games, and Graphic Novels.



By: admin                Categories: AnimationBooksGeneralInspiration

Looking for a better brush for realistic skin in Photoshop?  Stop looking and make your own custom brush with this tutorial from Digital Painting Techniques.

You can download a custom brush (ABR) file to accompany this tutorial from www.focalpress.com/digitalartmasters

Excerpt by Mélanie Delon, 3D Total
The Speckled Brush
This brush is the best that I have used so far to achieve a painterly feel, and the great thing about it is that you can use it for everything!

Create I t !
The technique is really simple … On a new white canvas with a basic round–edged brush, I’ll paint little random black dots of different shapes and sizes. I usually start without a lot of dots, and I want my brush very low in opacity (Fig.01). I’ll then add more dots, but with a very low opacity, just to bring more texture to the future brush (Fig.02). Once this step is OK I’ll define this image as a brush, by going into the Edit mode and clicking on Define Brush Preset (Fig.03), and then clicking OK in the pop-up. Now I have my new brush in the list, ready to be used.

Fig 1

Fig 2

Fig 3

Brush Settings
Now the fun part begins … As you can see (Fig.04), this brush is basically unusable as it is (Fig.05), so I now have to tweak it. For
this, I go into the brushes palette where I set the control setting under the Opacity Jitter to Pen Pressure (Fig.06) and the Spacing to 6%
(Fig.07). The settings are now OK, and this new brush looks much better (Fig.08) so I’ll save it (Fig.09).

You can make different versions of the same brush, some with more dots or less – just try them! It’s good to have several speckled brushes and combine them to create a great texture.

Fig 4

Fig 5

Fig 6

Fig 7

Fig 8

Fig 9

The Brush in Action
Now, how to use it … This kind of brush is good when you need to bring texture and color variation; you can use it to bring life to a base
done with a basic round edge (Fig.10), to paint hair (Fig.11), or to paint fabric (Fig.12). This brush can be used for unlimited purposes!

Fig 10

Fig 11

Fig 12

The “ Smooth-Textured ” Brush
This one is a kind of hybrid brush; it’s a mix of a basic round edge and a speckled brush, so let’s see how to create it.

Fig 13

Fig 14

Fig 15

Create It !
For the base (on a white canvas), I’ll use a speckled brush and scribble an oval shape softly with a very low opacity (Fig.13). Then
I’ll add more intensity here and there with another speckled brush, or a basic round edge (Fig.14). I’m now satisfi ed with the general
shape so I’ll defi ne it as a new brush (Edit >Define Brush Preset) (Fig.15) and move on to the settings.

Fig 16

Fig 17

Fig 18

Brush Settings
As usual, I set the Opacity Jitter to Pen Pressure and the Spacing to 12%, and then I save the new presets (Fig.16). The brush will
now look like that shown in Fig.17. You can of course play with the different settings to find nice effects, like the Scattering mode (Fig.18) which is pretty handy for creating textured brushes.

The Brush in Action
Most of the time, I use this one (see Fig.17) after the speckled brush when I want to smooth the skin (Fig.19). This brush will not destroy
those little color variations obtained previously, so you don’t need to worry about that – the only rule is to use it with a very low opacity. This step will bring the last smoothing touches and unify the whole texture (Fig.20). You can also use it as a starting point for most textures!

Fig 19

Fig 20

You can download a custom brush (ABR) file to accompany this tutorial from www.focalpress.com/digitalartmasters

This is an excerpt from Digital Painting Techniques Digital Painting Techniques can be purchased at Amazon.com, BN.com, and wherever fine books can be found.



By: Dave                Categories: AnimationBooksGeneral

By Bryan Tillman

Now I want to talk about shapes. I know what you are thinking:

Well, I’m glad you asked that question (if you didn’t, you should have). Shapes are what we fundamentally use to define what certain things are and what they possibly can be used for. If you don’t believe me, look at it this way. If cavemen had decided that a square was better for mobility and movement, we would be using squares on our cars instead circles. Luckily for us, they decided to go with the circle. But as long as we are talking about squares, let’s look at one.

So what do you see here? I hope you see a square, but what does this shape tell you about itself? If this shape was the dominate shape in your character, what would it say about the character? Any ideas? Generally, when we look at a square, certain terms should come to mind:


These are the most common things people think about when they see a square shape. It is important to know this kind of information when making characters because you don’t want them to suggest something they are not.

Here is an example of a square shape being used in character design. This character has a so-called square jaw. Now that you know some of the meanings behind a square, do you see any of them in this character? At this point you are probably going through all the shapes you know and trying to figure out the meanings behind them. Or you might be trying to figure out if this works with any other shapes. Let’s try it.

What do you see here? That’s right, it’s a triangle. What do you think the triangle is trying to convey? Once again, generally speaking, a triangle conveys the following:

I don’t know how many triangle people or character designs you have seen, but the triangle shape is present in people’s faces.

Let’s do one more for good measure.

What do you see here?

Can you think of some of the meanings behind a circle? What do you think a circle could possibly be telling us about itself? If it could talk, it might tell you that a circle can be viewed as

Do you see the circle shape in this character’s face? Do you see any of the meanings in this character?

Some students have told me that these meanings aren’t really the focus of a character. That is fine, but you have to know that, depending on what shapes you use, you might be telling a different story with your character designs than you think you are. So it’s a good idea to remember the meanings behind different shapes for future reference. Trust me; you’ll be glad you did.

Excerpted from Creative Character Design, by Bryan Tillman. © 2011, Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.

Bryan Tillman is currently the academic director for Media Arts and Animation, Game Art and Design, Visual Game Programming and Visual Effects and Motion Graphics at the Art Institute of Washington, DC. He has an MFA with a focus in sequential art and a minor in drawing. Bryan is the owner and CEO of Kaiser Studio Productions, a production studio for comics, toys, animation, and games and published author of Creative Character Design, Focal Press, 2011. For further inspiration, visit Bryan’s website: www.kaiserstudio.net or follow him on twitter: @kaiserstudio.

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