By: Christy Marx                Categories: Animation

This is an excerpt from Write your way into Animation and Games by Christy Marx.

If you’re writing a script for a show that’s already on the air, you’ll get the act structure from watching the show. Otherwise, you’ll get the info from the show bible or from the story editor. A very common structure is a teaser and three acts, or a teaser and two acts. An alternative is a teaser, two acts, and a tag (rarely seen these days). One-hour animation is extremely rare, but a live-action one-hour show commonly has a teaser and five acts—some do without a teaser; some add a tag. For a ninety-minute animated TV movie, there are usually eight acts.

You might occasionally encounter a show that does individual eleven-minute segments (two per show), rather than one half-hour story. Those are generally written as one act without teasers or other breaks. The acts must be roughly equal in length. You might observe that in some one or two-hour live-action dramas, they will let the first act run extremely long in order to make sure they’ve hooked the audience before cutting to the first set of commercials. With a longer form, such as a ninety-minute animated TV movie, you can also get away with a longer first act.

In half-hour animation, you have the option to make the first act a little longer, but not by any more than one or two pages. Assuming a thirty-three-page script, you should strive for a formula that is as close as possible to eleven/ eleven/eleven (eleven pages per act). If you have a teaser, you have to carve out a couple of pages for that, so your formula might be two/eleven/ten/ten, or two/ten/eleven/ten, and so on depending on the demands of the story and the best place to put an act break. You can probably get away with two/twelve/ten/ nine or similar variation.

What you absolutely don’t want to do is let any one act get out of control. If you turn in a script that breaks out as nine/six/seventeen, you can count on your story editor wondering what on earth you were thinking, and telling you to fix the act breaks. There’s room to be somewhat flexible, but no more than a couple of pages in any one direction.

Act breaks provide an extra challenge in working out the pacing and dramatic three-act structure of your story. By dramatic three-act structure, I refer to the triad of exposition-conflict-resolution that is the blueprint of your beginning, middle, and end. Exposition-conflict-resolution applies equally to a three minute comedy short or to a ninety-minute epic adventure. Keep that dramatic structure in mind when you’re crafting the overall story, without tying it to any specific act in the script. It might seem easy to divide up the dramatic triad to a three-act script, but do you really want to spend the entire third act solely on resolution? It’s more likely that the resolution will take place halfway through the third act of the script, especially given the compressed nature of animation stories.

So we’ll assume you have a grasp of your dramatic three-act structure as it applies overall to your story. Now you have to figure out how to build to a critical act break that takes place at approximately so many pages into the script. Your act breaks must be gripping, exciting, and dramatic. If you don’t have your viewers totally hooked, you’ll lose them during the commercial break. The purpose of a cliff-hanger act break is to keep the audience in enough suspense to stick around. The act break doesn’t have to be a cliff-hanger based on physical peril. It could be a moment of suspense or mystery, or it could be a moment of emotional confrontation.

Which means that each act must have its own internal momentum that brings it to that critical point at the right time. In a ninety-minute animated film, this means finding seven points at which you can break the story with either a physical or emotional cliff-hanger . . . while not making it look contrived.

This is where having a solid outline is so important. Most of your scenes are going to run somewhere around two to three pages. Simple math tells us that trying to fit, say, ten scenes into an eleven-page act isn’t going to work, unless you have an insanely frenetic story. This is where you need good instincts to estimate how many pages you will actually need for a scene vs. how many scenes you can realistically fit into a single act. As you work out your major story beats, you can reasonably estimate being able to fit three to four major story beats into an eleven-page act. You might be able to squeeze in five scenes if one is really short. By the time you take into account dialogue and breaking out all the shots, you’ll find that three to four beats, or scenes, will easily fill eleven pages. You might have an instance where you’re cutting back and forth between two major story beats rather than having separate scenes, and you’ll need to estimate how many pages that will eat. The best way to become good at this is practice. Write lots of sample outlines and sample scripts.

In the past, it was common to allow two weeks to write a half-hour animation script. These days, it isn’t unusual to be given only one week to turn in a half- hour script. You will find the “Spykecam” script available to read at www.christymarx.info.

This is an excerpt from Write your way into Animation and Games. Write your way into Animation and Games can be purchased at Amazon.com, BN.com, and wherever fine books can be found.

Christy Marx

Based in Los Angeles, California. Christy Marx is a writer, story editor, series developer, game designer, and interactive writer. Her many credits include: Babylon 5 and the Twilight Zone; 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea; He-Man; X-Men Evolution; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; Lord of the Rings; Elfquest; and more.

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By: Tom Gasek                Categories: General

For decades, the movie film camera was the primary capture system. Kodak, Bell & Howell, and Mitchell cameras were steady and reliable animation cameras. Other cameras were used, but the key element that made a good stop-motion film camera was known as pin registration. Basically, this means that the camera has the ability to place the individual frame to be exposed in the exact same position in front of the film gate as the previous frame through placement pins. This eliminates the weave and bobbing up and down that can occur when films are projected.

Fig 2.10 Image of a Mitchell camera with pins.

These days, like many things, digital technology has put the animation film camera to rest. The two main digital cameras used are the digital video camera and the dslr camera. There are advantages to each camera, and this is explored in my book Frame-by-Frame: Stop Motion. Remember that we need the ability to shoot one frame at a time. Digital still cameras are ideal for this approach because they were designed to take single still pictures. Most digital video cameras can be controlled to shoot single frames through the animation software that you need to use. All images that come through a digital camera are digitally registered in size and placement, so there is a steady image when single frames are strung together to make a movie. Having a camera that has “manual” controls is critical for a steady image. Canon and Nikon are two leading brands in the digital SLR arena and Sony and Panasonic are two popular brands in the digital video approach. Many more brands work well and satisfy the requirements needed for alternative stop motion techniques.

Fig 2.11 Image of a Panasonic digital video camera and a Canon digital still camera

The computer software that makes animation possible and easier to execute is known as capture software. Several different brands are listed on our associated website and mentioned through my book. Dragon Stop Motion and Stop Motion Pro are ubiquitous across the globe. Several features are common to all good capture software. They need to show you a “live” frame coming directly in from your camera. The ability to compare the previously captured frame and the live frame allows you to monitor the amount of movement your subject has registered. It is important to be able to step through all your frames one frame at a time so you can see the sequence of movement, and the software needs to have an instant playback at various frame rates so you can see your final animation. The better capture software programs have many more features that allow you to refine your animation and animation technique. They also work on Apple and PC platforms. Several inexpensive and free capture software programs, like iStopMotion, Framethief, and Anasazi, are available for novice animators, but these programs can have support, technical, and capability limitations and may frustrate the more advanced stop-motion animator. They are great starter programs but are not quite up to the depth of the previously mentioned programs.

Fig 2.12 Image from the “screen grab” of the Dragon Stop Motion interface.

Similar to live-action photography and live-action movie making, all stop motion requires a “grip” package. This may include tripods, lights, flags, electric chords, voltage regulators for lights, sandbags, gaffer’s tape, and potentially motion control for moving the camera. We will explore these elements in more detail but it is important to know what is required by your particular script or idea. Naturally, for downshooting, an animation stand is required, but the stand comes in various forms. This can range from a classic Oxberry animation stand right down to a camera on a tripod pointed down at 45° angle toward a tabletop. The Oxberry animation stand is like the Rolls Royce of downshooters. It offers weight, stability, and very accurate, dependable registration systems, like machined peg bars used to perfectly match one cel or drawing to the next. Often Oxberry stands, which are designed for both 16 mm and 35 mm film cameras, are computer controlled with stepping motors that drive the various components of the stand, like the shooting table, the lighting, and the mounted camera. Most downshooting producers custom build their own stand for a fraction of the cost of an Oxberry, and it suits their needs quite well.

Fig 2.13 Image of grip equipment (lights, flags, voltage regulator, C-stands)

Fig 2.14 Image of Oxberry animation stand.

Fig 2.15 A custom downshooter, Courtesy of Miki Cash, © Wonky Films 2011.

During this preplanning/preproduction process, you need to think through all of your shots and determine the most efficient and effective way to shoot your production. Examine your budget, space to shoot (if it requires a controlled studio environment), and the amount of time you have to shoot.

Let us move into one of the most popular forms of alternative stop motion. Pixilation can be direct and simple when practiced by novice filmmakers or it can be very sophisticated. Of all the various types of stop motion, pixilation can be a bit more spontaneous in production because it is very hard to control humans frame by frame. If you are out in the field, it is hard to control natural light and any peripheral activity. With the proper planning, observation, and application of this technique, the results can be very satisfying and fresh.

This is an excerpt from Shooting Frame By Frame. Shooting Frame By Frame can be purchased at Amazon.com, BN.com, and wherever fine books can be found.

Tom Gasek

Tom Gasek has over twenty-five years of award winning stop motion animation production experience as an animator and director, having worked with directors like Will Vinton, Art Clokey, Peter Lord and Henry Selick. Most recently, Tom has worked on Aardman’s “Creature Comforts America”, Sony Bravia’s “Play-Doh”, and Laika’s “Coraline.” Tom is currently an assistant professor at the School of Film & Animation at Rochester Institute of Technology.

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By: Catherine Winder Zahra Dowlatabadi and Tracey Miller-Zarneke                Categories: 3D Animation

This case study is from Catherine Winder, Zahra Dowlatabadi, and Tracey Miller-Zarneke’s Producing Animation. The case study follows development of the animated short Luna.

In order to best explain the various stages of animation from development to pre-production to production, the progression of Luna—an original short-form film that was created, developed, and produced by Rainmaker Entertainment—will serve as a case study. Luna is a CG project produced for final delivery in both 3D and 3D stereoscopic. This case study illustrates how a story can be produced for animation by outlining the various stages of its progress from its earliest conception to final output.

Luna – A Short Film from Rainmaker Entertainment on Vimeo.

All of the elements from Luna can be viewed interactively at www.rainmaker.com/luna. The website presents 2D imagery with color as well as moving turntables, animation tests, and the various stages of the story reel from boards through final animation, lighting, and sound.

The initial project was inspired by the image in Figure 5-3. The idea that a caterpillar was in love with a moth, yet living in a lamp with no way to pursue the object of his affection, was intriguing to the Rainmaker executives. From this singular image and simple concept, they developed a story about the power of attraction and unrequited love.

Luna case study

Figure 5-3 Luna: Concept development.

After an extensive story development process, the final synopsis of the film landed as follows, presented here with a sampling of the visual development artwork that was created in order to establish the look of the characters and environment for Luna (Figures 5-4 through 5-7). The team found Silky as a caterpillar before determining his look as a moth:

Happily lazing about in his home, eating leaves and enjoying the view, we meet Silky the caterpillar. It is dark. A light suddenly illuminates Silky’s home. A shadow ominously casts upon him. Startled and afraid, Silky tries to hide but has nowhere to go. He nervously peeks up and is surprised to see a most beautiful creature—Luna the moth, who smiles and flutters about gracefully. It appears she is flirting with him. Silky is immediately smitten. It’s love at first sight, and Silky’s alter ego—a Spanish matador—transforms him. Using his many charms and talents, Silky makes his move to woo and romance Luna…

Luna too appears smitten, but the two “lovebugs” are separated. She bangs on the glass wall desperately trying to reach him. Her efforts are futile. As Silky continues with his debonair moves, the music builds and the two of them become more and more attracted to each other. The music crescendos, their lips pucker for a kiss, they rush towards each other. Thwump! Silky hits the glass. Thwump! Luna hits the glass. Silky’s  puckered lips have nowhere to go. And then the light goes out. Luna is dramatically upset. Silky doesn’t understand what is happening.

Cut outside to reveal that Luna is simply a moth attracted to the bright light in a street lamp. Returning to Silky’s POV, he realizes the light was the focus of her attraction. Heartbroken, Luna flies away. As she leaves, Silky is devastated, his heart also broken. Despondent, he attempts to return to his old life of leaf eating—but without love, there is no longer joy. He cocoons.

Time passes. Silky breaks free from his cocoon. He sees his reflection in the glass and marvels at his new body. Unraveling his wings, he is thrilled to discover that he has metamorphosed into a moth. A shadow of a moth flies by, reminding him of Luna.

Another metamorphosis takes place: Silky as the “Don Juan of Moths” emerges. Determined to find the love of his life, Silky breaks free from his old home in search of Luna.

Animation Blog

Figure 5-4 Luna: Character development for Luna.


Figure 5-5 Luna: Character development for Silky as a caterpillar.


Figure 5-6 Luna: Character development for Silky as a moth.

Flying up through the clouds, he spots her. She sees him too. They come together. It is again love at first sight, but this time it is mutual. They do a dance. Backlit by the moon, the setting is romantic. It is time for the kiss they could never have: they pucker, close their eyes, and lean in towards each other. As their lips are about to touch, a light turns on. They look up and choose to ignore it. But alas, another light and then another turns on. They continue their pucker; Silky and Luna look at each other, but the power of the light shines even brighter and begins to sparkle. Finally, the pull of attraction is too strong.

Following Silky, the camera pulls back to reveal Luna racing towards one street lamp, and Silky towards another. Pulling back even further, more street lamps are revealed, with many more moths equally enthralled, attracted, and in love . . . with the light.

Rainmaker Entertainment

Figure 5-7 Luna: Location development.


Using the script, bible (if applicable), and conceptual artwork, the producer analyzes the complexity and cost needs of the project to create the production plan, with input from key executives (production and creative). The development materials (the script and the artwork) produced along with this plan are used to get a green-light for production. After the project has been green-lit and all of the items listed earlier are completed and signed off on by the key players, the script is ready to go into the next phase of the process: Preproduction.

This is an excerpt from Producing Animation 2ed. Producing Animation 2ed can be purchased at Amazon.com, BN.com, and wherever fine books can be found.

Also, check out these great video tips Catherine and Zahra provided at SIGGRAPGH 2011.

Catherine Winder is a veteran animation producer and creative executive who is currently President and Executive Producer of Rainmaker Entertainment, one of Canada’s largest producers of CG animation. Winder was most recently at Lucasfilm Animation where as Executive Producer she set up the studio and produced the feature film and television series Star Wars: The Clone Wars. She has worked with many of the industry’s major entertainment companies including Fox Feature Animation, Blue Sky Studios, HBO, Warner Bros., MTV, Hanna-Barbera Productions, The Cartoon Network and Disney.

Zahra Dowlatabadi is an award-winning animation producer and a consultant based in Los Angeles. Dowlatabadi has worked with many major studios including Disney, Warner Bros.,Cartoon Network, and Universal Cartoon Studios in addition to collaborating with numerous internationally acclaimed animation studios and talent.

Tracey Miller-Zarneke earned her production experience on the feature films Chicken Little and The Emperor’s New Groove and has gained a unique perspective on the industry by having authored five books on the art of animation, including those for DreamWorks’ How to Train Your Dragon, Sony’s Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and Disney’s Meet the Robinsons.

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By: Floyd Norman                Categories: Animation

Running your own business
Image: “AWESOME PITCH! Pretty impressive stuff . . .too bad the boss didn’t see it.”

This excerpt is from Floyd Norman‘s Animated Life.  Here, Floyd challenges animators to achieve the WOW factor that some would argue is missing from contemporary animation.   Animated Life is available at Amazon, BN, and wherever fine books are sold.

I’ve often been asked this goofy question: “How would you run an animation studio if you were in charge?” Questions like this come from young people who assume that I have answers. The truth is, I’m not in that position, and I don’t expect to be. However, I once ran my own business many years ago, and I learned a few things from that experience.

When you run your own business, you gain the equivalent of a Stanford business degree—and I’m not joking when I say this. Those who have taken this wild ride know what I mean, and those who have never tried it don’t. There are a few successes out there, but they are few. More often than not, businesses fail, and there are a number of reasons why.

Among them are lack of business savvy and being under-capitalized, along with producing and marketing a less-than stellar product. However, this experience taught me a few things about the road to success, and I’ll share one of them with you.

Many years ago, before studios had security guards and electronic gates, we animation artists often visited each other. In those days, animation art was not hidden away but proudly displayed on the studio walls for all to see. Every now and then, we would come across storyboards and development art that would cause everyone in our little group to say, “Wow! Look at that!” I’m talking about concepts that caused our jaws to hit the floor. I’m talking about artwork that inspired awe and inspiration. This is the movie you wanted to work on. This was the movie you had to work on. I’m talking about the “wow factor.”

Some years ago, I received a call from a producer friend of mine. He was a hard-as-nails Hollywood type who spent most of his day barking orders on the phone. “You’re in animation, right?” he began. “I want you to find me some animation artists! I want you to find the baddest dudes in town, because I want stuff that will [his words, not mine] kick ass!” This guy knew what he wanted, and was willing to pay whatever was necessary.

His message may have been coarse, but it was clear. He wanted to see some “bad-ass” development art up on the walls, and he wanted stuff that would, as he put it, blow people away. Once again, we’re talking about the wow factor.

These are the lessons I’ve learned in my many years in the business. And should the unlikely opportunity be laid at my feet, I know exactly what I would do. First of all, I would scour the studios and schools for the finest talent available, whether young or old. Veteran or novice, I would be on the lookout for the boldest and the baddest talent I could find. I would be like the obsessive computer boss who called in his finest hardware and software designers and gave them a task. This was a task that could be stated in two words: “Astound me.”

Much like the crazed computer boss, I would tell them to not look to the past for inspiration. What’s been done has been done, so move on. Don’t look to your competitors and try to duplicate what they’re doing. Imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery. Imitation is pathetic. And, most important of all, don’t listen to your public to tell you what they want to see, because by the time you finish your movie, they will have moved on and will probably want to see something else.

So, how do you achieve the wow factor? It’s very simple—and very scary, but here goes anyway. When there’s a choice of following the safe and well-trod path or the dangerous road, choose the dangerous road. When your director is the old, reliable veteran or the studio “crazy man,” choose the crazy man. When you’re faced with following or breaking the rules, break them. Sure, these choices can land you on your butt if you should fail. But what the heck. You were probably going to fail anyway. However, should you succeed—wow!

There was a guy who exemplified this kind of leadership. He didn’t look to others to see what they were doing, and he didn’t need focus groups to tell him what would work. Finally, he was willing to commit incredible resources to accomplish his goals even when his financial advisers didn’t agree. They all said he was nuts, but he proved that a creative vision was something worth fighting for. So, each time he did something bold and amazing, his audience said, “Wow!”

Not an easy job being a leader, is it? Because in order to achieve the wow factor, a leader must be creative, innovative, and—most of all— fearless. Walt Disney had those qualities, but sadly, he passed away in 1966.

Maybe I’m nuts, but I think the wow factor is still obtainable. We’ve no shortage of talented young kids eager to show their stuff. Hell, there’s no shortage of talented old veterans ready to get back in the game. All we need is a bold dynamic innovator who’s ready to lead. Any takers?

Animated Life is available at Amazon, BN, and wherever fine books are sold.

Floyd Norman

Floyd E. Norman (born c. 1936) is an American animator who worked on the Walt Disney animated features Sleeping Beauty, The Sword in the Stone and The Jungle Book along with various animated short projects at Disney in the late ’50s and early ’60s. After Walt Disney’s death in 1966 Floyd Norman left Disney Studios to co-found the AfroKids animation studio with business partner animator/director Leo Sullivan. Norman and Sullivan worked together on various projects such as the original Hey! Hey! Hey! It’s Fat Albert television special which aired in 1969 on NBC. (not to be confused with the later Fat Albert series made by Filmation Associates.) Floyd Norman returned to Disney at one point in the early 1970s to work on the Disney animated feature Robin Hood. More recently he has worked on motion pictures for the Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios, having contributed creatively as a story artist on films such as Toy Story 2 and Monsters, Inc. for Pixar and Mulan, Dinosaur and The Hunchback of Notre Dame for Walt Disney Animation among others. He continues to work for the Walt Disney Co. as a freelance consultant on various projects. Norman had his start as an assistant to comic book artist Bill Woggon who lived in the Santa Barbara area that Norman grew up in. In the 1980s he worked as a writer in the comic strip department at Disney and was the last scripter for the Mickey Mouse comic strip before it was discontinued.[1] Floyd Norman has also published several books of cartoons inspired by his lifetime of experiences in the animation industry : Faster! Cheaper!, Son of Faster, Cheaper!, and How The Grinch Stole Disney . He is currently a columnist for the websites JimHillMedia.com and AfroKids.com. He was named a Disney Legend in 2007. In 2008, he appeared as Guest of Honor at Anthrocon 2008 [2] and at Comic-Con International where he was awarded an Inkpot Award.

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By: admin                Categories: AnimationBooksGamesGeneralInspiration

This excerpt from Digital Painting Techniques teaches you how to create a Sandstorm (1 of 5 environments covered in this chapter) in Photoshop.

Excerpt by Carlos Cabrera, 3D Total
Sand Storm

Software used: Photoshop

You can download a custom brush (ABR) file to accompany this tutorial from www.focalpress.com/digitalartmasters, along with the base painting (JPG) that Carlos starts from so you can take greatest advantage of this tutorial.

In today’s world of ever-increased specialization, many artists have adopted roles specific to certain areas of expertise. One of these is an environment artist, and, as well as creating original designs, it often involves adjusting an established scene and creating variations. This chapter looks primarily at how a base image can be manipulated to reflect different weather conditions, and shows how the same scene can be transformed dramatically to convey a diverse range of moods.

In this first of five tutorials, we will learn how to transform a basic given scene into the five different weather conditions. In this first tutorial we’ll be tackling a sandstorm! This tutorial is perfect for anyone who is looking to create a sandstorm effect in any landscape painting (Fig.00 – base image).

First of all, open the image you want the sandstorm to be added to, and then change the Color Balance of the entire image to something similar to the following settings: Shadows -2, +11, +18; Midtones +85, 0, -62; Highlights +23, 0, -4. With these settings you should achieve an orange atmosphere (Fig.01).

Alright, now you’re ready to create a new layer and paint the shape of your sandstorm with a brown color (RGB 196, 147, 81). I decided to paint a triangular shape in order to increase the size of the effect over the other objects in the scene (Fig.02).

Fig. 02

Now go to Filter > Distort > Wave and apply a nice distortion to your shape. Pay close attention to this step; when you finish applying the Wave effect, press Shift + Ctrl + F (Fade), change the Opacity to 50%, and you will see your last Wave effect duplicated with a nice opacity. Repeat this step three or four more times and you will create a perfect cloud shape. These effects have much better results if you change the parameters of the Wave filter before applying the Fade effect (Shift + Ctrl + F) (Fig.03 – 04).

Fig. 03

Fig. 04

Well, we now have a good cloud shape; the color is okay and the shape is perfect, but it needs more detail. You can now either search through your personal collection of textures to find a good photographic image of a mammatus cloud, or you can search the Internet for some good images. We need this photograph to add a realistic touch to our sandstorm shape. Select your chosen mammatus cloud photograph and search for a good shape within it. When you find what you’re looking for, select it with the Lasso tool and paste it into a new layer. Change the layer’s blend mode to Overlay and move your mammatus cloud into your sandstorm shape (Fig. 05).

Fig. 05

As you can see, the pasted photograph looks good but we don’t yet have the quality that we need. Remember that we are using this photograph only as a base from which to paint our own clouds. Now create another layer and change the blend mode of it to Overlay, and set it to 80% Opacity; select a gray color and start painting your own clouds. (Note: Don’t use white in Overlay blend mode for the clouds because the white color will burn the image below, and we don’t want a shiny cloud; we need a matte brown one.) So, paint the highlights using gray on your sandstorm cloud, and then – with black or a dark gray color – start painting in some shadows. Play around with the opacity of your brush to achieve some interesting shapes.

Tip: If you use the numbers on your keyboard whilst painting then you can quickly and easily change the opacity of your brush – try it! This short cut is very helpful.

Let’s now go back to our cloud to smooth the edges. For this you can either use the Smudge tool (R) or paint several strokes using a low opacity brush (I always use the latter technique). When you finish you should have an image such as Fig.06. It looks good but it needs more light and shading work, don’t you think? Check the bottom of the cloud: it doesn’t have a great amount of shadows at the base, and so to fi x this simply create a new layer in Multiply blend mode, and paint using a brown color at the base of your cloud. When done, change the Opacity of the layer to around 40%. Now create another layer in Overlay blend mode, and paint with a big soft brush at the bottom of the cloud.

Fig. 06

(Note: Remember not to  paint using a high opacity brush – always use50% or less when painting clouds or smooth surfaces.)

The shadows are okay now, so let’s start work on the highlights. Repeat the same procedure that we used for the shadows: create a new layer in Overlay mode and paint in the highlights using gray. Try to follow the direction of the clouds to create volume (Fig. 07).

Fig. 07
The cloud is now perfect … but where is the farm? We now need to show the farm again because it’s an important object in this scene. Simply go to the background layer (the one that holds the base painting) and select the farm using the Lasso tool (it doesn’t have to be a perfect selection). Press Ctrl + J to duplicate the selection you just made into a new layer, and move it over the top of the Cloud layer. Change the blend mode of this new farm layer to Luminosity, and move the Opacity slider to about 10% (Fig.08).

Fig. 08

If you want, you can leave the painting at this stage, but if we go on to tweak the colors a little you will see just how much better it can look!  To do this, create a new adjustment layer (from the black and white icon positioned at the bottom of the Layer window) and select Color Balance. Click on the Shadows option (Color Adjustment > Tone Balance) and move the sliders to Cyan -22, Green +12 and Blue +7. Then click on the Highlights button and move just the Yellow slider to -13. If you check your image now, the shadow changes into a greenish-gray (Fig.09). This shadow color stands out the Sandstorm effect. You can then create another new adjustment layer and play with the Curves. I always use these last few steps to tweak my paintings, and it’s also a good way to check if everything is okay or needs to be changed at the end.

Fig. 09

The best way to learn Photoshop is simply to experiment with it. Try every tool, read tutorials and books – anything which will help you to learn this program. And practice; practice all the time!

You can download a custom brush (ABR) file to accompany this tutorial from www.focalpress.com/digitalartmasters, along with the base painting (JPG) that Carlos starts from so you can take greatest advantage of this tutorial.

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.

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By: Mike Mattesi                Categories: General

Mike Mattesi breaks down motion and form into a formula that concentrates on anatomical subtleties in Force Animal Drawing.  Mike distills the essence of motion and form, and how they work together, looking at the big picture of gesture and action, rather than morphological details.  Here, Mike specifically examines the motion and form of Digitrades.

A digitigrade animal is one that stands or walks on its digits, or toes, by definition, although I see it more as the ball of the foot or pad of the hand. Digitigrades include walking birds, cats, dogs, and most other mammals. They are generally quicker and move more quietly than other mammals. Let’s start with man’s best friend.


force animal drawing The most common of animals is the digitigrade class due to our household pets, cats and dogs. They are great to study since you can touch them and feel their anatomy, you can observe them more often than other classes, and they are one step removed from human anatomy when it comes to their hands and feet.

Force animal drawing

This image shows the FORCES of the rear leg up close. In the third drawing from the left, force travels down the rear, across to the knee, back to the ankle, and shoots straight down the back or bottom of the foot. It then finishes over the pad and toes of the foot. The image to the far right shows a compressed leg. It moves similarly to a folding chair. The angles found in the upper leg and foot sustain a parallel relationship. The pattern of the rhythm does not change since the rear leg in its more straight stance does NOT lock like the front leg. As an added point of reference, I extracted from the illustrations the triangular forceful shape of the upper leg and how it looks for the stretched and compressed legs.

Animation Artists

The common mistake artists make when they draw mammals in the digitigrade class is confusing which joint in the rear leg is the ankle. The ankle is the high rear peak in the rear limb of the animal. The digitigrade animal actually walks on the ball of the foot, not unlike a human sprinter. This spring-loaded, bouncy rear-foot architecture allows for a quick burst of speed.

drawing by hand

This side-by-side comparison of the human hand to the digitigrade forelimb reveals that those in this class walk on what would be the upper pad of the human hand. The small sketch to the far right shows the padding in the area of the skeleton where most of the animal’s weight rests. These diagrams also represent the path of FORCES that occur when the arm of a digitigrade animal is locked back in full support of its weight relative to the arm lifting off the ground. In the drawing of the forelimb locked back, you can see how force drives down the back of the limb to the pad of the foot and then creates a rhythm over the top of the pad and toes. The key element that allows FORCES to operate in this manner is the dog’s locked wrist. A human wrist does not lock, and the palm of our hand would press against the ground. The wrist in digiti grades operates like a human knee. This means that the joint has a limited range of motion. When the wrist breaks upward, force creates rhythm earlier than in the locked position by flowing over the top of the wrist and then over the top of the “hand” to the toes.

force animals

The close-up of the human hand displays the rhythms found in the front paws of the digitigrade animal.

The image above brings focus to the comparison in padding found in the human hand to that of a dog. The toned regions clarify how the dog’s foot is designed. It walks on the large pad of its foot, which is like the top, large pad of the human hand. Notice how the dewclaw, or thumb, has been pushed up the dog’s limb since its function is not as important as a human thumb.

force animals

This crude schematic portrays the FORCES found in the dog shape. Each force is numbered. I want to call your attention to the perspective plane on the ground. Mammals most often have four points that touch the ground, whereas humans have two. Since there are four points, they lend themselves nicely to defining a box, and a box is a great way of defining perspective.

digital animation

If you do not have access to a zoo, fear not; you don’t have to go far to draw animals. Likely, either you or someone you know has a pet. Let’s look at our first real dog! Observe the shapes used to create this experience with Belle, the wonderful pet belonging to my friends Sally, Jon, and Madeline. She is a short-haired collie. Notice the force body shape overlapped with the fore and rear limb shapes. A large chest and narrow waist give her an athletic silhouette.

intermediate-speed land animals

Belle looks on with curiosity at her owners. The foot takes on a human resemblance, since it is flat on the ground. Now you can more clearly imagine the human anatomical comparison. You can see again how I used the perspective plane to define the space she sits in. Notice the sweep beginning at the back of her neck that then led me down into her shoulder and her arm.

Force Animals

In this drawing of Belle, she is reclined yet looking on at the events around her. She props herself on her elbows and then rotates her hips on their side. You can see how I looped around the joints of her wrists and ankles and described the form of her body with surface lines at the bottom of her abdomen.

Force Animal Sketches

During the final proofing stage of this book, my family acquired a long awaited dog that we named Monty, a four month old Black Labrador Retriever mixed with Corgi! Above are a couple of thirty second sketches of his first day at his new home. When addressing these quick ideas I start with the thought, “Monty is ______!” This sentence focuses my thoughts more quickly on the idea of the pose.

DigitgradesEach of these quick sketches was drawn in under a minute. The two on the left were more for the story of the pose and gesture, while the drawing on the right was building the dog in perspective. You can see the difference in thought and appearance of the drawing. The perspective drawing presents more straights than curves to block out the structure.

Excerpted from Force Animal Drawing by Mike Mattesi.  Force Animal Drawing can be purchased at Amazon, BN.com, and wherever fine books are sold.

Mike Mattesi is the Director of the Entertainment at the Art Academy based in Southern California. He has been a professional production artist and instructor for almost 20 years with clients including Disney, Marvel Comics, Hasbro Toys, ABC, Microsoft, Electronic Arts, Dreamworks and Nickelodeon.