By: Elyse                Categories: AnimationBooksGeneral

The following is an excerpt from Tom Bancroft’s Character Mentor. Tom shows you how to pose your character, create emotion through facial expressions, and stage your character to create drama. Here, he shows you correct eye direction and proximity in character interaction.

Creating good, strong poses and interesting characters is important, but if your characters do not seem to interact with each other, you miss out on a key piece of storytelling. Eye direction is a key element to the illusion of character interaction. Take, for example, Figures A through C. This concept is intended to “read” as an adult reuniting with a child, a happy story moment. This works as a basic pose, but note that the pupils have been left out in Figure A. Now, in Figure B, pupils have been added, but with the eye direction not quite right. They are looking at each other but not directly into each other’s eyes. In Figure C, that problem has been fixed. Even with only a millimeter’s amount of movement in the pupils, there is so much more chemistry between the characters because they are looking directly at each other.




Another common eye direction mistake to make is not having the left and right eye of a character looking in the same direction. Imagine arrows coming out of your character’s eyes to help you clearly see whether the eye direction is correct between the eyes. See the following examples.

A common – and especially tricky – eye look to draw correctly is when a character’s head is turned away but their pupils are looking back in the opposite direction. See Figure A for an incorrect way to draw this and a correct way using the red arrows as indicators. In most cases, the mistake is in not having the same amount of negative space (the white part of the eye around the pupil) in both eyes. The top example of Figure B shows no white negative space on the left side of the far eye, so it looks as though that pupil is looking at a more extreme angle than the front eye. Below that is a correct version with a little bit of white negative space peeking through on the left side of the far eye. Often it comes down to a pencil’s width of line thickness to get the most subtle eye directions or expressions correct: sharpen your pencils and keep erasing!

These next two examples, which I call “Young Superheroes in Love,” illustrate how – even with the heads of the two characters looking straight at each other and their body language speaking very loudly that they are happy – the tiniest change in the pupils of only one of the characters tells a completely different story of what they are happy about. These two examples show how powerful the pupils are in communicating your characters’ inner thoughts.

Proximity is a term I use in reference to how close an object (or prop, in stage terms) or person is to the character that is acting with that prop or person. Is it or are they in the correct proximity to your character to give the right feel or emotion? Proximity of your characters works hand in hand with eye direction, because how close the characters are and how much they are looking into each other’s eyes says what kind of chemistry they have for each other. Think of a drawing of a young mom and her newborn baby. How would she hold that baby? I created four different sketches to show some ways to illustrate that pose. In Figure A, she is holding her baby far away and in a plain pose. Though the eye direction and their expressions work, their proximity to each other communicates an indifference to the baby on the part of the mom. In Figure B, the proximity between the two is cut down considerably, and now there is much more warmth felt between the two. This pose works fine, but I felt like the pose could be improved upon, so I created Figure C, which adds more emotion to the pose by adding a tilt to the mom’s shoulders and head so that the her and her baby are more horizontally equal in their eye direction, which immediately brings even more warmth – especially from the baby. I could have stopped there, but I went a little further by creating Figure D. In this pose, I shifted the mom’s weight back and brought the baby close to her face. Having their faces touch makes for the strongest emotional contact you can achieve. Additionally, the pose is strengthened because of some tilts to the legs and a stronger tilt and flow to the body.

Excerpt from Character Mentor: Learn by Example to Use Expressions, Poses, and Staging to Bring Your Characters to Life by Tom Bancroft © 2012 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved. Character Mentor can be purchased,, and wherever fine books can be found.

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By: admin                Categories: AnimationBooks

In Elvin A. Hernandez’s new book Set The Action! Creating Backgrounds for Compelling Storytelling in Animation, Comics, and Games he discusses designing backgrounds that make character and story development more dynamic and realistic.

Elvin put together a series of videos that provide some great tips and techniques for background development.  Today in part two, we will look at the use of two-point perspective when creating background designs.

Part 1: Thumb Nails & Reference Material
Part 3: Rules of Illusion
Part 4: Implied Realism
Part 5: Wrapping Up

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By: admin                Categories: General

The following is an excerpt from Elemental Magic, Volume I: The Art of Special Effects Animation by Joseph Gilland. This book breaks down the world of special effects animation with clear step-by-step diagrams and explanations on how to create the amazing and compelling images you see on the big screen. Here, Joseph teaches you the complicated art of drawing water.

In the same way that Richard Williams spent much of his energy breaking down walking and running characters in order to best describe the basic principles of character animation in his cornerstone animation book, “The Animator’s Survival Kit,” I will focus a lot of energy on the design and physics principles that come into play when animating water and other liquids— principles which apply to some degree no matter what kind of effects you are attempting to animate, and no matter what medium. A flapping flag, curling smoke, or a leaf flying in the wind—all of these effects contain principles that we will need to learn if we first master (or at least attempt to master) the natural principles of animating liquids.

Animating liquids, usually water, is generally considered to be one of the most complicated, difficult and specialized effects animation jobs. Water comes in a staggering array of shapes, sizes, and varieties, each one with its own unique set of physics laws, energy patterns and animation techniques. Splashes, ripples, waves, rivers or streams, waterfalls, containers filled with water or any other liquid, pouring liquids, fountains, rain, etc. And each one of these forms of water in motion has in addition countless variations. A seemingly simple classification like “waves” for instance, can take on an almost infinite number of shapes and sizes. Surging, spilling, rolling and plunging waves, ocean swells, tidal waves, (tsunamis), or choppy water whipped up by a brisk wind.

A wave kicked up by a boat or ship. Smaller waves may be traveling across the surface of a larger wave, and waves tumbling over on themselves create foam and bubbles. The wave variations go on and on. The same can be said about splashes, which vary widely from a single small pebble or raindrop landing on a calm flat water surface to something as immense as a several thousand ton glacier calving and falling into the ocean.

After over two decades of animating water I am still learning every time I animate another splash, no matter how simple. Imitating and animating such a sublimely formed natural phenomenon is a process that never gets old for me. It is important as always, to remember the basic golden rules of effects design: avoid repetition, twinning, and symmetry, and keep your silhouettes dynamic and interesting.

It is important to understand that what we are really looking at when we see shapes in the water is reflected light. Ripples, splashes, currents, bubbles formations, or droplets, do not really create any kind of lines in the water at all. If we learn to “see” water designs in this way, it is easier to understand how they undulate and move. The tiniest change in water surface shapes can radically effect how light bounces off of it. This is a big part of what makes water look so magical, ethereal, and difficult to describe.

Since water is essentially clear and colorless, what we are looking at when we see a water surface is a combination of reflections and reflected and refracted light. In this series of drawings, I have taken a piece of calm, rocky shore line and broken it down into four simple and distinct elements. The rocks and ground, the refracted light on the bottom, the reflective water surface, and the ripples reflecting light.

Here I have illustrated how the layers are sandwiched together to create the final image. This step of the process is what is referred to as “compositing.” In the earlier days of animation, these levels were actual pieces of artwork you could hold in your hand; the process was much as it is illustrated here, the layers were more or less simply laid over the top of one another, although there were tricky camera techniques to achieve certain transparencies and glowing effects. The same is true today, although the artwork is either scanned or is computer-generated and then the layers are sandwiched together using software specially designed for this task.

Excerpt from Elemental Magic, Volume 1: The Art of Special Effects Animation by Joseph Gilland © 2012 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved. Elemental Magic can be purchased,, and wherever fine books can be found.

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By: admin                Categories: AnimationBooksGeneralInspiration

The following is an excerpt from Digital Painting Techniques Vol. 1: Practical Techniques of Digital Art Masters. Compiled by the team at, Digital Painting Techniques, Volume 1 offers digital inspiration with hands-on insight and techniques from professional digital artists. Here, Daniel Ljunggren shows you step-by-step how he created Steam-Powered Mechanical Destroyer.

Software Used: Photoshop

By Daniel Ljunggren


After thinking about the topic of this speed painting for a while, I started imagining something that would be suitable for a younger audience – perhaps a commercial for toys, with figures you can play with, and one of these toys being the “Steam-Powered Mechanical Destroyer” (or so the description on the back of the box would have you believe). I then thought that it would be more fun if it was a big robot, yet still friendly. The “destroyer” part was the main issue really, meaning I would have to turn it into something not so violent in order to keep the positive mood that I still wanted to achieve.

I could’ve gone another route towards something more serious, dark and violent, but personally, it wouldn’t feel very original. I’m not saying a friendly robot is original either, but perhaps a bit more of an unexpected approach to the subject title. I have interpreted the theme more like a concept artwork than a painting, so please treat it as such.

Step 1

Before starting to draw or paint the full-sized concept with details and all, a great and quick way to find your design is with a few small thumbnail sketches. This allows you to focus on the general shape, the silhouette, and the overall feeling of the concept. After a short while of thumbnail sketching, I see something that shows potential (Fig.01). I also put in a sloppy human figure to get a feeling of scale. Working a bit further with it I find a design and feel that I want to see a fully rendered version of (Fig.02).

Step  2

Using the thumbnail as a reference image, and keeping the main subject and the background on separate layers, I start to sketch the robot from a more interesting angle and in higher resolution. I’m still working in grayscale because I can focus on what I want to prioritize for the time being: design, proportions, pose and perspective. I find that the main challenge in this part of the process is to achieve the same feeling in the perspective image as with the thumbnail. If I would go on with the next steps before nailing that feeling, I know I would probably abandon it later on because it didn’t turn out the way I wanted, so being persistent in this step pays off (Fig.03).

Adding some more volume and details to the robot, and some brushstrokes to the background, I try to find the kind of lighting and contrast I want for this image. I add some highlights just to remind myself where the main light source will be (Fig.04).

Step  3

I set my brush to Color mode and paint some big chunks of colors on the background, as well as on the robot (Fig.05). Sometimes I don’t find the color I’m looking for when using this method, because of the values of the painting underneath, but it’s a quick way of deciding what general palette the image will have. I pause here, thinking about the impression I get from the robot. I figure that I really need to kill those highlights soon, as well as change the color to what I’m looking for. Creating a new layer (Normal mode), I start painting directly with colors, and soon I see something closer to what I had in mind (Fig.06).

Step 4

While developing the concept for this robot I came up with the idea of having it working in a junkyard, where he would be “the destroyer” of metal scraps. This would go well with the overall positive feel I was trying to achieve, and the background would be where I could suggest this (Fig.07).

Step  5

During the previous steps I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the robot’s left arm and hand, but as I tried a few shapes I knew it would gain visual interest instead of having two similar arms. After a few quick designs I decide to go for some kind of drill (this makes the robot fit better with the description of “destroyer”, too). With that done, I feel ready to start working on more detailed shapes and textures (Fig.08).

Moving on to adding more details and rendering (Fig.09), here I’m trying to make it look a bit more realistic; removing a lot of the black from the underlying sketch, as well as thinking of cast shadows and bounce lights from the ground. I put a few strokes on his head as well, trying to figure out what I want that part to be like.

I do some more work on the background now, making the sky clearer and redesigning some of his firebox and chimneys on his back, as well as giving a warmer ground. I still wasn’t sure at this stage what to make of his head (Fig.10).

Step  6 – Final

Finally I approach the face of the robot. I considered having the robot being driven by a man for a while (with the head as the cockpit), but with the current scale of things I had trouble making the chauffeur read clearly, so I dropped that idea and went for a kind robot face instead. This also helps strengthen the overall positive feel. I put down some more work into the firebox, showing more clearly that it is something that could open and hold burning coal. Background details are also added here, as well as some stripes on the robot – and then he’s done (Fig.11).

Excerpt from Digital Painting Techniques: Practical Techniques of Digital Art Masters, Volume 1 by © 2009 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved. Digital Painting Techniques can be purchased,, and wherever fine books can be found.

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By: admin                Categories: AnimationBooksGeneral

The following is an excerpt from The Animator’s Eye: Adding Life to Animator with Timing, Layout, Design, Color and Sound by Francis Glebas. In The Animator’s Eye,  Francis teaches you how to become a strong visual storyteller through better use of color, volume, shape, shadow, and light – as well as discover how to tap into your imagination and refine your own personal vision. Here, Francis explains the importance of timing!

BUNNY: What is the key to comedy?

IGGY: Hmmm, I’m thinking, wait don’t tell me, ah, oh yeah … timing.

BUNNY: C’mon, we’re late …

What kinds of time exist in animation? Ironically, timing in animation is really about space. The space between the drawings determines how fast an object moves. An object’s weight factors into this, as it takes longer to get a heavy object moving and longer to stop it. Time, space, and mass are interconnected in animation.

How far do you space the drawings? Usually you want some overlap. If it’s something moving really fast, blur it and have the blurs overlap. If the spacing is too far apart the phenomenon won’t work; instead it will look like different events. If they are very close you have to be very careful with your cleanups.

Where does our sense of time come from? We humans have internal clocks that keep time for our biological processes. Our heart rate, breathing, sleep patterns, walking pace all are variable within certain ranges. Originally many songs were used to set the pace for working in the fields.

An animated action is comprised of three separate times: the time of expectancy of anticipation, the screen time of the action, and time for closure of the action. These can be notated in timing charts or on exposure sheets.

Here are some things to think about when timing your exposure sheets.

1 Time for Clarity

The audience needs time to process the animation. Be sure to include pauses, pacing for breath, bodily perception.

2 Time for Excitement

High-speed illusions are created by speed lines that depict the blurring of objects in the direction of motion.

3 Contrast Your Timing

If everything is evenly spaced it becomes predictable and thus boring. Ever drive on a highway at night watching the dotted lines race along, one after another, after another?

Variation adds interest. Try having slow characters interact with fast-moving characters. The tortoise and the hare has long been a staple of many cartoons. Bugs Bunny often took the starring role of the hare. The collected cartoon variations of the tortoise and the hare are great examples of permutations of a simple story idea.

PRINCIPLE: Slow In and Slow Out

Acceleration and deceleration add lots of interest to animation, particularly if you include overshoot and settling.

4 When NOT to Add Inbetweens

There are times when you will not want to use inbetweens, such as between the heel of a foot hitting and the full foot smacking ground, or to keep the full speed of gravity on a falling object.

5 Remember, People Get Tired

Time also affects energy levels. We can’t be at extremely high energy levels for a long time. We must have periods of rest. Time-related art reflects this. Sometimes the audience needs a break. Some nonstop action movies make us exhausted and if the filmmaker doesn’t give time to catch our breath, we can begin to lose interest.

Iggy’s roller coaster theory of story incorporates these pauses automatically. As the roller coaster reaches a peak it begins to slow down, before speeding up again down the next hill.

Believable depictions of a character should account for characters getting tired. They can’t keep going on without rest. Going from one energy level to the next takes time. When you first wake up, you don’t immediately begin racing around the room. You have some coffee and wait for it to kick you into gear. I know I have trouble winding down at night when my mind is racing with ideas. Include those timing changes in your animation. You could make a very funny short about a character just getting up, dead tired, and going from 0 to 60 until he becomes just a blur.

6 Timing for Believability of Weight

You have to time your animation based upon laws of motion so things don’t float. Timing is based upon inertia and momentum and the acceleration of gravity. It takes time to get something moving and time to get it to stop. The faster it’s moving, the more time it needs to stop unless it impacts something.

Excerpt from The Animator’s Eye: Adding Life to Animation with Timing, Layout, Design, Color, and Sound by Francis Glebas © 2012 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved. The Animator’s Eye can be purchased,, and wherever fine books can be found.

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