By: Elyse                Categories: AnimationBooks

1. Sometimes the best way to really sell a character is to present them in a well-polished image that puts them into some kind of context. This could relate to their function, job, or place within the world that they inhabit. It also provides the character designer with a good reason to stretch their artistic legs a little and produce a stunning piece of design that also serves as an eye-popping piece of artwork. This image by Paul Green is a superb example of this.

2. Paul began by coming up with a design for his central character. His first pencil sketches were very quick and loose as he explored shapes and proportions for the character. These provided the basis for producing a couple of full-body studies, which he finished with clean inked line-work. Although each one was built from the same base template, they were quite different to one another while sharing certain similarities, such as the cloak, goggles, staff, and flowing belts or straps. This version of the character featured a stylized physique with very broad shoulders and elongated limb proportions (stylistic decisions discussed in the “Breaking Anatomy” chapter, pages 102–107). These features created a dynamic, heroic feel for the character.

3. To get a better feel for the character, Paul then produced a finished ink drawing in an action pose on top of a stone lion. This further bolstered the nature of the character as a super hero or vigilante of some kind, and illustrated the visual flair the flowing cloak and other costume elements brought to the character. Doing an illustration that shows the character like this also allows the designer to get a better feel for their subject. The shapes and forms can be explored in configurations not possible in a basic standing pose, and this in turn can inform further iterations of the design.

4. So, Paul went back to the drawing board and broke out the pencils once more to begin a new version of the character. This time, the extreme comic proportions of the original were toned down to produce something that looked a little more realistic. This version of the character focused on the costume as Paul began to refine the volumes and shapes, adding more pouches to the belt and arm and leg sections of the costume. The overall feel is one of asymmetry, with mismatched features creating an interesting contrast between the left and right sides of the character. In this version, however, the head has yet to be resolved.

5. Next, Paul produced a number of head studies. It might seem obvious to say, but close-up portraits like this allow the designer to focus on the features of the head without being distracted by the larger image. The hair was given animated definition and shape; now it frames the slim face. The expression here is important too, as the feature set of the face can inform how the character might hold himself.

6. For the next head studies, once again, standard front-on portraits were eschewed in favor of profile studies: one looking up, and the other looking down. Not only do these images look much more refined than the previous drawings, they also offer some insight into the physical interaction between the character and his clothing. It is this sort of knowledge that is useful when the artist comes to develop the concept further. Also, the art style has evolved in all areas: the face in profile is sharper and more intensely set, the hair has much more dynamic potential, and the clothing has also undergone a further rework.

7. Once Paul created a feel for the character, he then produced a partial-action portrait in ink to explore how the volumes and tones might work in the final version. The attire of the character was also further modified with definitive shapes adding a solidity and visual refinement to the whole. The face echoes the previous sketches, but is emboldened with an expressive edge that exudes confident intent. Also, it looks cool!

8. Following hot on the heels of these head studies, the next step was the creation of a new image featuring the whole character. Paul borrowed elements from many of the preliminary sketches, bringing them together to create a composition full of drama and atmosphere. The stone lion head was reintroduced, as were the cloak and staff from the first full-body designs. Then the drawing was completed by the addition of a circular background device (remember what I said about the strong visual presence of circles?) and bats. Lots of bats. Paul then began the process of adding color to the image by first filling the background with muted tones to create the impression of night. The naked sky at the top of the image is gray, while blues were added into the bottom to suggest low cloud partially obscuring the moon, which has replaced the circle. These color planes were created using flat tones mixed with imported textures and enhanced with filter effects and hand-painted touches.

9. These images show how Paul progressed the rendering of the image. The staff was made to glow, and the lion head was colored with textured tones and effect overlays. The character was first block-colored with flat blue before each area of his outfit was broken up into different hues and volumes, adding definition and contrast.

10. A little backlighting on the character added a finishing touch, and definition within the dark area of the cloak was achieved by use of simple line overlays and shaded blocks of lighter color.

Excerpt from Character Design from the Ground Up by Kevin Crossley © 2014 Focal Press an imprint of Taylor and Francis Group. All Rights Reserved.

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