Character Animation/Character Distribution Basics

The character sheet is a simplified outline of a more detailed character concept. One of the keys that most major concept artists subscribe to is reducing your character to as few lines as possible. This is a basic example of a symbol table with a minimum number of lines to demonstrate. Before opening an animation program, you should try to create a large sheet with more details about your character.

In the next steps we will look more closely at the different degradation attitudes.

  1. Animation Sheet Basics/Stakeout
  2. Side view
  3. Front view
  4. Back view
  5. 3/4 view
  6. detail shot

Animation Sheet Basics/Stakeout

Meet Vin. Vin is a character that is going to be animated, and as a result we have created a character sheet/character distribution for him. Character tables allow you to create a link to your character that covers the main views and makes sure your proportions match from drawing to drawing. It’s good practice to maintain your proportions (even if your proportions tend to have unusually long limbs, like Vin) and get used to drawing your character’s facial expressions.

Side view

The side view is usually easiest to draw. You only need to worry about one of each limb, and a side view usually helps determine the positions of facial features relative to each other.

If your character has decals on one side or the other that make him or her look different on both sides, you should take two side views to illustrate the difference.

While we’re at it, let’s take a look at the lines behind each view. You will notice that, except for minor shifts due to posture, these lines connect the corresponding places in each posture: top of head, waist/elbows, fingertips, pelvis, knees, shoulders.

After you’ve drawn the first view, it’s usually a good idea to select key points and use the ruler to draw lines from those key points and across the sheet before drawing them for other views. This way you have a link to make sure you draw everything to scale.

Front view

For the front view, try drawing the character upright, feet together, or at least not too far apart, arms hanging slightly down at the sides, face turned straight. You can save relationship attitudes for later. At this point, you just want to sort out the most important details and see them clearly. The front view usually gives the best view of the main characters.

Back view

There’s nothing wrong with changing the rear view a bit and just changing the front view by changing some details. Remember that if something is pointed to a certain side, it will turn to the rear view – for example, the part in Vin’s hair, the slope of his belt.

3/4 view

Usually you don’t draw your character straight, neither from the front nor from the side. The 3/4 view is one of the most common angles from which you draw your character, so you should definitely include one of these on your character sheet. You can be a bit freer with the pose here; try to capture the expression and attitude of your character.

In addition to the 3/4 shot, you should also take some action shots – different poses hit mid-motion and show how clothes or hair might move.

You will see that several important sights no longer meet the recommendations from around the corner. Instead, they should intersect at the exact center of the measured point. For example, one arm will be above the default elevation line in front of them and the other arm will be lower. The pharynx, the middle of the shoulders, should lie almost exactly on the guideline.

detail shot

Finally, you should try to get a detailed close-up of your character’s face as it tends to be minimized and a bit messy when shooting the whole body. These close-ups of expressions are probably meant to capture the face in 3/4 view, but it might be helpful to show a few forward. It’s also a good idea to take close-ups of other important parts, such as an engraved pendant, arms and legs, tattoos, or other markings that can usually be drawn without detail in full-body shots. Do not forget to draw the ears. The ears often forget.

For this example, only two facial expressions are drawn here, but you should draw at least ten of the most common expressions for your character – whether they are mostly smug, scared, nervous, happy, angry, etc. Continue drawing until you decide that encompassed the whole range of emotions.

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