How to simplify figures for Animation

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When creating characters, it’s easy to get lost in the details. If you’re designing for animation, comics or even your portfolio, it’s important to be able to design a simple character that can be drawn again and again. The ultimate goal is retaining as much information while stripping down your characters to their essential elements. How much can we simplify the character, expression, or pose of a character without losing its vitality? 

Animation is a laborious process, so the less lines you have to draw the more efficient it will be. I’ve been character designingI’ve been creating characters for animations for a few decades now. I am excited to share the things that I keep in my mind. I’m constantly learning new techniques and tricks since design is a challenging and ever-evolving process. I hope this time next year I’ll have even more insight to share!

01. Simplify your character

(Image: © Jackie Droujko)

It’s easy to get tunnel vision when designing a character. Here, her sunglasses and earrings overcrowd her face. Does it tell us anything about her personality or character? Not really, so I’m removing it. I find it difficult to add too many accessories. Sometimes the simplest of designs is the most attractive.

02. Follow this handy tip

(Image: © Jackie Droujko)

I love to use three different angles when showing a simple hand. You’ll notice that I always keep the back straight and angular while the front is always filled with curves and intricate details. I love to break up a hand’s shape by separating one finger from the silhouette.

03. Master straights and curves

(Image: © Jackie Droujko)

It’s important to have a healthy balance of straights vs curves because it adds visual interest to any drawing. This is perhaps the most important aspect of design that I have learned! Straight lines suggest stability, direction and structure. Curves suggest muscles, flesh and squashing. When used together, they create the illusion of contrast and size. 

For example, I like to keep one side of a drawing straight and the other side curvy. Straight back and curvy shoulders, or straight arm and curvy arms. The harder I push this theory, the more graphic a character looks, so I either push or pull back on this element of design, depending on the project that I’m working on.

04. Identify the line of action

(Image: © Jackie Droujko )

If you imagine a line that goes through your drawing, it can help push the feeling of movement – that’s called a line of action. A less curved, or straighter line can emphasize a faster movement. On the other hand, a more curved one can show a slow one. However, a line of action isn’t always used for movement. Here, I’m demonstrating a static character but it’s still directional.

05. Create contrasting shapes

(Image: © Jackie Droujko )

I always take into account the shape that their body makes when creating a position. I want the form to be clear and have a strong shape. I also take into account the shapes of smaller elements in the character. I make sure there’s enough different types of shapes to maintain visual appeal. These shapes all play off eachother by being different. Contrast creates interest! Mixing round and angular shapes will add visual appeal to any character.

06. Decide whether you want a patterned or plain design

(Image: © Jackie Droujko )

An important decision to make in your design process for animation is whether you’re going to make your characters lined or lineless. I tend to prefer a lineless drawing, where the character’s shapes speak for itself and the colours are contrasted enough to create obvious lines. 

However, it’s much more efficient to have lined characters because you don’t have to have this extra step of getting rid of your lines. Another obstacle with a lineless character is that they take much more effort to stand out from the background, since there’s nothing clearly dividing them as a foreground element.

07. Avoid parallel lines

(Image: © Jackie Droujko )

Avoid drawing parallel lines. Keep visual interest in your drawings by tilting parallel lines to create new shapes. Repeated shapes and lines can remove interest and contrast from a design. I was blown away when I first learned this tip. It changed the way I approach design. There’s so much to consider when making cool characters!


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