Character Design guidance

I’ve been attempting to sketch out character designs for an animated short that I’d actually like to see to fruition. My issue is my drawing skills. I can get the basic shapes down and gestures, but am having issues creating the “look” of my characters.

There are four characters, one adult male (soldier), one adult female, one child female (roughly 9-10 yrs) & one semi human/demonic/alien creature.

I am having difficulty with sketching out the little girl, she looks more like a boy with long hair. For reference, I’m using the character Newt from Aliens, trying to nail down that dirty, gritty look when she’s first discovered by Ripley & the Marines. She’s also the daughter of the adult female & I’m trying have some similarites between the two in looks, but not a shorter version of the mom – a “mini me” if you pardon the pun.

What I’m looking for is a template or something that can guide me with drawing kids & keeping the porportions consistent. I want the look to be hybrid Manga, if there is such a thing, not too cartoony, but not too realistic either.

And how does one take a character design and create an orthographic?

I’ve found figure drawing templates, but they’re geared to fashion design with a focus on women.

Any guidance is appreciated. I’ll post some drawings once I get my scanner unpacked. No graphics tab just yet.

David C.

drawing children rather than adults… the key is to use the “heads” proportioning system…

idealised adults are 8.5 heads high… in manga this might go above 9!

children have bigger heads in proportion to their bodies so a toddler (like my 2 year old daughter is 4 heads high… a teenager may be 6 heads high!

as for stylisation I’d prefer to study from real life and then apply what you’ve learned to really understand the stylisation that you are trying to emulate… manga is so popular and quite an “easy” style, but you’ll head for disaster without understanding real proportions and anatomy and how they’re changed in that style… i find it really hard to look at these days!

so with that in mind I’d recomend the andrew loomis books… they’ve been out of print for years but there are many pdf versions online… there’s always some debate as to whether the copyright has expired making these in the public domain or not and the loomis family have strangely refused to allow them to be re-printed… I’d buy them all if they were!

“fun with a pencil” is probably a good start , but "figure drawing for all it’s worth"is still the best drawing instruction book ever

PS the differences between men and women mainly happen with the waistline and hips being placed totally different…

more on the heads thing… the “nipples” are exactly one head height beneath the chin… the navel is one head height below that… the crotch one head height blow that… so the head and torso account for roughly half of the height leaving “4 heads” for the legs and feet…

All the best David C.

Have a go at “make-human” - I found this to be a valueble resource in my own project. The program is rather tricky to use at first, but a month (part-time) of tweaking buttons etc, I enjoy this greatly.

All the best David C.

Have a go at “make-human” - I found this to be a valueble resource in my own project. The program is rather tricky to use at first, but a month (part-time) of tweaking buttons etc, I enjoy this greatly.

Thanks for the reference Kbot, I’ll check it out.

Thanks for the insight Michael. I’ve heard of the Loomis books but haven’t gotten around to downloading them. I’ve been referencing Glenn Vilppu’s “Drawing Manual”; Michael Mattesi’s “Force: Dynamic Life Drawing for Animation” and got my hands on Walt Stanchfield’s handouts “Gesture Drawing for Animation” These are great resources that I constantly refer but very little gets into drawing children. I also picked up the “Structure of Man” series, if you’re not familar with it, check it out at

The techniques are helping, but I still struggle. As much as I’d like to take a life drawing course, my current work schedule makes it difficult to do so. I work weird hours. And Murphy’s law always seems to get in the way. If I have the time, I don’t have $$$. If I have the $$$, I don’t have the time. For now, I pop in a DVD of a movie or an Ultimate Fight or exercise vid, freeze frame it and do quick sketches & gestures of the action or scene.

David C.

i would suggest the book “learning to draw on the right side of the brain” i bought this book not too long ago, im not too far into it but so far ive seen drastic changes

I recently got Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain as well. Haven’t done any of the exercises though. I’d recommend sketching as much as you can from a mannikin or by people watching. I also wanted to ask how good is that Structure of Man? It seems good but I don’t know if it will help me or not.

Linuxpimp21 - IMO the DVD is worth the nominal cost. I think it was $50 for 5 DVDs. There’s a lot of information, and he starts with the basics.

+1 for drawing on the right side of the brain. It’s a classic and will really amaze you with how it frees up your “drawing brain”.

Michael W: Thanks for the heads up on the Loomis books. What a great resource!

Well, so much for scanning images. It appears that my scanner is outdated (it’s only five years old). Apparently, Canon didn’t upgrade the drivers so that it would operate on Vista 64 Bit (I’m using Windows 7 & Linux). Arrragh…though I did find drivers on Softpedia, I still can’t get my system to recognize the device on either OS. Any suggestions, before I just go and buy a new one.

David C.

Canon suck! I had the same issue with a scanner/printer and Vista
they’ve lost my custom, I’ve gone HP!

You’ll probably just need to upgrade!

Until then you could try linux…scanners will often work “out of the box” on linux.

It may be a pain to boot into another OS just to scan stuff, but it beats shelling out your cash just because the manufacturer has dropped support for your stuff!

Maybe try an installation that runs from a “live disk”…no installation needed. Something like Ubuntu can be installed using wubi as well which is an easy and safe install in windows

(you’ll still need to re-boot to switch OS) but it’s just a bit of your hard drive temporarily assigned to linux and can be removed using the “add/remove programs” dialog.

just an idea!

I have Ubuntu, but still unable to get the system to recognize the scanner. I’ll try it again later from the live CD, maybe it’ll work. Thanks for the suggestion Mike. We’ll see what happens. Then again, I may just screw it and go buy a graphics tablet.