2D Pipeline – Character Design

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Today we begin a new Graphic series demonstrating a modern 2D animation pipeline. Graphics Magister David L Brehm unveils some creative sources to help with the pre-production process.

In this particular 2D animation pipeline, the initial steps involve hand drawing unique character designs, digitizing (scanning) the designs, and preparing the digital files for character animation.

Now, before you sit down to draw, it is often helpful to review reference materials to help conceptualize a unique design style for your characters. In this case we are focusing on the cubist movement, in particular the work of Pablo Picasso, Thomas Fedro, Georges Braque, and Alma Lee.  The stylistic approach taken by these artists should help with your initial thumbnail sketches and soon you will be ready to do final drafts.

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With the inspiration gained from the cubist movement we were able to jump start our character designs and now we have two unique characters.

Once your drawing is complete, it’s time to scan it. But if you don’t have a scanner take a picture with your mobile phone and send it to yourself. Then you will have a digital file that is ready to be imported into adobe illustrator.  Now launch Adobe illustrator and follow these instructions:

Step 1. Import Artwork

Once you have opened the Illustrator software, import your first character by clicking on File>Open.

Step 2.  Template Layers

Next double click on the artwork’s layer to bring up the Layer Options dialog box.  Here we will setup our artwork as a Template layer.  A template layer is used as a background to your tracing.  Once you are finished tracing your artwork and want to import it into After Effects, the template layer will be ignored.

In the Layer Option dialog box check the Template radio button.  This will also automatically lock the layer and dims the layer to 50%.  You can adjust the dimming percentage, if you want, however we will be using the default.

Next, name your layer Template and click OK.  Now you can start adding new layers and drawing over your artwork.  Play this next video to see the next few steps in Adobe Illustrator…

Come back for the next video in this 2D Pipeline series as we take our newly crafted characters into Adobe After Effects and/or Adobe Flash and prep for character animation.

As always, you can go to my contact page if you would like to request private lessons per all things animation.

Until then, stay positive my friends!

David