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M5: Character Design and

Construction Sheet

This module is divided into the following topics:


Theory, on page 74
Activity 1: Drawing a Character Construction, on page 78
Activity 2: Expanding the Design of the Character, on page 85
Activity 3: Tracing a Character, on page 90
Activity 4: Deconstructing a Character, on page 98
Animate Pro 2 - Student Workbook

Theory
This topic is divided as follows:
Character Design, on page 74
Character Model Sheets, on page 76
Relative Size of Characters and Props, on page 77

Character Design
When designing a character, make sure that you keep the following concepts in mind:

Consider the nature of your character and


think about how his or her characteristics
will be made visible in their shape. Think
about the outstanding characters in
animation and how their physical form
(Popeyes big forearms, Supermans big
chest and strong jaw) played a role in the
development of their character.

Head height: a characters size is usually


recorded in units of heads. Use these
guidelines to keep the character in proportion:
A short character is three heads high.
A tall character is six heads high.

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Be mindful of using proportion


correctly. You can bend the rules
of proportion when you
understand the basics of
proportion correctly.

These are the five basic steps in character design:


Research
During the research, you can search pictures and references to help you figure
out how your character will look like, based on its characteristics.
Skeleton
Starting by the skeleton helps you figure how this character can move, and if the
main proportions of its body and limbs are in proportion. Using this skeleton,
you will be later able to quickly figure poses your character can take, and quickly
sketch them when planing an animation.
Construction
The construction is the very basis of your character. It will ensure that the
proportions and shape are strong!
Sketching
A sketch is a rough version of your design. When you sketch a rough of a new
design for a character you can produce whatever you imagine without being
concerned about the final look of your lines. Making a rough version of your
character helps you build a solid base shape and come up with some new design
ideas.
Tracing
Once you have sketched a rough version of your design, the next step is to trace
it. Tracing lets you determine the final look and line style of your drawing and
refine its features.
Adding Colours
Once you have your clean design ready, you can add colours to it! This step is
very interesting. You can make some colour research, find colours that best fits
the personality of the character and try out many possibilities.

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Character Model Sheets

Once a character is designed, model sheets are created for it. Character model sheets
are the authoritative reference for a character. They show the character from all angles,
in a variety of poses, and with a bunch of different expressions (happy, sad, surprised,
shy, etc.). These expressions reveal a lot about your characters personality.
The character model sheet will be your guide and your teams guide, if you are working
with many animators. To ensure that your character stays the same, or as we say in
model for the complete duration of the project!

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Character Design and Construction Sheet

Relative Size of Characters and Props

Once many characters and even accessories, or props are designed, a Line up is
created, so that everyone on the team stays aware of the difference of size the different
characters and objects have between them.

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Activity 1: Drawing a Character Construction


You will now start the character design process. you will begin by designing a character
with a minimal amount of detail; you should only work on the body shape using the basic
shapes.

Step 1: Imagine a Character


Take a few moment to imagine a character you could draw! Think of its personality, its
physical attribute and even a situation it could be involved in.
If you want, take a piece of paper and quickly sketch some ideas.
Try to be imaginative!

Step 2: Launching Toon Boom Animate Pro


The next step will be done using Toon Boom Animate Pro. This is your first exercise using
this software, so read carefully the step by steps!
Creating your project:
1. Launch Toon Boom Animate Pro.
2. In the Welcome Screen:

a Browse to the location specified by


A your teacher. This is where your project
B
will be saved.
b Name your project: CharacterDesign,
followed by your initials.
C
c Make sure NTSC is selected in the 
Resolution List.
D d Click on the Create button.

5. Click on the Save button to record your project.

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Character Design and Construction Sheet

Step 3: Drawing a Skeleton Foundation


In your Animate Pro project, you will start by drawing the skeleton of your character.
Think about the proportions of your character!
Drawing the skeleton:
1. In Toon Boom Animate Pro, select the first cell of the Drawing layer in the Timeline
view.

2. In the Tools toolbar, select the Brush tool.


3. In the Tool Properties view, customize the Brush tool:
a Using a Pen tablet, the Brush tool will
work like a real pen on a paper and
produce a thin and thick effect 
following the pressure you inflict on the
tablet. Use the Minimum and
Maximum fields to set this thick and
thin effect.
A B b Animate Pro can automatically smooth
your line as you draw it. Set the level of
smoothness you wish to apply. The
C
higher the value, the more smoothness
will be applied to your line.
c The Preview field, gives you a preview
of the type of lines the Brush tool will
produce using the current settings.

There are a lot of options available in the Brush Tool Properties view. In this activity,
we will only see the ones you will need. Do not hesitate to explore on your own or refer
to the Animate Pro User Guide to learn more!

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4. In the Colour view:

a) Click on a Colour pot to select


it.
b) You can double click on a colour
pot to modify its colour using the
A Colour Picker view.
B c) Click to pick a colour.

5. In the Camera view, sketch your characters skeleton.

 If you need to, use the Eraser tool. You can customize it using the Tools

Properties view, just like you did with the Brush tool.

6. Save your project!

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Character Design and Construction Sheet

Step 4: Attaching Basic Shapes and Volume


Once you have your skeleton ready, you need to add some flesh around the bones! You
are going to build the basic shape of your character.
Attaching basic shapes and volume:
1. Launch Toon Boom Animate Pro.
2. In the Welcome Screen:
a Your project may appear in the Recent
A Scenes section. Click on your scenes
name to open it.
B b If your project does not appear in the
Recent Scenes section, click on Open
Scene and browse for it.

3. In the Timeline view, click on the Add Drawing Layer button to add a new
Drawing layer.

4. Select the Drawing layer containing the skeleton drawing of your character, and
click on the name to activate the text field. Name the layer Skeleton.

5. Repeat Step 4 for the new Drawing layer and name it Volumes.

6. Click on the Lock icon of the Skeleton layer. This will lock it to prevent any
changes to be applied on it!

7. In the Timeline view, select the first cell of the layer Volumes.

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8. Select the Brush tool.


9. In the Colour view, pick a colour.
10.In the Camera view, draw shapes and volumes around your skeleton.

You will notice that the skeleton


drawing will appear as faded so you
can use it as a guide but that it will not
distract you from your new drawing.

11.You can use the Rotary Table to rotate your workspace in the same way as you
would rotate a sheet of paper you were tracing on:

 Press and hold [Ctrl]+[Alt] (Windows) or [Ctrl]+[a] (Mac OS X) to display the


rotary table and then click and drag inside the Camera view to rotate the
workspace.
 Select View > Reset Rotation or press [Shift]+[X], the default keyboard shortcut.

12.Save your project!

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Character Design and Construction Sheet

Step 5: Drawing Different Poses


Now that you have created the basis of your character, you should try to give it a little
bit of life and imagine it in different situations and draw these poses!
1. Launch Toon Boom Animate Pro.
2. Open your CharacterDesign project.
3. In the Timeline view, select the second cell of the Skeleton layer.

4. Click on the Onion Skin button on the Skeleton layer to enable the Onion Skin

option.

This will let you see your


previous drawing in pale red
as a guide to make sure you
keep your proportions.

You can drag the blue markers to modify the amount


of previous and next drawings the onion skin lets you
see in the Camera view.

5. Select the Brush tool and pick a colour from the Colour view. Customize your
brush with the Tool Properties view if needed.

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6. In the Camera view, draw the skeleton in a new pose.

7. In the Timeline view, select the next cell of the Skeleton layer, and trace another
skeleton pose in the Camera view. Repeat this until you have at least five poses.
8. Once you have your five poses ready in the Skeleton layer, use the knowledge you
have acquired in Step 4: Attaching Basic Shapes and Volume, to draw the poses
with volumes in the Volumes layer.

9. Save your project!

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Activity 2: Expanding the Design of the Character


Now that you have developed and experimented with the basic construction of your
character, it is time to add the details of the characters features. This is a fun activity to
do, go ahead and be inventive!

Step 1: Sketching the Character


The first step is to sketch the characters features! It is important to start with a rough
version as it releases the constraint of trying to achieve the perfect line on the first
stroke.
Starting with a sketch gives better results at the final stage of the character design, it lets
you come up with better organics line and volumes, with less stiffness.
Sketching your character:
1. Launch Toon Boom Animate Pro.
2. Open your CharacterDesign project.
3. In the Timeline view, add a new Drawing layer and call it Sketch.
4. In the Timeline view, you can hide the Skeleton layer if you want. Just click in its
Enable/Disable Layer check box. You should lock the Volumes layer!

5. Select the Brush tool and pick a colour from the Colour view. Customize your
brush with the Tool Properties view if needed.
6. In the Timeline view, select the first cell of the Sketch layer.

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7. In the Camera view, sketch you character and its features using the volume drawing
as a guide.

Remember that you can use the Rotary Table


to turn your workspace around!

Be careful to follow and respect your Volume layer!

8. Save your project!

Step 2: Tracing the Character


Once you are satisfied with the sketch of your character, it is time to clean it up! During
this step, the quality of the line is very important. You have to trace it carefully. You want
your character to be as clean as possible.
Tracing your character:
1. Launch Toon Boom Animate Pro.
2. Open your CharacterDesign project.
3. In the Timeline view, add a new Drawing layer and call it Clean.
4. You should hide all the unnecessary layers and keep only the Sketch and Clean
layers visible. Do not hesitate to lock the Sketch layer!

5. Select the Brush tool and pick a black colour from the Colour view. Customize
your brush with the Tool Properties view if needed.
6. In the Timeline view, select the first cell of the Clean layer.

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7. In the Camera view, start tracing the character.

Remember that you can use the Rotary Table to turn your workspace
around!

8. Once you are comfortable using the Drawing tools, you can improve your line art
using the Contour Editor tool!

In the Drawing Tools toolbar, select the Contour Editor tool.


In the Camera view, click on the line to reshape it.

Select one or several points by clicking on them or circling around.

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To modify the shape, you can:


D Pull on the Bezier handle. Both points handles will move as one.

D Hold [Alt] down and pull on one of the Bezier handles. The points handle will
move independently from the other one.

D Move the selected points to a new area.

D Pull directly on the line in-between two points. No selection is necessary.


Holding down the [Shift] key will limit the contour modification to the curve
between the two first points.

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D If an anchor point has no visible Bezier, hold down the [Alt] key to get them.

9. Save your project!

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Activity 3: Tracing a Character


This activity is divided as follows:
Drawing Using the Brush Tool, on page 90
Other Useful Drawing Tools, on page 92
Adding a New Layer, on page 93
Tracing Over Your Character, on page 93
Adding Thick and Thin Lines, on page 95

Drawing Using the Brush Tool

The Brush tool supports pressure sensitivity and several brush tips.
To keep your work organized, rename the default layer with your new characters name.
1. In the Timeline view, double-click on the layer name and type the new name in the
field.

2. Press [Return] to validate the name.


3. Select the cell where you want to draw.

To get a feeling similar to drawing on paper with blue pencils, you can modify a
colour swatchs colour and transparency.
4. Double-click on the colour swatch if you want to modify the tint.
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5. To modify the colours transparency, slide the Alpha cursor to the right or left.
The Contour Optimization smooths the contour of your line once the line has been
traced.

There are several parameters which you can adjust in the Brush Properties:

Minimum Size

Maximum Size

Smoothness

Contour Optimization

Brush Tips

You are now ready to put all kinds of ideas onto your canvas, in this case, the
Camera view.
6. In the Camera view, sketch your character.

7. If you want to draw some shading on your character, enable the Draw Behind
option in the Brush Tool Properties.

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Other Useful Drawing Tools

There are several useful drawing tools you can use to perfect your work such as:

Select Tool
The Select tool allows to reposition, scale, skew, rotate and delete a selection.

Cutter Tool
The Cutter tool allows to select a portion of a drawing to reposition it or delete
it.

Eraser Tool
The Eraser tool allows to erase any section of a line or drawing.

Rotate View Tool


The Rotate tool allows to turn the workspace the same as an animation table.

To use the Rotate View tool, hold down the [Ctrl]+[Alt] keys on Windows and
[a]+[Alt] on Mac OS.
The default keyboard shortcut to reset the Camera view rotation is [Shift]+[X]. Or press

the Reset View button in the Camera views bottom toolbar.

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Adding a New Layer

Now that your sketch is completed, you will learn how to trace over it to get a clean
drawing.

1. In the Timeline view, click on the Add Drawing Layer button to add a new layer
for your clean drawing.
2. Rename the layer as clean or any other appropriate name.
It is now time to clean your character.

Tracing Over Your Character

There are many ways to clean up your characters sketch.

We will demonstrate how to use the Pencil tool and the Polyline tool for this

purpose.You could also use the Brush tool for this task.
1. In the Timeline view, in your clean layer, select the cell just above your sketch
drawing.

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Drawing in the clean layer cell does not affect your sketch. 
To prevent modification of the original drawing, lock it by clicking on the

Lock button for this layer.

You may find it confusing if all of the Colour swatches are named sequentially, such
as Colour 1, Colour 2, and so on. To avoid this, rename your swatches with an
appropriate name. To do this double-click on their name, change the name, and
then press the [Return] key to validate the name.
Pressing [Return], when you have a series of colour swatches, selects the next colour
swatch.

Using the Polyline tool to clean your drawing allows you to shape your lines

easier than if you were tracing them by hand using the Brush tool or the Pencil

tool.

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2. Click to set a point along your drawing and then pull away from it while holding
down the left mouse button. You will see the line shape as you move the handles.

3. To fine-tune the lines you created with the Polyline tool, use the Contour Editor

tool.
4. Click on the line to see the points appear.
5. Then, click on a point to select it and move its Bezier handles to reshape the line.

Use the Pencil tool to draw the lines you dont want to draw with the Polyline

tool.

Adding Thick and Thin Lines

The lines you drew using the Polyline and Pencil tools are a central vector type, so your
drawing does not contain thick and thin lines.

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There are different techniques you can use to add thick and thin lines.

The first technique is to use the Brush tool to draw some of the lines and change
the tip to an oblique shape or use a pen tablet which provides you with pressure
sensitivity and allows you to draw lines of variable thickness.
Drawing with the Brush tool does not allow you to reshape your lines as easily as with
the Polyline or Pencil tool. The Brush tool creates contour vector lines (also known as fills)
where the vector points are situated on the lines contour, Pencil lines are central vector
lines in which the points follow the centre of the line.
Central vector lines do not support thick and thin lines, but have the same thickness
throughout. Contour lines support thick and thin lines, but take longer to reshape.

The second technique is to convert the central lines to contour lines and to add some

thick and thin lines by using the Contour Editor tool.

1. In the Tools toolbar, select the Select tool.


2. In the Camera view, select the lines to convert to contour lines.

3. In the Tool Properties view, click on the Convert Pencil Lines to Brush Lines
button.

4. In the Tools toolbar, select the Contour Editor tool.

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5. In the Camera view, push the points and contours to add the desired thickness.

No matter which tools you use to draw with you must finally flatten the lines so that your
character outline is a single shape instead of being built out of many strokes. This makes
it easier and lighter to manipulate.

1. In the Tools toolbar, select the Select tool.


2. In the Camera view, select the lines to flatten.

3. In the Tool Properties view, click on the Flatten tool.

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Activity 4: Deconstructing a Character

Character construction is a huge topic to cover all at once. To get better you need a lot
of practice and observation.
You might want to look at stills from animations as examples that you can deconstruct
and use as a study basis for your own character design!
Find and deconstruct at least one character for each of these types:
Animal and Human
Man and Woman
Elder and Kids
Hero and Villains
Big and Small
Short and Tall

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