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Building an Animation-Ready Character from the Ground Up

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Getting Started: Stick Figure Posing
Building an Animation-Ready Character from the Ground Up
You may be an amazing detail artist, but how good are you at creating effective animation-ready art? Cartoon art is different from illustration in that it focuses not only on style, but on efficiency. When you’re drawing a character fifteen times for one second of motion, every additional level of unnecessary detail can add hours of work and more than double the level of difficulty. While that’s fine for a team of animators splitting the work on a feature-length film, what about independent animators or studios that have to produce an entire season’s worth of 20-60 minute episodes in a very short period of time?

Once you have your character concept in mind, it can be hard to break it down to the necessary minimum – especially when working in reverse from complex art. Instead let’s look at how to build an animation-ready character from the ground up, starting at the simplest level and working with basic shapes to construct the body. Whether you’re fully traditional or combine in traditional with 2D computer animation, this tutorial should still be of use to you.

I like to start off with a stick-figure to capture the pose and flow. The important thing to look at here is the central line of the body, the arc and flow of it, and the positioning of the lines marking the shoulders and hips. The body counterbalances its planes to maintain equilibrium, so if one plane of the body tilts in one direction, another plane will tilt in the opposite direction to maintain balance.

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