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Illustrating Characters How I do it. Rate Topic: -----

#1 WolfCoder  Icon User is offline

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Post icon  Posted 23 January 2009 - 10:00 PM

Well, I'm screwing around with RPG Maker 2003 to prototype my sprites for use with many games I make (to see how all my artwork would work in a game). It's great to have a cast of characters and artwork to work with previously. Design characters and create your own universe (in the case of WeaponSoul, it takes place across many universes and planes of dimensions). So, while I may not be that skillful in drawing characters, I can draw characters so they are usable in games (ie: it doesn't look like your 8-year old sibling scanned his doodles in and took a paint tool to it).

Before we begin,
PRACTICE THE PEN TOOL!!!
The pen tool is absolutely important in this tutorial, you must practice it so that you make few mistakes and can trace over shapes very well.

For example, I want to draw a character face. Right before I wrote this, I designed a new lead character named Tetsuyama (throwing random words together, iron mountain the name means). So if you have a tablet, you can just scribble out your character. Go nuts, we're going to fix it later anyway and organize it. Or, just sketch him/her out on paper and scan it in at 300DPI if you draw tiny like me. I have the following picture:

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Very messy hair and a calm yet interested happy look.

Now I haven't gone soft on you all by using RPG Maker 2003, the reason being is I'm focusing on creating content vs. tinkering with my engine. I can prototype how characters look and feel using this half-converted piece of software (I can't tell you where to get it because not only is it hard to find the English translation image but it's also in a legal grey area kind of like fansubs. Use RPG Maker XP instead, I just happened to have RPG Maker 2003 from ages ago to mess with).

My goal is to make this look like her character set.

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Took me a matter of moments to draw.

I really like this look for lead characters, and they all differ slightly in their appearances. I used a great color combination to bring out her personality as well as the fact that she fights stuff with a giant magnet. I designed the first version a long time ago for a Bomberman fan game I wrote in JAVA and today I decided to draw her. I'm spending the time to talk about just the character design as it's important. It's very hard to make a memorable character and remember it's not just the look- it's also how they act. This character belongs in RPGs, if I put her in a different game like a racing game, it would seem like a different character altogether.

So remember, stick with what the character does best! You can see how this works, Mario jumps and Sonic runs. When they don't do those things, the game result tends to be inferior and the character just doesn't feel right. There's nothing complicated about a good character, just look at S. Miyamoto's Mario. I personally think if you sit there and overdo a character it will just feel too generic.

Alright, you'll be using Illustrator this time since we are, of course, illustrating. Fire it up, I happened to find my old one from who knows where it came from. Probably from back when I was in high school from the graphic arts lab. Anyway, since our example is 48 by 48 pixels (size of each face in RPG Maker 2003) create a 48 by 48 point artboard. Then click file->place and add the scanned in image (or just go nuts with your tablet if you have one).

Create a new layer now. Then, start by setting your stroke weight to 1 pixel and trace over (using your elite pen skills) every line that needs drawing over. It defines the shape of the character, it's really up to you but this is what I got (make sure you're using no fill at all or you'll freak out):

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Don't draw in the face just yet at all. Let's draw in some basic colors now. All we need is her skin, ear, and hair color. We're not doing any fancy shading or anything just yet, so create a new layer under the pen and lock the pen layer. Go and sample the colors you need from any source pictures or mix them yourself. Got them? Go ahead and set a fill without a stroke to each color, and cover every space that needs coloring. It should look like this when finished:

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Now for the tricky part, the face. There's many different ways to do the face, and you have to try out different stroke weights for different elements for the face to reproduce a good face. This is what always gets me every time, but you must prevail! Right above the base color layer, stroke in the character's face (lock everything else for ease of editing).

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You can always hide layers. Now let's start drawing the eyes in... This gets really tricky! Create a new layer right under the face pen. Draw the whites of the eyes first and then the iris. I'm not too good at this but the result might look like this:

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Notice how I have a ton of layers for the eyes? I am carefully trying to do my best not to have the shapes screw with each other when I want to make changes. I sat there and adjusted the stroke widths to several things to get this looking like it does so don't fret~ Now, let's add a little life with shading. Pick out darkened versions of the basic colors and make a new layer just above the base color layer. You can hide layers to view the source image to get the shading just right. You should have something that looks like this:

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You're not going to get it right the first time, and take a look. I'm always adjusting things I've drawn before, so remember once you finish a step doesn't mean you don't have to go back! I made her forehead too small so I was in the middle of fixing it as shown in the image. Keep at it and you should arrive finally at this (take your time, of course, I always end up doing this in 15 to 30 minutes):

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There you go. Now go and practice it many times!

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