Character Design and Importing Lesson

by Alexander Neish

Goals of the Lesson:

  • to learn the basic fundamentals of designing characters while still making them your own
  • to develop the eye for emphasizing the outline of their basic designs
  • to import their designs into photoshop for digital rendering and editing

Step One: Basic Structure

-While setting up a stick figure for the base form of the character, then proceed to fill in the space by drawing an hourglass figure in the chest to separate the waistline for the character.

-With the base structure established, layer on some finer details of the character’s physical appearance, such as clothing and hair style.

-Pick a posture for the character that gives a sense of depth. If your character has a series of postures that give it a sense of motion, it becomes easier to animate each of the individual limbs in flash.

-Practice with various expressions in the face, potentially drawing them to the side of the character’s body. This way, when importing, it is possible to shift between facial expressions during scenes.

Step Two: Fine Details

After completing the basic sketch of the character’s shape in pencil, carefully trace over with black marker or pen. Be sure to plot the outline carefully, but don’t worry if you end up overlapping or making stray marks in the process; they can be erased once they are imported.

With the ink outline completed, carefully erase the pencil background. Try to avoid creasing the paper while doing so, as creases can effect the outcome of the scanning process.

Step Three: Importing

Scan finished illustration into computer, preferably through a scanner available from one of the faculty members or even importing from a phone camera, and save as a jpg.

Open newly saved jpg in photoshop, and take this time to erase or adjust any unwanted details before proceeding to the rendition process listed below:

To save the outline of the character as a new image, go to the image tab and render the mode to greyscale. Next, go to adjustments under the image tab and edit the levels to make the outline darker.

Afterwards, select the channels tab to the right of the screen and select the image of the layer while holding the command button, in order to select the entire outline, then go to the select tab and hit inverse.

With your selection inverted, go back to layers and create a new layer, but be sure to change the mode to RGB color (do NOT flatten all layers).

Finally, under the edit tab, select Fill and confirm the base color that you want to use, typically black, to create a completed outline with no background. Then go to the select tab and hit deselect so as to freely transform this layer.

-it is recommended to make multiple copies of this layer in order to color behind the main outline, or even to fill in certain spaces with a solid base color. Afterwards, merge all layers into a single layer for the finalized design.

Step Four: Limb Separation

Select a limb of the fully colored figure with the lasso tool.

Cut the selected limb and put it into a new layer

Once you open flash, import each of the separated limbs into different animation layers. This way, it is easier to move each individual part of the character when animating it.