Wouter Tulp : Thoughts on character design

Hi, i just found this great and hopefully useful for you guys who want to learn character design. Check out this link for more details! 
Some things I think are important in character design.
This post is about  thoughts I have about character design, not a ‘how to draw’ tutorial. Besides knowing how to draw a character, how to use perspective, how to draw expressions, there is also an internal process going on  when I design a character. I tried to write down some thoughts about designing characters, and I’d like to share them with you. I hope they can be of use for you. If you have comments or additions, please leave a message in the comments section.
1.  Observation
I make a habit of constantly observing people. I found that for me to understand a character, I need a certain understanding of people, how they act, how they convey their emotions, why they wear certain clothes, how they use body language to emphasize or contradict what they are saying.  A man who just got robbed, will walk into a police station completely different than a man who was just called his stolen car has just been found. Someone who is genuinly happy for you  will smile at you differently than a salesman giving you his smiling talk.
I find it really useful to study actors, and the way they ‘get to know’ their character. How they use body language, facial expressions, clothing, make up etc. to define a character.  Some actors have really mastered the art of ‘becoming’ a character. They are very much aware of every gesture, how they move, talk and breathe. It can be really helpful to approach the desing of a character in a similar way
It is the task of a character designer to use his knowledge of how people and translate this into a design that is believable.
2. Reading the script
I thoroughly read the script, speak with the writer in order to get as much information as possible about the character to create an  idea in your mind to understand  who this character is.  Designing a character is not just playing around with shapes; it really is finding and defining the character’s personality.

When I read the script I focus on: How does the character feel, but also how he uses subtext in his expressions; If he’s scared, does he show it, or does he hide it, how does he relate to his environment. If he’s big, does he feel big?

3. Documentation
There is more to the character than just how he feels. ‘personality’ can be added to the character by how he dresses, how he combs his hair. If I want the character to be believable and  convincing I need to use elements from the world we know, and use and alter them in my design. The choices I make are based on the script, and from this, I try to be creative, and come up with many different ‘solutions’ for what the character could look like.
Google is a very helpful tool in referencing clothes, and assecoiries, but going out and looking at the real stuff, and making sketches on location can be very important as well. When I need to find out what dress a dancer has to wear, it can sometimes be more useful to go to a dance club and speak with dancers, and understand what is important for a dance dress, than to randomly combine google images into one dress. Someone who knows all about dance dresses should also be convinced by my design…
I like to combine ‘direct’ documentation with associative documentation. For instance  when I need to design a certain dress, I look for dresses in real life (direct documentation) but also for things I associate with the mood it has to have, or the personality of the character, or something random that comes up when I think of the character. (associative documentation.) Combinig these two elements, often lead to believable, but also creative design.


4. Trial and error
It takes more than one drawing to come up with a final character design. Sketching often is no more than thinking visually. Some ideas are good, some are bad, but there’s always room for improvement.
Step 1, 2 and 3 are essential to come up with various ideas and concepts. A character designer comes up with many different ideas and approaches to the subject. Allowing myself to try things that don’t work, is essential to eventually come up with great ideas. Nobody likes to show their bad drawings, but in order to be creative, it is neccesary to explore many different directions.  I hate it when a drawing  or a concept doesn’t work, or when I make a bad drawing.  The alternative however, is not allowing myself to make any mistakes, wich would mean doing the same thing over and over again…that’s not an option for me.
The great thing in designig a character this way, is that  I ‘get to know’ the character during the process.  When a drawing doesn’t communicate what I want it to, it means it doesn’t portray the character.  Trying again differently makes me slowly but surely discover who this character actually is.
5. Technique
A lot of books are written on character design technique. As I mentioned, I won’t go into ‘how to draw a character’ in this post, but there are some things to be said about technique.
It is important to constantly keep on developing both my drawing skills, as well as my creative skills, which means being able to come up with creative and original ideas.
Because most characters are based on human characters – even when the character is a tree, a donut or a rock, it’s expression and the way it’ll communicate with as is by human gestures and emotions- it’s important to attend life drawing classes. In these classes I develop a better understanding of human anatomy, expressions, shapes, 3 dimensionality drawing skills, quick sketching skills and so on…
When drawing from life,  making a caricature of what I see is very useful. Certain features of a model stand out, and emphasizing these features is like underlining an important remark in a notebook. I can go through my sketchbook and easily recognise what it is that stood out to me during a specific drawing session, and I can use this information in my character designs.
Within a charachter it’s all about proportions. About the relationship between the sizes of the different body parts, the sizes of the different volumes, textures, colors, etc.
In the end there has to be a relationship beteen all proportions that suits the character.  Wether it is balanced , for instance based on the golden ratio, or disbalanced; creating an off-balanced character.
It often helps me to think of contrasts. if a character has curly hair, I can juxtapose this by adding straight elements, for instace a sword, so they complement each other (fuzzy curly hair, soft vs. metal straight). Or a man who is very wise and knows a lot of things, may have a big head, so his body can be small to put emphasis on the head. Using contrasts is a useful tool to be very clear about what you want to express. If all is blue, then red stands out. When I have established that, I can look for the right balance between red and blue. So I first look for the big statements, and then refine them.
Thanks for the very good sharing Wouter!

Lighting in art

It all started with a several piece of artworks. Not an ordinary one, but the “mind-blowing artwork” from Todd Harris, Goro Fujita, Sam Nielson, and other ‘sick’ people.

They just showed off their superb skill of rendering (2D in particular), using Photoshop or Corel painter, and created a very inspiring artwork.

Todd Harris :

Goro Fujita :

Sam Nielson :

These people has opened up my mind about a beautiful thing called “lighting”. Lighting has become one of the most important aspect in film, video game, animation, and of course, illustration. Thanks to them! (Don’t forget to visit their blog! Totally recommended).

A simple sketch can be transformed into a gorgeous masterpiece when we are able to put the lighting in a good and right method. It is all about composition, atmosphere, light deflection, reflection, light source, and many more!

I need to improve my understanding of lighting more!

Useful article from Tom Richmond Blog!

I found this useful article from Tom Richmond blog. A humorous illustrator who inspired me by his statement, quote, and tips. Especially about caricature. I need to learn a lot from these people. They have successfully passed the test about endurance, never ending practice, and always improving in art and illustration industry. I hope this article also inspired you with a positive thoughts!


Q: I’m enthusiastically working through your book. Aside from enjoying the art and fantastic tips, I’m really interested what you said about it taking 500 faces to really get the nuances of caricature / portraiture.

So to fully understand…. maybe naively so, I have set out to draw 500 faces. I really want to at least begin to recognize all the subtleties you mentioned… and to overcome some of the challenges I’ve faced while drawing portraits. A friend of mine said that it takes 1,000 attempts at a particular activity to beome an expert. My goals isn’t really to become an expert (a half expert is fine with me) so much as to further my own art and to help me grow as a hobbyist.

What else would you recommend artists do to grow and become better at achieving a likeness?

A: I think you are mistaking the difference between caricature and likeness. Here is the quote from the book to which this question refers:

The Mad Art of Caricature, Page 12:

In caricature, the old adage of “practice makes perfect” has never been truer. The ability to see doesn’t spring up overnight, and I often tell eager young caricaturists they have about 500 or so bad caricatures in them before they start noticing the subtle things that hide inside the ordinary face.

By the term “see” I am talking about not necessarily the ability to DRAW or to capture a likeness, which can be done without any exaggeration. I am talking about the ability to observe and notice the things about a face that makes it unique—the things that a caricaturist is going to want to exaggerate to create a caricature as opposed to a portrait. The “500 or so bad caricatures” I say a new caricaturist has in them is not about improving drawing skills or capturing a better likeness, it’s about developing your eye to notice those unique things through the simple medium of observing and then drawing what you observe. Of course the act of drawing over 500 caricatures will also improve an artist’s drawing skills as well as their observational skills as it pertains to simply seeing the facial features that a likeness requires be accurately drawn immensely, but it’s the development of the ‘eye’ to which I refer in that quote.

Additionally, those 500 drawings are not a threshold wherein drawing number 501 is like some switch was suddenly switched on and an artist’s drawings suddenly become successful. I actually use that number with my new theme park artists as saying that is about when they stop fighting with the tools and medium, start getting comfortable in the chair and faces start to look different to them as things jump out that previously went unnoticed. It is still an ongoing process, and at the end of the next 500 drawings, number 1,001 will look very different than 501 did as long as they continue to apply themselves.

Now, as to your actual question about what else (besides practice) an artist can do to improve their ability to capture a likeness…

Nothing. There is nothing else besides unyielding dedication and sheer, unrelenting observing/drawing that will help an artist become better at getting a likeness. Studying and incorporating different techniques are important, and can help an artist along the way, but there are no shortcuts. No amount of studying, reading, watching videos, listening to lectures or other sources of information on drawing can replace the act of drawing and what that does to your ability to make your eyes, hand and brain work together. It’s like swimming. You can read about how to swim, you can look at diagrams of the action, you can watch videos and have classroom instruction in swimming. Until you actually get in the water and start moving around, you will never be able to swim.

That is advice nobody really wants to hear, but it is the absolute truth. Talent is only part of the recipe. The most talented artist in the world would not be more than a mediocre artist if they never bothered to work at developing their skills. Modest talent with enormous work ethic and determination will beat out enormously talented but lazy artists every time.

Indonesia. Pasti bisa!

Jangan terburu-buru menanggapi kata “Indonesia” dengan pesimistis. Jangan terlalu cepat mencondongkan hati pada hal-hal negatif saat mendengar nama bangsa kita disebut. Karena nyatanya, bangsa yang besar ini masih sangat mulia. Masih bermartabat. Masih ada harapan. Yah, kalau melihat berita-berita hari demi hari, memang yang ada hanya kriminalitas, korupsi, dan degenerasi moral. Itu bukan hal baru lagi. Bangsa ini memang sedang berupaya bangkit melawan semua hal menyedihkan tersebut. Tapi, daripada lelah pikiran, lelah otak memikirkan semua itu, mari kita melihat apa yang bisa dan telah dicapai oleh beberapa ‘mutiara’ Indonesia yang tersebar di seluruh dunia, secara langsung maupun tidak langsung, mengusung nama besar Indonesia.

1. Lakon Animasi (http://www.lakonanimasi.com/)

Pertama melihat cuplikan singkat animasi karya tim asal Solo ini, saya hanya bisa berkata, “Maafkan saya, karena terlalu sering menilai jelek karya anak bangsa.” Karena pandangan itu luntur kala menyaksikan karya mereka di http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvxpbR4pFs8 (Pada Suatu Ketika), betapa berbakatnya anak-anak Indonesia menghadirkan visual efek yang tidak kalah dengan film-film luar negeri, sebut saja Transformers.

Dengan konsistensi dan mengembangkan ide original seiring waktu, saya yakin, Lakon Animasi kembali bisa dikenal lebih luas oleh dunia internasional.

2. Enspire Studio (http://enspirestudio.com/)

Didirikan oleh dua artist visual effect yang menempu ilmu dan pengalaman di luar negeri, Enspire Studio hadir menambah warna dunia animasi di Indonesia. Trailer singkat animasi mereka http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZzDUOm56Uk (The Escape), menyita perhatian saya karena suguhan kualitas rendering, efek, dan terutama pencahayaan dan bayangan begitu memesona. Benar-benar tidak percaya semua ini dihasilkan anak bangsa!

3. Griselda Sastrawinata (Dreamworks)


Salah satu alasan kakak perempuan saya, Abe, tertarik bergelut di dunia animasi adalah karena wanita yang satu ini. Griselda hadir menghiasi daftar animator berbakat Indonesia. Sehingga perusahaan sekelas Dreamworks pun mempercayakannya posisi visual development artist di seri Shrek 4. Kini, ia masih terus berkarya dan bahkan mengajar ilmu komunikasi visual di kampus almamaternya.

4. Caravan Studio (http://caravanstudio.com/illustration & digital painting studio)

Tidak hanya di dunia animasi. Kita merambah dunia ilustrasi dimana Caravan Studio tetap eksis mengibarkan karya-karyanya yang istimewa. Daftar perusahaan yang menjadi klien merekapun tidak sembarangan, sebut saja Hasbro, Capcom, LEGO, dan Sony Online Entertainment.

5. Wanara Studio (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wanara-Studio/127043507349726)

Mereka adalah rekan saya di jurusan yang berbeda, saya Desain Interior, mereka Desain Grafis. Dan setelah menyelesaikan studi di ITB, mereka berempat Bima Nurin Aulan, Dian Effendy, Habibi Putranto, dan Sweta Kartika. Secara konsisten terus memperkenalkan tema wayang yang menjadi ciri khas Indonesia, Wanara Studio saya percaya akan kian besar dan maju.

Lima tokoh kreatif di atas hanyalah sebagian kecil dari sekian banyak potensi luar biasa Indonesia yang belum dibahas disini. Masih ada Rini Sugianto, sang animator Tin-tin. Masih ada Chekydot Studio (link) dan lainnya.

Semoga artikel ini memberi semangat pada kita bangsa Indonesia, bahwa masih ada harapan. Masih ada yang positif dari bangsa ini. Untuk saya pribadi, saya berjanji juga akan terus mengembangkan diri dan suatu saat ingin membawa nama Indonesia kian harum di mata dunia lewat karya saya. Doakan 🙂

Awesome inspiring site for every digital artist!

Saya memang sudah mengetahui site keren ini http://www.conceptroot.com.. tapi saya mau membagi nya dengan teman-teman yang sedang terus mau belajar dan mencari inspirasi di dunia digital art sama seperti saya 🙂

Jadi, bisa lihat link ini dan nikmati tiap karya sambil mencari tahu bagaimana cara membuatnya.

Kalau saya, saya selalu coba mempelajari hal-hal berikut tiap kali mengunjungi site ini :

  • apa pesan atau ide yang ingin disampaikan. Gambar pemandangan apa yang disampaikan? “Wah, ini ruang penyimpanan senjata yang keren!”, atau “o, ternyata si desainer merancang suatu kawasan hutan yang futuristik”, dan lain sebagainya. Nikmati apa yang bisa dipelajari dari tiap karya.
  • bagaimana si pelukis digital ini menggambar dengan teknik perspektif, pelajari bagaimana ia menentukan titik hilang, sudut pandang, sudut pengambilan gambar, dan lainnya.
  • bagaimana si pelukis digital tersebut menentukan arah / sumber cahaya, apakah dari cahaya matahari, cahaya lampu neon, bagaimana ia bisa menghadirkan atmosfer seram, gelap, remang-remang, atau suasana lainnya.
  • bagaimana cara ia mewarnai? Pelajari bagaimana ia bisa mewarnai sedemikian keren, sedemikian realistis. Apa yang membuat karya tersebut bisa begitu indah? Apakah ada teknik tertentu, penentuan bayangan, efektifitas gelap terang, dan elemen lainnya.
  • bagaimana cara pelukis digital itu menentukan ornamen, objek, atau pelengkap di karyanya tersebut? Apakah desain robot, desain bangunan, desain mesin, pelajari semua itu, amati, nikmati, dan pasti ada hal yang bisa dipelajari.
  • dan masih banyak alasan lainnya mengapa kita perlu untuk terus belajar dan tidak sekadar terpukau melihat suatu karya.

Selamat mengunjungi situs ini dan menikmati dan mempelajari semua hal yang bisa dipelajari dari tiap karya spektakular tersebut 😀