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Draw Your Character 101

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Draw Your Character 101

PostAuthor: TwiBel » Tue Jul 21, 2015 9:15 pm

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Hello there.

I've had a couple of small talks with fellow players wherein they expressed interest in doing their own character art, but some trepidation about their abilities.

Being good at art happens by practice, but I also think you can get a lot out of directed exercises. So my thought is this: about once a week, I'll toss up a small thing to do that I think will be helpful to people who are starting out. Something that focuses on one important aspect of character doodling. Ideally something that'll take 20 minutes or less of your time. I'll do the thing, show my work, and talk about why I picked this thing to do.

I'd encourage people to post along, because I love fun community stuff. But, you know, whatever you're comfortable with :D

I'm also not promising anybody anything that's going to turn them into professional artists overnight- hell, I'm miles and miles away from a pro myself- but I'm hoping to help with some of the foundations and get people closer to their character drawings looking how they want.

The biggest, the absolute most important first thing though, is that it's okay for the stuff you draw not to look perfect or polished. Especially when you first draw it!


Some notes on tools:


I honestly do most of my drawing with stuff you can buy at the supermarket or steal from a bank teller when their back is turned. Nice pens and pencils are certainly nice, but you don't need them, especially when you're just learning (I actually do a lot of my practice drawing with 12 cent ball point pens, because it forces me to be decisive, and to incorporate little unexpected blots in creative ways).

That said, I do recommend buying an eraser besides the ones on the back of your pencil. These white vinyl ones are gentle, they pick up lead without damaging the paper, and they cost like 50 cents:

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But, like, if you can't be bothered, no worries. Pencils come with erasers on the end.

Here are links to two free graphics programs:

http://www.gimp.org/
https://inkscape.org/en/

Don't buy photoshop. It's a great program, but these do all the same things and you can have them for free.

I have a tablet and I may use it to demonstrate some things, but I will never ask you to do anything that requires a tablet. Because they're expensive and that would make me an asshole.

Anyway, that sound good to you guys?
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Re: Draw Your Character 101

PostAuthor: Brayon » Tue Jul 21, 2015 9:29 pm

Sounds like a good idea to me. :)

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Re: Draw Your Character 101

PostAuthor: TwiBel » Tue Jul 21, 2015 10:53 pm

Exercise 0 : The One Where You Don't Draw Anything

Or: Character Collage

Okay, so, the GOOD reasons I'm beginning with this one are:

It's really handy to have references when you draw.
It helps you nail down what your character actually looks like. I find a lot of people don't have a clear picture going into a drawing of what they expect to come out the other side.
This one's easy and anyone can do it.
Looking for pictures to work from is very often my first step, especially if I want to do some kind of tricky pose.

(The less good reasons are the same reasons I keep poking that open question about your characters thread. I like to know what people think their characters look like)

Showing My Work

I'm doing this with my rarely used alt Atthar, because I draw Taruma all the time.

Here's Atthar as he looks in game:

Image

Here's what I want to convey about Atthar:

Atthar is from a well-off, important family in a Tyeduan tribe. Because he's the youngest of thirteen kids, he's had virtually no responsibilities and is a bit of a spoiled layabout. He's a bard, principally in a tale-telling and poetry way, but a decent singer as well. He's definitely not a hard-bodied warrior, but he's charming and in good shape. It's established in his character description that he's covered in tribal tattoos and he beads things into his braided hair.

So! The next step is to fire up Google Images and go crazy.

I don't usually collage when I do this- I usually either know what I'm looking for or I'm on kind of a long ramble through images looking for something that strikes my fancy (on my computer this would be a different firefox window with 14 tabs open). But collages are fun and easy to share, so here's one for little Atthar references. These should be all the things I need to ensure a good, interesting picture of the guy.

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1. The eyes and nose on that avatar remind me of Jake Gyllenhaal. Even if I didn't use anything else of him for Atthar, I'd probably open up a picture for the eyes.

2. Some braids and beards from The Thirteenth Warrior. The main viking was not at all the look I wanted, but these guys have some of the hair

3. A bone ring. Lots of Atthar's jewelry is going to be bone, and it's a different shape and texture to metal when it's worked. Nice to have a reference.

4. White person dreads

5. White person dreads PLUS beads! Plus this guy has a great nose and chin. (I'm focusing on noses and chins a bit because they're so prominent in the character head)

6. Ragnaar from Vikings. He's got some lovely stitching on his costume, plus the hairstyle has some commonalities with the character head. Probably won't go that extreme when I draw him, but nice reference. Also, look at his beautiful eyes.

7. Disney's Tarzan because CHIN. I actually find looking at other drawings very helpful when I'm figuring out how to draw something, and if I can't figure out how to render a thing I want from photographs, I will go fish for how it's been done in cartoons, comics, or caricatures.

8. Vikings again, largely for HER hair, which has a lot of elaborate braids. Look at those things.

9. Surfer dude here is about exactly the body type I'm looking for. In good shape, but not defined in the way you get if you lift compulsively, or alternately, if you type "Shirtless Guy" into Google. Yeesh. I find it's nice to have a body size idea to work from.

10. rings, because boy wears a lot of them. Nice reference.

11. VIKING STUFF. Authenticated broach and Thor's hammer.

12. Pacific Northwest Indian Stuff- because that's also part of the Tyedu mix according to the literature. When designing tattoos for Atthar I plan to mash these up a bit, get something with a bit of both cultures.

13. More viking stuff. Line art. I love these braided designs.

14. reference for overlapping chains. Atthar's well off, and he's from a culture where you don't exactly keep your wealth in a bank.



So there. Now go do yours.
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Re: Draw Your Character 101

PostAuthor: Kanos » Wed Jul 22, 2015 4:23 am

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Re: Draw Your Character 101

PostAuthor: Dirigible » Mon Jul 27, 2015 10:09 pm

Bertha Shalebreaker

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Character Portrait and IG head.

I see those hair sausages, as braids, with beads woven in. Very bling. Not fussy armor, practical, solid. platinum blonde, blue eyes, ignore those pixie noses, Bertha's gotta have a big dwarvish nose. Braids and chainmail, so obviously gonna be a pain in the ass to draw. Also apparently copying Twibel with the copious braids and viking references. But then dwarves are quite 'Norse' in feel anyway usually. (Though I love the Aztec / Mayan take on them in the Dragon Age series, so I want some blocky shapes in the detailing or fabric with some repeating patterns)

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Re: Draw Your Character 101

PostAuthor: TwiBel » Thu Jul 30, 2015 3:30 am

Exercise 1: The One Where You Trace

Or: On the Utilization of References

But TwiBel, you may be saying, isn't tracing totally not doing art? Isn't it stealing and being cheap and cheesy besides?

I get where you're coming from, hypothetical interlocutor, but I think you're presuming a couple of things that aren't helpful.

One: you're assigning value judgements to how art is done. Art is done in all kinds of ways, and the medium and mode don't necessarily determine whether it's good or not. What determines that is what comes out the other end. (Caveat- copying someone else's art and trying to pass it off as your own is not cool, but that's not what we're doing here today)

Two: it presumes you've got the option of freehanding something cool, and you're just too lazy to exercise it. This thread is intended for beginners. EVERYBODY traces when they're just learning, and even though I've been to years of classes, I still trace when I want to figure out how to draw something complicated like a foreshortened hand perspective, a very particular fabric drape, or some kind of nifty architecture. The trace almost never makes it into the picture anymore, but I've literally had things I could not have drawn if I didn't take a pen over a reference and figure out how the shape worked. Tracing is an essential step in being able to eventually draw a thing from memory or imagination.

Three: Tracing, looking at a reference, and drawing completely from your imagination aren't really separate things; they're things that exist on a continuum of ways to accomplish a picture. This exercise is going to lean heavily onto tracing, but the point of it is utilizing references to get the picture you want.

Showing My Work

(BEFORE I START THIS: I'm doing a complicated piece to show off ways to mix things together. I use multiple references. You don't have to do anything this elaborate)

Atthar again.

After talking about him last week, I decided the most interesting thing I wanted to do a picture of was tattoos that mixed viking and pacific northwestern art stuff. So I made a thumbnail of the picture I'd like to do.

Image

Notice it's sketchy as fuck and the hands are just circles (if you dare type anything like "That's so much better than what I could do" I will slap you sillier than you are right now). I don't usually label these things unless I don't plan to draw the picture for a really long time, as I can usually remember what's meant to be a bead or whatever. Thumbnails are great for nailing down what you want in a picture and how you want to do it. They're the best place in the world to realize when a pose or a composition doesn't work, because this is like fifteen seconds worth of pencil line here. No great loss of investment if you erase it and start over. The thumbnail is your notes to yourself as an artist.

(For reference, I start most any figurative drawing with some kind of thumbnail, often a stick figure or a blob man. I often, but not always, draw directly over it with the real picture)

Anyway, back to Google!

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I would have loved to find this as a shirtless back, but this will do well enough for our purposes! It doesn't have a head, but that's fine, we'll fix that later. It's got a straight back with good posture, and a really visible left hand.

The big pose is the important thing to start with. All the rest we can fill in.

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So I printed this guy out. I did this by copying the image, pasting into a paint program set to 8.5 x 11 paper size, and changing the image to fill the amount of the page I wanted. You can usually do this with the command Edit -> Transform or Ctrl + T. If you hold the shift key down in almost any paint program, it will lock the ratio of height to width so that the image changes size without becoming distorted.

You'll notice I also outlined the edges of what I want to copy in pen to make sure it shows up well.

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Sunny windows make excellent cheap light boxes!

The paper I'm using to trace is simple printer paper. There is actually tracing paper available at specialty stores, but you don't need it.

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Here's our traced guitar body. This is done in pencil because pencil can be erased. I made a mark as hard as I could in the bottom right to show the how lightly I'm pressing on the rest of the picture. You can always go back over a mark more darkly. Right now you're just sketching forms.

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Know what else makes a great light box? Your computer screen. DON'T Press Hard. Seriously.

This guy's bare back is not in the pose I want, exactly, but it gives me a good set of basics to work from. He's more cut than I want, but I find it's easy to move from a reference with more definition to a drawing with less, rather than the other way around.

Computer makes this easier because it allows me to size the picture to about the right shoulder width and copy directly onto the page!

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You'll see I have the lines for both the naked back and the jacket here. If you look at the left arm, you'll see I've gone ahead and extrapolated the line from the wrist to the elbow. This wasn't in either picture, but it's a safe guess. I'll also follow the line of the guitar neck into that space between the left arm and the torso that didn't show in the jacket picture, but will in the shirtless.

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Copying dreads!

Again, reference picture has been resized in an image program. I'm using the eye and nose (which I have from the sexy back picture), to triangulate about the right size of the head. This head is not in exactly the right position (it's side on, where the other is more from the back). That's okay. I'm just getting the basic shapes and I'll fix the rest later.

Remember as well, you can always tilt the page. So many people don't seem to realize that. Flip things around. You have the power.

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Elk for the tattoo. I also looked up some viking and pacific northwest things to get an idea of how I wanted to convert it.

Image

If you've been doing something similar to what I've been doing here, now is a good time to stop and look at your drawing. What looks weird? In my case, that left hand seemed too small for me, so I made it bigger. I also messed around with the head and the hairline. I added more dreds on the left side of the pony tail to give the impression we were seeing it more from the back than from the side.

This here is good practice. Always stop a drawing now and again, go get a drink, come back and look at it, and say "is this what I want to be drawing? Does it all look alright?" It's super easy to go down a rabbit hole of working hard on one part, only to realize later it's out of whack to everything else.

Look at your picture every now and again and say "what do I want to fix?"

(sometimes you will say "meh, I can't be bothered" but that's neither here nor there).

And, you know, fiddle with it until you figure out what works. I'm not going to lie, this is the hardest step and the most frustrating when you don't get it right the first couple of times. The thing is, nobody gets it right every time. Light lines and erasers are your friend here.

Draw lines and erase them if they're no good. That's okay. That's how everybody does it. You're learning this, and this is how you learn.

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This is the nice rough I got after I erased all the lines I didn't need, and went back over the ones I wanted. I decided I wanted to do some practice at the intricate braided tattoos before I try to draw them on a curved surface like a shoulder or an arm. Added some bits of flair.

It looks like a lot of difference from the one before it, but the main thing is really that I've darkened and smoothed out a little those arm lines and hair lines. I've also erased a lot of the extra lines on the forehead where I was figuring out exactly where I wanted his brow to go. And of course, all vestigial jacket bits are gone.

I can still see some things I want to fix about this, but all in all, I'm pretty pleased with how it's come along.


So, to sum up:

THUMBNAILS ARE YOUR FRIEND
REFERENCES ARE GREAT
SKETCH YOUR POSE OUT BEFORE YOU DO YOUR DETAIL!
MAKE LOTS OF LINES AND ERASE THE ONES YOU DON'T WANT. You're not married to anything on the page.

I would love to see what you guys do.
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Re: Draw Your Character 101

PostAuthor: TwiBel » Wed Aug 05, 2015 9:35 pm

Exercise 2: The One Where You Draw Stick Figures

Or: The Three Virtuous Ps of Character Illustration

Many times, when talking about how they cannot draw for beans, people use some variation of the phrase "I can only draw stick figures," which I think unfairly maligns the noble and fundamental art of drawing stick figures.

But TwiBel, you may be saying, how can a stick figure possibly convey unique identity, emotion, and identifiable character traits when it's just a series of really generic lines?

Answer one:

Image

Answer Two:

I'm really glad, hypothetical interlocutor, that you've decided to ask that in such a way that it perfectly sets up all the points I'm going to talk about below.

So, stick figures, while fun on their own, are often the basis of any figurative drawing you want to do. They'll often form the basis of the thumbnails we talked about in lesson one. For this, and other reasons like the pure joy of doing them, it's worth it to spend some time practicing and appreciating a good stick figure.

So, let's start with the elements of a useful stick figure. It's possible you've been taught to draw a stick figure like this (we'll call it an xkcd stickperson):

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This is a fine stick figure on its own, and you can get a lot of dramatic range out of it (xkcd is a lovely example), but for the purposes of this lesson, I'd like you to focus on a stick figure one level up from this.

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See how this one has hips and shoulders? That's going to be totally important.

I've also done a couple of stick men that are more complicated than I want to focus on today, to illustrate how these things are useful.

Image

Bonus stick person 1: articulated wire with hips and torso.

This is little guy or gal is great for poses because of the little joint balls. It helps you keep your proportions right.

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Bonus stick person 2: blob person.

Good for getting a sense of space and weight from your drawing. Especially nice if you're drawing someone heftier than a normal stick figure supports.

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Bonus stick person 3: blob person with midlines and rough muscle groups. Midlines (lines that run through geographical landmarks like the nose and sternum) help you anchor features when you're drawing faces and clothes, especially when the figure isn't pointed directly at you.

This thing is about halfway between a stick figure and a rough draft drawing, but the important thing for this lesson is, you can still really clearly see where it's a stick figure that I've just slapped a few extras on. This is a thing that comes with practice, but it's very achievable.

And you can just draw a figure on top of it:

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But back to our hips and shoulders stick figure and what I have pretensiously elected to call our three virtuous Ps!

Virtuous P 1: Proportion


Everybody is a different size and shape, even before you start getting into silly fantasy races, and stick figures can be drawn to reflect this.

For example, here is a group of athletes and their stick figures:

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Check out the variations in torso length, in shoulder width, and in hip size. And that's from a load of very fit humans.

Here, for example is a quick fantasy race stick people sketch.

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Before you even start adding ears, beards, and fangs, you know who these guys are, particularly when they're standing next to each other, and this is done by varying the proportion of Torso to Leg (the ogre is the most skewed), the proportion of Shoulder to Hips, or just varying the general Width of the body to Height (look at Elf and Dwarf, for example). Some of these guys are also hunched over, which we'll get into more on our second P.

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Proportion will also influence (though not completely determine) the sex people read onto your figure. There's a CHANCE that the left figure is a man and the right is a woman, but it's less likely. These guys are deliberately a little ridiculous to show off the difference.

Wide hips and a relatively short torso will usually indicate female (on a male figure, wide hips will often indicate being out of shape). Wide shoulders and a long torso will usually indicate male (on a female figure, wide shoulders will indicate Ronda Rousey athleticism of a particular type).

So, you may be asking, what do I do with this?

Well, think about your character a second. Are they willowy? Stocky? Tall? Short? Built like a brick shit-house? How long are their legs? Their torso? How wide are their hips?

Great. Now you know what kind of stick figure you'll want to draw.

Virtuous P 2: Pose


Pose is one of the absolute best ways to convey character, and where your stick figures really shine, whether they're your end goal or just a step along the way.

How does your character hold themselves? How do they move? Are they happy? Grumpy? Graceful? Powerful? Clutzy? Is their posture good, or do they slump? These things say a lot about your character.

It's possible just do a simple frontal portrait of your character standing straight and looking at the "camera", but why would you want to do that when they could be in a pose that says something about who they are?

Some examples:

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Even reduced down to a series of dots and lines, every single one of those figures is doing something interesting that tells you about who you are and how they're feeling. If you want to draw your character, and not just someone with their hairstyle and gear, think hard about how they carry themselves. Go back to your collage if you want, and trace a couple of the stick figures over those pictures. Get a feel for slumping shoulders and tilted hips.

If you need to edit the pose you copied so it has, say, the hips or the shoulders or the torso you want for your character, do that. Play around with it. This is a great exercise.

I think I'm going to stop here for a bit. I'll be back soon with the third virtuous P and showing my work. Until then, hope this was helpful.
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Re: Draw Your Character 101

PostAuthor: TwiBel » Thu Aug 13, 2015 3:19 am

Exercise 2.5: The One Where You Draw Stick Figures (continued)

Or: TwiBel is lazy.

Virtuous P 2b: More on Pose!

Okay, obviously working from life or from pictures is always going to be super helpful, but here are some quick tips and tricks for when you're inventing a pose out of whole cloth:

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Weight distributed evenly results in the legs looking the same, the hips being parallel to the ground, and frankly a super boring stick figure, like our person here on the left. The one on the right is in a more dynamic pose (looking a bit startled), but you can see it has the same weight distribution.

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When weight is on one leg more than the other, the weight bearing leg is straighter and the hip above it is higher than the other side. Try it in front of a mirror and you'll see this is true (generally, I recommend trying any pose you want to use, just to get a feel for where things go). The other leg is bent at the knee and the hip is lower.

Additionally, when at rest in an asymmetrical position, the shoulder on the same side as the weight bearing hip will tend to be lower. Again, try this pose and you'll feel it.

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Obviously, there are exceptions. Most any time your character is lifting an arm, that shoulder will be higher.

Or if one leg is bearing the weight while the other leg is being lifted for some fun kung fu move.

Or, alternately, when weight is being rested on the arm as well as the leg and thus pushing the shoulder up.

Probably some others too, but you get the idea.

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Also, you do not need to work in straight lines. You can get a lot across with curves.

Look at this guy here. He's slumped and miserable. Every part of him that can sag is sagging. (Notice how the lines curve kind of away from the middle?)

Figure is leaning and the curve helps make them look lazy and at ease.

This dude is celebrating, or perhaps boogie-ing down. He's the reverse of the first figure. Chest (not pictured) thrust out, shoulders up, hips jutted.

As always, pose says a whole lot about character.

Virtuous P 3: Props

Probably better to call it "Particulars", honestly, but props is easy. Let's look at that Order of the Stick again.

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So, what do you see here?

Every single one of these minimally detailed figures has some things that help you identify who they are. They've each got on a distinctive outfit. Elan has a lute, Durkon has a shield and holy symbo, Roy has his sword, the Ogre is wearing a skin and has a giant club.

Additionally, every single one of them has a slightly different skin tone. Elan and Durkon have hair. The ogre's got that big snaggle tooth.

Props are, in many ways, the easiest way to make sure a character is recognizable, but they're kind of a two edged sword. Funny story, I drew this picture, thinking people would have a super easy time recognizing who it was:

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There's shaggy hair, stubble, a one handed war hammer, a duster, and though it's less defined, a holy symbol of Dru'el (seriously, though, it's hard to tell if you don't know what you're looking for, as it's partially obscured).

But while all of those things were related to the character, they weren't the things he was best known for, and I had a lot more luck with him getting recognized after I did this:

Image

Once the bottle was there, people recognized the character instantly.

Honestly, shaggy hair, stubble, and trenchcoats are super common, especially in T'Nanshi, so it's hard to blame anybody for not picking up which shaggy, bestubbled, coated person it was.

Remember to think hard about what makes your character unique and identifiable.

Also, because Silverfields told me it was okay, I'd like to use some of her fine examples for prop identification:

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Bam. Feathered hat, hair, bow and arrow, wolf. If you've spent any time in game around MJ, you know this is her.

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Two swords, hood down, O'ma holy symbol, and fey guilt rosary. This stick figure is 100% Cole. There's really no one else it could be that I could think of. It's a great example for well used props.

You can get a lot accomplished with one or two things.

Showing My Work

Obviously, you'll be wanting to make stick figures here of your own characters, or other people's characters. Won't that be fun?

For demonstratory purposes, I'm going to do four characters I sort of play:
1. Varuka, the high-con dwarf halberd fighter.
2. Atthar, the sort of vain human bard
3. Taruma, the chaos priest
4. Alder, the willowy, nervous half-dryad druid

I'm doing this because individual characteristics stand out way more when they're right next to other examples, and because they're all pretty different characters. I'm going to take them from fairly generic stick figures to individualized stick figures as much as I can.

Virtuous P 1: Proportion
Image

(drew some lines as rough guides for height)

1. Varuka's thick even for a dwarf. I've drawn her hips and shoulders about the same size.
2. Atthar has bigger shoulders than hips. His legs are shorter than Taruma's.
3. Taruma's proportions are thinner than Atthar or Varuka's, but pretty even, skewed toward hips, because I think of her as fairly androgynous body-wise.
4. Alder is tall and super thin. A stiff breeze could knock him over.


Virtuous P 2 : Pose
Image

1. Varuka's weight is evenly split because she's doing military stances. One shoulder is slightly raised because she's going to be a holding a weapon.
2. Atthar's chest is puffed out and his weight is mostly even in a way that should come off as confident, but his stance is casual and like he's expounding something or telling a joke.
3. Taruma's pose is relaxed and very asymmetrical. Leaning on her maul is an emote I do a lot for her.
4. Alder is slouching and clutching a staff. Notice how his pose makes him look even thinner?

Virtuous P 3 : Props
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1. Varuka: Halberd and amor, plus that weird iron tiara thing and pony tail that are part of her head.
2. Atthar: Open vest, bangles, awesome sauce hair
3. Taruma: Big grin. She's almost never not grinning. Brown robes a bit like what I usually draw for her. No hair. Ridiculous hammer.
4. Alder : robes of skern, for what it's worth. Druid stick. But one he found, never EVER one he broke off a tree, and you're a barbarian for even suggesting it.


Bonus: Color.
Image

Now go play. Do your own.
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Re: Draw Your Character 101

PostAuthor: nihprodne » Mon Jan 18, 2016 4:17 pm

Epic Thread, most awesome...

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