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Dynamic Characters - Chapter 1

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Date Added: 4th December 2012
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I chose this particular pose because I like its dynamic nature; I felt it had lots of possibilities to explore and so I increased the resolution and began by working in the large shapes roughly, using the same basic brush that I began with.

When I was happy with the overall shapes, I began using a soft edged airbrush in order to give the shapes form and roundness, and I envisioned the light source from a frontal raised position. Picking out your light source will answer many questions regarding form, so always keep this in mind early on in the rendering process.

The advent of digital art making has many boons: the ability to revert to a prior state; the efficiency of automation; the ability to paint full colour pictures without waiting for paint to dry nor having to inhale fumes from solvents.

In the field of concept art, another very time-efficient advantage is the ability to non-destructively create numerous versions based on the same idea.

Versioning - You can see from Fig.06 that the base image is the same; however, because I have duplicated the image twice, I negate the requirement to think of new poses, and the proportions of the figure have already been taken into account with the first character on the left. This means that for the two characters on the right of the original, there is less to think about, and more effort can be put into things such as the accessories of each.


As you can imagine, the advantages are huge and very economical if you want to create a large number of variations based on a single silhouette or body type. All that is required is the duplication of the image layer you want to work with, and simply painting over the top of it.

The advantages are huge, and very economical if you want to create a large number of variations based on a single silhouette or body type. All that is required is the duplication of the image layer you want to work with and simply painting over the top of it.

Custom Brushes

These days, custom brushes seem to be a staple of most digital artists' tool boxes. They are one of the aforementioned benefits of the digital age of art making, the process is simple and makes creating repeating elements a breeze.

However, this tutorial isn't going to cover custom brushes.

Yes, I know - huge riots, controversy and all that - but the truth is I just don't use custom brushes for the idea generation process much at all (final piece artwork is a slightly different story, though). There are some artists out there who swear by them because of 'happy accidents', just as there are some, such as myself, who would rather make every stroke deliberate. It's not that I can't use them or don't know how to make them, but I just prefer the control over my work using a regular default brush. Neither workflow is right nor wrong; it is a personal choice. My thoughts are that if you feel comfortable using something and you can deliver the results, your methods work for you!

That being said, because I see such an over-reliance on custom brushes by many novice artists, I'd like to explicitly remind people reading this that a custom brush is nothing but a tool. Like all tools, there are moments when they should be used, and moments when they should not be used. Custom brushes should never be used to replace the basics of art making and, if worst came to worst, you should be able to illustrate your thumbnails and silhouettes without them at all. Once you can do this, then using custom brushes may speed up your work, but as always: basic art skills first, flash-tastic technology second.

I'm not trying to discourage the use of custom brushes, by all means I encourage you to try them as well as many other work methods, and you might just find they gel with your working style - they just don't work with mine at this current time.

Rules and Guidelines

When it comes to art, many feel that rules inhibit the artistic expression of some artists. If you want to be a commercial artist, you'll need to kick that idea right out of your head. Creating art in a commercial environment has plenty of constraints which can be bent at times, but certainly not broken, especially if you're not the art director.

These are a few that pop up frequently, so try to keep them in mind when you do your work:

? Function before form: It is of absolutely no value to your employer, your client or your art lead if you create art that is flash over substance. The functional value of the costume needs to be there; once it suits the purpose it was built for, then you can make it look cool. One big example is articulation; I see a lot of artists creating these hulking power suits that look cool but are completely impractical and the wearer would simply not be able to lift their arms high enough to scratch their own heads!

? Rely on pre-existing memes to present your ideas: Rely to an extent on what has come before in the design world. Red means stop or danger, green means go, sharp means dangerous and round and soft means harmless and user-friendly. Leverage these memes and archetypes to give credibility to your designs.

? Don't 'ape' other people's artwork: Don't steal, copy, or plagiarise other people's designs. Just don't!


I've always been one to insist that what goes on in the head of the art maker is equally, if not more important, than what happens at the business end of a pencil. While I've alluded in various places during the tutorial what I am thinking, here are some of my thoughts on what you should try to keep in mind while you are exploring your ideas on paper:

? You are creating many tiny inconsequential pieces of art: the more you create, the higher the likelihood that you will have within those drawings the elements of the final design.

? You are unbiased towards any one design because Murphy's Law will almost always guarantee that the design that least excites you will be chosen by the art director.

? Every single sketch, thumbnail, silhouette or scribble is valuable - don't erase them.

? Any idea is a good idea; within each sketch holds a key that could open another door which may eventually lead to the final design.

So here you are at the end of my write up. I'm sure you're itching to get to some thumbnails underway - that's if you haven't already!

I hope you've enjoyed my tutorial and hopefully picked up one or two pointers. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to send me an email.

To see more by Darren Yeow, check out Photoshop for 3D Artists

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