Intro to CLCAC.
Hello! My name is Yarolav Primachenko and this tutorial is all about designing cool looking cartoon animal characters (CLCAC©). Don’t you know that designing cool cartoon characters makes you a little cooler as well! As far as I remember there were even several books from the “Be the greatest and rule the world” series and the first chapter was all about stylized cartoon characters – as this is a need to know thing for any person that wants to write down his name into history. This is also the best advice in the case of a sudden world’s end – stay cool and start designing cartoon animals! As you see this is just a life and death issue, so you’d better put down just whatever you’re doing and follow this tutorial! Let’s get started.
Basic CLCAC© design and sketching.
The first thing you need to know is how to make your character unique and recognizable. And this is really the first and main goal you want to achieve, as you can make a great job on modeling, spend half of your life on lightning and texturing the scene, ruin your health while setting the render at sleepless nights, but if the design won’t work, neither will the image. So let me walkthrough you through the process of designing my Emu character and tell about the basic principles I used while creating it.
The first thing that makes the viewer pay attention to the character is silhouette - its proportions and contrast. And I’m not only (and less of all) talking about the contrast in color, but mainly the contrast that defines the basic shape of your design. The strong character can have a very small head and legs, though a huge body and muscular hands – this is just an obvious example, there are millions of different combinations, so think of them when designing your characters. Make it visually strong and recognizable so that it works nice even in a low light or strong back light situation, when the beautiful color or all the lovely details that you put into the character really don’t make any sense. Take a look at some really successive characters and ask yourself what makes them work, try to analyze and understand the principals they are build on. But don’t stare too much, especially right before the designing process – you can end up in copying someone else. Do it in your spare time – when watching TV, eating your cereals, talking to other people or planning an evil plot against the world.
First of all I’ve searched for some reference images of the real Emu. What I liked is that its feathers look like hair - both on its head and body. I’ve checked the internet and found out that emu has much softer and flexible feathers comparing to other birds. I thought that it would be a good idea to exaggerate this feature. I had several ideas about the main proportions of the body and after some thinking I decided that the first one will work best for me.
Though I liked the idea of making the head of the character very big, or make it hardly visible I didn’t like that it made my design look too childish or created the situation when the face would be very hard to read. I started with some quick pencil sketches .
As far as I didn’t need to approve them to a customer I could make them just whatever quick and dirty. The main goal of this first stage is to work out the basic proportions of the character its silhouette and facial features, make it somehow alike the real animal, though stylized and recognizable. Quickly I moved to zbrush as I find it’s zspheres quite a unique and handy way to create the basic topology and work out the main proportions and the silhouette.
In depth CLCAC© design.
I converted the zspheres into the mesh and continued working on the character. As far as I decided that my character should have hair I also quickly made a mesh representing it - to block the main parts and better understand the proportions. I also decided that my character should have some kind of scarf – as the reference emus had so very much hair around their neck, as if they were in constant fear of catching cold.
). I started 3dsmax and continued working on design - still blocking out the big parts, not concentrating on details. This is also the time when I started thinking about the color of my character. Though naturally emu have some kind of grey-brown color it would not be a best solution to leave it like that for sure, so I decided to color it somehow according to the color scheme of the Emo culture. I roughly colored the parts of the character and it seemed OK to me.
After that I have made a draft render and took it into photoshop. Quickly I added some details – just to have a sense what a finished character could look like. I was very aware that my emu would look like a chicken (don’t get me wrong – I like chickens) and I also didn’t like the proportions so I made some improvements using the liquify filter in photoshop. By the way, for those of you, who can’t find it anywhere – you have to download it separately for the CS5 on the adobe site. Though, as far as I remember it was included in standard CS4 pack. But this is one of those “must use” plugins when designing the character for sure - a chance to quickly and easily change the proportions of your model without having to spend much time on it. And by the way, you’d better use this chance and spend 15 minutes to understand where you want to head with your character, then have to remodel it later, or end with a character you don’t like. It is always a good idea to exaggerate key features of your character as it will help people to identify your design better. As you can see I have made the neck and its legs much thinner and the body smaller, thus adding the desirable contrast to the character – the combination of heavy head and huge feet on a thin neck and legs made the character look the way I wanted.
And now it didn’t look like a chicken! Great!
Choosing a color for your CLCAC© design.
I continue working on the design in Zbrush – improving and tweaking it, starting to add some detail and more complex color.
Though, I know, some people color the character only after finishing the modeling process, I like to do it in complex starting from some point – to color and model at the same time, as color can tell a lot about the characters personality. For example dark color combinations are for bad fellas, light usually express good and friendly characters, and contrast combinations of blue, red, green and so on are for superheroes – otherwise no one would have noticed them in a crowd and that would be a real shame! From time to time I turn off the diffuse to see the geometry clearly, but most of time I work on this two together. I like to use the Zbrush UWMaster for the draft unwrap - it is really a brilliant plugin that saves a lot of time, though, for the most important parts, I usually fix it a little– to use more of the UW space and make it easier to paint extra details in photoshop later. I make some test renders in 3Dsmax with hair to make sure all the parts work well together. There’s really no magic behind the texturing process – you just have to keep in mind the final design and make the color work best for it. Don’t try to use millions of colors from the beginning – first fill the main parts of the character with solid color and if it works nice then start to add variation and all the details you need based on this base color scheme. Remember that your character will look better if it will have one dominant and a few complementary colors. When designing the emu I decided that it would be a character that basically good though not very clever (it is believed that their brain is smaller than their eyes) but that wants to look cool and appear more evil then it really is (by the way this is also why the teeth appeared in the final design). So I mainly used bright and saturated combinations as the base color but also added some blacks.
Detailing your CLCAC© design.
Clothing can tell a lot about your character, its background and habits, so don’t underestimate this part of designing process. Though it should be recognizable without any clothes at all, this is really a good chance to exaggerate some key features and add extra detail. For example, torn and dirty clothes can be used for poor characters. The eye patch and a wooden leg is what make pirate a pirate! Well, of course it shouldn’t always be that obvious. Remember the Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and how he used to tell the background story of a person just looking at him and analyzing the small details of his clothes? That’s who you have to be – the Sherlock Holmes, with only one difference – you have to tell the viewer through the details, not guess. As far as my character decided to follow the Emo path in his life I started adding details specific to this culture. I didn’t want to depict it fanatically – just to add that feel to the character.
Lightning your CLCAC© design.
Though the lightning may seem something that doesn’t directly concern the characters design it is not like that – you can tell a lot through the way you light the figure. You can make it more evil by lightning it from the bottom, or mysterious by lighting from the back so that only the silhouette reads clearly or setting the light the way that the eyes will hide in the shadow. The lightning and the atmosphere should reinforce the characters personality. This strongly concerns complex and complicated characters. Well, after saying all that I should tell that in my case the light was rather simple. I even wanted to stylize it for the amateur photo with overburned areas, noise in the shadows and all the staff you usually see on the internet when people try to photo themselves. Well, after some thinking I admitted that it wasn’t the best idea in the world as I not only wanted the picture to be funny, but somehow of a good quality too. The lightning looked like this.
A vray light for the main fill light, and three spot lights with attenuation – one for the rim, second for the key light source and the third for some additional backlighting. I also added a plane under the character with radial gradient on materials opacity channel, so that the floor kind of fades away to the edges of the picture.
Finishing your CLCAC© design.
I didn’t use much post effects on this image. I rendered the scene in several separate layers – specular, reflect, hair, Ambient Occlusion and so on, then combined them using Photoshop. I added a few texture layers on top of the image – to add some depth and take away that digital look a little. I created the new layer set it to soft light and drew some extra highlights using the soft brush – just to make the image pop a little more.
На этом, собственно, вся работа по пост-эффектам и композу закончилась.
Conclusion on the CLCAC© design.
Hope you learned something from this tutorial and found it interesting. Thank you for reading – now it time to go and make some CLCAC© designs to rule the world! :)www.yar-design.com