post

How to Draw… Puffin Stuff

For the second character in our on-going “How to Draw…” series, I would like to focus on the puffin character from my original short, “Puffin Stuff.” Oddly enough, I have never officially named this character. I have come up with several over the years, but none of them ever seemed to stick. So now he is simply referred to as “Puffin” or “Puffin Stuff.”

Some Helpful Tips Before We Get Started

Please remember to stay loose and draw lightly. Do not bear down on your pencil and allow the shapes to build up. It sometimes helps to practice drawing circles first to help you loosen up!

Please read some of the Character Design posts I’ve done as well; they’re sure to be helpful in helping improve your drawing skills.

Puffin Stuff Front View

First, lets take a look at Puffin Stuff from the front view:

See, it’s easy and you can do it too! Lets break it down step by step.

  1. Start with a circle. Add a vertical guideline through the center of the circle top to bottom. Then, add a horizontal guideline below the halfway point, approximately 1/3 of the way from the bottom.
  2. Add eye shapes. Puffin has two small circular eyes. There should be approximately one eye length between each.
  3. Add the mask – Puffin Stuff’s mask consist of two large, egg-shaped ovals. They should wrap around the bottom of the eye and touch the top of the circle.
  4. Eyebrows. Draw two upside-down ‘U’ shapes, one above each of the mask shapes. The curve of the eyebrow should mimic the same curve as the top of his mask.
  5. Bridge of bill and cheeks. Draw three more upside-down ‘U’ shapes. The first one is stretched out in between his eyes, curving from the middle of the left eye to the middle of the right eye. This is the bridge of his bill, or where his nose would be (if he had one). The other two, will make up his cheeks on either side. They will curve off of the eye and outside of the circle for now.
  6. Add his tuft of feathers. This is just a ‘shark fin’ shape that sits right on top of his eyebrows.
  7. Top of the bill. At the bottom of the horizontal guideline, draw another upside down ‘U’. It will just float here for now.
  8. Smile/mouth line. On both sides, draw an ‘S’ curve that comes to a point when they meet in the middle at the vertical guideline.
  9. Dimples. On the top of each side of Puffin’s smile, add a small curved line.
  10. Stripes on top of the bill. Puffin’s have very unique markings on their bills. The ones on Puffin Stuff’s are two upside down ‘U’ shapes.
  11. Finish off the chin. Starting where you ended your cheeks, draw a large ‘U’ to connect them both.
  12. Stripes on bottom of the bill. To finish off Puffin’s unique markings, draw two ‘U’ shapes that are a little wider than the ones on top. They should touch the bottom of the chin.
  13. Draw the neck and connect the beak. Puffin has a wide neck that is as wide as your original circle shape. Draw two lines, tapering outward slightly. Above the cheeks on either side, draw a curved line off the top of the cheek that connects back to the side of the circle. This is the muscle that connects his beak to his head.
  14. Add the white part of his neck. Draw two more tapered lines inside the neck area. This is the white part of the character.
  15. Add pupils. Puffin’s pupils are circles, approximately 1/2 the size of his eye. Draw the entire shape in the corner of his eye, making sure that it stays grounded.
  16. Clean up. Erase all of your guidelines, including the horizontal and vertical guides, parts of the original circle, and any other guidelines you may have drawn.
  17. Color and complete! Puffin’s feathers are black and white and he has robin’s egg blue eyes. His beak is a bright orange with dark red and black stripes.

That’s it!

Puffin Stuff 3/4 View

Now that you’re a master at drawing Puffin Stuff from the front view, lets take a look at him from a 3/4 angle:

Puffin from 3/4 has very similar steps as Puffin from a front view. Let’s take a look below.

  1. Start with a circle. Add a vertical guideline through the center of the circle top to bottom. Then, add a horizontal guideline towards the bottom of the circle, approximately 1/3 of the way from the bottom. These will both have a slight curve to them now, since Puffin is turning his head to a 3/4 view.
  2. Add eye shapes. Puffin has circle-shaped eyes. The one on the left is in perspective and drawn smaller due to the turn of his head.
  3. Mask around the eyes. Puffin Stuff’s mask consist of two large, egg-shaped ovals. They should wrap around the bottom of the eye and nearly touch the top of the circle.
  4. Eyebrows. Draw two upside-down ‘U’ shapes, one above each mask shape. The curve of the eyebrow should mimic the same curve as the top of his mask. Again, the one on the left is smaller since it is further away.
  5. Bridge of bill and cheeks. Draw three more upside-down ‘U’ shapes. The first one is stretched out in between his eyes, curving from the middle of the left eye to the middle of the right eye. This is the bridge of his bill, or where his nose would be (if he had one). The other two, will make up his cheeks on either side. They will curve off of the eye and outside of the circle for now.
  6. Add his tuft of feathers. This is just a ‘shark fin’ shape that sits right on top of his eyebrows.
  7. Top of the beak. At the bottom of the left eye, draw another upside down ‘U’. It will just float here for now.
  8. Bottom of the beak/smile. Starting below his right cheek, draw an elongated ‘S’ shape that creates a point at the tip of his beak.
  9. Dimples! Under the cheek at the top of the smile, draw a curved line to create a dimple.
  10. Stripes on top of the beak. Draw two upside down ‘U’ shapes to create the stripes at the end of Puffin’s beak.
  11. Finish off the cheeks with Puffin’s chin. Starting where you ended your cheeks, draw a large curved line that swoops back up to meet the bottom of his beak.
  12. Stripes on bottom of the beak. Draw two ‘U’ shapes to create the stripes on the bottom of Puffin’s beak. They should be wider than the ones on top.
  13. Draw the neck and connect the beak. Puffin’s neck is as wide as your original circle and consists of two slightly tapered lines. Above the cheeks on either side, draw a curved line off the top of the cheek that connects back to the side of the circle. This is the muscle that connects Puffin’s beak to his head.
  14. Add pupils. Puffin’s pupils are circle shapes. Draw the entire circle in the corner of his eye, making sure that it stays grounded. The pupil takes up about half of the total height of his eye.
  15. Clean up. Erase all of your guidelines, including the horizontal and vertical guides, parts of the original circle, and any other guidelines you may have drawn.
  16. Color and complete! Puffin’s feathers are black and white and he has robin’s egg blue eyes. His beak is a bright orange with dark red and black stripes.

And there you have it!

I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I did writing it. Please keep your eye out for more “How to Draw…” Schmitty’s Toons! characters soon! I plan to teach several more of my Schmitty’s Toons! characters in this series. If you have a favorite that you would like to do next, please notify me in the comments.

In the comments below, I would also love to see your beautiful creations! Please don’t be afraid to share!

Schmitty out.

post

Character Design: Appeal is Key

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I wanted to say in my first blog post after the initial redesign of the main website. I jotted down a list of ideas and I decided that the topic of this post is really the meat and potatoes about who I am as an artist and therefore a great place for me to start.

I’d like to share a few of my thoughts about character design and some of the things that I’ve learned from my experiences in doing it over the years.

In this blog posting, I will talk about a few principles of character design that all good character designers and artists in general understand. This will be the first in a series of on-going character design articles that I write and I hope it is informative for anyone who needs help or guidance in designing characters. Let’s get to it!

Appeal is key. If your character lacks appeal, he (or she) is un-relatable, which means that your audience will not connect or care about him/her. Think of your favorite character from your favorite movie or TV show. What is it about that character that appeals to you?

For the purposes of this article, I would like to use one of my own characters as an example. I’ve selected the puffin character seen in my logo and star of my college senior thesis project titled “Puffin Stuff.”

puffinStuffIcon.png

Naturally, the first thing I did when designing my puffin character was… wait for it… research!

Research will help you make your character more appealing and get to know what makes your character tick. You above all else need to understand and connect with your character first, otherwise no one else will!

Puffin.jpg

My puffin may not have ended up looking exactly like a real puffin, but the design choices I made along the way helped add to his own unique appeal.

What makes a  puffin a puffin? Why are they so dang cute? Just looking at the picture above, the distinguishing characteristics are primarily in its very vibrant coloring. They are somewhat penguin-like with the white belly and black feathers. They have very bright orange colors in their webbed feet and distinguishing stripes on their beaks. There is a large, white mask around their eye and they have a plump cheek. Puffins have the ability to fly and they live in rocky areas near the sea in the northern hemisphere around the arctic circle (unlike penguins, which are in the southern hemisphere, ranging from the equator all the way down to the south pole).

Wow, I sure know a lot about Puffins (because I did my research)! This is just one example of how you can use research to influence the appeal in your character design.

The next thing to consider after you do your research (or during) is your character’s back story and personality. Who is your character? Where are they from? What makes them tick? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Sometimes your research will impact your character’s personality or vice versa. You can use these to influence the design of the character as well.

The things I knew about my puffin based on my original story treatment (sounds like an idea for a future blog post!) was that he was very persistent and he would have to be a pretty smart puffin in order to solve the challenges he faced while he was visiting a beach where they do not allow animals.

Steal from the best. In this day in age, it’s a practical impossibility to come up with a completely 100% original idea. Everyone on the planet is taking inspiration from something, which was created by someone at some point or another. The difference is to innovate the original and change it to make it your own.sniffles

I learned this from Chuck Jones at an early age. When Chuck first started animating for Warner Bros., he was almost fired because his Sniffles the Mouse cartoons were too “cute” in comparison to the edgier cartoons that the other directors at the studio were creating. Chuck Jones later admitted to actually stealing his whole animation style from Disney because Disney was the only one at that time doing it successfully. He had no one else to turn to for inspiration back then, so he “stole from the best”. His words. Looking at it in retrospect, the Sniffles the Mouse cartoons from Chuck Jones were certainly more appealing and they stood the test of time more-so than the zany, goofy, rubber hose shorts did (this was pre-Bugs and Daffy). Chuck would eventually develop his own iconic style, but he used Disney as a jumping off point for his success.

When approaching your character, and in particular to appeal, look at what has been done before. What was appealing about what they did previously? What would you change? How does it relate to what you are doing now?

I asked myself all those questions when approaching my puffin character.

If you look at him now, he is essentially an amalgamation of several things that came before him, with a touch of my own flair. He has the wings of Iago (from Aladdin), the feet and line work of Daffy Duck, the beak of Foghorn Leghorn, and the blue eye color of Donald Duck. The rest of the design was inspired by an actual puffin and the spiffy Hawaiian shorts were added for additional appeal and helped make him more human-like (and besides, I LOVE Hawaiian prints as most people who know me will tell you).

In the case of the puffin, I needed to design him to work in a 3-dimensional world, while still maintaining his 2-dimensional appeal. This is true for all 3D artwork and sometimes 2-dimensional appeal does not translate itself so well to 3D, so changes are often made. Feasibility must be taken into consideration.

One of the challenges I had faced from the get go was how to approach is wings. Bird wings (feathers in particular) are difficult to emulate, especially for a solo artist creating a short film in college on limited resources. They also have inverse elbows and their wings work differently than human arms work. I looked at what had done before and used my personal favorite Disney character as inspiration to solve this problem. Iago from Aladdin.

iago.gif

You will note that Iago uses his arms similarly to how humans use theirs. He has modified feather fingers, which are also colored differently than the rest of his body on the tips to help them stand out better. I borrowed this feature for my puffin as well for the same reason. This allows you to read the character’s poses better, which again adds to the appeal.

Donald Duck’s blue eyes were also a key feature, which I borrowed to help with the puffin’s appeal. Disney made Donald’s eyes blue to help them stand out better in the plethora of white feathers that surround his giant egg-shaped eyes. My puffin had the same problem, so the trick Disney had used previously worked for my character too!

A few other things I used in my design was from the Looney Tunes arsenal. Check out Daffy’s feet and Foghorn Leghorn’s beak.

In addition to Daffy’s feet, I also borrowed another interesting feature of his – his line work. You’ll notice in the areas where you see black-on-black color, they switch the line art to white, and I made a conscious choice to do exactly that on my puffin’s design. This is a similar reason as to why I borrowed Iago’s features, to help his poses be more readable, which in turn would make him more appealing.

I believe the puffin from my thesis was a successful, appealing 3D character. I could probably recreate him now and make him even more appealing than he was then, as my skills as an artist have improved immensely over the past 10 years. In the end, it amounted to a lot of hard work and as you can see, a lot of thought (and love) was put into his design.

Appeal is the most important part of character design. All the other principles that I will talk about in this blog in regard to character design in the future will link back to some of the topics that I’ve talked about here and will directly affect the appeal of the character. The next topic that I will cover in this series will be about Line Quality.

I hope this article has been informative and gives some insight into what goes into making a successful character. In the comments below, I would love to hear some of your thoughts about your own designs. If you have ideas for a future article about art or character development, please let me know and I would be happy to consider it!

Schmitty out.