De­pict­ing faces with char­ac­ter

Julián del Rey ex­plains how to add life and per­son­al­ity to your char­ac­ter draw­ings, us­ing anatomy, ex­pres­sion, light, colour and com­po­si­tion

ImagineFX - - Contents -

Julián del Rey on ap­ply­ing life and per­son­al­ity.

When I started work­ing as a dig­i­tal and tra­di­tional artist seven years ago, I found that all the faces I de­signed looked flat and life­less. They had no per­son­al­ity. For a long time I al­ways drew the same faces, just to stay in­side my com­fort zone. One day one of my friends, who is also a dig­i­tal artist, asked me, “Do you want to cre­ate char­ac­ters who look alive?” I said yes, and he an­swered sim­ply one name: “Nor­man Rock­well.” Next day I went to the li­brary and found a book about Nor­man Rock­well. When I saw those faces, those expressions, some­thing changed in my mind. So then I started think­ing about how I could ap­ply this in my draw­ings. I spent a lot of time look­ing at a lot of dig­i­tal artists, con­cept artists and il­lus­tra­tors who made their char­ac­ters very sim­ple over­all, yet man­aged to put a great deal of ef­fort into one place: the face. The hu­man face is one of the most im­por­tant parts of a char­ac­ter, so here are some of my tips and tricks to help you to add life and per­son­al­ity to it.

1 Pro­por­tions for re­al­is­tic por­traits

When start­ing a char­ac­ter, the first thing I think about is the fun­da­men­tals of anatomy and how the face works. You can then play with the mus­cles, the shape of the eyes and of the mouth, adding ex­pres­sion and mak­ing char­ac­ters more in­ter­est­ing.

As we’ll see through the rest of th­ese tips, this ap­proach makes it eas­ier to deal with the forms and pro­por­tions of all the el­e­ments. The most dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion is when all of your char­ac­ters look like a bunch of clones.

Cap­tur­ing the mo­ment

This may be ob­vi­ous, but I think it’s im­por­tant enough to war­rant men­tion­ing here. Live draw­ing ses­sions are not only a good way to meet and so­cialise with other artists, but they’re also a good ex­er­cise to learn new tech­niques and, most im­por­tantly, cap­ture the mo­ment.

Draw­ing quick poses helps you mem­o­rise them, as you un­con­sciously cre­ate a li­brary in­side your brain, which will be use­ful when quickly cre­at­ing expressions for your char­ac­ters. Cap­tur­ing the mo­ment of a face when it’s sad, fo­cused, happy or un­com­fort­able is one of the as­pects that adds per­son­al­ity to your char­ac­ter.

3 The power of the look

Peo­ple say the eyes are a win­dow to the soul. This makes them one of the most im­por­tant el­e­ments in a char­ac­ter’s face. The eyes can ex­press any kind of hu­man emo­tion you can think of: hap­pi­ness, sad­ness, an­guish…

The look can be also boosted by the eye­brows. The eye­brows help by in­ten­si­fy­ing what the eyes are ex­press­ing. When the char­ac­ter looks wor­ried, the brows tend to arch up, giv­ing rise to wrin­kles at the top of the fore­head, while the lower jaw drawn back can cause creases on face.

4 Play­ing with shapes and pro­por­tions

Ev­ery shape evokes a dif­fer­ent re­ac­tion for the viewer. When­ever I’m cre­at­ing a char­ac­ter from scratch I usu­ally imag­ine what type of per­son­al­ity and at­ti­tude the char­ac­ter is go­ing to have, and then ap­ply this to the body and head shapes.

5 Eye shapes

When I de­sign char­ac­ters, I start by draw­ing the eyes. That’s be­cause I think they’re the most im­por­tant part of the face. As I’ve al­ready men­tioned, we get to know the char­ac­ter’s soul through their eyes – how they’re drawn make them ca­pa­ble of ex­press­ing any kind of emo­tion.

At a fun­da­men­tal and more im­me­di­ate level, the size and po­si­tion of the eyes con­veys your char­ac­ter’s per­son­al­ity. Big­ger eyes tend to ex­press child­ish­ness; smaller ones im­ply se­ri­ous­ness; wide-set eyes gen­er­ate a sense of od­dity; while close-set eyes can of­ten in­di­cate a com­i­cal de­meanour.

The eyes can ex­press any kind of emo­tion, and the eye­brows help by in­ten­si­fy­ing what the eyes are ex­press­ing

6 Adding char­ac­ter to a face us­ing light­ing

Here are the steps I fol­low to add ap­peal to a stylised por­trait…

A De­cide on the com­po­si­tion

The first step is to ap­ply the Rule of Thirds to my com­po­si­tion and try to find the pri­mary point of in­ter­est for the face. In this par­tic­u­lar case I want my char­ac­ter to have her head to­wards the left-hand side but be look­ing to the (viewer’s) right. This helps to fo­cus the ex­pres­sion I’m af­ter.

B Con­struc­tion and light­ing

The next step is to con­struct the dif­fer­ent planes of the face, the form of the eyes, the nose, the mouth, and all the fea­tures. When I’m happy with this, I use Pho­to­shop’s Photo Fil­ter and ap­ply a cold tone to put the face into semi-dark­ness. I re­fine the face a bit, adding more shad­ing un­til I’m sat­is­fied with the light­ing. More of the char­ac­ter is vis­i­ble, but it re­mains in­ci­den­tal – our in­ter­est cen­tres on the face.

C Bring­ing out the de­tails

Once I have the por­trait with the cool tones that I want, I add an­other Photo Fil­ter layer us­ing a warm tone. In this case the light comes from the right-hand side (the char­ac­ter’s left) and so I add the ap­pro­pri­ate high­lights to the eyes, the nose and the mouth. At this stage it seemed to me that the mouth I orig­i­nally drew was a bit flat and life­less, so I parted her lips a lit­tle in or­der to make the ex­pres­sion more in­ter­est­ing. Fi­nally, I added a dec­o­ra­tive mo­tif – the lu­mi­nous star in the fore­head – to make sure that the viewer’s at­ten­tion is drawn to the char­ac­ter’s face.

7 vary­ing The mouth

An­other im­por­tant fea­ture that adds ex­pres­sion to the face is the mouth. It can be wide open to yell, or tight to show con­cern. To show hap­pi­ness, the lips are parted show­ing the teeth, with the cor­ners of the mouth pulling up­wards to hint at a smile. In sad­ness, the shape of the lips turns con­cave, and the cor­ners of the mouth droop. For anger, the mouth is slightly open, show­ing the teeth; the cen­tre of the up­per lip rises, cre­at­ing a zig-zag line.

In­stead of a happy per­son, draw an ec­static one. In­stead of an an­gry per­son, draw a fu­ri­ous one

Of­ten we get the feel­ing that our char­ac­ters look very sim­i­lar and they don’t have some­thing that makes them unique. A use­ful trick is to dec­o­rate the face. Once I have the face shape that I want and eyes that ex­press what the char­ac­ter feels, it’s time to dec­o­rate. This can be achieved by adding a dis­tinc­tive el­e­ment such as an eye patch, a spe­cific hat that tells us the char­ac­ter is a pi­rate, a pair of glasses or maybe a long beard or a bald head. All of th­ese el­e­ments – not an ex­cess of them – will help strengthen the per­son­al­ity con­veyed by the face.

9 The im­por­tance of the light on the face

I al­ways try to sim­plify my process to give me more con­trol. Here’s a use­ful trick I of­ten use: when a char­ac­ter is coloured I ap­ply two Photo Fil­ter ad­just­ment lay­ers us­ing the back­ground colour. If the char­ac­ter is on a white back­ground, I ap­ply a warm colour on Mul­ti­ply for the shad­ows and a cool colour for the lights in Over­lay or Color Dodge, de­pend­ing on whether I want stronger or smoother light­ing. This tints the char­ac­ter.

Then I mask parts of th­ese lay­ers se­lec­tively, dark­en­ing or bright­en­ing ar­eas ac­cord­ing to what I want to de­pict. I rec­om­mend dark­en­ing the whole scene and light­ing up the face as a cen­tral fo­cus, to draw the viewer’s eye.

10 Em­brace the wrin­kle

Draw­ing beau­ti­ful girls, nymphs and hand­some men is al­ways nice – the au­di­ence loves it. But have you tried to draw older peo­ple’s faces? Their faces show the pass­ing of time, which makes them in­ter­est­ing and adds much per­son­al­ity. It’s com­mon to ex­ag­ger­ate some of their fea­tures, like the ears or the nose, which usu­ally look big­ger than a younger per­son’s. It’s al­ways fun to cre­ate char­ac­ters that have had a lot of ex­pe­ri­ences, such as shamans, an­cient kings, or even mages or sor­cer­ers.

11 Fa­cial expressions

I al­ways be­gin with an oval for the form of the head, then place the eyes and nose, form­ing a ba­sic T-shape. For expressions, treat this as a unit, not­ing that if you al­ter the shape or po­si­tion of one fea­ture, it af­fects every­thing – noth­ing stands com­pletely on its own.

When I’m try­ing to nail down an ex­pres­sion, I use a mir­ror for ref­er­ence. But for a stronger draw­ing and char­ac­ter, re­ally push the ex­pres­sion. In­stead of sim­ply draw­ing a happy per­son, draw one who’s ec­static; in­stead of an an­gry per­son, draw a fu­ri­ous one. To show more per­son­al­ity, ex­ag­ger­ate the ex­pres­sion.

12 My best friend, the rim light

Us­ing a rim light not only adds depth to a com­po­si­tion, but also helps sep­a­rate dif­fer­ent ob­jects from each other and from the back­ground. I’ve also been us­ing it to sculpt the face of my char­ac­ters. Rim light is a key el­e­ment for adding per­son­al­ity to an ex­pres­sion, and helps draw the viewer’s at­ten­tion to the face. You can also use it to high­light dif­fer­ent as­pects, like the glow in the eyes or the shape of the nose. It all adds up, and when com­bined in a prac­ti­cal way with dark light­ing it in­tro­duces se­ri­ous­ness and in­ter­est.

13 Re­in­forc­ing the look

Be­sides us­ing the tricks I’ve men­tioned so far, you can fur­ther add per­son­al­ity to faces us­ing fo­cal points, as if you were cre­at­ing a land­scape com­po­si­tion, us­ing tone and colour to frame an area. You can also ap­ply lead­ing lines – like the ones we use to give move­ment to char­ac­ters – to make faces more in­ter­est­ing.

This means that some­times to cre­ate a more en­gag­ing face you should add things to high­light it. In this ex­am­ple I use the body shapes to draw at­ten­tion to the char­ac­ter’s face. Th­ese are es­pe­cially help­ful when your draw­ing is a por­trait be­cause the face is the most im­por­tant el­e­ment, the point where you want to draw the viewer’s at­ten­tion.

14 The face as sto­ry­teller

We can use the faces of our char­ac­ters as an en­hancer of the story we want to tell in an il­lus­tra­tion. Faces can tell us how the dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters in a scene in­ter­act with each other. If a char­ac­ter is alone in a scene, try to make it look at the viewer so as to fo­cus at­ten­tion on what’s hap­pen­ing to it. But if there are sev­eral char­ac­ters, try to es­tab­lish a vis­ual con­nec­tion be­tween them so that a story can be told. This helps the viewer to un­der­stand what’s hap­pen­ing. Hence it’s very im­por­tant that the char­ac­ters have ex­pres­sive faces and eyes, the mouths should “talk”, and every­thing tells a story.

15 Add life to the face

As well as ex­ag­ger­at­ing the ex­pres­sion, you can high­light key fea­tures to breathe life into your char­ac­ter. When start­ing a new char­ac­ter, I be­gin with a sketch that ex­plores the char­ac­ter’s at­ti­tude, pose and look. Then, as I’m adding colour and pol­ish­ing de­tails, I change some as­pects of the face: I ex­ag­ger­ate face shapes us­ing the Liquify fil­ter, then add light­ing and shad­ows em­pha­sis­ing the most im­por­tant fea­tures: the eyes, the mouth, the eye­brows and the nose. Fi­nally, I add glow to the pupils to high­light the eyes and in­crease the ap­peal. For this I al­ways use a light turquoise tone in Over­lay mode.

When the char­ac­ter is fin­ished I du­pli­cate this layer and ap­ply the Lens Cor­rec­tion fil­ter with sub­tle val­ues. This dis­torts the chan­nels and em­pha­sises the bright­ness of the eyes, mak­ing them look more lively.

16 Putting it all to­gether

A good char­ac­ter is one that has its anatomy, vol­umes, ex­pres­sion and light­ing fully con­trolled by the artist, so that the artist can draw out its full po­ten­tial. The face is a cru­cial el­e­ment, not only for cre­at­ing a nice-look­ing char­ac­ter, but also to ex­press what you want the char­ac­ters to con­vey and re­in­force your story.

Now it’s your turn to use th­ese tips and cre­ate a dy­namic char­ac­ter with per­son­al­ity. As An­toine de Sain­tEx­upéry once said: “A de­signer knows they’ve achieved per­fec­tion not when there’s noth­ing left to add, but when there’s noth­ing left to take away.” I hope th­ese tips help you to de­velop amaz­ing as­pects for your char­ac­ters!

Per­fec­tion isn’t when there’s noth­ing left to add, but when there’s noth­ing to take away

Cir­cu­lar shapes: Th­ese sug­gest ap­peal­ing, good (so, not evil) char­ac­ters. Cir­cu­lar shapes are typ­i­cally used to con­note cute, cud­dly and friendly types. Square shapes: Con­sider words like de­pend­able, solid, strong, se­cure, firm, cer­tain, serene and heroic. The square shape evokes sta­bil­ity and for­ti­tude. Tri­an­gles: Eas­ily leads to more sin­is­ter, sus­pi­cious type of char­ac­ters and usu­ally rep­re­sents the bad guy or vil­lain in char­ac­ter de­sign. SWEET STRONG EVIL

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.