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Senior Animator at Zynga Eddie Betancourt is always looking to push himself to his full artistic potential. Despite his experience, Eddie knows that a creative is never done evolving. Just check out his breakdown of a few character design for animation assignments, which include:

  1. Design Silhouettes
  2. Line Ups
  3. Expressions
  4. Story Moment

My name is Eddie Betancourt and I’m a Texas-based artist/animator working in both Gaming and Television production. Throughout my career, I’ve worked on projects like Axe Cop, League of Legends, The Banner Saga, Agents of Mayhem, Call of Duty, and The Adventures of Kid Danger. I took this course to help push my current abilities as a designer. As artists, we’re forever evolving. And sometimes, having a little more structure and proper guidance can help us grow past our own artistic plateaus.

1. Design Silhouettes

For my initial exploration, I went through a variety of designs and settled on keeping with a rigid, square shape language. Typically, characters with sharp angles tend to be a bit more menacing or antagonistic. I wanted to take flip that idea with my character: the Cowardly Knight. I wanted him to appear to have the capability to face his foes, but whether he’s successful in thwarting them is a whole other story.

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First, I rounded his eyes to soften his appearance. Posing also helped the fearful personality come through. The buckled knees against his squared body gave a feeling of both a grounded and non-resilient personality. I think the one thing I wanted to make clear was that although he was cowardly, he was still a traditional knight.

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If you want to try your hand at these projects, enroll in Character Design for Animation taught by Production Designer Nate Wragg!

2. Line Ups

For the next assignment, we worked on pirate character line ups.

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I imagined these misfits trying to carve their names in history as the greatest pillagers that sailed the high seas, but collectively never really getting anything done. The captain can never get his cohorts in line to do some serious pirating, but he also can’t afford anybody else. I never imagined them to be threatening, so I went with softer shapes for all of them, with the captain having some slight sharper edges here and there to reflect his more focused, rigid pirate ideals.

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I mainly played with their posture and shape as a quick visual way for the viewer to read their personalities. The Captain I made with a sharper hat and much broader shoulders than the other two. His posture is meant to read as someone who commands presence and exudes confidence. I made his second mate smaller, with a hanging gut. He’s the more gluttonous one out of the three, and compared to the sharp and confident pose of the captain is far more relaxed and carefree. His expression is intended to read cocky and self-assured. Lastly, the dim-witted brute, who is drawn to be a little larger than life and more physically imposing – but contrasted by his soft shapes. Though he is the strongest of the three, he isn’t necessarily mean. They’re all tied together as a ‘team’ or crew by their manner of dress and complimenting shapes.

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Watch How to Boost Your Character Design for Animation Skills to see another artist’s approach to these assignments!

3. Expressions

For the character expressions, I was interested in portraying cheerful, strict, and exhausted personality types to allow for a nice, distinct variety. This also translated well to the job description: librarians.

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For the cheerful, peppier librarian, I wanted to use softer, rounder shapes to make him more welcoming and approachable-looking. I imagined him as both excitable and laid back, which might often result in him unintentionally sharing his excitement about the latest books a bit too loudly in what should be a quiet library. For the strict librarian, I used more edges and angles to reflect her more rigid personality. She holds up the law of the library and cracks down on any riffraff who breaks them, armed with nothing but a scowl and an upturned lip. Lastly, the poor, exhausted-looking fellow with the five-o-clock shadow. His whole concept for his shape design was to show ‘downward’ motions. Downwards crescents, drooping curves, hanging eyes, and disheveled hair. This librarian is tired and has been doing this job for way too long.

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As you can see, the second iteration of this group had more to do with exaggerating shapes. The first became more approachable, the second more narrow and sharp. Of the set, the third character had the most particular nuances. It took a few tries to balance the sharp edges and curves together until it clicked to combine these all with hanging, drooping shapes.

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Curious about character pipelines in the industry? Nate Wragg also teaches CGMA’s Character Design For Production course!

4. Story Moment

For my story moment, I was really into the idea of creating a scene of a confident character who thinks they are doing a fantastic job of serenading and wooing someone… moments before reality was about to hit them. I’m a huge fan of comedic moments built on expectation vs. reality. In my initial sketch, the girl looked excited and joyful over being serenaded. In another iteration, she’s grown more irritated and was plugging her ears from all the racket.

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However, in the final version, that need for a bit more of a comedy punch kicked in. So, in comes the pepper spray. It just felt right.

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Final Thoughts

  • This class helped give me a little more direction and pinpoint where I should really push my design choices.
  • There are a lot of things we do and try to keep in mind as artists, and sometimes a lot of those teachings can fall through the cracks as we start to develop consistent habits. They aren’t necessarily bad habits, but it is easy for artists to become complacent and comfortable with things they are simply used to doing. Taking this course helped me get back on track and retrained me to again be mindful of trying new things, to find more ways to really push my designs to the next level.
  • The librarian assignment was probably my favorite of the whole course. Playing with their shapes, pushing and pulling, and exaggerating their features or expressions was a lot of fun.
  • My advice to new students is to just be willing to try new techniques, really push outside of your comfort zone, and just have fun trying something new.

LEARN MORE

CGMA provides comprehensive instruction for Art, Games, and VFX industries in a variety of courses for a range of students, from 2D and 3D artists looking to supplement their college studies to industry professionals looking to stay up to date on emerging trends and techniques in the field.

RELATED LINKS

Check out the rest of Eddie’s work on his Instagram, Twitter, or website!

If you want to try your hand at these projects, enroll in Character Design for Animation taught by Production Designer Nate Wragg!

Watch How to Boost Your Character Design for Animation Skills to see another artist’s approach to these assignments!

Curious about character pipelines in the industry? Nate Wragg also teaches CGMA’s Character Design For Production course!