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Complete Beginners 2D Character, and Background Design Course for Animation using Inkscape (Udemy Course Review)

Easy Cartoon Backgrounds and Character Design for Animation.
Easy Cartoon Backgrounds and
Character Design for Animation.
I stumbled across Martin Belvisi's two Udemy courses, Easy Cartoon Backgrounds for Animation, and Cartoon Character Design for Animation, because I was actually looking for a beginners course to teach me the fundamentals of illustration with the free vector art application, Inkscape.

Since my exact reason for wanting to learn Inkscape more thoroughly was to use it for making assets for 2D animation it seemed like a no brainer to purchase both courses. Even more so because I got both at heavily discounted prices through one of Udemy's frequent, sitewide sales. 

What really sold it for me is thumbnail images used to represent each course. That background and those characters look as good as any professional, modern day, 2D animated cartoon, and they were drawn in Inkscape (which has a definite low perception problem despite it being an incredibly powerful and capable vector art tool).

This stylized background looks as good as
any I've seen in modern animated cartoons.

You'll learn how to draw these characters as well
as how to design your own in these styles.

Also, you don't need any extra hardware for this course. Everything you see was drawn directly with just a mouse. Which is one of the strengths of vector art applications. No graphic tablet/pen display? No problem, they're not essential for vector art.

A Beginner's Guide to Inkscape

A beginners guide to Inkscape.

If you just want to learn Inkscape enough to produce stylized illustrations to this standard, choose whichever of these two courses interests you the most and buy that one. This component is almost fifty percent of both courses and is identical.

If you still want both courses (totally worth it despite the duplicated content) but don't want to pay full price for both, again, buy the one that interests you the most then buy the other one with the discount codes Martin provides at the end of both courses for his other courses. 

Either way, this section of  the course assumes no knowledge whatsoever of Inkscape. I found the video lessons easy to follow, and I really learned a lot despite already having some knowledge of Inkscape's basics.

Note that Martin does have a little bit of an accent that may be a little challenging for some but his delivery is fairly evenly paced, making it easy to follow along in Inkscape yourself.


Easy Cartoon Background Design

In this course Martin teaches you how to draw all the elements needed to create the stylized outdoor scene shown in the course thumbnail (minus the characters).

Adding highlights to a tree in Inkscape.
Adding highlights to a tree in Inkscape.
What sets these lessons apart is that Martin has studied many modern day, stylized, popular cartoons, to replicate and teach the elements that make up their aesthetic. Everything from how grass is drawn, through to trees, rocks and skies is based upon his observations of how they're most commonly depicted in modern cartoons.

Even more impressive is that he teaches you how to draw each basic element in Inkscape in such a way that, even if you have no drawing skills, you could probably follow along and get great results.

Once you've been through each element you get a brief lesson on composition that I feel wouldn't hurt to expand upon with a few more examples given this course is aimed at beginners.

From there you run through the main final project which, as I mentioned, is creating the stylized outdoor background seen in the course thumbnail. This is presented in two video versions, sped up with narration, and real time with no narration at all (specifically for those wanting to follow along through every step).

Although there is enough here to create almost any scene, I'd like to see an interior demonstration added as a future section or separate course. All the scene elements created in the exterior scene were nature based with no man made elements at all. 

It would be useful for beginners to learn some techniques on how to stylize a few common man made elements and environments to really keep their backgrounds in one cohesive style. e.g. furniture, vehicles, building exteriors/interiors etc.


Cartoon Character Design for Animation

I actually bought and completed this course first and was surprised to learn it was created as a companion course to the Background Design course. Typically most people (myself included) make a beeline toward character animation with backgrounds being a necessary after thought. Hence why I thought this course would have been created first.

A selection of character heads for the hair lesson.
A selection of character heads for the hair lesson.
As with the background design course Martin has extensively researched modern, stylized animated cartoons to teach you the most common elements that make up their character designs.

The selection of characters chosen for the demonstration projects are representative of the types of characters you should be able to create from scratch once you've completed the course. While they initially look quite complex, Martin breaks them down into individual elements e.g. face shapes, eyes, noses, mouths, body types etc. that are actually quite easy to draw with vector art.

Even if your vector art drawing doesn't quite stack up, one of the resources you get is a file with all the head and face features drawn separately into a single document. You could use this file to create the starting point for all your character faces and then adjust the features until your character emerges.

You also get the completed project files for each character design, which you could also use as starting points until you start to get a handle on creating your characters from scratch.

With this course you get real time follow through on creating each demonstration character with some narration during the process (although I would have preferred a sped up version with narration as per the Background Design course).


What these Courses Don't Teach You

Both of these courses are purely design courses to teach you the aesthetics of modern stylized animation. The final projects do not take into account how you would set up the characters or backgrounds ready to be used within a digital animation studio application like After Effects, Animate CC, Toon Boom, Moho, Cartoon Animator, or even the completely free Synfig Studio (which Inkscape can directly export files to).

An example of a 2D scene set up for 2.5D animation in MOHO.
An example of a 2D scene set up for
2.5D animation in MOHO.
The background you create in no way takes into account how characters would interact with it once animated. No consideration is given to how the scene would be exported so that characters can walk behind elements in the foreground - creating 2.5D effects like parallax and depth on the Z plane in the scene.

The characters are not drawn with any consideration for how they might be rigged for 'puppet' animation (which is how much modern 2D animation is achieved). There's also no lesson on creating mouth shapes for lip syncing, or multiple eye and hand shapes needed to animate these components effectively.

If Martin was looking for a 'next steps' course to create for each I think consideration of my suggestions above would be great options. While different animation applications have different requirements there are common steps you can take to prepare your background and character designs for easier integration into all of them.

In Conclusion

Both courses are very good value despite the learn Inkscape components being identical. If this type of background and character design appeals to you, Martin has definitely saved you a lot of research to achieve that look to a professional standard.

That said, these are really only foundation courses. You should definitely keep researching modern animated cartoons and adapting their techniques until you eventually find your own version of that stylized design.

As beginner courses you'll definitely learn how to use Inkscape for illustration in this specific cartoon style. I'd even go as far as to say these are great courses for animators who have little to no drawing skills but are determined to develop their digital drawing skills.

Personally I got a lot out of both courses, and I hold a Diploma of Arts (Graphic Design), have more than ten years working in animation and motion graphics, and have been drawing cartoons since I was a young child. If that isn't speaking well of the value of both courses I don't know what is!


* Note: While the links in this article are my own Udemy affiliate links the opinions are based upon my own experience having completed both courses. Using these links helps keep this site free.

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