Skip to main content

My Character Design Process for Puppet, Bone Rig 2D Animation in Reallusion's Cartoon Animator (Part 1) - Initial Design

Character design of a woman wearing a bikini overlaid on the character's initial sketch design.

Designing original characters for Reallusion's Cartoon Animator is a relatively easy process because, for the most part, you only really need one final, front facing image of your character design in a T-pose.

Using that pose as a base, you can build out a turn-able head (with perhaps a few additional sprites depending upon your needs), and a three quarter facing body, which is enough to allow the character to walk across the stage without looking weird.

In what will be a series of posts, I thought you may find it interesting to go behind the scenes as I design and rig a character for Cartoon Animator from the very beginning stage to a fully rigged G3-SVG character.


Choosing a Design

The character I'm creating is a bikini clad, blonde haired, woman, not just for the sake of drawing a scantily clad woman. Cartoon Animator's new Color Management tools allows you to create clothing systems for your characters where items can be added or removed just by changing color opacity.

The original bikini woman and her beach beau sketch from my sketch book.
The original page from my sketchbook.
I scanned the image in greyscale so
imagine this drawn in blue biro.

My plan is to give the character various outfit choices from a simple bikini to full business attire through color management.

These days I only draw new designs for characters if I have a project that requires something specific (such as my George and the Dragon Animated short). Otherwise I'll just page through my sketchbooks where I have hundreds of 'spontaneous' characters that I draw really quickly just for practice. It seems a waste to draw them and never use them for anything.

The original sketch of my bikini woman I drew on the 15th of January 2020. It was a Wednesday morning and I was on a run of sketching something, using biro, for about ten minutes, every day. Some days I'd sketch a little longer. This character sketch and her beach going partner takes up a full A4 sized page and was drawn in 18 minutes.

At a glance the image looks fine but if you really study it, you'll see it has a lot of anatomical issues - most glaringly to me at least, a super long left arm!


Frankenstein-ing a T-pose

Given my sketch only took 18 minutes I could probably have just redrawn the character in a T-pose in about that time but why waste another sheet of paper?

Bikini woman in her 'Frankenstein-ed' T-pose sketch.
The 'Frankestein-ed' T-Pose. It looks a bit like
she's giving a double 'bird' flip but it's the
wrong finger!

I scanned the image into Krita (my graphics editor) and used the selection tools, plus the distort and skew tools, along with cut and paste to rearrange the limbs on the right side (the character's right, our left) of her body into half of a T-pose.

Once I was happy with that I mirrored the entire right side of the character (including her head and face) to the left side, creating a perfectly symmetrical, front facing character in a T-pose. 

While I'm aware most humans aren't perfectly symmetrical they're usually close enough to pass for it unless you really study their appearance. Most importantly though, this method saves time.

You'll notice from the image I didn't worry about getting her hands and fingers into a flattened pose. Since the sketch is going to be traced I figured the hands would be easy enough to recreate in the correct pose without needing guidelines.


Inking and Coloring the Character

Next I imported the sketch into the appropriately titled Inkscape (my vector graphics editor) to do the 'inking'... or in this case coloring since I haven't added outlines to the character (but I plan to at a later time).

As with my sketch in Krita I only traced and colored the right side of the character (I'll mirror this when it's done) with no consideration for breaking everything up into the individual sprites needed for a Cartoon Animator character template.

I draw this way because if I think about breaking everything up into the sprites, it really slows me down... a lot. I don't actually like drawing in vector software. A relatively simple, traced drawing like this character took the best part of a day because I find it hard to stay focused.

The bikini woman character half colored down the right side of her body in InkScape.
It's a real time saver only coloring half of the character in Inkscape and then mirroring
this to the other side of the character. I only have to adjust the shading on the
mirrored side and I'm done.


That aside I know the results of how versatile a vector character can be are well worth pushing through, what is a bit of a slog, for me.

Next I'll go through and separate all the body sprites so that the various joints will work once they are rigged. The face is already separated because everything there is easy enough to group into the correct facial sprites naturally.

Once that's done I'll go through and create the additional eye and mouth sprites required to make a fully animated face. That'll be for part 2 of this article series.

For now, here's a final test detail image of the character showing how I've changed the coloring on the character's left side to be shadows instead of highlights.

Detail colored image of the bikini woman's head with the sides of the character mirrored and the shadow adjusted.
This is only a test image of the finished character. I'll probably add more shadows
and other details on the final version.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Inochi2D - Free Open Source 2D VTuber Avatar Rigging and Puppeteering Software (Part 1)

Inochi2D Creator - Free Open Source VTuber Software. If you've been looking for a way to live perform as a 2D cartoon avatar on camera, whether it be for a live stream or for pre-recorded content like educational videos, then VTuber software is a low cost (or even no cost) option worth looking into. In my previous post, How to Become a VTuber - 2D and 3D Software for Creating and Controlling Your Avatar , I took a brief look at the relatively new but completely free and open source Inochi2D  which I thought showed great potential for my own needs of creating a live performance character rig for my own TET Avatar that I use for all my promotional materials. While it is possible to live perform my character using Cartoon Animator itself, Reallusion's MotionLive2D capture system isn't great - with lip sync in particular. More importantly though, I can't exactly teach people how to use Cartoon Animator if I'm using Cartoon Animator to control my Avatar. What is Inochi2D

Dollars Mocap: Full Body Webcam Motion Capture (Including Hands and Fingers) For iClone and Cartoon Animator

Even though I should be further away from the camera Dollars Mocap MONO still does a good job of  tracking my arms, hands and fingers. Ever since I wrote my series on becoming a VTuber , discovering it was possible to do full body motion capture, including hands and fingers, with just software and a webcam, I've been on the look out for any motion capture software that can bring that functionality to Cartoon Animator. Dollars Mocap is a low cost motion capture application with a free trial that I learned about through the YouTube Channel Digital Puppets  and their test video . It can record full body, upper body, arms and hands, and facial mocap from a live video source or pre-recorded video. Investigating further, I discovered not only does Dollars Mocap have a free iClone7, iClone8 character profile file download (look for it at the bottom of the main program download page), so you can use the saved motions with iClone8, they've also got a demo video for how to convert your

Prome AI Sketch Render Tool - Your Tradigital Clean Up and Colorist Artist for Character and Background Design

Random character head, Biro sketches drawn by TET (left). Render by PromeAI (right) using Prome's Sketch Render tool set to 'Comon:Cartoon, Render Mode: Outline'. W hile I don't do New Year Resolutions, one of my plans for the year ahead is to do more of my own art. Specifically character design drawn in an actual, physical sketchbook.  To that end, I have been spending the last half hour of most days drawing a page or two of random biro sketches in my sketchbook and posting the pages to my Instagram account  (this link will take you to one of my posts). These sketches are mostly practicing my skills because I don't really draw regularly anymore. Here is a tip, if you do this kind of sketching, and push yourself to keep doing it, you will see many drawings that could be taken further, even if you don't have anything they're suited for just at the moment. Which is where my second favorite AI Image Tool (after Leonardo.ai )  PromeAI comes into play. PromeAI

Moho 14 Released - Still the Best 2D Animation Software for Indy Animators on a Budget

Moho 14 Released. Regular readers know I am a Reallusion, Cartoon Animator advocate through and through. Hands down I would recommend Cartoon Animator 5 first over Lost Marble's Moho 14 to anyone who is just starting in 2D animation, is a team of one, or just needs to animate as quickly as possible. However, feature for feature, Moho is, arguably, the best 2D animation software for the rest of us who can't justify a Toon Boom Harmony , or Adobe Creative Cloud subscription (and even with their applications Moho is very competitive on features). You can get started with Moho Debut for just USD$59.99 which is a cut down version of Moho Pro but it still has the most essential features needed for 2D animation. While Moho Pro is a whopping USD$399.99 (Cartoon Animator, which only has one version, is just USD$149.00) upgrades to new version numbers come down to a quarter of the price at USD$99.00. Even though Reallusion just released features like Motion Pilot Puppet Animation and

Start Your 2D Animation Side Hustle - Sell Your Cartoon Animator Characters, Props, Scenes, and Motion Files in the Reallusion 2D/3D Marketplace

Have you thought about starting a side hustle selling your original Cartoon Animator assets in the Reallusion 2D/3D Marketplace ? In this article, the first in a series on selling in the marketplace, I'll give you an overview of what's involved, why you should give it some thought, and whether you can earn enough to quit your day job (or at least have a worthwhile side hustle). If you're an artist with any kind of drawing skills, and you're creating your own original characters, props, scenes, and even motion files for your Cartoon Animator projects, then setting up your own store in the Reallusion Marketplace should be a no brainer. You're making content already, it doesn't cost you anything to set up, and Reallusion only takes a 30% commission from each item sold. (If you think that's a lot, I'll address that further down). Don't be put off if you think your art skills aren't up to professional standards. There are plenty of artists with naïve

Wonder Unit Storyboarder - Free Storyboarding Software for People Who Can (or Can't) Draw

Wonder Unit Storyboarder.  As an independent and solo animator I'm always tempted to try and skip storyboarding my animated shorts because they're usually only single scene sketch comedy type jokes. As a result I have many unfinished projects that kind of petered out due to having no clear finishing line. Storyboarding your productions, no matter how small, gives you a step by step guide of every shot that needs to be completed (no planning shots as you animate). It also allows you to create an animatic that gives you a rough preview of the finished production. In short, you shouldn't skip storyboards as they, generally, increase the chance of the project being completed. Disclaimer - I'm Not a Fan of Storyboarder Upfront, Wonder Unit's Storyboarder  is not my preferred storyboarding software. However it's completely free, has a number of very compelling featu

Can't Draw Characters? Create Highly Detailed Characters from Simple Drawings and Prompts Free with Realtime Canvas by Leonardo.AI

Leonardo.ai's   Realtime Canvas. Create highly detailed images from simple drawings. I f you've had an idea for a character but don't have the artistic skill to design it yourself, or the budget to hire someone to do the design work for you, then Leonardo.ai's Realtime Canvas may be your new creative partner. Sure you could use Leonardo.ai's regular text prompt to image generator but that can be very hit and miss, and may take many generations before you finally craft a complex prompt that's getting something close to what you had in mind. Realtime Canvas, on the other hand, lets you craft a simple text prompt and draw a rough image, both of which you can keep refining until you get a final, real time, updated image that looks close to (and probably better than) what you had in mind. Using Realtime Canvas Once you've signed up for a free account with Leonardo.ai  (which will give you 150 free credits, renewed daily), click on Realtime Canvas, from the side