Comic Talk, Tips and Tricks

Unconventional Drawing Techniques
GothikOrk at 5:49AM, March 17, 2009
posts: 6
joined: 9-24-2008
Hi, I've been trying to draw the way that I'm most familiar with. Starting out with a stick figure, fleshing it out and adding more detail, until I come up with something that hopefully looks human. It can be frustrating though. Never thought drawing humans could be so complicated. I'm wondering if anyone has a different approach they take to their drawing that they'd be willing to share.

I'm not necessarily trying to take the easy way out, but maybe there's another way to go about it. I think about South Park, and how the characters are composed of various cut out shapes put together. That's at least one example of a unique way to create characters, looking for more.
Vision without action is a dream, action without vision is a nightmare.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:38PM
lba at 7:05AM, March 17, 2009
posts: 2,684
joined: 5-29-2007
I work by shapes. Pretty much what you described, but I break the figure down into rectangles and ovals. That helps me since you can tell right away if something isn't right in proportion so you don't spend hours on a drawing to only find out the arms are too short.

I'm not great at figure drawing so I haven't explored it as much as I should, but I'm sure there's something out there.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:29PM
Custard Trout at 8:38AM, March 17, 2009
posts: 4,566
joined: 2-22-2007
If I can't find a photo reference for a pose, I make a rough little model out of plasticine and draw from that.

I also experimented with taking pictures of the models, then tracing over them in Flash. It produced surprisingly good results.
Hey buddy, you should be a Russian Cosmonaut, and here's why.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:01PM
Nergal at 8:56AM, March 17, 2009
posts: 214
joined: 3-7-2006
Use lots and lots of scribbles until it vaguely resembles something. It'll get really messy and sometimes you have to squint to make something out.

wait, don't take my advice.
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:11PM
Aurora Borealis at 9:39PM, March 17, 2009
posts: 1,289
joined: 3-2-2008
Don't think it's unconventional (lots of artists use it), but when you draw, use a mirror from time to time to look at the image in reverse. As you draw, you stop seeing things that are wrong and mirroring changes the image enough that you see it with “fresh eyes”. You can pick up a lot of stuff that way.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:08AM
Hyena H_ll at 10:20PM, March 17, 2009
posts: 1,568
joined: 11-13-2008
I'm a figure drawing teacher, so it almost hurts to do this, but here's Hyena Hell's “How to draw people without knowing how to draw people!” Tutorial:

1. Character design:
Start with basic shapes- circles, ovals, squares and rectangles. Think of a mannequin. Block in the head, rib cage, pelvis (or do the torso as one unit); then arms and legs. Some of the best-designed characters can be drawn with a few simple shapes. If you want to work in a style with an abstracted figure (not realistically/naturally proportioned), you might want to exaggerate some masses and downplay others. Play with proportion- lengthen or shorten the torso, make the head twice the size of the body, reduce the limbs to stubs- just draw until you get something that looks good and can be easily drawn over and over. Don't do nuts with clothes/ costumes. The more accouterments your character has, the harder it will be to draw in various poses. Clothing should be simple shapes or conform to the shape of the figure. Anything you add- like wings, horns, whatever- needs to be very simple as well.

2. Set limitations on your characters “range of motion”:
You mentioned South Park- okay, think of the kids- because they're so squat in their proportions, they don't bend at the waist, or at the elbows or knees. Action figures are a good point of reference here, too- for example, G.I. Joe has 9 points of mobility; Barbie has 5; then there's those old WWF bendy dolls that have completely unrealistic mobility- their arms and legs bend into arcs, with no fixed “joints”. The more you limit the points at which your figure can move, the simpler it will be to draw. You might decide that your character can only move his arms and legs at the shoulder and hip sockets, etc.

3. Look at other artists' work:
Look at cartoonists and comic artists that use simple or abstracted figures. I'm not saying you ought to rip anyone off, but studying and deconstructing how other artists work can help you. Try to draw their characters with as few shapes as possible. Study how they make their characters move, show emotion, etc. Once you start picking up on the “tools” these artist are using to get their point across, you can use them yourself to create your own, original work.

Hope that helps.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:52PM
GothikOrk at 3:20AM, March 18, 2009
posts: 6
joined: 9-24-2008
Thanks for the replies, I think I have some ideas.
Vision without action is a dream, action without vision is a nightmare.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:38PM
CharleyHorse at 9:14AM, March 18, 2009
posts: 627
joined: 12-7-2006
Hyena H_ll is correct of course. I pretty much do things her way as well . . . as it is pretty much the classic method.

It helps to think of things as three dimensional balloons and cylinders and cones. You need to imagine the back side of things even when you will not be seeing them on paper. Also think of water-filled balloons. Cartoon figures whether very basic or semi-realistic tend to sag and bulge a bit just as if they were subject to the force of gravity. They have WEIGHT to them.

I know that this is not of any particular value to you. Hyena H_ll has the best descriptive process. Follow her advice.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:40AM
demontales at 7:31AM, Aug. 15, 2009
posts: 305
joined: 7-18-2009
Another thing that can help that's mostly useful in animation but that I took the habit of foing in any other drawing work is too mime the movement, with or without a mirror(with is even better), you can also film or take pictures of yourself.

Then, like many, I sketch by shapes, spheres, tubes. I often do cuts in the arms and legs to show the orientation.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:10PM
Kristen Gudsnuk at 9:27PM, Aug. 16, 2009
posts: 1,340
joined: 10-4-2006
I recently discovered that the 12" wooden mannequin I got at Ikea 6 years ago actually helps getting proportions right in difficult poses…

invest in one of those, and you'll be surprised by how much guesswork it takes out of drawing. (mine was only like $5)
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:23PM
benjin at 2:36PM, Sept. 12, 2009
posts: 41
joined: 9-1-2009
I want to create 3D-Models of each individual. For the comic I'll use a toon-style renderer :)
The advantage of this method is that you only need to do the whole work once for each character. Later you only push them around. You can vary a scene simply by moving the camera position. Funniest comic I ever saw created this way was a LEGO comic. It allmost looked like photographed from real lego figures :)

Of course this totally different from drawing with a pencil. Even drawing 2D picrures digitally can not be compared with it.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:20AM

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