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It's the little things

damehelsing at 12:00AM, July 11, 2021

There’s always an issue every artist has at some point and that is having stiff looking characters.

It is incredibly hard to actually have a fluid looking character. Also because, as humans, we are kind of stiff. Not every single person moves smoothly like a Disney character gliding across the screen or just standing in a corner. Even close ups can be difficult. And that’s what this article will be about.

A character’s fluid movement in close ups.

There has been something that always stuck with me: people will first look at the eyes/facial expression of a character and then their hands.
Hands are another form of expression and often they speak with what someone is feeling, which is why it’s always great to include hands in your close ups.

There will be times where you’re working on your page and a full body just won’t do. What is the point of it unless you’re showing off the outfit or there is expression in their movement too?
It is good to draw a full body from time to time, but often, if two characters are just talking, serious or not, why is a full body shot necessary unless you’re trying to display something? You might just be wasting page space. But if you’re going for that, then by all means, do so. I ain’t yo daddy.

Now, if you’re anything like me, you probably struggle with facial expressions, for so long I’ve tried to draw my characters as pretty as I can that I have often forgotten they need to move their brows, mouths and more. So, I’ve often become reliant on hands to give more expressions to a character.
Where it’s a clenched fist or a pensive finger on the cheek, those have really helped me with getting the emotion across, and it does make my character look more fluid, because we as humans, do those things.

When we’re thinking we will often do something with our hands, it could be playing with our hair, pens, biting our nails. When we’re nervous we might shake our leg, tap our pen or even click it non-stop. And when we’re happy we’re smiling but we might start to day dream and hold our head with our hands, so on. You get it. Our hands are the little things that really show off the big picture.

In the article’s main image, we see my character Belladonna with a finger against her cheek, her expression is rather smooth and plain, the emotion I was going for was of a very minor moment of disbelief, or teasing, if you will. Basically a good ”Mhmmmmm” moment. Also, as a, I guess, “quirk” of hers, she does tend to touch her face a lot when she’s talking to someone, in a very dominant and unwelcoming stance: arms crossed, face in bitch-mode and hand near face ready to say “I’m bored of you.”

Now, in these close ups, it doesn’t have to be the face, it could definitely be the hands or feet, or some body part, maybe your character is trying to be as cool as cucumber but they’re really not, their face says “I’m good” but their body says “nopenopenope”
Such as here:

My character is tugging at her clothes and twisting it because she feels very uneasy, nervous and stressed but most of all, she feels like she’s about to break, hence the more aggressive tug rather than a pull of the sleeve.
And when someone is about to cry, maybe they recoil.

They pull themselves in as a form of comfort.

But, not only can hands express emotion, they can show the small acts a character does.
Maybe they’re grabbing their keys, or putting on a ring or even putting on a sock or something. Making a small frame of a hand doing an action is honestly super interactive for the reader, because these small things, is what we do. We use keys, we may have rings or jewelry we wear and we obviously wear clothes, unless you’re a nudist, hey, no judgment here.
Also, these small interactions can fill the space. You don’t need a full body shot, you can have your talking heads and still display the body through different means.

And you know what? Some times you don’t even need to display the people at all. Show little bits and piece of the environment. Clothes on the floor? Maybe they just got undressed, an open book? They’re about to read or just finished reading OR they were reading and got interrupted.

There are so many small things you can do to make your page and environment full of life.

What are things you do to make your page more lively? :)

Just a reminder that my articles are strictly opinions of mine and not in any way meant to be a concrete way of how to do comics or webcomics!! Make sure to have fun!! :D



Banes at 9:19AM, July 12, 2021

"Show me your hands!!" Excellent article - I hadn't really thought about the importance of hands in this way, thanks!

bravo1102 at 6:32AM, July 11, 2021

Most stiff poses often come from the shoulders, waist and hips. Use a model. Listen to the guy who uses poseable armatures (action figures) for his characters. Joints are usually bent, shoulders slouched, head forward. Everything is at an angle. Remember if the shoulders goes one way the hips go the other. And it's all in the eyes and eye brows. Eyes pop, narrow, squint, stare, dart about, look askance and much more. Make faces at yourself in the mirror. Eyebrows are all over the place and mouths do more than open and close. Bitten lips? Pursed lips? Don't be afraid to slightly exaggerate expressions so the readers get it, because often (unless they're Vulcans or British) people can have much more expressive faces than you think. As they say in theater Your character has to play to the rear rows and balcony so they can see it too.

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