Sketchbook Ideas – Character Shapes

An excellent exercise to allow for some creative character designs is to experiment with building the underlying structure from unique silhouettes.

By being tied to using the basic shape underneath it forces us to think about the type of body and personality that might suit for the final character.

Practice generating full characters from as many different body shapes as possible, and experiment between male and female forms.

What is most important is that you remember your characters need physical form and volume, so although the initial starting shape maybe a 2d shape, you need to add dimension to your design otherwise your character will feel flat and lifeless.


You can also apply the same techniques to the head.


This is also an exercise to be found in Disney films where shape theory has been studied an utilised to support the personality of the character, and help define a unique and identifiable silhouette on screen.

Sketchbook Ideas – Character Shapes

Sketchbook Ideas: Gesture Drawing

Gesture drawing should be a constant source of study for animators, as having strong poses that describe the personality of the character or the action itself is the key to a great performance.

When studying a life subject you can range the amount of time that you spend on each drawing, however you want to be able to describe a pose quickly allowing the motion to flow from your pencil.

Having good gesture drawing skills is also essential for 3d animators, as when it is all completely rendered and shown on the cinema screen you still are left with a 2D image (unless you are watching in 3d).

The principles still apply, and strong poses bring your characters to life.

Carefully observe the pose, but then think of what the motion of the action is and the emotion of the character. Then think how can the limitations of life be enhanced in my pose to better reflect and describe what I want to show the audience.

Feel, as well as see the gesture.

Ryan Woodward, who we have featured previously on this blog, has a book dedicated to gesture and figure drawing which you can find here.

You can also check out our previous blog post on his animation “Thought of You” here

Another book to consider reading is “The Art & Feel of Making it Real: Gesture Drawing for the Animation and Entertainment Industry” by Mark McDonnel, which you can buy here

Sketchbook Ideas: Gesture Drawing

Sketchbook Ideas: Human Proportion & Simplification

Building from our look at object deconstruction, let’s turn our attention to applying this to the human body. Look at taking each part of the human form and simplifying it down to basic 3d primitives to allow you to construct the body with accurate volumes at speed.

As animators, it is important that we can draw the body quickly so that we can then focus on bringing the character to life, by focusing on the movement and personality.

Research into the proportions of the average human male and female, so that when it comes to generating characters they look and feel lifelike.

This exercise will also ensure that from pose to pose, you can consider the length of each part of the body, keeping volume across the animation.


The final image is taken from Andrew Loomis’ “Figure Drawing For All It’s Worth”




Sketchbook Ideas: Human Proportion & Simplification

Sketchbook Ideas – Object Deconstruction

Now that we have practiced drawing shapes and scenes within perspective. Let’s now shift our attention to the objects themselves. To be able to draw objects in motion in animation, it is necessary for us as animators to understand their make up, to enable us to draw them from any pose, position or angle that we are capturing the object in.

By studying the object and breaking it down into it’s component 3d primitives, we are sure to consider the true volume of the object. Practice by taking simple found objects and first break down their component shapes, then draw them from multiple perspectives. Increase the complexity of the objects as you progress.

Deconstructing Objects For Drawing:


Finding Basic Shapes Within Objects:

Sketchbook Ideas – Object Deconstruction

Sketchbook Ideas: Advanced Perspective

et’s continue with our focus on perspective but now explore extra dimensions of depth. Begin sketches investigating 2 point and 3 point perspective, look at studies into objects, environments and characters in perspective.

City in Two-Point Perspective:

How To Draw Backgrounds (3-Point Perspective):

Understanding 1, 2 & 3-Point Perspective:

How To Achieve Equal Lengths In Perspective:


Remember your camera framing, the angle of the camera would determine the height of the horizon line is on the page, so if the camera is looking upwards the horizon line will be low on the page.


Lee Dunette





Perspective Photography by Jan Dibbets

Jan Dibbets at the Gladstone Gallery:



Sketchbook Ideas: Advanced Perspective

Sketchbook Ideas: One-Point Perspective

For this coming week let’s focus on some perspective drawing techniques. Developing this will help our understanding of space and volume as well as observational skills.

Start to fill your sketchbooks with basic shapes and progress to objects you find, drawing them from different perspective points. After exploring these you should advance your work to producing an environment in One-Point Perspective.


Gustave Caillebotte

Robert C. Jackson

Joseph Mallord William Turner


Philip Bannister

Leonardo Da Vinci

Shapes in Perspective Construction Tutorials:

How to Draw Perspective – Draw With Jazza

Introduction to Linear Perspective – Alphonso Dunn

Drawing Elipses in Perspective

Sourced from IDsketching

One Point Perspective Room

Sketchbook Ideas: One-Point Perspective