I've been teaching character design and children's picture book illustration for a while now, and the thing that I see students struggle with the most is knowing how to draw the same character from many different angles.
Below, I'll share some 'before' and 'after' character studies from one of my students. The 'before' illustrates common issues that anyone new to character design experiences. I'll then walk you through the exercises that they worked through to help them understand the structure of their character and enabled them to draw their characters head from multiple angles. The results of the 'after' are exciting!
In a children’s picture book, the characters walk the reader through the story. As they move through the different scenes, as an illustrator, you’ll need to be able to draw your character/s from every which way. The best way to understand what your character looks like from multiple angles is to first know what your character looks like from BOTH the front view and the side view. Drawing a character map of your character will help you ...
Nichole Wade: took part in my 8-week Picture Book Illustration e-Course in 2017. Nichole then went on to showcase her illustration portfolio at the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York in February 2019 and is currently working on her very first picture book for Little Pink Dogs Books.
I share Nicholes illustration journey as is demonstrates the breakthrough she had from only being able to draw the front view of her character to knowing how to draw her character every which way.
Below is Nichole's front and back book cover sketch for 'Florence Fox Goes to School' written by Ben Whittaker-Cook (the PBIC course manuscript). With no previous illustration experience, Nichole is a natural. She had no issues drawing her Florence Fox character from the front view however when it came to drawing her character from different angles... she struggled.
Below your can see the issues Nichole had when drawing her Florence Fox characters profile – There was no structure around the jaw, chin and ears of the profile. You can also see with Nicholes 3/4 view drawing of her character head how she struggled with the contours of the face. Another common issue is not drawing the back of the skull big enough.
Nichole was determined to figure this out. She took my Skillshare class and downloaded the worksheet from How to Draw the Head from Every Angle: Part Three. This worksheet changed everything!
Nichole drew the front-view of her Florence Fox's head in the centre and then drew the side-views of her Florence Fox head in the space far-left and far-right. She then filled the gaps, drawing her Florence Fox's head on the x-y and z-axis... and everything in between! See Nichole's results below.
Nichole used this worksheet as a guide while she worked through her storyboard for 'Florence Fox Goes To School'. You can see by doing the worksheet how Nichole was now able to bring her Florence Fox character to life.
Below, I'll show you step-by-step how to draw the profile of a character using the front view sketch as a guide. Your character will obviously look very different from mine, so use these steps only as a guide.
Step One: Draw a circle with the diameter reaching from the top of the skull to the position of the mouth. Divide the circle into quarters.
- Draw a soft-angled line from the frontal plane to the tip of the chin.
- Inside the main circle, draw a circle guide, half-the-size of the main circle.
Step Two: Draw guidelines marking...
- the top of the hair
- the eyebrows
- the top and bottom of the eyes
- the top and bottom of the ears
- the tip of the nose
- the mouth and
- the chin
Step Three: Draw an oval to mark the position of the nose (on the outer-frontal plane). The ear needs to sit on or behind the centre line (never in front). Draw the jaw, from the tip of the chin to the base of the ear.
Step Four: Use the guidelines to find the points for the forehead, nose, mouth and chin. Draw the facial features along the frontal plane. Note that the bridge of the nose slides in to touch the frontal plane, then pushes out at the point of the eyebrow.
- Draw an oval to define the chin area.
- Draw the neck as a soft curved line from the base of the ear at the back of the skull.
- Use the guidelines to find the top and the bottom of the eye. The eye may even sit back enough to touch the inner circle.
- Draw the arch of the eyebrow.
Step Five: Draw the hair and other features.
Step Six: Once you have completed your working drawing, trace over the top in pencil.
And voilà! You now have a reference for what your character's head looks like, not just from the front view, but also their profile.
Once you have drawn the front view and the side views of your characters head, like Nicole, try drawing your characters head on the X, Y and Z-Axis. The results will amaze you!
If you're interested in finding out more about my character design series on Skillshare click here. If you sign up to Skillshare using >>> this link <<< you will get two-months free Premium Membership. Which is an awesome deal, as I have more than a dozen classes that you can work through!
Already a Skillshare member? Then use these links to sign up to join me in...
– How to Draw the Head from Every Angle: Part One
– How to Draw the Head from Every Angle: Part Two
– How to Draw the Head from Every Angle: Part Three
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If you found any of these tips helpful please let me know. And if you draw your characters head from the front and side view and everything in between, please share your sketches with me on my Instagram.
I look forward to seeing you and your characters very soon!
A PDF sample of my Picture Book Illustration e-Course Workbook. I just need to know where to send it.
9-pages on character design illustration, including the popular 'ideal body proportions from child to adult' graph.
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