Saturday, 20 December 2008


Inking is one of the final processes when it comes to animation and it is probably one of the most important. It gives your animation that 'polished' look that the rest of the preliminary work will be lacking. It is best to show you what I mean by example rather than by trying to explain.

Not only is this one of my favourite drawings of George Liquor, it is a really brilliant piece of inking. The silhouette of the character is clearly highlight in each drawing and the features fit into the face, like they are made of skin and bone and are real. This is what I strive for whenever I come to draw up my projects into neat.

Before inking come clean up. Clean up is generally taken care of by the animators assistant so that the animator can press on with the actions and get involved in the scene without distraction. A lot of people over the years have suggested that the animators assistants do most of their work for them...but these can't be animators otherwise they would understand that is not the case. It is easy to see why people think that way though when you look at the example below.

The top half is the rough drawing by the animator, the bottom is by the clean up artist. The top has no arms, they are only indicated by lines. The hooves aren't shown - so they have either been cut off by the scanner or the clean up artist has been given permission to do his own thing. But the animator has create this believable pose...along with the other hundred of sheets that this scene will have taken. He has create the actions and drawings, the clean up artist has literally just highlighted what the next department is supposed to see. A lot of people learn to be good animators by becoming assistants. By cleaning up and tracing professional animators lines you begin to really see how to get action and life into your drawings.

Inking has really changed over the last decade...for one it is generally no longer done with ink. Instead it mostly done digitally these days, often with vector based programmes so as to get that 'cartoony' look. Vectors tend to give smoother nicer edges because the computer handles the drawings mathematically, as apposed to pixels which are tiny parts of a complete image.

This is all wrong. I am proud of these drawings, but they aren't inked particularly well. The lines need to firmly join each other so there the gaps cannot be seen. There are 'clumps' of ink everywhere here: the right foot is very messy indeed. This is difficult to avoid and I am beginning to wonder if my pen tablet and/or flash is equally to blame. A good workmen always blames his tools eh?

In my opinion it is one of the hardest things to do well. I have seen very few examples of it done exactly how I like it and I can't get anywhere near to how I like it. It is something I spend ages beating myself up about on nearly every project. As an individual I can't just palm it off onto somebody else, it is my job to create the drawing from scratch and then ink it so that it looks nice and complete. Sadly, it is something I am still studying and it is something I struggle with.

This character has no silhouette and no definition. It is a fun pose and funny expression, so luckily the image carries...but if it was inked better it would a much more exciting and believable character.

From my research, I have learned that the best way to do it is to start from the outside and highlight where the characters silohette is. This gives the character definition from the rest of the image and helps the eye follow the character easily. Then you have to consider the characters pose and highlight the different parts of the image.

You constantly have to try to judge where the line needs more weight and emphasis to attract the eye to the right part of the image...otherwise you lose your audience. Computers have made this a lot simpler, but it is still as skill that requires a significant amount of mastery. It is a necessity though, because it adds life and dimension to your drawings. if they are all one shape and size they are boring and unappealing which is exactly what you want to avoid as an animator and cartoonist.

This blog post provides a great basic insight into how to get started when you are learning to ink. It teaches you how to build your own brush in illustrator and how to go about bringing your character to life from scratch.

Monday, 15 December 2008


Perspective is something that takes a lot of time and effort to learn and I am no where near close to understanding it. Richard Williams book provides some insight into it, but it doesn't go into massive detail - combined with sat by my window watching cars coming from the distance and making smudges with my fingers when they arrived at certain points I was able to get a basic idea of what I wanted to happen in the opening shot of Eligh's Dark Fable. The boy should come over the hill, running through the grass with net in hand and his foot should stomp down and then leave shot for that added sense of perspective. There should be some kind of sun effect...i.e. blinding light and a silhouette and maybe some effect with the grass moving....but that will all be added afterwards, getting the animation right will be hard enough - or so I thought. My personal research and reading recently have really helped me get to grips with things like 'Solid drawing' and 'Appeal within character drawing'. They are both theories that I won't bother discussing now, but they have helped non-the-less. Here is a video of me making the opening shot:


1 1/2 Hours condensed to 30 Seconds.

I'll break down what I did to put the video into context. I started by ruling in the perspective...any reference on paper really helps put other things in their place because looking at a blank piece of paper is like trying to walk in a straight line the the desert. This gave my character direction. I then penciled in his end point, his halfway point and his beginning...along with a few other places for reference...this meant all I had to do was take the time to join the amount of time which isn't shown in this 30 second clip.

The main thing was making sure that the audience could read exactly what was going on and I think I achieved that, but to make sure of it the perspective had to be right. The character had to grow as he got closer to the camera, but he was also running past the camera or 'through' the camera, which meant you view him mainly from one side. To breath life into him he still has to appear to be a solid drawing...which he does or rather he will do when he is colored in.

He needed to look excited and focused. What this shot doesn't show you is the butterfly that flies past the camera before the boy comes running up the hill chasing it. It is quite a still scene in the beginning, with just the sound of the wind and heat. The special effects are whats going to make the shot. The camera wobbles when the foot comes down and the sun will blind the camera. The boy is also a silhouette as he comes over the hill, that is why he has no features until he gets closer.


Perspective running.

All of this is an attempt to really bring my piece to life right from the very start. Alright, this is only the opening 2 seconds of animation, but I have never done a perspective run before and combining two fundamental and difficult animation techniques successfully like I have is an achieve I am quite happy to say I am proud of.

In other words, for a first attempt I think I've done rather well.