Character Design For Production

An 8-week course diving into the tasks involved with character design in a production pipeline

Course overview Course overview

Course Overview

Designing Characters for Production

This class will focus on taking your character designs through a production pipeline and learning to make your designs functional for animation. In this course, you will be acting as a professional Character Designer. We will cover both common and important types of assignments that will be expected of you as a working professional. You will walk out of this class with not only the experience of a real professional setting, but also with professional work that you will be proud to showcase in your portfolio.

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Course Format:   Standard
Lecture Type:   Pre-recorded
Feedback:   Individual recordings
Duration:   8 weeks
Assignment:   Due each week. Expect to spend 8-10 hrs/wk viewing lectures, q&a, and time on assignments.
Q&A:   Once a week
Materials:   Photoshop (or equivalent), Wacom tablet (or equivalent)
Skills level:   Intermediate
Prerequisites:   Character Design for Animation

Character Design For Production WHAT YOU’LL LEARN

What you'll learn

The more you know, the better.

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Learn what it takes to develop a story for your character. We will break down the importance of why you should even be creating your character in the first place. Profession can influence your character’s design, as well as their props.
We will be exploring how to create a character pose sheet. Body language plays a key role when developing a character. Simple posing will make all the difference in persuading your audience that your character is actually alive.
After posing comes expressions. Once again, personality is what makes a character believable. We will design how our character deals with emotions in these sheets, and use our previous posing as influence for taking our characters further.
This week you will learn how to turn around a character to properly prepare it for modeling or animating. You will learn how to packet your character, along with character expressions and poses, and present them in a clean and professional fashion.
The pose of all poses: the hero pose. How would you pose your character if you were competing for $1 million? You will learn what it takes to show the ultimate image of your character, and how to completely represent them in one artwork.
Cleaning up your poses, expressions, & character turn around in a professional & finished way. Try to think of this assignment as the one you've been waiting for all term. We've avoided making final choices and cleaning up our designs so we could focus on functionality in our work. Now it's time to make everything have a nice sense of continuity across all your work from this term so far.
We will explore additional characters, that will support the main character we have been focusing on all term. This will help you learn how to design for a whole story, rather than individual characters that are not related. Then we will put them on screen! We will focus on creating a cinematic moment for our characters this week. Story, acting, posing, and even environment will all come into play in this one cinematic shot.
In this week, you will be treated as professionals. You will be handed a professional freelance assignment, along with prepare your work from the previous weeks to look great in a portfolio.
Instructor

Igniting your imagination

Nate Wragg was born in Davis, CA in 1983. He took an interest in drawing and painting at an early age. After graduating high school, he studied animation and design at The California Institute of the Arts in Southern California. Since then, Wragg has gone on to work as an illustrator and designer on various projects-including Ratatouille, Toy Story 3 and Puss in Boots. He was one of the primary character designers on the Pixar Feature Toy Story 3. As well as designing characters, Nate was also the Production Designer of Pixar’s short film Your Friend the Rat and has been involved in designing several main title sequences, most notably the animated end titles for Ratatouille. Most recently he was the Production Designer on Captain Underpants.

Student interviews

COURSE BEGINS

April 21st!

spring TERM Registration

Feb 11, 2019 - Apr 26, 2019

Only

$699

COURSE BEGINS

April 21st!

Pricing & Schedule

Even though our courses are the most affordable for the quality of education.

These Finance Options allow you to focus on your goals instead of the barriers that keep you from reaching them.

Employer Reimbursement

Animation Guild CSATTF

Payment Plan

Companies that hire our students

  • Naughty Dog
  • Luma Pictures
  • Google
  • EA Games
  • DreamWorks Animation
  • Blizzard Entertainment

environment design Benefits

Benefits

What makes this learning experience unique?

Personal Feedback

Receive personal individual feedback on all submitted assignments from the industries best artist.

1+ Year Access

Enjoy over 365 days of full course access. This includes all lectures, feedback, and Live Q&A recordings.

Certificate of Completion

Earn a Certificate of Completion when you complete and turn in 80% of course assignments.

Flexible Learning

Learn anywhere, anytime, and at your own pace with our online courses.

Speak to an advisor

Need guidance or course recommendations? Let us help!

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Show us your skills

Not sure if you have the skills, or are you proving you do? Show us.

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Carolyn, the Flower Shop Owner

Interview with Austin Lee

Austin Lee shares his experience and process bringing Carolyn, the Flower Shop Owner to life over 8 weeks in Nate Wragg's Character Design for Production course.

Carolyn, the Flower Shop Owner

Introduction

 

My name is Austin Lee, and I’m a Seattle-based designer. I developed an interest in drawing at a young age, and being inspired by cartoons and animation led me to study visual communication design at college. Later, I studied media design at the Art Center College of Design.

 

In the industry, I’ve worked on AR/VR experiences as a visual interaction designer, which often requires skills in storytelling and concept development. I took Nate Wragg’s “Character Design for Production” course because I’ve always been fascinated by great character design work and the art of animated feature films. I wanted to gain exposure to the production pipeline and learn storytelling skills through character design by taking the course. 

 

Initial character sketch 

 

Designing a Character with Story


The following is my description of the proposed character: Carolyn, the flower shop owner, is an aging but a charming hippie lady who loves gardening and nature. They say that she regularly talks not only to her plants but also to animals. She is a bit of a hoarder, but she only collects beautiful plants and surrounds herself with them. While she often looks tired, it is easy to intuit that she is passionate about her work and genuinely enjoys her life at the flower shop.

 

Character reference sheet

 

When coming up with the story for the character design, I was inspired by an actual flower shop owner in our area who would often encourage her customers to listen to plants and see if they talk to them when choosing what to buy. She always projected a cool, hippie vibe, and she was always well-dressed in great color schemes. While reimagining an interesting background story for Carolyn, I began collecting references for the character. I wanted to illustrate how she was very active and energetic when it came to taking care of her plants.

 

Character Pose & Expression Sheets


Learning how to apply exaggerations in effective ways through stretch and squash was crucial in my design decisions. After receiving feedback from Nate, I refined the character design of Carolyn; I made her less muscular and gave her more exaggerated features, such as extremely thin legs and arms that would contrast with her big, strong, bulky feet and hands. Creating various facial expressions also added more life to the design.

 

    

Character Pose & Expression Sheet and Character turn-around

 

Tie Down & Clean-Up

 

Moving away from roughs to clean-up was an interesting process. The most crucial element was maintaining the overall feeling of the initial rough sketches while refining and simplifying the design. Imagining the 3-D structure referencing the pose sheet definitely helped a lot. 

 


One of my favorite outcomes in the process was the design of one of the supporting characters, an iguana that was apparently jealous of the tween geckos that constantly grabbed Carolyn’s attention. 
 

 

Final Style & Portfolio Assembly 


The final style was driven a lot by the tie down and clean-up process in week 6. Given the relatively short time frame to color the final scene and assemble a portfolio of the entire course, I decided to leverage the line drawings produced during the clean-up process, as opposed to covering up the lines and fully rendering the final shot with color. Inspired by water color, I focused on generating a digital painting that felt light and had semitransparent look. The fidelity of the painting felt sufficient for this particular scene, which was supposed to show the calm and relaxed state of the characters. 

 

Final painted character piece

 

Final Thoughts and Take-Aways 

 

Nate taught how to effectively convey a story through the character design, which enabled me to push my design work further through applying a more stylized approach as opposed to creating a generic design that felt less appealing and imaginative. Nate shared how small details, such as props, can provide rich context for the character. To highlight her everyday life as a flower shop owner, I introduced small reptile residents into Carolyn’s flower shop and illustrated an array of plants that she took care of. 

 

 

Trusting the process was extremely challenging in the beginning. In retrospect, especially in the initial stage, I wasn’t sure how the character and her surrounding world would evolve. As a matter of fact, I even thought of working on an entirely different character because I was not feeling confident that I could create an appealing design through a mundane flower shop persona. However, as the design was inspired by a real-life figure, and even after pushing the design, the character still felt believable and relatable to me.

 

The process of illustrating and documenting various poses and angles of the character enabled me to understand the structure of the character better and apply better acting. Moreover, being exposed to the production pipeline of character design developing through a holistic approach to storytelling was invaluable in terms of understanding the collaborative processes between directors and art and story departments.