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Creating Expressive Characters

with Kenneth Anderson
4.6 (23)
Learn how to tell a compelling story through your artwork and create characters with personality and emotions.
English English
2+
hours
39
lessons
Intermediate
level
Kenneth Anderson

Your Instructor

Kenneth is a professional freelance illustrator and has worked with companies like the BBC, Brown Bag Films, Nick Jr. and others. His specialties are story-driven, character-based illustrations and designs for a variety of mediums, in particular children’s television.

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2+
hours
39
lessons
Intermediate
level
English
English

Requirements

  • Digital drawing software, such as Photoshop or Procreate, however the concepts taught apply to paper and pencil artwork as well
  • Some previous art experience needed
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Description

What exactly is ‘Characterfulness’?

To Kenneth Anderson it’s ‘bringing your characters to life so they connect with and move your audience.’ Character design goes beyond a character’s physical looks: their hair, clothes, size, height, etc. A huge part of the design process is portraying who they ARE as a person, what their personality is and how they express emotions and feelings. As Kenneth says, ‘How a character acts, performs and expresses themselves is what really defines who they are.’

If you want to learn how a professional artist goes about doing that, then hop on board this fascinating course! Kenneth explains all the essential concepts for creating expressive poses, gestures and expressions. He also shares loads of practical tips on drawing interesting characters, such as: how to draw hands, squash and stretch, balanced poses, facial anatomy and more!

At the end of the course, you’ll see how all these concepts can be applied to your artwork by watching a detailed demo of Kenneth designing a unique character and explaining his process along the way. Have fun!

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What you’ll learn

  • An easy way to draw hands
  • How to use the different facial features to create various expressions
  • Learn how personality, mood and desire affect how a character expresses themselves
  • Grasp essential principles like Squash & Stretch and Anticipation to give a sense of movement to your artwork
  • Find out how to draw facial features to create various expressions
  • Discover tools in Photoshop for tweaking and editing your drawing fast
  • Understand concepts like weight distribution, using consistent shapes, the Line of Action, etc. to make poses more realistic and interesting
  • Design your own lively character from start to finish
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Who is this course for

  • Character designers looking to make their characters lively and expressive
  • Artists wanting to learn how to create dynamic poses, gestures and expressions
  • Those who want to understand the character design process and discover useful drawing tips
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This course includes

  • 2+ hours of on-demand videos
  • List of recommended brushes (PDF)

Lesson Plan

Expand all sections
01

Introduction

04:54

Welcome to this course! In this introductory lesson, you’ll get an overview of what this course will cover, why this information is useful to know, what tools you need to follow along and other important details.

At the end of this lesson, Kenneth gives you your very first assignment to kick things off! Watch the video to find out more.

INCLUDED:

   1 Assignment


1.1
Introduction
04:08
1.2
Task 1
00:46
02

Loosening Up - for Expressive Drawing

14:30

Discover Kenneth’s favorite brushes and why he recommends them. He also explains tips for how to stay loose while drawing to keep your characters from looking stiff and lifeless.

You’ll learn practical techniques for drawing both on paper and a graphics tablet, including how to rotate the canvas, create smooth, clean strokes and even how to move your arm correctly! Did you know that was a thing?

INCLUDED:

   1 Assignment

   List of recommended brushes


2.1
Introduction
00:24
2.2
Brushes
04:59
2.3
Arm and Hand Techniques
03:33
2.4
Using an iPad
01:39
2.5
Pencil and Paper
03:13
2.6
Task 2
00:42
03

What Drives Expression?

07:51

A character’s performance (how they act and express themselves) depends on a couple of factors, the main ones being:
– Their personality
– Their mood or current emotion
– Their goal/desire

You’ll learn about each of these three factors and how they contribute to a character’s unique identity and make them stand out from others. Kenneth also shows lots of visual examples and presents clear comparisons to help you grasp these important concepts.

INCLUDED:

   1 Assignment


3.1
Introduction
00:40
3.2
Personality, Emotion & Desire
02:51
3.3
Performance
03:35
3.4
Task 3
00:45
04

Useful Principles - for Expressive Characters

15:43

Having formerly worked as an animator, Kenneth found many foundational animation principles transferable and super useful when drawing lively, expressive characters. In this lesson, you’ll get a well-rounded explanation and practical demonstrations of these essential principles, such as Squash and Stretch, Exaggeration, Staging and Anticipation.

With this knowledge under your belt, you’ll be drawing fascinating and captivating characters in no time!

INCLUDED:

   1 Assignment


4.1
Principles of Animation
01:19
4.2
Squash and Stretch & Anticipation
03:24
4.3
Staging & Secondary Action
01:39
4.4
Exaggeration, Solid Drawing & Appeal
02:33
4.5
Shapes & Anthropomorphism
04:21
4.6
Calibrating the Principles
01:40
4.7
Task 4
00:47
05

Posing - Body Language and Gesture

29:56

A character’s pose and gesture are the first things that an audience observes, communicating the character’s personality and ‘vibe’. The pose is the major statement, so it’s important to consider this aspect carefully when designing your character.

Kenneth discusses body language—the hands, expressions, the pose—and what they all say about the character. He delves into many tips for posing your character in interesting ways, such as weight distribution, breaking down your drawing into shapes, the Line of Action, and more!

Also, discover the ‘Warp Tool’ in Photoshop: a handy ‘cheat’ for quickly modifying your drawing.

INCLUDED:

   1 Assignment


5.1
Introduction
07:12
5.2
Reference
04:32
5.3
Posing a Character
09:35
5.4
Posing Tips
07:58
5.5
Task 5
00:39
06

Hands - Making Hands Expressive

18:43

Hands are such an integral part of body language and a character’s personality, that this entire lesson is devoted to learning about them and how to draw them. Unfortunately, they can often be tricky to tackle, … but no worries! Kenneth is here to help you out.

Not only does he explain the theory of hand gestures, what they communicate and tips to make them look expressive, but he also breaks down simple methods to actually DRAW a hand, which you can use starting today!

INCLUDED:

   1 Assignment


6.1
Introduction
05:21
6.2
Drawing Hands and Fingers
04:11
6.3
Posing Hands
08:19
6.4
Task 6
00:52
07

Expressions - Drawing Expressive Faces

22:40

No matter how good the pose and gesture, you can’t have an awesome, expressive character without facial expressions!

In this video, Kenneth teaches the ins and outs of creating various expressions, including what part the eyes, eyebrows and mouth play in creating certain looks, such as puzzled, anxious or overjoyed. He demonstrates different expressions on the same character from various angles and uses shapes and the ‘Squash and Stretch’ principle to do so.

INCLUDED:

   1 Assignment


7.1
Introduction
01:59
7.2
Face Anatomy
09:14
7.3
Unity in the Face
02:50
7.4
Animal Expressions
00:57
7.5
My Process
06:55
7.6
Task 7
00:45
08

Bringing it all together

24:23

Now is the really exciting part: Applying all these concepts to a character which Kenneth creates from scratch.

He’ll walk you step-by-step through the entire development of an adventurous female pirate, from the initial sketch ideas to the fully colored illustration. You won’t want to miss this lesson!

INCLUDED:

   1 Assignment


8.1
Introduction
01:35
8.2
The Sketch
06:35
8.3
The Tie Down Final Line Art
06:57
8.4
Adding Color
08:08
8.5
Task 8
01:08

Student Feedback

23 customer reviews & ratings

4.6

Course rating

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5 star
87 %
4 star
5 %
3 star
0 %
2 star
0 %
1 star
9 %
Best Suited for
Intermediate
The level is determined by a majority opinion of students who have reviewed this class. The teacher's recommendation is shown until at least 5 student responses are collected.

(Based on 23 reviews)

Most Liked
Helpful Examples 17
Great step-by-step process 16
Clarity of Inspiring 16
Showing 10 reviews of
23
reviews & ratings
AB
Andrew B.

2 months ago

Verified Purchase
Kenneth does an excellent job of combining the principles of animation with the fundementals of character design to bring life and personality to our own characters, excellent course.
I recommend it for Intermediate
1 person found this helpful
EC
Earl C.

2 months ago

Verified Purchase
Was skeptical at first but the simplicity of the examples definitely made a difference instantly in my art. I picked up some very useful tips that’ll stick with me for a lifetime. Thanks for this!
I recommend it for Intermediate
SE
Susan E.

2 months ago

Verified Purchase
Amazing course. Very helpful and inspiring.
I recommend it for Intermediate
AG
Alice G.

2 months ago

Verified Purchase
Amazing tutorial. It covers lot of interesting topics with very clear examples.
I recommend it for All levels
SG
Sarah G.

2 months ago

Verified Purchase
Although I am still a beginner I thought this was a great class for focusing on advancing my character development. Instead of making static characters that just stand this course allowed me to learn how to put together proper facial expressions as well as body movement. Great course for anyone
I recommend it for Intermediate
AS
Alexandra S.

2 months ago

Verified Purchase
This course is inspiring and not difficult for understanding, thanks!
I recommend it for Intermediate
JH
Jonas H.

2 months ago

Verified Purchase
Clear and great
I recommend it for Intermediate
A
Adele

1 month ago

Verified Purchase
This class was really nice, I love the breakdown of the process and the examples are super helpful! It's definitely a more intermediate class but I think everyone can learn things from it, especially on gesture drawing. Thanks for putting it together!
I recommend it for Intermediate
MG
Matt G.

1 month ago

Verified Purchase
An indispensable piece of instruction from a great artist and teacher! Thanks to Mr. Anderson and 21Draw for making this available. I know I will return to this invaluable resource again and again.
I recommend it for Intermediate
CC
Chen-ming C.

1 month ago

Verified Purchase
This course also can help animator for posing ideas ! Great !
I recommend it for Intermediate
See more reviews

About the Instructor

Kenneth Anderson
Illustrator & Character Designer 5 courses

Kenneth is a professional freelance character designer with 14+ years experience. Based in the UK, he has worked with companies like the BBC, Disney, Tandem films and Axis Animation. He also worked on Sylvain Chomet’s Oscar nominated film “The Illusionist” and the French feature Titeuf: Le film.  His specialties are story-driven character-based illustration and design for a variety of mediums, in particular children’s television. In his spare time, he enjoys creating characters, illustrating magazines and making games.

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Membership includes unlimited access to all 20+ courses taught by the world’s best artists PLUS new courses as they are released.

Each class includes 10-20 video lessons that are 7 minutes long on average. Most classes include exercise sheets, assignments, and layered PSD or PNG files.

Some classes include the ability to chat with the instructor in a public forum, e.g. if you want feedback on your artwork.

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If for any reason at all you are unhappy with our courses or feel it isn’t what you are looking for—then just fill out this form or email us at [email protected]. We’ll be more than happy to give you a full refund within 30 days of your first purchase. No questions asked. Just a guarantee you can trust.

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