The Warner Bros. Character Design Manual

I got this book out of the library this week and it has really opened up my eyes and I’v learned to loosen up my drawing from it.

In the future I will keep in mind the following notes taken from this book when creating characters for animation.

Line of Action

  • Forget what the character looks like, focus only on what the character is doing and create simple lines of action and/or emotion.
  • Decide on the pose and sketch, the faster and more primal the force behind the first sketch the better the chance of capturing the essential animated spirit of the character.
  • Don’t think figure, think feeling, make the lines with strength, feeling and movement.
  • In cartooning rythm comes before anatomy.
  • Once the basis lines of rythm and action are down the picture arrives in your mind’s eye and you can start filling in the mass and proportion and details.
The Skeleton
  • The central axis of a body is the spinal cord, everything is balanced on it, hangs from it or radiates from it.
  • The spinal cord of your character will be layered over the line of action.
  • When using photo reference never copy it, find the line of action and push it to the extreme to exaggerate it.
  • Exaggerate perspective.
  • Copy movement, not form or detail.
Body Mass
Building Body Mass:
  1. Identify geometric shapes on which the character is built.
  2. Loosely layer those geometric shapes other the line of action.
  3. Adjust proportions of the geometric solids/body mass to reflect the correct ratios for the character to ensure the characters body mass are consistent from pose to pose.
  4. Add wide bands of muscle lines that connect the body and the skeleton together.
  5. Get inside the character (What doesn’t feel right? What is out of balance? What needs adjusting?)
Expressing Attitude
Attitudes and poses are not just frozen moments in time, they also exist with a past and a future that should be hinted at.
Below is an exercise from the book, going through from the line of action to the body mass of a character, since I am working on a lizard character for my animation exercise this week I decided to use him. Now I’m wishing I did these before the animation, it might have turned out better.
Below is an exercise where you had to choose an extreme emotion, close your eyes and thinking of that emotion draw lines on the paper that express that emotion and then open your eyes and build your drawing of a characters expression around these lines.
I chose terror and I loved the outcome.

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