Anime-by-Example March 4, 1998 Update

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Body Form

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     So you decide to stroll down memory lane and you look at your old drawings. Do the figures on those characters look a bit deformed or mal-proportioned? "Look at that head! It's huge!" you think to yourself as you keep flipping the pages of the embarrasing drawing portfolio. Sound like a familiar story to you? It has been like that for me. A few times, people have commented that some of my character's heads were unusually big for his/her size of body. Of course, I didn't agree at the time, but now, it's more than a little embarrasing. Form must be one of the easiest and most consistent things an artist understands. Why? First of all, there is minimal artistic talent required in geometric modeling, you just have to acquire an eye for the correct proportions. Since geometric shapes (triangles, squares, circles, etc.) are much simpler than arbitrary curves, they should be a consistent element in your drawings.



EH?! No link?! I'll have to get back to this...

Men, Women, and Children

     As you are probably aware by now, men, women, and children have general shapes similar, albeit different from one another. Women are always described as having an "hour glass" figure-- I'm sure you guys all understand what I mean by a woman's "curves," no foolin'. Children are under-developed things, in which the difference between the genders is very difficult, at times. They have a block-body: no curves at all. Men have more of an inverted triangle body, where their upper body gets big, hulky, and enormously huge (for some people at least).

Here are some diagrams...

Miaka from Fushigi Yuugi. (just in case you saw this caption before, I made a vague reference to why I liked the white background of this pic. I still like this picture, but I am terribly sorry about the fact that some people took the comment in a bad connotation, to my error. My grammar is somewhat improved and I now know better. Kudos to Ariba for pointing the slip-up out to me.)

The Body is Machine-like and has Machine-Like Parts.

     Remember these most important rules in any type of semi-realistic art:

You must remember to check for these things when you draw. There are lmits to human motion, and drawing a limb that doesn't fit right may make the picture look awkward. Your elbows and knees are like hinges, only a little more complex. Therefore, if they are indeed hinges, BY ALL MEANS DRAW THE HINGES!!!! I don't know how to stress this any more. A hingeless person theoretically must have no bending points at all (unless if he is made of cartilage), so draw hinges.

Head to Torso Ratio

     This really isn't a problem, but judging from my older works, I have found that, often I have drawn my characters with a big head for their bodies. Okay, well there really isn't anything wrong with this, except watch for a large head while the rest of the extremities are small. If the rest of the body is in proportion EXCEPT for the head, the character looks a bit awkward, and may not be how you really want it. This is a very subtle difference which you may not pick up while you draw, so watch out!

Length of Arms and Legs

     Okay, here's a very common mistake. Even I have problems with this. Drawing arms and legs is one of the fundamental things you just HAVE TO GET RIGHT. Typically, the upper arm extends down to the waist-line (of course, Darkstalkers defies that principle just a bit). In any case, the upper arm really doesn't get any shorter than that.

        Legs can be longer... MUCH longer. Sometimes if a character's head is really large compared to his/her torso, long legs can help cure disproportionality.

The Chest

        The chest is another area that is subject to error.... I'll get back to this later...

Waist Sizes

        I don't know about you, but I think waist sizes aren't too big of a deal to me. For those of you who are concerned about a correct waist size, I suppose I could provide a few pointers. For an anime character with a small-looking head-- meaning big torso, or large hips, the waist can be around the size of the head, if not a little larger.For an "average" large-head anime character (if there is such a thing), I would imagine that a waist would be about 3/4 of the size of a head (if the head's large in proportion to the body). Anything smaller would make the a character unwholesome... I don't know. Sometimes when I see a thin waist, I think of Aeon Flux's waist.Of course, Aeon Flux was created to be more stylish than be a smoothly-drawn animation, but just be careful no to make 'em too thin. This message goes especially to you guys out there. You might give some ladies wrong ideas about how REAL women are supposed to look. If anyone complains that your waists are small, give them some excuse like "it's just a cartoon," or better yet, tell them "I messed up when I drew it. Give me some slack!?"

I'll have some diagrams up soon.

Watch for Forked Legs

        Okay, this is a section I feel I really need to address. I see many cartoons with objects and people that are just not physically feasible... Even though this is going against my spirit of manga, those who strive for precise and believable form may want to take heed of this. LEGS DO NOT FORK OUT AS IF COMING FROM ONE CENTRAL JOINT!!!. Legs are positioned on a "cross-beam" which crosses the spine like an upside down "T".

As you can see from these pictures...

Sure, some legs look forked when viewing a character that is turned away from the camera, but do not be fooled! The crossbeam is just pointed toward the camera angle.

And finally... Think Logically. What Looks Right To You?

        In the end, it's all a matter of (1) Intuition and (2) Taste. If you can't get to this stage, as I know I have in the past, Get your hands on ANY anime material you can get. Looking at pictures of real people doesn't really seem to help me very much, except for facial expressions and position. Anime characters are already in a somewhat simplified form, so you can see what the artist is really thinking. If you're like me, you may want to check out Anime magazines-- Megu (I think that's the name of it), Animerica even works, Art books (whatever you can scrounge up-- Castlevania art book, Tenchi art book, Intron... something!), and more importantly, ANATOMY BOOKS. Man, anatomy books are an excellent reference-- think of them as your dictionary of form: use it whenever you REALLY have a problem. MOST IMPORTANTLY, like any form of art, you need to learn by experience, practice, and observation. Good Luck.

If there are any comments, questions or requests for addition, please feel free to e-mail me at

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