Style Guide

Elements of style!
Here I’m going to attempt to explain the various visual components that make up an artists’ style. The style you choose for your character design can have a serious and direct effect on your audience and their level of attachment to him/her/it. The more you know and understand about style, the better off you’ll be because you’ll be able to target your work more appropriately.

Line Weight: This refers to the thickness of a line. Children’s artists often use thicker lines (especially when creating stickers). Illustrators working towards realism tend to use thinner lines or no lines at all.

A drawing can consist entirely of lines that are one thickness all the way through. They can also consist of many different line weights (for example, a common style statement is to have a thicker outline). To further complicate things, you can have your lines taper (this is harder to do digitally unless you have a digital tablet). Tapered lines mean the thickness varies within the stroke (Think of the top of an anime eye – that becomes an eyelash).

This is a VERY simple example comparison:
1: no line weight variation. 2: thicker outline 3: tapered lines 4: colored outlines (except eyelashes as that wouldn’t make much sense).
styles of line art can vary greatly

Specialists: Gris Grimly

Color Palette: Most artists do not stick to one color palette or another but there are some notable exceptions (Lisa Frank’s neon rainbow school supply collection, for example). Some artists prefer black and white with a splash of color. Still others prefer sepia tone work. The color palette can have a powerful effect on the mood of your piece and the mood of the person viewing it. With your choice in color comes the ability to literally manipulate the minds of anyone who looks at your work. Think about color carefully.

Specialists: Lisa Frank

Rendering/Chiaroscuro: Commonly referred to as shading, how you choose to render the effects of light and shadow on your character can have a dramatic effect (I’d say as much power as your color palette can/does/will). A heavily shadowed scene, even if a colorful kitten is your subject, can still evoke lonely, solemn, or sad feelings.

Specialists: Caravaggio

Shape/Form: Some artists are very vague when it comes to form. They don’t use solid lines and/or may use a ‘sketchy’ look. Other artists are exact and precise. Some use round forms and some are drawn to jagged edges and sharp points. All of these things can work to or for you depending on the message you want to convey and how you choose to use shape.

Specialists: Chris Sanders

Degree of Realism: Drawings can range in levels of realism from the, well, realistic to the iconic (extremely simplified). Iconic characters tend to represent a stereotype, a broad/standard/simple character type. Iconic characters (like Simpsons) are common in shows where a wide audience is desired (more people are able to relate in some way to the character becuase it’s not too specific). The bond, however, will be more superficial, less personal.

Characters like those found in Mass Effect (video game trilogy) or Last Unicorn (animated fantasy movie from the 80s) all have complex characters with specific personalities and therefore specific physical appearances. Fewer people can identify with them, but their character carries with it more depth, meaning, and uniqueness so those who do bond with the character will bond on a deeper level.

Specialists: Robin James (realistic yet cartoonish animals)

Illustrators with distinctive styles:

Arthur Rackham – wonderful line work & muted color palettes.
Ed Roth – Known primarily for subject matter but great lines!

You’re going to like this, guys. Here I’m going to talk about how the style of art in which a character is drawn effects people’s perceptions of it. Don’t worry, this isn’t boring. I’m going to use a familiar character, the bad guys from “Alien”, to show you how the same character looks in a variety of styles. This is as much for fun as it is a teaching tool and, hopefully, creative inspiration.

Comic book style alien
Round shapes a la Chris Sanders of lilo and stitch