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4 Ways to Develop Your Own Animation Style

Even if you’ve been animating for a long time now, you may still feel like you don’t know what defined your personal style of animation. Or maybe you know your style, but want to change it.

You may not be sure how to develop new a animation style because you’re afraid of deviating from the usual animation styles you see on social media and YouTube animation channels.

Having your own personal style in animation will make your work stand out, help you attract an audience, and eventually turn them into your clients. Being unique pays off. But how to get there?

In this blog post, we’ll give you 4 ways that animators can develop their own animation style.

1) Use Real Life References

hand of an animator

Image by Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash

Even the most creatively animated character or object is usually created based on a real-life person or object. It’s perfectly fine to use real-life references to draw in your own art style.

If you want to draw houses, then look at real houses or photos of them. If you want to draw a character, then observe real people and gather photos of them.

Trying to think about and draw your references from your own perspective is what will help you develop your own style. Look for the ways that you can improve the character you are using as a reference.

Should you use a different style of clothing or sharper shapes? Should you enlarge the eyes of your character?

Rin, the illustrator behind the YouTube animation channel DrawingWiffWaffles suggests that in order to get more from the real-life references you use, print them with a 30% opacity and start observing the shapes of the animated character or objects. 

Trace them, then break them down into several shapes. If you learn better digitally, then you can look at photos and trace them too. Watch tutorials of how animators create amazing characters from start to finish.

Doing these things will help you understand the shapes in the human body and give you ideas on which shapes to use when working on your animated character or object.

If you think you’re not ready yet to make original animated characters of your own, you can stay on this step until you familiarize yourself with the elements of a drawing.

Keep doing this until your hands get familiar with a specific way of drawing things and see how you can combine different kinds of shapes and lines to illustrate a character or an object. Once you’re done observing real-life references, it’s time for you to start drawing.

2) Copy the Work of Animators You Love

a person thinking that everything is a copy

GIF via GIPHY

Many artists tend to have emotional reactions when they hear about copying someone else’s work. There is nothing wrong with copying someone. Every artist at some point in their lives has copied another person, especially when they’re still learning how to do something. 

Nothing that you think is creative is 100% original. Something always stems from someone who created something.

Haley, the animator and creator of the YouTube animation channel LavenderTowne, says that she wouldn’t be where she is today if she didn’t spend hours when she was a little kid copying her favorite cartoon characters.

It’s important to use your discretion when deciding how to draw inspiration from someone’s work, though. Jenna Rainey says that there is a time when it’s okay to copy and when it is not okay. You can copy in order to learn something but it is never okay to copy another artist’s work and declare it as your own.

Copying is one way to understand animation concepts and how the concepts work together when applied and learn some helpful tips and tricks. It also allows you to pay close attention to details in artworks that you won’t be able to see just by looking at them.

It means studying an artwork to improve it or transform it into something new that you can call your own. However, copying shouldn’t be forever, or else you’ll never be able to find your own style.

3) Create Your Own Animated Character

a woman telling another woman it's her time to shine

GIF by The Bachelor via GIPHY

Once you can observe people and things from real life and get a good grasp of animation principles and software, you should be able to create your own characters.

No matter how many tutorials you watch or real-life references you look at, you won’t get good at animating unless you actually put what you learn into practice. Nothing in your style will improve or change without hands-on work!

As you make your own animated characters, you will definitely see where most of your inspiration has come from. It can be from the Disney and Pixar films you watch or your favorite anime characters, or even the comic books you read as a child.

Don’t worry if your style still looks heavily influenced by what you see and watch. This is normal. Just as the saying goes, you’re a mosaic of all the different things that you like.

Your style will evolve and refine as time goes by depending on what you see around you, the kind of animation style you are leaning towards, and how practice you do.

Maybe you’ll like what you land on at first, though. If you don’t want your animation style to evolve through many months and years, according to Haley of LavenderTowne, you can decide today to stick with an animation style and create your own rules.

Be consistent in using that style in your future projects. It might be hard to check on yourself if you are following the rules you set for yourself but you will get used to it.

4) Practice Drawing Everyday

a notepad and drawing tools

Image by KOBU Agency via Unsplash

Keep practicing drawing and coloring animated characters on your sketchbook or on your drawing tablet. The sooner you start practicing drawing, the sooner you will find your animation style and the sooner people will recognize your work apart from other artists’ works.

Start drawing with your paper and pen or your drawing tablet. Draw things you like as well as things you know you don’t like. Try out things you’re good at drawing and things you’re bad at drawing. It doesn’t have to be a perfectly made sketch.

Even just the simplest of drawings will help you improve your style and make your animated characters more realistic or look a certain way you want them to look. It might also help you settle down with a specific style that you really want your future animated videos to have.

When drawing characters in your own style, there is no need to aim for perfection. Many artists love making their works look perfect, whether for personal or business purposes, but that doesn’t always have to be that way.

According to Derek Laufman, illustrator and creator of the YouTube animation channel PopCross Studios, you shouldn’t feel pressured to make your work look as detailed as the works of Marvel if you don’t have enough time or energy to do it.

You don’t have to make your style similar to the best styles out there. You can still make great animated videos if you work on telling captivating stories.

Also, don’t be afraid to experiment. What character features will you emphasize and which ones will you tone down? Will your characters have big noses, small noses, or none at all?

For example, animation styles emphasize having big eyes while others emphasize another body part, like the size of the head, instead of having big eyes. 

If you think you’ve already tried many animation styles and want to use more than one, that is perfectly fine. YouTube animator JelArts says this proves that you are a talented animator who can draw in many styles.

It also opens many work opportunities. The more styles you have, the more people you will attract and turn into clients.

Summing It Up

There you have it! These four effective tips will help you find your own animation style.

Use real-life references when drawing, pay attention to details and study how elements of drawing work together by copying other artist’s work, be brave enough to start creating something entirely new, and practice refining your style every day. 

Follow these tips and you will surely be on your way to having unique animated characters and in the future get work opportunities that will boost your animation career.

If you are looking for more animation tips, make sure you watch our free masterclass and download a copy of our free marketing handbook.

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