Thursday, March 1, 2012

Drawing Cartoon Hands

When drawing or painting any object, it helps to figure out the big shapes first before defining the details.

That’s especially important in drawing hands. Disney animator Preston Blair wrote one of the classic books on animation drawing. He advised conceiving the hand as a mitten first before drawing the fingers. The little finger can be unevenly placed for variety.
There are lots more tips and examples on John K’s Animation Lessons
Thanks, Michael Stancato


Christel said...

Thanks for posting these good advices James!
By the way, do you have any idea where this fashion of depicting cartoon charachters with gloves come from? It already stroke me as a child but I still don't know the reason!
Is it because black hands (for instance Mickey's)would be too tricky?

Francis Papillon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Francis Papillon said...

@ Christel

Hi Christel! I'm a student in animation, and you're in fact quite right about the black hands. Since the first Disney characters where depicted in black and white, and that the bodies where often black, putting white gloves increased the visibility and readability of the hands when they where in front of the body.

Christel said...

Thank you Francis, that makes sense!

Christian Schlierkamp said...

Francis, maybe you can answer this as well: what I always wondered about was why all classic Cartoon-Characters only do have four fingers?
The only reason I can think of is that if you draw hands with that big, cartoony fingers they would become too bulky if you'd draw them with five fingers. Does that make sense or are there other explanations?

raphael said...

here are a few more amazing hands:

milt kahls drawings have such a simple beauty to them, they make me sit down and stare every time.

i guess five fingers would not add very much to the hand in terms of gestural potential, but its one more finger to animate, its a more complicated shape, and a bit more cramped, too. the crampedness can be alleviated with good draughtmanship, though.

drawing another finger isnt that much work in itself, but think of needing to draw at least 12 additional fingers per hand for one second of animation. (when its shot "on twos", i.e. each drawing gets exposed twice on 24fps film, which is enough for slow to medium action. fast movements are shot "on ones", i.e. 24 drawings per second, and a total of 48 additional fingers. still for only one second of moving pictures!)

Tom Hart said...

I just grabbed the Preston Blair book from the library. It's great, and I fully expect to add a copy to my personal library. The lessons on construction, proportion, perspective, etc. translate to non-cartoon drawing and painting as well, and there's something about learning to exagerate that helps (me, anyway) to convey the human or animal form believably.

The website James sites is wonderful too. Both are incredible resources.

James Gurney said...

Hey, Gang!
Thanks for helping out and answering each other's questions. I'm in Wisconsin at the Woodson Art Museum, with very limited contact with the internet. So I may not be able to answer all the questions, but I'll try to keep posting.

Tyler J said...

@Christian- I agree with raphael's comments (not only about Milt Kahl, but about why 4 instead of 5 fingers).

If you draw that fifth finger, for some reason on abstracted characters for animation, it winds up looking like lots and lots of fingers. Almost wrong.

Four is usually enough to put over anything you need to with an animated hand (as is masterfully demonstrated by Preston Blair). And since you can get away with it, and since it arguably looks better, 4 fingers became the standard.

One thing I would add, is that if you pick up Eric Goldberg's book Character Animation Crash Course, he has a section dedicated to the design of hands (and feet). He advocates that generally, putting in a little bit of detail on the boney bits of the hand will really help sell their believability (not necessarily the same thing as realism). This way you can hint at actual anatomy without things looking too rubber hose-y.

As an example, if you look at the top right-most hand Preston drew, the emphasis on the bend in the thumb helps sell that it is a thumb. If you compare it to the one between the two cigars (cigars, I love it) then you can see how important those little landmarks are with the abstracted form.

If you are interested in learning more, besides Preston Blair's book, three books about animation I would absolutely recommend are Richard William's Animators Survival Kit and the previously mentioned Eric Goldberg book. Of course, the classic animation book is considered to be The Illusion of Life by Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas.

Go animation posts!

Christian Schlierkamp said...

Thanks, Raphael and Tyle J!
I nearly thought that.
Lately I was asked to do a character design for a Cartoony character and the client insisted on five instead of four fingers, and I thought it was indeed a bit tricky to get a nice cartoony design...
A lot of franco/belgium comic designers like Uderzo manage the challenge pretty well I guess.
Thanks for your insights!!
(And I got my Preston Blair copy from the shelf again:What a great book indeed! it was my first book on animation and it's still one of my favourites, next to Dick William's "the Animator's survival kit" and Frank Thomas' and Ollie Johnston's "Illusion of life", that wonderful classic on Disney Animation.