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Doodlemagic - A Guide in Using References for Characters
It took me a long time to figure out how to use references properly. Sounds silly, right? Well, seeing as how I would always draw from my mind without looking at other drawings, my art and design suffered unknowingly. Now that I figured out how to use a reference, it made quite the difference. This can also be useful when trying to communicate with me or other artists for requests, commissions, trades, ect.

Note this is a very picture heavy guide!

Always start with an idea.

Knowing what you want to put into your character is a first step. You can't exactly draw out a character without knowing what it is you want. What I usually start with is:
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Body Type
  • Pose
  • Facial Structure
  • Hair Style
  • Outfit

For simplicity's sake, I'm gonna illustrate this with a doodle of Doran that hasn't gone full out into the "inking" and coloring stage. I gather my references all over the place while I'm working, but if you're trying to convey this all to another artist, it's good to have all your references lined up.

I decided to start with a rather simple pose that I can modify to fit his body type. As always, DeviantArt is my main resource for resources.

This is what I chose to be my reference for his pose. Since he has a feminine figure, I use female references to draw him. Big whoop wanna fight about it?
[Image: Sailor_Pose_39_by_SenshiStock.jpg]

Well, this definitely serves as a basic anatomy guide for the pose. I set it beside my work so I can see it and sketch out the basics of this nice lady's shape. I don't follow the anatomy perfectly since I like to stylize my characters, and if you're still in the learning stages, it's okay to trace. But note that if you do trace, credit those references! It's common courtesy!

Here's how it looks sketched roughly next to the reference.
[Image: 70xg2t7.jpg]

My next order of business is to draw his face. I personally like using Tera Rising's character creator to make a quick reference for how I want the basics of his face to look. This reference, just like any other, doesn't have to be perfect.

[Image: uWomSnZ.png]

I didn't complete his hairstyle yet, but I placed a few useful guidelines for when I do style his hair. I usually have the hair work with what outfit is chosen. For this drawing, I decided to go for something flashy and elaborate. Something that'd be fitting if he did have access to plenty of money and time to invest in an outfit. Always nice to dress up. For this one, I combined two different references to get an idea of what I wanted for this outfit.

[Image: 8MozCS5.jpg]

Looking better! It's not super detailed, but it gets the most basic of messages across for his design. It's almost ready to have details added. What's missing? His hair. Doran's hair is quite long just like many members in his family. I decided to go with a slightly different version of his usual hairstyle.

[Image: 6HKEMyR.jpg]

And now I have all of my basics in place! From all of this i can modify him as needed, add in details, or change up his outfit. I always try my best to not be as exact as a reference is, but use them as a guideline for what I would like to draw.


If you have a decent art program that uses layers, use them! You can sketch on one layer, make a new layer, and draw all you want without harming the other layers! When i draw on different layers, I usually have different colors for that layer. Like you saw in this guide. Each layer was drawn in a different color.

If you don't have an art program (or you do and you have no tablet), invest in a small pack of tracing paper. You have the same general concept as layers right there! If you work the traditional paper and pencil route either out of preference or lack of digital equipment, I would suggest making a light box so you can see your other papers much better. A light box is an extremely useful tool. You can buy one already made or rig your own.

While looking for references, be wary of threats hidden in images. Not death threats. That's plain silly. I'm talking about malware. Yup. Believe it or not, malware can be coded into an image. If I didn't have my trusty antivirus Avast! I might have a problem. If you don't have an antivirus on Windows, either you're a very ballsy person or you're not the brightest. Take your pick. I do suggest the combo of Avast! Free Antivirus, SUPERAntiSpyware, and Malwarebytes. It's all free and works better than paid versions of anything I've seen.

Be patient. Especially if you're new to drawing or you're easily frustrated with your work. As they say, "Rome wasn't built in a day". Take your time and keep at it. Before you know it, you'll be drawing with ease!

Ask questions. If you're ever curious on how I draw something, I'll be more than happy to explain. If possible, I might even be able to offer a stream so you can see my process in action.

Have fun! Really! If you're not enjoying yourself, you're less likely to keep at it. Listen to music while you draw. That's what I usually do.

I'm not very good at structuring guides, but I hope this proves helpful to some of you budding artists out there! Soon I'll probably write one up on designing outfits....
Also, thanks to @Xigo for finding some of the references I use. Guy's a goldmine.
[Image: KceuhuX.gif][Image: eKcKrrq.png]
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[4:16:27 PM] Cristovao di Silvio ( @CappnRob): theres the bar. then theres the bottom of the barrel, then theres you sachi
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