Character Design

What is the task?

For life drawing, my class had been met with the assignment to create a character, focusing on appeal, and four other of the 12 principals of animation. My immediate response was to create a female character in hopes of conveying sexual appeal; as I tend to draw very feminine characters, I found this to be the best choice.

Initial concept Sketches

Below are some of my initial designs exploring character possibilities. From simply doodling concepts I found that common trends within my designs were common, energetic characters like dancers/cheerleaders; I felt like this was important in giving personality to my character. Furthermore, I became interested in designing strong minded tom boy-like characters; I eventually decided to combine the two.

character design 2
Artist: Lauren Bell

character design 3
Artist: Lauren Bell

character design 4
Artist: Lauren Bell

Personal Design Inspiration

As the character I decided to create was going to be a feminine figure, I decided to more thoroughly research what I felt inspired other similar characters I had drawn in the past; pin-up girls. As I’m very interested in the vintage aesthetic and fashion, I feel like these vintage models have very influenced my previous character designs. Furthermore, pin-up girls are renowned for their physical appeal.

I borrowed the book ‘Pin-Up’ by Jacques Sternberg as a reference for poses, anatomy, and fashion, and created some studies. From these studies, I found that the woman were quite sexualised, but were quite confident with their sexuality; I felt like this suggested that these woman were quite strong minded and powerful (similarly to femme fetale-like characters).

pin up
Above: Pin Up by Jacques Sternberg

Below are some sketches I completed from models in the book.


As characters such as Betty Boop and Jessica Rabbit were both based on vintage models/ actresses to some extent (Bettie Boop was based on Clara Bow whilst Jessica was treated as a general stereotype/satirical character) , I decided I wanted to do something similar for a similar effect.

I chose to focus on Bettie Page as I found her to be quite attractive in her confidence and her beauty decisions. Additionally, as I’m a fan of the famous pin-up girl, I feel that her influence can already be found in designs I have made in the past, and analysing her further could be beneficial.

bettie page
Above: Bettie Page

bettie page.jpg
Above: Bettie Page

I decided to draw Bettie from several different reference images to understand her body shape, facial structure, and hair and beauty choices. From these studies, I noticed bodily features such as; a small waist, large hips, medium sized thighs, and a large bosom. For hair and beauty I noticed; quite voluminous hair which carried it’s own weight, quite a hard jaw, dark lips, and dark eye brows. Additionally, I noticed how strongly and openly Bettie was holding herself; in psychology, this suggests power and confidence. These drawings can be viewed below.


Animated Character Inspiration

As previously mentioned, I was quite interested in creating quite a sexual character similar to the likes of Betty Boop and Jessica Rabbit. I particularly liked each character’s vintage aesthetic, and the way in which they were drawn, so I decided draw them for myself to become more accustomed to their design. The drawings below were completed using pro markers, black pen, and white pen.

Betty Boop

I quite liked Betty’s hair,make-up, and fashion poses. I also quite liked her resemblance to a vintage actress.

character design 6
Artist: Lauren Bell

Jessica Rabbit:

Whilst I quite liked the beauty choices in Jessica Rabbit’s design, I also liked the way in which her character seemed strong in her personality, and powerful in her sexuality.

character design 7
Artist: Lauren Bell

Woman and Racism in Animation

Upon attending a life drawing class in which we discussed the articles ‘Looking from the Outside In – Gender Representation in Animation’ (which can be found here:, and ‘The Politics of Representation’ (found here:, I realised that my character had to have some context in order to avoid common stereo types.

happy and gay
Above: Image from ‘Happy and Gay’ Animation mentioned in ‘The Politics of Representation’

The first article was about female characters in animation and how their figure would commonly be portrayed as a beauty stereotype (an hourglass), whilst male characters could be represented in any form; this suggested inequality in society being reflected within animation. Similarly, the second article discussed an animated short which satirised modern day homophobia/racism in an old style cartoon; this highlighted modern issues and their juxtaposition with old societal attitudes that we now acknowledge to be wrong.

Whilst I acknowledge that my character may be considered the embodiment of this modern problem (an exaggerated female character) I feel that I am justified in my design as I wanted to create something sexually appealing (I find the attributes of my character to be appealing), but I also regularly enjoy drawing these types of characters. However, I do feel that it is crucial that my character does not embody common female personality stereotypes, so I decided to explore these possibilities.

Kim Possible

Whilst I liked the aesthetic of these character designs, I felt like I needed a character reference which physically explored the personality I would like to suggest; this lead me to explore Kim Possible’s design. Whilst unlike the other references, I found Kim Possible appealing as she was quite physical and strong in her motion and personality. The images of my sketches can be viewed below.

character design
Artist: Lauren Bell

Artist: Lauren Bell

Lana Kane

Lana Kane plays a secret agent within the TV show ‘Archer’. Similarly to my character, she is human and also very feminine in her body type. Unlike Betty Boop, and Jessica Rabbit, I found that her personality is quite tough, and assertive; traits I’d like to mimic. Additionally, Lana’s character inspired me to create a femme fatale style character; rather than just being a pretty face, her personality would be strong, thus defying stereotypes.

Image: Lana from ‘Archer’

Additionally, I decided to create some studies of this character to explore pose and general design. These drawings can be viewed below.

Artist: Lauren Bell

Audrey Ramirez

I looked at this character from ‘Atlantis’ (2001) due to her posing and her personality. Whilst her design is quite appealing, I found that my interest in her character was heightened in her physicality which in turn highlighted her attitude. Additionally, as her occupation was a mechanic, I found that her personality was further pushed away from gender stereotypes; which I liked. I have completed a sketch of this character on the previous image.

Image: Audrey from ‘Atlantis’

12 Principles of Animation

What are the 12 Principles of Animation?

The 12 Principles of animation are a set of rules which were created by the ‘old men’ of Disney. These rules explained techniques which heightened the believably of animated characters.

I took some time to further research the 12 principles of animation. One of my first pieces of research came from ‘Principles of traditional animation applied to 3D computer animation’ written by John Lesseter. Here, Lesseter emphasised that whilst not all the principles are applicable to 3D animation, some can still be transferable, and are crucial. The link to this document can be found below.

Another video  found of great use was ‘Complete 12 Principles of Animation Frank Thomas and Ollie Jhonston’ found on Youtube.

The 12 Principals of Animation

1. Squash and Stretch

In the 12 principals, this techniques is used to apply anticipation and exaggeration; squash and stretch manipulates physics by stretching to an exaggerated width, and squashing to an exaggerated height, whilst still maintaining mass.  We commonly see this technique in use through the bouncing ball method, but can also see if applied to physics of actual characters in their body movement and facial expression.

2. Anticipation

This principle is crucial for squash and stretch, and links quite closely to it. Anticipation prepares the audience for an important action by drawing attention to the character’s actions. For example, a pitcher in baseball may mind up before before throwing a ball which prepares the audience for his next move; this is mimicked in animation.

3. Staging

Staging in animation focuses on acting, placement and type of objects within a space, but also the placement of a character on screen. All of these qualities reflect the importance, and personality of a character. An example of this could be placing a large magnitude of rubbish around a character to suggest that they’re a slob.

4. Straight ahead and Pose to Pose

The principle is much more applicable to 2D animation as it describes the formation in which an animator may animate. Straight ahead animation is animating each frames directly after the previous, whilst Pose to Pose involves the significant poses first (Keys), then the important actions between these poses (Extremes), then the posing that fill the gap between Keys and Extremes (Breakdowns).

5. Follow Through and Over lapping action

This principle can be used to show weight. Whilst a character or objects is moving (walking for instance), parts of their body or clothes may not move at the same time as their main actions; this is considered over lapping action. Follow through is commonly used by significantly shifting parts of an object/person whilst other parts remain totally still; this adds comedy through exaggeration.

6.Slow in and Slow out

Slow in Slow out explains the amount of frames which are used to convey speed. To show something moving at a quicker speed, there will be more drawings, whilst a slower speed will have less drawings. Slow in slow out particular focuses on using less frames at the start of a motion, and less as the end, whilst having more in the middle.

7. Arcs

Arcs are used to add character by mimicking similar patterns in movement/walking. This technique gives realism as most living creatures move in arcs.

8. Secondary Action

This technique adds complexity to a character actions, and develops the meaning behind a characters movement. Rather than a character simply walking toward a bank, the character may be animated to rub his hands to convey his mischievous intentions.

9. Timing

This technique is crucial within animation and can change the meaning within an action. Sharper animations with more frames will add urgency to a character, whilst less frames will prolong the action. Animating in twos is most common (one drawing every two frames) and adds realistic motion, whilst drawing on ones (One drawing every frame) can seem quite frantic and busy.

10. Exaggeration

Exaggeration is essential within animation. This principal translates easier than realistic movement, but also adds comedy.

11. Solid Drawings

Solid drawing describes the design of a character/setting, and it’s use of 3D shapes rather than 2D to form structure. This technique conveys that a character is physical and exists in a 3D space. Another way to convey this in a character is to break up the symmetry of the design to show that the character is reacting to the environment around them.

12. Appeal

Appeal can be quite subjective, but the proportions and shapes of a character are significant in their appeal. Rather than drawing something realistic, appeal encourages exaggeration in proportions, and clear use of solid drawing. Additionally, appealing characters can not be to detailed and busy.

Development Studies

I feel as if my character went through some significant development, in terms of design, after my class and I were asked to create a rotation. This work can be viewed below.

Artist: Lauren Bell

Below is the back view in the character rotation. I drew this out separately as I had forgotten to do it earlier in the process.

Artist: Lauren Bell

The drawing above was the design I reused for the rest of this project. As you can see, the hair, facial structure, and bodily figure resemble Bettie Page, whilst I have reused the coat and shoes I used in early character concepts. This rotation helped significantly whilst drawing the design later. Additionally, I drew a head rotation which can be viewed below.

Artist: Lauren Bell

Additionally, I completed some more sketches exploring facial expression and pose which can be viewed below.

Artist: Lauren Bell

Reference Images

Whilst I used both reference photos of other animated characters/ famous models, I decided to take some photographs which mimicked the poses and facial expresses I was looking for in my character; I felt that this would be easier if I took photos of myself. I explored how the character may behave based on her personality in these photographs; this resulted in a very goofy, down to earth person rather than a slick, overly confident femme fetale. I liked this development as I felt it was more relatable. Some of these images are below.

Photographer: Lauren Bell

Photographer: Lauren Bell

Photographer: Lauren Bell

Photographer: Lauren Bell

Photographer: Lauren Bell

Final Outcome

In the end, I decided to draw these principles; exaggeration, pose to pose, staging, and solid drawing. I decided to make my character a spy who mimicked the portrayal of female spys in media, but had the personality of someone awkward, goofy, and normal.

These sketches can be viewed below.

1. Solid Drawing:

Artist: Lauren Bell

2. Pose to Pose:

Artist: Lauren Bell

3. Exaggeration:

Artist: Lauren Bell

4. Staging:

Artist: Lauren Bell

Why did I choose these principles?

Solid Drawing

I decided to choose solid drawing as I felt that this principle may be more transferable to this particular task; as I do not have much 2D animation experience, I felt solid drawing would be an easier principle to represent. Additionally, I thought this would be a way of showing why my character has appeal; through clear and concise 3D shapes in her structural design. I used the image below as a reference point in how I’d convey solid drawing; this drawing emphasised use of contour and transparency to see where parts of the body connect.

Image above: Solid Drawing of Homer Simpson.

Pose To Pose

I felt as if pose to pose would be an easy way of exploring my character through staging, and solid drawing simultaneously. I completed this principle by drawing out my keys in green,extremes in red, and break downs in blue. As I wanted my character to behave like a ‘normal person’ whilst looking like a stereotypical female character, I drew her in a way which resembled a spy about to remove a gun from her pocket, but accidentally pulls out a banana, and reacts with a fed u facial expression; I felt like this normalised her, and made her more relatable. I used the image below from p65 from ‘The Animator’s Survival Kit’ as a reference for this.

Image: P65 from ‘The Animator’s Survival Kit’


Although my character already abides by this principle through the large size of her head,eyes, bosom, and small weight, I decided to further exaggerate my character through her facial expression. As I find that it’s a common trope in animation for characters to drop their jaws in shock, I wanted to do this for my character also. As I started treating my character like a spy who has normal, human reactions, I felt that this effect would normalise her. Additionally, whilst trying to use context in my design, I felt that this animation technique had commonly been used in the treatment of male characters toward attractive female characters; doing the opposite of this would be quite satirical. Below is a reference image for the type of effect I was going for.

Above Image: Genie and Jafar from ‘Aladdin'(1992)


Although I managed to use this principle in my other drawings, I felt like I wanted to explore this in a setting my character would be in. Whilst I’d drawn her in her spy clothes in the past, I felt it would be nice to explore her with out her facade whilst she would be at home;showing that she had personality and interests. This resulted in my character wearing her hair up whist being in pyjamas, guns/spy references/ weights to show what her profession is, teddy bears to juxtapose her job, and a messy room to convey her busy life style/ normality. Additionally, I wanted to show a goofy side to my character by showing her posing with a hair brush, as if she were a secret agent.

Image references:



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