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Kefholden

Let’s Make a 2D Game Character!

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I’ve learned some new tricks and needed to update my portfolio to show them off, but due to NDAs I can’t show a lot of stuff I’ve done, so this morning I decided I’d just have to make a sample 2D animated game character for demo purposes, and since I’ve made it, I may as well share how it’s done. It’s actually pretty straightforward, so feel free to try this at home!

We’re gonna make something like this:

First we need to draw a character!
I like to use Clip Studio (aka Manga Studio if you’re oldskool) for this because I really like the pen stabilisation and the natural feeling paint blending, but you can use literally any app that can handle layers. I’ll be switching to photoshop later to save out all my pieces for this, so if you just want to work in photoshop from the get-go, then you can!

I like to start by sketching my character, like this:

If I was making this more seriously rather than as a simple demo, I’d now go over this and make a tighter, more detailed sketch, but in this case, I just went straight to the inking. You need to remember that you’ll want to ink each “piece” the model will be made up of on a different layer (also, name your layers now, you’ll save torment later). Remember that you’ll want to make sure that pieces like the back arm and the legs are drawn right up to the shoulder or hip joint, even if in this pose they’re hidden by the body, skirt etc. Otherwise you’ll get gaps when you move them.

I like to put each layer into a group or folder now so that I can group my ink layers with colour layers. I check my overlaps are all looking good by just doing basic grey fills on all my pieces:

And this also helps me notice issues like the right side of the torso I’ve neglected to ink the scale texture. Better fix that!

Then I add colour. Note that you can add whatever style of colour and shade you like, but extreme directional lighting is likely to be very limiting so avoid that style of shading. In this case, for speed I’ve gone for very basic cel shading and bright colours to work with the cartoony lines. They’re all on separate grouped layers so I can pull them apart like this:

If I was planning to build the model in the Anima 2D plugin for Unity now, I’d make the pieces into a spritesheet with a transparent background and save it out as a png file, but in this case, I’m working in Spriter, so I save each of these pieces as a separate transparent background png file and put them all in the same folder to import to that program.

In Spriter, I set up the pieces into the shape of my character, making sure the right pieces are on top or under each other, and add bones to the pieces, creating a parent-child hierarcy so that, for example, moving the body also moves the arms, head, facial features and hair, and moving the head moves the facial features and hair. It’s very much like rigging a 3D model!

Having done all this, I can make animations. I’ll probably talk more on the differences between Spriter and Anima in the near future, but I hope this has given a helpful grounding in the process! You’d be able to export these animations and use them in a game made in the Unity engine pretty easily!