For the past year and a half, I have been trying to transition into animation. Because of this, I have had to build and rebuild my style to balance being able to draw quickly while still having a result that I find appealing. Getting this far has taken a lot of practice. Assuming you already know that practice is the key, here are some exercises to get you started on your own style journey:
Start with observation
Put together a collection of art styles that you like, try to find a common theme of elements that you think you could pull from them to create your own style (*very important tip*: it is okay to say “I really like this style, but it’s not me” especially if you have a few styles collected that don’t fit in with the theme you are leaning towards).
Choose an object (I don’t suggest anything too complicated like a person or animal, try something like a cup or shoe, the idea is to be able to practice several styles quickly) in real life and draw it on three different levels: level one (most realistic) to level three (most cartoony). Even if you don’t know what you want your style to look like yet, comparing the features from level one to those that you chose to keep in level three will help you to start to get a sense of your style (because a cartoony style is about simplification, so what’s left is what catches your eye the most).
Look at lines
Look at the collection of inspirational styles that you put together earlier, observe the line width that is usually used. Is it thick or thin? What do you prefer for yourself?
Look at the shapes of the lines. Are the angles rounded, sharp, or natural? There will be a mix of the three, but one or two till stand out the most.
Pick an object and draw it using different line widths and styles until you find what you are happiest with.
Come up with a base character
After considering line style, line width, and your inspirations, start building a male and female base character. Make sure you draw them front, back, and from the side because this will become your reference to look back on when you are trying to draw specialized characters later.
Convert to your style (my favorite)
Once you have a base character and some idea of what your style should look like, convert a person from real life, or someone else’s art, into your style. Doing this will give you practice adding special features onto your base to give each character a personalized look.
Start a new inspiration file for this one. Use a color generator (I like Coolors.com) and generate a bunch of color palettes until you find a theme of colors you like (Pastels? Darks? Neons?). Take screenshots of the palettes, or just specific colors, and paste them to an art or word file. Choose a project without any color and color it by copying and pasting the colors you need onto your project canvas and using the eyedropper tool from there.
These exercises will get you on the right path to finding your style, just keep practicing and give it time. Learning yourself is a big part of it, particularly being able to determine when you need to break away from your inspirations and pave your own path.
Oh, and if you’re feeling sorry for yourself, take comfort knowing that the stick person in the title picture was where my style started a year and a half ago. My style got a lot better, yours will too.
So, have you tried any other exercises for style development that worked really well? Let me know in the comments!