New animators often take their first steps into the world of animation by doing simple, usually humorous stick figure tests. It’s a great way to get your feet wet and practice the basics, but a very simple addition can take you to whole new levels! Don’t waste another minute, check out this important tip to accelerate your animation skills with almost no extra work involved.
If you’re new to animation, you may or may not know about The Principals. Two of the foundation basics to animation are squash and stretch. Essentially they represent how a three dimensional shape (even viewed in 2D) can compress and expand so long as the total volume remains the same. For example:
The ball can stretch up to be taller than when it’s at rest, but it becomes thinner because of the stretch. Likewise when it squashes down, the volume is pushed out and it becomes wider than at rest. In both cases, though, the TOTAL volume remains the same, just stretched out taller or squashed down wider.
What does that have to do with Stickmen?
The problem is stick men do not have much in the way of volume. Their head is a sphere, but their body and legs are only lines, with no depth to them. If there’s no volume, there’s no way to really squash and stretch convincingly.
What will benefit your journey in animation more than anything else is practice, but you have to practice the right things. If you were training to run a marathon, riding around on a bike all day to train would not be as beneficial as running. It would certainly be easier, and it would help you to be in better shape, but it would take much longer to be ready for that marathon. MUCH longer.
Drawing stick people is easy, which is why most beginners do that instead of using more fleshed out characters. And keeping things simple at first is a GREAT thing to do. You definitely want to keep it as simple as possible while you work on the basics and become comfortable animating. At some point, however, TOO simple can hurt you. Consider the following image:
The first drawing of just the stickman took very little time to do. A sphere for the head and then five straight lines. However consider the breakdown of Pudgy on the right. He also has a sphere head (no extra work there) and ALSO has five more lines. The difference is the five lines are curves.
How much extra work is that? In terms of “how many more lines to draw” the answer is none. You do not have to draw any extra lines to have a character with thickness over a straight stickman. And look at the benefits! Take these animations as examples:
In the Stickman animations it can become hard to tell what’s going on at times. The lines are a jumbled mess at certain angles (especially in full profile), and you have no sense of depth or solidity. Pudgy, on the other hand, is capable of pulling off great feats clearly and with squash and stretch, which makes him feel more alive. With every animation you do using Pudgy, you learn at least twice as much, probably more. Twice as much progress with next to no extra work? Sign me up for that any day!
Want to make things even easier for yourself? Give Floursack a go. Floursack consists of just TWO shapes, with little nubs for hands and feet. You can squash and stretch and twist and move him in thousands of ways. You can find more information on our friend Floursack right here if you’d like.
The next time you’re planning to try a simple “stickman” animation to have some fun and make something enjoyable to watch, consider sticking Stickman on the shelf and giving Pudgy or Floursack the main stage. You’ll create something more entertaining to watch AND learn a whole lot more in the process. It’s a win-win!