Pro-Tip #1 – Simple Shape

To help aspiring animation artists who are designing characters for the APW Character Design Contest, we asked animation professionals – former APW students and friends working in the animation biz to add their character design pointers in the Pro-Tips series.  The first Pro-Tip comes from APW Director Vince Peets.


  • Start with a simple shape.

Mike Wazowski (Monsters Inc., Monsters University), SpongeBob Square-pants and Baloo the Bear (Jungle Book) are three examples of character designs based on simple shapes (a circle, a rectangle, a pear-shape).

In animation design, a high value is placed on simplicity.  My work as a storyboard artist has shown me that storytelling is delivered in scenes that may potentially last only a few seconds.  A simple character design that reads clearly and quickly enables forward movement and unfolding of the story within this time constraint.  My suggestion: use one simple shape as a starting point for your character design.   The innate qualities of that shape can inspire a body-type and personality for a character.  Try repeating this exercise using different shapes – a triangle, a tear drop, an oval etc.  each day, try a new shape.

  • 1 a simple rectangle,
  • 2 a light sketch of a character based on the rectangle
  • 3 a janitor character – his shoulders and feet are at the 4 corners of the rectangle.

Instead of beginning with a detail such as the eyes or mouth, I started the drawing with an over-all shape.


Pro-Tip #1 - Simple Shape 1 Pro-Tip #1 - Simple Shape 2 Pro-Tip #1 - Simple Shape 3
Call Now ButtonCall Now