I experimented with a few avatar makers to see how easy it would be to create a cartoon (and specifically Chibi style) version of myself for comic strips. But I was also interested in exploring what options were available for “performing” variations on conventional gender norms, which led me to create a very popular “gendered avatar analysis” activity for my WRTG 3020 students.
I chose the same basic features (red hair, glasses, purple clothes) in each of these avatar makers, but the results were pretty different! My favorite is the one created on Xiibi.com, which I used as the basis for the hand drawn version (see below for details).
- Chibi Maker on Doll Divine
- South Park style avatar maker
- ToonDoo’s TraitR tool
- Avachara site (manga style)
Making the Custom Avatar
In the summer of 2014, I started playing with Anime Studio Pro and decided I wanted to try animating my Chibi-esque avatar. So I had to draw a version of her with separate moving parts. Here’s how I did that.
First, I drew everything but the eyes in Sketchbook Pro for iPad, keeping each “movable” body part on a separate layer.
I exported the file from Sketchbook Pro in PSD format to preserve the layers, imported it into Anime Studio Pro, and then used ASP’s vector drawing tools to trace each body part. (I had already discovered through trial and error that you get the best results in Anime Studio Pro if you draw the character directly in the app, but there’s no reason you can’t trace an imported raster image!)
I created the eyes entirely within ASP, using overlapping star shapes in varying shades of blue to create the irises and a tiny white circle to create the “reflect.” I also created a version of the eyes with the lids closed, so that I could animate a blink.
The last step was to rig the character using a “bone layer,” which was easy enough. But I quickly discovered the limitations of animating a character who can only face one direction. To create a character that can face forwards, 3/4 view, and side, I would need to draw her in each of those positions — and I lack the artistic skill to do that.
I’m sure I could’ve made some cute animations with her even in her limited position. But I started looking for an animation option that would give a non-artist more flexibility in character positions and discovered the world of 3D modeling and animation. I got so wrapped up in playing with Poser Pro, DAZ Carrara, Vue, and Cheetah3D that I haven’t even launched Anime Studio Pro again!