Color Models

Once model sheets are established, color models of the characters need to be created, defining not only the model sheet information but also the colors and possible textures required for the characterization. With 3D character design, this is much more obvious, but in 2D animation, the color models will not only define the actual colors that make up that character but can also define outline techniques, line quality (in terms of the thickness or thinness), any hand-rendered textures that may be laid over the basic fat coloring, or anything else that defines that character from a design and coloring point of view. At the Richard Williams Studio in the 70s and 80s there was no limit to the styles used for animated character design, whether that is traditional cartoon, “Roger Rabbit” molding, old book engraving styles, pencil-shaded rendering, woodcut hatching, or even old Master oil painting brush strokes. Each of these styles had to be defined in a color model form first, so each animator would know the required animation drawing style.


color modelsThe use of color is an important aspect of character design.It must be in keeping with the general design concept and fit comfortably with the rest of the design elements of the production. A multitude of psychedelic colors outlined by a heavy black line may not be what is required if the backgrounds are to be painted in delicate Chinese watercolor techniques. Color must also be used with care when targeting a specific audience. Designs using bright primary colors may be appropriate for a pre-school TV series but unsuitable for a darker piece aimed at an adult audience.


The practical use of color and the constraints upon production and distribution must also play a part in the design. Because the coloring of 2D classical animation can be a very major part of the production budget, the level of detailing and the number of colors used for a particular character must also be considered. The more colors you have and the more detailed a character is, the more costly the enterprise.


Color model sheets are generally used by the department dealing with paint and trace to ensure that all the individuals that color and shade the characters do so in line with the director’s instructions. Again, this can involve creating many different versions of color models to accommodate different costumes and different environments. A character dressed in the same clothing would look very different when seen in a brightly lit room than they would in an exterior moonlit scene or in the glow of a camp-fire. Digital paint and trace systems such as Animo, developed in 1992 by Cambridge Animation Systems, have replaced much of the work that was traditionally done on cels. Computer programs such as Animo are used not only to paint the artwork, but allow all manner of special effects to be achieved for a fraction of the cost and within a much tighter schedule than the traditional methods. They have done away with the need for messy paints and cels that were prone to scratching if mishandled, and required vast amounts of space to paint and leave to dry. This type of software also incorporates a system where by all the camera work hitherto undertaken on a rostrum camera is built in to the programme, enabling a full range of camera moves and effects to be achieved. The work is then rendered and output directly to a range of formats, including formats for the Internet, doing away with the need to shoot the footage as a separate activity. While the high-end professional software may remain outside the reach of many of us, there is now a range of affordable animation-specific software available for amateur animators.