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Different Characters, Same Facial Details


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A while back (some months ago) I was drawing several character concepts for a comic book. One comment I received was that all of my characters, although each unique, carried the same or similar facial details. My first reaction was "what, no they don't.." but then I looked some more and I realized they actually did. This was a western-anime-mixed style. I noticed the eyes were quite similar, the nose almost always that same perfectly shaped button nose and the women would have big pouty lips. This surprised me, because I've studied art for quite a lot during my youth and would always make it a point to study unique characteristics of the face. I had taken quite the break from art the last few years (not stopped, but less) and coming back it was almost habitual that I turned to such features.

Then. I started seeing it. I really can't stop it seeing it, I don't see how I couldn't. I would look at artwork from other artists and I'd see the same exact thing. Same faces. Same body types (you know the ones - both female and males...). Same noses. Same mouths. Just different eye colours and hair.. everywhere! Beautiful gorgeous art, but the unfortunate similarities can be ruining. I see this especially with anime artists. 

Do you see it as well?

Have you ever noticed that your art was starting to carry similar features like this? What did/do you do about it?

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Oh I've definitely both seen this in others and dealt with it a ton in my own work! It's usually called 'SameFace Syndrome' in most of the circles I interact with. It's always hard to juggle having a distinct way of drawing things and also diversifying withing your set 'style'.

Whenever I see it happening again in my own work I do a few different things... Usually some studies of real people (great sites like line-of-action.com come in handy for seeing non-idealized, non celebrities), or another exercise that I find super fun and super helpful!

What happens is, you start with one single face shape, copy/paste it a few times, and then make distinct characters out of each one. It kind of gets me to focus more on the micro details that make people different? After the first few faces, you start having to really reach and get a bit more creative with the ways you can assemble faces. I don't know if I explained that well, but here's a (kinda wonky) example of one time I did the exercise. 

Even though those are just heads, the same ideas of playing with shapes kind of work all the way down the body?

Edited by Flexa
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That's an interesting exercise. Although the same head shapes kind of takes on the same issue in the end with drawing characters with similarities. I get that that's not exactly the intention, though (it's one with details, not face shapes), but still.

And yes, you are right! The similarity "syndrome" issue runs all the way down the body with all sorts of artists.

I love drawing females with that all too well known body type. But it's awful, I often catch myself just randomly drawing characters to fit that.

I think I need more life figure drawing practice, aha. Especially with facial details and now that you point it out- body types.

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Oh yes, this is a huge issue with the vast majority of artists (myself included). We just find a face structure we like and subconsciously reproduce it, same with body type. I've been practicing drawing a variety of body types, nose shapes, and eye shapes to see if I can get out of the habit. Different people also have different types of facial expressions- not everyone smiles the same way (just look at a highschool yearbook haha). For body types I've found life figure drawing and gesture drawing does help a lot!

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I feel every artist has this happen to them. It is good to recognize it, but correcting it is easier said than done.

Personally I am a vector artist so I tend to play with the manipulating the paths of the main outline to get more varied shapes and sizes. Silhouetting them helps too so all you see is the shapes and aren't distracted by detail lines or colors.
I'm sure you can do this in other programs with a liquefy tool on the lines or silhouette to get a shape that fits their personality.

I also like exercising by drawing in other styles when I feel stuck.

That is a good idea to study pictures of people tho. I think i'll try that too for detail and general shape ideas!

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