Okay. So this one is a special request. And I love drawing armor more than anything else so I'll happily do this tutorial.... The only thing is that unlike drawing a hand or a human face, there isn't a definitive right or wrong. Armor in many cultures was an artistic expression as much as it was a practical piece of equipment, and as such armor varies a great deal depending on time period, technology, culture, and personal aesthetics. And given such I could probably write a book on all the different ways you could design armor for your characters, I'll just scratch the surface here with major things you want to consider when designing your characters armor, and then after recommend you do some research on how armor appears throughout the ages and cultures, As Roman armor looks vastly different compared to Samurai's armor.
Before I go much farther I'm going to assume the people who are reading this are trying to create armor for their fictional characters, whether it be a comic, novel, animation, whatever. So since we're talking about fictional armor on a fictional person in a fictional universe, you can actually do whatever the hell you want. It's your world you make up the rules of physics and materials. So if you're going to ask me "can i make the armor look like ______" the answer is yes. Yes you can. The other reason I say this is because I always get one person who likes to argue semantics with me missing the entire point of the post. So to the person who is planning on arguing with me that "techincally medieval armor couldn't work this way because of x, y and z reasons." It doesn't matter. It's all fictional. The point today isn't to make historically accurate armor, but to make some cool looking armor.
That being said. To make armor look cool, you have to make it look like it's functional, then add all the style and flair you want. And the functionality of armor is to protect your vital body parts from harm during a fight.
So these are my crudely sketched male and female models for todays tutorial. Now the most important part on the human body is the the chest. That's where our heart, lungs, and other major organs reside. We also need to protect the joints. Knees, shoulders, elbows. These parts are weak links in the body and need to be protected. The final thing you need to consider is mobility. You can't have a stiff unmoving plate of steel where your stomach is. Then how on earth are you going to bend at the waist? So consider having different types of armor to allow for the mobility. (I'll show you what I mean in a second.)
But first, a big pet peeve of mine. Let me climb up on my soap box here and complain about what I like to call the "Armor bikini." You see this in alot of fantasy stories/videogames. Usually it looks something like this:
I hate this, because it makes no sense. Oh I understand that you have a sexy woman character, and you want to show off her body, so you put her in this skimpy outfit. But really? Armor? I'm of the opinion, that you can have a character look any way, and wear any costume, as long as its appropriate and/or necessary to the personality of the character or the story being told. And this does neither in my mind. Okay, lets say you have a character that looks hot and knows it. She wants wants to wear a super skimpy outfit to show off her body. I can buy that... what I can't buy is that she decided to wear heavy plated armor on her naughty bits, plus arms and legs... AND NO OTHER CLOTHES ANYWHERE ELSE. Her heart, lungs, and stomach is exposed. Plus I can't imagine it'd be very comfortable to fight in. NOT TO MENTION why would you want to weigh down your arms and legs... the things you punch and kick with? Why would you purposely slow down your attacks while simultaneously not protecting your vital organs?... it makes no sense. If you have a character who believes she needs to show off her body while fighting, put a brain in her head, and make sure her costume choice is not an armored bikini.... (seriously a normal bikini makes more sense, and is more practical at that point.)
Okay I'll get off my soap box now. Lets get back to what armor SHOULD look like.
This is an example of a medieval style armor. First and foremost notice how the armor follows the shape of the body. A woman doesn't necessarily have to lose her feminine shape under the layers of armor. (but if you wanted her to lose her feminine shape, thats okay too. Remember, its what's appropriate for the character's personality and what's relevant to the story.) Notice how the largest pieces of armor cover the most vital part of the body: The chest. Next we have different ways to protect the joints: Shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, wrists, ankles. Finally, notice that it isn't all just layered plates of metal. The joints have a second type of armor. In my Male example I have chainmail. On the female I just have a heavy fabric. Both allow mobility in the joints while still offering protection.
Now lets fast forward to the future:
Here is a bit of a more high tech version of armor. The fun thing with high tech armor is that you can push the boundaries a little more. Since the technology of these type of armors don't exist yet, no one can really tell you that's unrealistic, or impractical. You can streamline and make it sleeker, and make the armor thinner, less bulky, whatever your aesthetic demands. That being said you still want to cover the fundamentals. The armor here is following the form of the wearer. It's protecting the core. Then protecting the joints. Allow fluidity in the joints and mid section. In this high tech armor, I'm a fan of banding metal plates instead of chainmail. It gives the feel of protection but also that you can move around with it. The mid section here looks like its a solid plate, and you'll be thinking to yourself "How does that allow for mobility?" and my answer is that it's the future, they clearly have a highly durable yet flexible metal technology. (see what i mean about pushing the boundaries?)
So if you cover these basics you're armor should coming out looking just fine. So here are a couple things to think about when designing your armor. By no means are these rules that you have to follow, but they are things that help me, so they may help you too.
1. Mix and match: The key to making armor look unique is to mix and match different eras, styles, and technology. Maybe you like a high tech chest plate over a heavy fabric under-armor. Perhaps Samurai style shoulder guards combined with a ancient egyptian style breastplate. Remember, if this is for a fictional character in a fictional story, there is no right or wrong. Just what looks cool, and functional.
2. Less Curves, more angular shapes: Again not a rule, but I find that if you use more angular shapes in your armor it looks more like armor. Organic living materials tend to be round and curvy. Man made things tend to have more straight lines and be more angular. Something that tends to help me when designing armor, so just think about it.
3. Keep your Character's personality and purpose in mind: I've already talked about this. But seriously the character's personality really will influence the type of armor he or she wears. For example my character WarAngel is a brawler, always in the thick of combat. But at the same time she loves being a woman doesn't want to lose her femininity and her armor reflects that. She wears 3 layers of armor 1st a dark gray mail style underarmor, then her heavy fabric, then her breast plate. All the while still keeping her feminine shape. But if you look at my character Gear, you'll notice that she just has shoulder armor, forearm, and shin armor, nothing specifically protecting her chest or midsection. The reason is she rarely find herself in the same kind of combat as WarAngel, as she's more of the engineer/tech gal. And if you ask her why she bothers wearing the shoulder pads, she'll reply " cause they make me look like a bad ass..." aka they're just an aesthetic choice that fits the personality of the character.
So that's my tutorial on armor. I hope it helps everyone out. If you have any questions feel free to ask me. I answer all of the comments and emails! And if you have a request on a future tutorial tuesday send me an email, or just leave a comment, and I'll add it to the list of tutorials.
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