When to use a Character Model Sheet and why

Often times when we are working on a project we sit down at our desks feeling tired and lazy. We pick up that pen and we begin our day. We start drawing our comic but our sketches seem lost, the character is somewhere in your lines but they’re not quite there yet. You were drawing them great yesterday, how can you fix this?!

Model Sheets are the way of course!

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A good model sheet can help you nail that special look in your character every time!

What makes a good model sheet?

We’ve discussed model sheets in the past,  however I feel that there is still some room to talk about what makes a good model sheet, and why you should aim to construct a great model sheet over a subpar model sheet. Let’s work our way up.

Recipe for a modelsheet

In order to create any model sheet whether it’s a good one or a great one we need some materials.

1- A good character design.

A good character design will contain of course a character designed using Shape Language, Size Contrast and Good Color Combination.

2- Clear and Simple Formatting.

This is a given, if you want any type of model sheet make sure you use a ruler for your lines. Make a proportions grid. This is not just any grid, a proportions grid, compares the relative size of one thing to another.

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This example size grid of Ned Flanders from The Simpsons, shows us that he is in fact 5 and 1/2 heads in height. This is why there are lines at the top of his head and at the bottom of his feet. These measurement will keep the character the same size throughout your different drawings. If you’re looking to go deeper, measure where the fingers end and where the arm begins as well. Measure the lenght of the legs and create horizontal lines across the page so they line up your character across several points. This will work great for creating a turn around. Which brings us to our next point.

3- Turn Around of Character.

I’ve seen really good character design sheets like the full Ned Flanders one.

Screen shot 2020-03-28 at 11.45.42 AM With expression drawings, and even close-ups of the character different intricacies, all coupled with wonderful heading and text descriptions.

Or this really good Apu deconstruction drawing sheet. Even a child could follow a long and create a convincing Apu with this sheet.




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Yet for some reason more often than not, artists forget to create the turn around for their characters.

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It is super important to do this.Turning them around in 3d space and thinking of the m as real moving, 3d objects with 4 sides, and a top and bottom will help you pose them better in space.

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Add this 3 things into your model sheet and you will have a good reference sheet to start building your character’s world.

But if you want a GREAT Model Sheet, add these

Extra Ingredients

1- Expressions and Details

It’s all about combining all possible notes into one big document. Start by running through different expressions with your character. Deviantart like templates are great for this type of exercises. Try this out for size:

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Fill in each square with your character in the appropriate emotion. This exercise (and once finished, tool) is wonderful for comic creators, animators and any other sequential artists trying to tell a story through characters acting and interacting convincingly. Fill in the whole sheet, you might not use the expression ever but it still helps to know how it would look if they were doing them.

2- Action Poses

Sure you have your character standing around and all that but they’re not going to be standing forever, and that’s why you need to start experimenting with your model sheet and add a section of action poses to it.

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The essentials, are walking, jumping, running and, resting. Apart from that go for as many poses as you’d like, what do they look like when they punch? When they fall down?

Feel free to use props, like bats, umbrellas, guns, documents, or anything you need that will help better show your character’s pose and action.


A great model sheet will include all of this and any other notes, details, and special doodles your character can entail.

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Aim to create a model sheet with this amount of complexity and you will be good to go on all character related projects. Whether it’s animation, cartooning, illustration or any mix of these.

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