Model Sheets

To be honest, I find model sheets kind of boring to do, but I'm also the first person to argue when working in a studio that they are absolutely necessary. So although I've been dragging my heels regarding my graphic novel characters, sets and props, I decided this week it was time to bite the bullet and get going. To keep myself from being overwhelmed (there is a lot to design), I've decided to focus on the first three sequences. This character is in all three sequences and requires a different costume for each. Lucky for me, these three outfits show up frequently in the book (particularly the central robes as they are worn by various characters), so it's a great jumping off point.

I also thought I'd include a few thoughts/notes on how I approach character model sheets.
-I use animation paper for rotations, drawing each angle in the center of the page. That way I can flip the images and ensure that proportions are accurate. Good animation paper is also a bit translucent.
-I like to draw rotations nude... the characters, not me. Ha. Most characters will end up wearing more than one outfit and even if they don't, I want to know what's going on under that costume.
-I may not always draw a back and 3/4 angle, but if a character is going to be drawn several times, it's super important to do at least a profile and front view. Nothing drives me more crazy than character designs that no one bothers to design a profile for.
-I always do the rotation in a neutral pose. There is nothing more time consuming (and not that important) than drawing a character rotation in a complicated expressive pose. Plus, expressive poses can sometimes hide flaws in the design. If I can draw the character in the boring neutral pose and the design still says something about the character, I know I've got a design that works.
-For costume design, I do draw a more expressive pose that I'll use as a kind of "paper doll". It's not necessary, but the costume has a lot to do with personality, so I like some personality to be there. That said, it's also nice to have an uncomplicated 3/4ish pose, because that way you'll be able to see the most of the costume you are designing.
-When working on costume designs, I ask myself "Is this an outfit the character wants/likes to wear, or is this an outfit the character has to wear, like a uniform?" For example, the last costume in my line-up is an outfit I want the character to be comfortable in. The middle one, on the other hand, is something he dislikes wearing. I've tried to make it stiffer, heavier, more confining.
-I also like to think of costume design like a wardrobe. I want to think of the outfits as having pieces I might mix and match as the book goes on, to give the feeling that this is a real person who owns a bunch of real clothes. For instance, the first outfit has a long vest-jacket that could be worn with the last outfit. The boots could also be swapped.
-When it comes to colour, I like each outfit to have a colour theme and be cohesive. Ultimately, this character will be just one element in a drawing with many others, I don't want it to get too distracting.


Mish said…
awesome model sheets, sarah! for some reason i always imagined the robes a different color...not sure why.

very helpful information about how to approach model sheets such as these too. stuff that a lot of people (including me) never really think about.
Vanhoozerbot said…
Wow. I learn so much from you! Thank you for sharing all of this info on your thought process.
Very well drawn... and one of my favorite characters! Love it.

If you ever teach a class, let me know. I will sharpen the pencils and clean the desks.

Breadwig said…
Very cool post! I'm going to show it to my character design class.
sarah said…
Yay! Thank you so much Michelle, Jeremy and Bryan. :)
Emily said…
Hi Sarah

These model sheets are brilliant - I'm just starting to study art and they show so much that is useful! Thank you so much for being so generous and sharing your processes - very much appreciated!

Alexei Martins said…
AMAZIG art!!!love your sketches!and wow!your digital paintings are so beautiful!!

murf said…
Great insights. I don't know what I enjoy more; your drawing or your writing.
Artee said…
yikes! your drawings are awesome, I need to learn to exaggerate like you =)
Artoonator said…
You're awesome. I dropped you a link at
Kim Herbst said…
This sounds like a really great process! I definitely learned a lot just from this, especially since I always want to avoid model/character sheets. They look wonderful!
Tony C. said…
It always seems that the most important things are never the most exciting to do. They take a lot of effort, but it ends up paying off in the end.

I always like to see your process stuff since it gives me new ideas on how I can improve my own work. Thanks!
pascal said…
Yes, this is such an insightful post!
Ah..Not content to merely be a super genius artist, the girl has incredible smarts as well!
mauricio salmon said…
thanks for posting your process and what goes behind that process.
Kyri Kyprianou said…
I'm working on some model sheets at the mo. Very tricky! These are great though. I particularly like the tarzan piece here btw...what an expression!!
Jessie said…
This is fantastic advice/examples, Sarah! I've always had some frustration trying to figure out how to handle character sheets and this is a lovely explanation to put to good use! :)

Don't you just love animation paper? ^_^
Gurujee said…
wow, i like it...sketches are all fabulous...i will link it.

Manu Martin said…
You are right.. i too get tired by working on Model sheets.
But I personally don't prepare a model sheet If I have made that character..

thanks for sharing your great work..

looking for more.
Anonymous said…
Nice Page!
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