Character Design: The Importance of Model Sheets

This is my fourth blog post in my continuing character design series. This topic complements my previous posts about Appeal, Line Quality, and Proportion.

Model sheets are quite possibly one of the most useful tools you can have in your arsenal as a character artist. A model sheet is essentially a communication tool that a character designer uses to show other artists how the character works, and therefore how he/she/it should be represented in order to maintain the character’s integrity (more on Character Integrity in a future blog posting).

For this topic, I created a model sheet of Dippy Duck:


Dippy Duck Model Sheet

Take note of the above model sheet and you will see that Dippy is shown and drawn from several angles. Front, side, and 3/4 are typically standard, but you may wish to draw the back view, as well as other views in 3/4 to complete the turn around and help show what the character looks like in three dimensions. You will note that I also included a top view, to help show the length of Dippy’s wing in relation to his body.

Model sheets also include important notes about the character. In Dippy’s case, his wings are very unique depending on what he is doing, and therefore require several notes in order to communicate how they work to other artists. Some things you will note:

  • Dippy’s wings in their default pose are folded at his side, like a bird’s wings would naturally be in their resting state. The wings have an inverse elbow by default.
  • Depending on what Dippy is doing, he may bend his elbow the same as a human would.
  • Dippy can also have human-like arms on occasion; particularly if he is wearing a costume.

You may also want to include some notes that help explain the various proportions of your character, such as how many “heads” tall they are, how their various features (eyes, hands, feet, etc.) relate in proportion to each other. In Dippy’s case, you can read more about those size relationships in my previous topic on Proportion.

Expression Sheet

Another important tool to include with your model sheet is an expression sheet.

Dippy Duck Expressions

Dippy Duck Expressions

An expression sheet helps show what your character looks like in different situations. It is helpful to see how their eyes, brows, nose (beak), mouth, and other features move. If you are creating this character for 3D animation, this also helps the Facial Rigger set up the rig to have a full range of facial movement and allow the character to emote properly.

Character Line Up

A character line up is an essential tool once you have a complete cast of characters. It shows how all of your characters look in scale in relation to each other. This helps demonstrate how your characters might interact with one another and can even influence their personality to an extent. For instance, Dippy and Woober are friends and approximately the same height, while Pelican is a little shorter and Master Sazuke is a little taller. Master Sazuke is a bit of a bully to the other three characters, so he needs to be a little more intimidating to them. Pelican the Platypus thinks he is a bird and wants to be like Dippy and Woober, so he always looks up to them. These design choices that I made when I created them helped dictate how they interact with each other and it is reflected in their sizes.

Schmitty's Toons! Size Comparison

And then there’s Nero the whale, who trumps everyone in size!

Model Sheet Wrap Up

As far as these things go, the more drawings you can include to help communicate to other artists how the character works in three dimensions and acts in different situations, the better.

Once you have a good understanding of your character in 2D form, you may even wish to build a small-scale model in order to have a true 3D representation of the character that you can view from different angles. This is typically done for the 2D animation process, but not always necessary if you have really good model sheets!

In my next blog post on character design I will talk more about a topic I mentioned earlier in this post, Character Integrity, which builds upon all of the topics we have covered thus far.

Schmitty Out.

2 thoughts on “Character Design: The Importance of Model Sheets

  1. Another great blog!! I love learning all this stuff about animation! Makes me appreciate it even more. 🙂

  2. Hey Mia!

    Thank you so much for reading! I really appreciate your feedback. I am going to continue writing more about these topics. My goal is to eventually put all this information down in a book. 🙂

    Let me know if you have any ideas for future posts, I would love to hear them!

    Miss you and Anthony! Hope to see you both and the little one soon!

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