Creating a Character Turnaround Sheet
- tracing paper (optional)
- scanner/printer (optional)
- Photoshop (optional)
Once you've chosen a character you want to use, draw them in a front, three-quarter and side/profile view. You should choose a pose that conveys your character's personality. For example, if your character is shy, you could draw them slightly hunched over, with their knees bent and pigeon-toed, as if they're trying to hide themselves from the outside world.
I prefer to use relatively simple poses that will allow me to see the character's body from all angles. You're free to draw them in as dynamic a pose as you want. Just remember that you'll be drawing this pose from various angles!
I started by loosely drawing the front, three-quarter and side/profile view free hand.
Tom Bancroft, author of Creating Characters With Personality, suggests you draw these three poses free hand, without restricting them to fit within a certain height. You can make adjustments later, to make your lineup cohesive. Avoiding restrictions at this point will allow you to experiment freely to find the strongest poses to use.
However, for the sake of cohesion, I suggest you try to keep the proportions relatively close to each other. For example, try to keep the eyes, nose, and mouth at around the same height within the face in each pose, the hands and clothes at about the same length, the hair within the same size, etc.
Tighten your sketches a little bit more, taking into consideration the structure of your character and their geometric build up. This will help you maintain the shapes cohesive as they turn in space. (i.e. oval head, cylindrical legs and arms, cone torso, etc.)
I focused on strengthening the structure of the character and tried to keep it cohesive throughout by basing my second round of sketches on geometric structures (you can omit the character's arm in profile view to allow a better view of the torso).
I used tracing paper over my original sketches to define the geometric buildup. I then tightened my sketches basing the form on the geometric structures I defined. Note that at this point I added more detail to the outline and structure of the face in particular.
It's important to keep human anatomy in mind when you begin to define your character's silhouette in three-quarter and profile view. You might want to look up references as you work, use a mirror or ask a friend to pose for you.
Keep in mind that foreheads, noses and chins often protrude noticeably, as well as the back of the head. These are key in creating an appealing and believable head shape. Eyes rest within eye sockets, which will make them much less visible in profile view. Try to visualize your character's form in three dimensional space as you draw. Think of the volume of the shapes and how they would look from a particular angle.
Flat shapes are boring and do little to create the illusion of volume in a drawing. Take care to create variation within your character's silhouette. Even if your character is skinny, their body will have mass and volume. Use this opportunity to really try to understand the way your design would work in three dimensional space.
To create the back and back three-quarter views, take your front and three-quarter views and flip them horizontally to use as a reference. I scanned mine and flipped them in Photoshop. If you don't have access to these, you could use tracing paper or a light box or draw them free hand.
- Tracing paper: trace your sketches, then turn the sheet upside down for the flipped version.
- Light box: place your sketch upside down on the light box to get the flipped version.
Place tracing paper over your flipped sketches and draw the back view of each pose.
I flipped the sketches on the left and referenced them, using tracing paper, to create the back and three-quarter back views to the right.
The purpose of the flipped sketch is to provide a silhouette you can base yourself on, but don't get stuck on trying to keep the silhouette perfect. Make adjustments as you see fit to accurately portray the pose from the angle you're looking at it. Use geometric structures to help you visualize the shapes as you would see them from behind.
When you see the face in your flipped sketch, imagine what the back of the head would look like. Is the character wearing a hat? What kind of hairstyle do they have?
When you see the torso, picture what the back of it would look like. Is the character standing up straight or hunched over? Would the torso be pointing toward the viewer or away from him? (in my case it's pointing away).
When you see the feet and hands, picture how much of the toes and fingers you would see from behind. Would you see them at all?
Tighten your lineup and make necessary adjustments to make the figures align properly. Photoshop can be very useful in this instance, since it allows you to select specific areas and realign, stretch and rotate them however you want.
If you don't have access to Photoshop, you can use a ruler to create guides for yourself.
I put all my sketches together in Photoshop, added guides, and made all necessary adjustments to the sketch before finalizing the turnaround sheet.
Turnaround model sheets for my characters Luther and Sloan.