Character Model Guides and Character Creation

Character Model Sheets are the templates of the characters used by the animation staff. They provide the construction, structure, proportion, design, etc. for each character. Usually, several models sheets are needed for each character to show the physical and design nuances. Each animator, artist has their own style of drawing. The model sheet guides the 300 or so artists working on the production toward making all the characters look “ON MODEL”. “ON MODEL” means the model sheets have been followed to perfection as if one artist (instead of over 300 ) has drawn the character.

(Urcuyo-Siani 2015)

A character model sheet from Disney. As well as showing the character in a range of different expressions, here the character designer has also added notes on how to draw and build up the character.

After creating a base for what my characters would look like (as posted here) I needed to create a model guide so all the designers working on the project knew how to create characters using the same process that I had. This is important because otherwise the characters won’t look consistent in the game, which can greatly decrease the visual quality of the final product. It also means that workflow process can be speeded up and be more collaborative. Problems with these are some of the main obstacles we are having in the design of the game so far. Traditionally character designers would create a character guide showing the character from as many angles, poses and expressions. As the characters are unlikely to be animated due to time constraints, and this guide was more instructions to recreate the style, so I chose to focus on this. I decided that a traditional character guide would not be necessary so I included less angles in my guide and only a side and a front view. On the other hand, I decided that instructions on how to build my character were more important, so I decided to include them in more detail, like the Rabbit character guide above.

Here’s my character guide I shared with the group. I also included the Illustrator files so that other designers could modify the original files instead of starting from scratch.

Next was to begin designing some characters. From our production planning, I had a list of characters that needed to be created. To create the characters I took the base characters I had already created and created clothing for them by using the same process I used to create the shapes of their bodies. I also merged different shapes to create more complex shapes. I also posed the characters to be in the positions they needed to be in for the game.

Tapestry of the Battle of Bouvins. An important battle between England and France that occurred just before the signing of the Magna Carta ( 2015)

Before I started designing specific characters I decided to spend some more researching the clothing that people wore at the time. A very important resource for me was tapestries from the Battle of Bouvins as it showed me the kind of clothing that people at war and the nobles would wear. Tapestries also proved very important in my posing of the characters. In tapestries people are usually viewed in a semi side on view, in very dramatic poses, and I tried to emulate this in my character designs.

Some character designs that were inspired by Battle of Bouvins tapestries.


c. 1200 The woman is wearing a black wool surcoat over a pleated chainse, and a porkpie hat over her hair. This style of a loose, vertical gown was frequent in the earlier Medieval period. The man is wearing a particolored cotehardie and a surgarloaf hat, all over his hose and leather shoes.

(, 2015)

I also did some more research into general fashions at the time. Often the clothing was very loose tunics for both men and women. Certain colours were not available (such as bright pinks and yellows) due to the lack of dyeing technology at the time, and any rich colours (such as reds and blues) were signs of wealth and nobility. Because of this I tried to restrict the colours as much as possible and keep them accurate. I also tried to keep the costuming somewhat accurate, however finer details of this were lost due to the eventual resolution of the characters on the screen.

Here are some character designs influenced by my research into the period’s fashion. I paid particular attention to the women’s headdresses of the period and I feel that in the end this is a clear visual symbol of the medieval period that hopefully the audience will pick up on.

Another character I had to design was King John. Thankfully there is lots of resources for what he looked like, including the seal on the Magna Carta itself.

NPG D42228; The Great Seal of King John after Unknown artistKing John
King John’s seal and my interpretation of King John signing the Magna Carta. I tried to keep some of his most striking features, such as his hair and beard.

Some of the characters I took more artistic liberty with was the design of the poorer characters. As there were not many historical visual references, such as tapestries or woodcuttings, for people who weren’t rich or nobles at the time, I decided to use what I had learned about the style and material used from my previous research to create the clothes. I also took some liberty with accessories, such as removing the shoes of poor people, just to emphasize the point I was trying to make (that people were very poor due to taxes) as the intended audience are children and the theme of the game needs to be very clear.

Characters I took more artistic liberty in the design

Urcuyo-Siani, R., 2015. LARRY’S TOON INSTITUTE — Character Model Sheets. [online] Available from: [Accessed 30 April 2015]., 2015. Berkshire History: Biographies: John D’Earley (1172-1230). [online] Available from: [Accessed 30 April 2015]., 2015. Medieval 1100-1450 | History of Costume. [online] Available from: [Accessed 30 Apr. 2015].