Tutorial: Character Turnarounds

It’s “Tutorial Tuesday” once again at idrawdigital. This week I’m going to show you how to prep and draw a simple base file in Photoshop to create your own character turnarounds. These sheets are absolutely vital in keeping your characters looking consistent from all angles. By having this handy reference, you’ll be able to compare it to your current drawing for any inaccuracies. Let’s get started!

Preparing the File

The first thing you’ll want to do is open a new document in Photoshop. Make sure the file is 8 inches high. Since there are going to be a number of poses in this variation of the character turnaround sheet, I made the file nice and wide. I used a lower resolution, since this is merely a reference sheet and not a finished piece of artwork (200dpi).

Drag a series of guides on to your workspace. Put each guide approximately 1 inch apart vertically. These guides will help in the proportions of our character. In this previous post about human proportions, there are several different methods of determining ratios for size. In this tutorial, I chose an above average heroic stature of 8 – hence the file being 8 inches high.

Drawing the Rough Skeleton

Now that we have our sheet ready, draw a standing figure, paying close attention to where your joints and bones lie.

Following the first drawing as a reference point, draw your skeleton standing to the side. Again, pay attention to where the elbows, knees, shoulders and hips lie. Make sure they are at the exact same level as your initial front-facing drawing.

The third pose will be a relaxed standing pose (your character probably wont be standing to attention in your comics, so have more of a natural pose!) You can alter some of the joint locations slightly to accommodate for bends and extensions.

Repeat the same pose, except this time, visualize it from the back. You’ll see the stick figure skeleton has a line that connects to the base of the skull for reference.

Finally, create a walking pose. In this example I chose a profile view. You can do a 3/4 or front view, but its much easier to start with the profile view and add the other views later, as you can reference where the feet touch the ground, the bends in the knees and arms, etc.

Drawing the Forms

Now that we’ve roughed in our skeletons for the poses, its time to create loose forms to act as your character turnarounds mannequins. Start by drawing your head shape, neck and shoulders. Keep the lines smooth and flowing – they don’t have to be precise. We’re only developing forms for suggested size, not a completed drawing.

Add your biceps, forearms, hands and upper torso. Make adjustments for the overall size of your character – is he slim, or is he bulky? (This character turnaround is a male variant – the female version will come in a subsequent tute!)

Note the positions of the rib cage, the midsection (belly button) and the crotch. Draw smooth, even curves to note these areas, and also curves for the hips.

Complete the legs, knees and feet in the following manner. Don’t worry about the knees looking “knobby” – they’re only drawn in that exaggerated manner to note their position. When you’re ready to draw your full character, you can fill out these forms more accurately.

Now, draw your side profile of your character. Pay attention to where your forms fall in comparison to the front facing view. Keep your drawing proportions as similar as possible in profile.

Draw the basic forms for the chest, back, forearms and hands. Remember that the spine curves naturally, so your side profile of the upper torso isn’t just a series of straight lines going up and down.

Draw the midsection, crotch, legs, knees and feet – if you’re having a problem with musculature, don’t be afraid to check out reference photos on the Internet. Once you’ve drawn these shapes a million times over, you’ll be able to rattle off these simple forms easily.

Now, we move on to our third pose – the relaxed standing position. Draw your head shape, neck and shoulders. Pay attention to the locations of each, now that the pose has changed slightly.

Draw the biceps, forearms, hands and the upper part of the torso. Since the arm on the left side is leaning on the hip, we can see part of the arm pit since the arm is slightly away from the body.

Continue drawing the midsection. Mark your rib cage, belly button and crotch. Add in the curves from the hips, into the upper thighs and down to the knees. Draw the calves/shins into the ankles and feet.

The pose from the back can be difficult, so grab a lot of reference if you get stuck. Start with the head shape, and draw an ear as a base point to the position of the head. Extend the neck from the base of the skull, and into the shoulder muscles.

Based on the previous relaxed pose drawing, we see that the arm that dangles alongside the body is further back than the chest. That means in this pose, it should be closer to the viewer . Draw the full arm from shoulder to tricep to elbow, then forearm and hand – the hand is hidden slightly since it is in front of the hip in the front facing relaxed pose drawing.

Draw the back opposite of what you drew for the front. Remember the position of your hand in the front facing drawing, and mimic the angle of the arm on the hip. Determine where the buttocks are positioned, and mark them. Extend your lines for your legs.

The legs from the back are pretty easy until you reach the feet. Draw the back of the knees and the calves jutting from the knee to the ankle in a muscular form. The back of the foot is comprised of three shapes.
– A U Shape for the heel which extends from the inside part of the ankle to a spot slightly in front of the ankle line on the outside
– A teardrop for the toes which is slightly hidden behind the U shape
– A curved line that connects the ankle to the teardrop.

Practice this shape a few times in order to get it right.

The final pose is the walking pose. Start this one off in the same manner as your side profile drawing. The top part of the form should be almost identical.

Draw your head shape, neck, shoulders and arm closest to the viewer.

Draw your upper torso – the chest should stick out slightly, the stomach should curve inwards slightly, to indicate exertion and movement of those muscles.

Draw the arched back into the buttocks. Your arm in the background should appear slightly smaller than the one in the foreground, just to show some depth. Draw your upper thighs and crotch. Make sure your leg in the background is forward and roughly the same angle as your arm in the foreground. People generally walk left arm up / right leg up and right arm up/ left leg up.

Draw your connecting muscles for the bottom half of the legs. Try to draw the back foot curled, with only the toes flat against the surface the character is walking on, and the ankle as the bent joint leading into the calves. When we walk, we propel ourselves forward by pushing off with our toes and lifting our heel at the same time.

The leading foot always touches down heel first. Draw your other foot with your toes in the air and heel touching the surface.
Congratulations! You’ve completed your base sheet for your character turnarounds with 5 common poses for males.

The Completed File


(click to enlarge)

Your finished file should look something like this. Save your file, and keep it as a reference sheet when you are planning on character concepts. Open the file up, reduce the opacity of the layer it sits on, and use it as a guide to draw detailed human forms. We’ll create a female version in another tutorial, but all the same rules apply, with some subtle changes specific to the female form.

If you’re having trouble drawing the forms in a rough state, feel free to use the above pic as a reference and trace it a few times to get the hang of the position, size and placement of the forms.

That concludes Tutorial Tuesday for this week. Next week’s tutorial focuses on facial features and how to draw them correctly. Be sure to check that one out!

4 thoughts on “Tutorial: Character Turnarounds

  1. Pingback: Tutorial Tuesday: Action Pose Character Sheets | idrawdigital - Tutorials for Drawing Digital Comics

  2. Thank you so much. It’s been much usefull for me, now i can try to draw myself concept arts :D.

  3. thank you very much because i have difficulty with proportions. now, i will always make time to study your tutorials to better my craft. more power!

  4. this tutorial is very helpful because i have difficulties with human figure proportions. thank you very much!

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