Keep these factors in mind when using sketching to create a 3D model:

1. Understand sketching and thumbnail iteration
2. Master the art of Perspective
3. Learn the facets of CG: Compositing, Set Extension, Matte Painting
4. Leverage composition for professional touch
5. Try your hands on human anatomy (learn how to draw it)

Learning sketching can help you to produce beautiful 3D models and build a successful career at the same time. It’ll also launch you in the path of rapid prototyping, laser cutting, and CNC milling. Sketching skills makes you versatile to take on complex 2D or 3D modeling and animation task.

To define the look of 3D models, it is necessary to create a series of illustrations or sketches representing all the possible positions or expressions that a character can assume during the animation.

The sketches not only define the look of a character, but also the type of clothing and accessories.

From the sketch to Animatic

After an initial written concept has been drawn up and approved by the customer, it usually goes straight to the paper. Rough design sketches, a first storyboard that depicts the sequence of the scenes in stylized images.

In this way, it can be determined at an early stage of production on a visual level whether the customer and production company have the same idea.

A first concept is already part of the offer and thus free of charge for the customer. Of course, this needs to be developed further, but it already forms a good basis for the first approval.

From the storyboard, it then goes to the “Animatic”. The storyboard sketches are scanned and cut as a film. First roughly animated movements can help to determine the timing of the film.

From this moment on, you can work on music and off-commentary in parallel.

The storyboard: an illustrated version of the scenario

The term storyboard is used to explain visually and stage a story. This term is widely used in the world of advertising, film, and animation.

It can be used to split a temporal sequence or a sequence shot by synthesizing the main keyframes and shots that compose it.

The storyboard: An important step in pre-production

The storyboard assists in frame definition, intention, and movement, by determining the principal elements and the actions which compose each scene.

With the help of comments and annotations, it makes it possible to specify details about an action, a movement or a change of state with arrows or easy-to-understand landmarks.

You do not have to be a good draftsman to create an effective storyboard, even if it helps, anyone can do it just to share an intention or idea.

Throughout a project, the storyboard goes through several versions; it is refined little by little, with simplistic drawings, then with volumes of sketches that shape the idea.

Then, little by little, it gets a close resemblance of the final project with more precise drawings and representations.

While browsing the web, you will easily find many examples. You will see that some storyboards are real works of art in their own way, both visually with beautiful boards, as well as rhythm of sequences of shots, quality of framing, lighting etc.

Create your storyboard by following 5 key steps.

A storyboard is always accompanied by a script or scenario, which allows you to describe more in-depth the action and subject of a project.

It brings details and goes further into the description of a scene and what composes it, adding comments, annotations, intentions of emotions, effects, etc.

1. Before starting a storyboard, you have to start writing your idea. It is important to clearly define the message and the intention you want to convey. This is usually the time to start a description of the story, places, characters, etc. This step forms the basis of your scenario, which will continue to grow throughout the project.

2. On a blank sheet of paper, make a railroad (cut-out per page), drawing a grid of 4, 6, or 8 images per page. Allow room under each thumbnail to add text, details, and references.

3. Take your scenario database and start to integrate the main keywords that make up the action of the sequence for each box. Start drawing the contents of each thumbnail, taking into account those that follow and precede it to make the action understandable at a glance. As a first step, do not hesitate to use photos or make montages to help you define a prototype.

4. Once the first version of your storyboard is set, install it on a wall or a large floor surface to get an overview of your story. Get an eraser and a pencil and do not hesitate to use post-it, thumbtacks or any other tool allowing you to make changes quickly, change the order of thumbnails. The goal is to test variations on the sequence of each plan and their content

5. Be sure to develop in parallel all that makes up your universe: draw the sets, the main objects and the characters. Also write descriptions about the history and experience of the protagonists, detail the elements that make up the universe and the places where the action takes place, etc. This will help you improve the coherence of your story and help to clearly define the artistic direction of the project.

The character sheet: what to include

The character design stage seeks to create reference sheets to follow during the stage of storyboard creation and animation. The most basic reference that is needed is the character sheet.

In this, the character appears, at least, in three different poses: frontal, profile and three quarters. These are the three most required positions, but it is good to include other positions: three quarters back and back.

To create the character sheet start with one of the positions. Generally, the front position is the easiest to do.

After creating this first position, draw horizontal lines from the main points of reference for the character. These points of reference can be: the top of the head, the neck, the shoulders, the end of the arms, the hip and the end of the feet.

Before you begin to design the character in a visual way, you must know the character very well. To do this will create a profile of the character. Your starting point will be the script.

In itself, this profile is also often created by writers before or while writing the script. After writing, use the profile to define the actions of the character, from the design you are going to use this profile to give an image to the character. So it’s not a bad idea to have these profiles from the beginning of the animation project.

Characteristics inherent to the character

The first thing you need to know about the character in terms of physique and personality. In other words, how does the character look and act?

The script gives us a lot of information about it: the sex of the character, the age is often explicit in the script, some physical details and some details of the personality.

You can also deduce what the character wants, what strengths and weaknesses they possess. This data may not be explicit in the script but can be elucidated from the story.

In this first part we must answer the following questions:

  • What’s his name?
  • How old is she?
  • What is the gender?
  • Where does the character come from?
  • What’s the character’s build?
  • Do you have any particular traces? Scars, defects, etc.?
  • How do you behave in any given situation?
  • What are their strengths and weaknesses?
  • What do you want?

Clothes and utensils

We cannot forget other external elements that will give the character personality: the clothes he wears and the objects he wears (including tools, weapons, etc.).

The items used by the character can be found in the script; after all, we are not going to design items that are not used in the story. But clothes are usually omitted from the scripts. What the character wears is usually a designer’s decision.

We create the following position using these guidelines that we have just drawn. This method will help us maintain the character’s proportion in all positions.

Another common way to maintain the character’s proportion is by measuring the character’s height according to the size of the head. The horizontal guidelines will be separated according to the size of the head.

If you are using a drawing application that allows you to copy and paste, you can copy the first position that we created and then copy it where we want to draw the next position.

If we use this method, we must copy the image in a new layer to be able to erase it later. This method is good when we are creating the front and back positions because it will help us maintain the size of the character’s back, the size of the arms, legs, and head.

Other reference drawings

Once we finish the positions of the character’s sheet, it is a good idea to include other reference drawings for the body, face, and mouth of the character.

For the body, we can create the poses according to the camera shot and some action poses.

For the face, we need the character’s facial expressions: how the eyes and mouth look when the character is happy or angry. This will help to draw the character in the same way in different situations.

Finally, we need the positions of the mouth for when the character is talking. The synchronization of the lips in the dialogue is essential in a good animation, so we must create the different positions of the mouth in this stage.

4 exercises to learn to draw with the right side of the brain

One of the necessary skills that an animator should have is the ability to draw well. Even when vector graphics are used to create the animation, the animator must be able to draw well.

In the character design stage, this skill is especially necessary as character design is first and foremost drawing.

Drawing objects with folds

The first thing we have to do to learn how to draw is to dissociate the images in our minds from the images we want to draw.

For example, our mind has a general idea of the hand image. When we are going to draw, the first tendency is to draw the hand image that is in our mind. This image is usually an abstraction and that is why our drawings are going to have strange shapes.

Instead of drawing the idea of hand, we should draw the lines that make up the hand. If we concentrate on creating the lines instead of the hand, we will dissociate the idea of the hand in our mind from the hand we are drawing.

To do this, it is a good exercise to draw objects that are made up of many lines. For example, a wrinkled paper or a piece of cloth with folds.

Let’s draw the lines that make up the object, looking at the lines, at the folds rather than at the object itself. This exercise will help us to think in lines and not in concrete objects.

Drawing with a continuous line

The second exercise will also help us to dissociate the image in our minds from the image we are drawing. It will also help us to improve our sense of observation. In this exercise, we are going to draw an object with only one line.

In other words, once the drawing has started, we will not remove the pencil from the paper until we finish. Thus, all the different lines that make up the object will be joined together.

Drawing the empty spaces

This exercise will help us to understand more about space. To do this we will draw the empty spaces. I am referring as empty spaces to those parts that do not make up the object.

When we finish, we will be able to identify the object we are drawing, but we will be creating it in a different way.

Drawing the contour

This last exercise will help us to improve the lines. In it, we are going to draw the outline of the object. We’re going to try to do it using wide, big lines.

As an additional exercise, we can create the same profile but on the opposite side. This is also going to help us look at the lines.

These exercises and this method are best used for drawing models. But we must also learn to draw figures that we imagine. With the exercises described above, we will have the basis to do this, but we still need a method.


The sketches we create do not have to be too elaborate. Many storyboards use very fast sketches. There are others, however, that look like works of art on their own.

The purpose of sketching is not to create a work but to help you to see visually the story you are about to tell. The sketches will show us the story for the first time in a visual way.