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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2011
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    Using reference sheets for commonly used subjects

    I don't know how many of you know about Wally Wood's 22 panels that work, but it's basically this reference sheet Wally Wood made for himself and his assistants to help them draw interesting comic panels. I usually draw stiff characters standing up straight and have a hard time coming up with interesting poses from my head. So I drew up a reference sheet of action poses I can refer to. Is this a common practice? The only downside is after a while some poses will be reused and poses have to be adjusted depending on the character, but I think this is better than drawing the same stiff poses over and over.

    Also would artists make reference sheets for common objects like guns, trees or vehicles? I was thinking of making those too so I don't have to run to google whenever I want to draw an interesting gun and having a dozen flat reference sheets is easier to carry around than a bunch of thick reference books. Without reference most of my stuff is lame and generic, but even a single reference can inspire many variants.

    What sort of reference sheets do you use if you use any?

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    HELLsinki, Finland
    Thanked 2,687 Times in 1,644 Posts
    I don't know about self-drawn reference sheets as much, but artists do tend to have pretty thick reference folders with photos for poses, objects etc.
    If I need some specific ref, I just paste bunch of images/photos to single file and print it if needed.
    "I eat comics and poop stylization"
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  4. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Gold Coast, Australia
    Thanked 798 Times in 282 Posts
    Every time you go on the internet to find images and reference, try to keep a library of them. I try to maintain an organized folder hierarchy of images that I come across. Then later when I want to find an image I'll go into that folder and it will always be there. That's relevent for things like Guns, trees or vehicles that you mentioned.

    It's also helpful to not simply find a picture of a gun and stash it for later use, but if you intend on drawing guns or vehicles a lot (Which of course Artists will), it pays to have a working understanding of their internal mechanics so that you can design a hull around them, or perhaps research into experimental technologies to try and concept a weapon based around that.

    Even for kinds of trees, you should also research particular trees that favor particular climates so that you can design environment concepts around them. Or for landscapes research how they erode. There's no limit to the value of research in terms of subject matter you can do.

    In terms of general action poses, I would do two things. You can refer to action movies you see for generally accurate action poses, because those are live actors performing them so you can't fall into the trap of creating anatomically impossible poses. Also practicing animation - into the pose and out again to a rested stance can help you better understand what the physics are affecting that character to take a particular pose.

    Remember, understanding is more powerful than having a bunch of images lying around.

    So no, you don't need to make reference sheets, just keep a library of images that you come across, and make sure you research and understand your subject matter before you try to draw or paint it. Books can be a great resource if they contain a more comprehensive and organized list of images than a quick google search though.

    Feng Zhu has some great instruction on this particular subject.

    Jordan Beeston
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  6. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Thanked 35 Times in 26 Posts
    Yeah I have reference folders on my PC and use reference books too, but I thought it would be convenient to also have reference sheets you could stick to the wall or bring with you when you leave the house. I'm using the reference sheets for rough work and to influence designs, not the detailed renderings which I would use photo reference for. My idea of reference sheets is more about inspiring design shapes than details.

    You're right, it's ultimately better to have an understanding of the subject, but at this point there's so much I have to learn. I think the reference sheets are nice because just a quick glace can give you ideas for a design. There's also a degree of research that goes into making a reference sheet. Sure as I progress I will learn more about good design and natural poses, but I don't see why it would hurt at this point.

    Maybe an experienced concept artist doesn't need reference sheets because they already understand the subject matter and have a library of design shapes in their head? I am not at that skill level..

    By the way this is the Wally Wood reference sheet for anyone who's interested:


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