Ready, Set… ACTION Pose Tutorial

Get your pencils ready, kids – today we’re going to learn about drawing out a character sheet that shows off a series of different action poses. This character sheet is a good way of developing a bible or encyclopedia that ensures your character’s design remains consistent from every angle – similar to a character turn-around. I’m going to show you ten (10)  ‘must-have’ poses you should create. Once these are done, you can add or adapt more poses to fill out your bible or make single pages with specific actions and angles.

Character Sheets

Character sheets are used by illustrators, animators and artists for the purpose of keeping accurate views of main characters. Instead of constantly figuring out how to draw characters every time a new situation arises, you’ll have reference material of them in different angles and actions. Trust me, it’s a time saver!

Here is a list of action poses you could include in your character sheet to get you started. Take note of the points that describe each pose!

1: Running Towards Camera

This is a sample running position.

  • Back foot flat to the ground surface and appear smaller – receding in the distance
  • Front leg lifted up,  knee appears much larger than normal. (a foreshortening trick used to show depth)
  • Crotch is half hidden by front leg lifted and knee/shin obscures it from view
  • Thigh foreshortened, made thicker than the thigh on the back leg
  • Arm opposite raised leg bent at 90 degrees , drawn facing inward in a backwards L (shown above)
  • Other arm drawn approx 90 degrees and recede into the distance
  • Shoulders angled downwards towards the side of the inward tucked arm

2: Jump Kick

A Jumping Kick uses foreshortening to fool the eye into seeing a raised foot. This example has an arm and a leg coming towards the viewer.

  • Back leg rendered smaller, receding into the distance
  • Front foot largest form in  foreground
  • Rest of the leg will be obscured by foot, (but draw part of the hip socket for visual reference – without it, the foot appears to float)
  • Foot with toes outstretched (like balancing on the tip of toes)
  • One arm extended from the side of the body
  • Hand reaching towards the camera is larger
  • Remaining parts of the arm slightly obscured – draw bicep and forearm for reference
  • Head slightly tucked into the chest, neck shortened, shoulders raised

3: The Bull Run

The Bull Run is a head down run pose similar to a football running back. The Bull Run is a run with more intensity.

  • Arm position – bent at the elbow to indicate ‘pumping’
  • Knee on the forward leg closest drawn element
  • Rear leg recedes in the distance
  • Toes on back foot flat with the ground
  • Crotch area slightly hidden from view
  • Foreshortening on thighs of front leg
  • Tuck head into chest, elevate shoulders
  • Top portion head  visible, chin tucked into chest
  • Shoulders angle downwards
  • Hands balled into fists
  • Muscles extremely tense

4: Self Defense Pose

Martial arts masters often begin in a ready pose for self defense.

  • Head upright and facing opponent
  • Both arms with bent elbows tucked inwards
  • Back leg positioned to look like it is balancing the character
  • Both knees bent, but in different direction (one upwards, one backward)
  • Toes on back foot flat to the floor
  • Stance wide
  • Hands drawn flat or fingers curled slightly (no fists)

5: Flying Towards the Camera

This pose uses foreshortening to give the make the character appear to jump right off the page. This can also work well as a high angle view of the character jumping upwards.

  • Hands outstretched and very large
  • Shoulders tucked close to the head
  • Arms foreshortened, slight views of  forearms and biceps
  • Head fairly large, hardly any neck showing
  • Torso recedes into distance in triangular shape – wide at shoulders, tapering at crotch
  • Legs continue tapered look towards a vanishing point
  • Sections between hip to knee, and knee to ankle drawn smaller
  • Feet drawn small to indicate depth

6: Crouch

This familiar pose is used for superhero covers and splash pages. The basic crouch / forward spring pose, commonly used due to its dynamic look.

  • Head drawn at full frontal view
  • Neck obscured by head
  • One arm raised and bent at elbow, receding backwards
  • Shoulder of this arm behind the head
  • Shoulder of forward arm below the chin
  • Forward arm drawn larger for foreshortening
  • One leg outstretched, tense muscles, normal size
  • Other leg bent, calf touching hamstrings
  • Toes on foot of bent leg flat to the ground in crouch pose, pointed downwards in forward spring pose
  • Torso turned outwards to show some torsion

7: Coiled Leap

A commonly seen pose in manga and Asian influenced action comics. A contorted coiled lunging pose prior to a strike. This pose is full of potential energy and comes in handy as a lead in pose during a fight scene.

  • Forward leg drawn with large thigh
  • Forward leg bent, calf  hidden behind large thigh
  • Foot slightly shown for visual reference
  • Back leg tightly bent
  • Calf touches the hamstring
  • Leg drawn much smaller (foreshortening)
  • Torso turned in, display more of the back
  • Forward arm has large shoulder muscle, arm bent at elbow receding
  • Arm in background recedes backwards, shoulder muscle raised to show strain
  • Head tucked into the chest
  • Character’s line of sight is straight ahead, head cocked downwards

8: Balancing

A simple pose used for a variety of different situations where both arms are outstretched.

  • Head drawn normally
  • Shoulders elevated slightly
  • Angle of the shoulders dip slightly
  • Arms drawn straight across – dependent on angle of the shoulders
  • Arms in proper proportions (no foreshortening)
  • Hips drawn at an opposite angle as the shoulders
  • One leg lifted,  knee closest point to viewer (similar to the run pose)
  • Hip socket obscured by the foreshortened thigh
  • Front leg overlaps back leg, walking movement
  • Toes on foot of rear leg flat on the ground
  • Rear leg obscured by front leg

9: Low Crouch

The Low Crouch is used to create the appearance of explosiveness of the character. This pose is seen on characters like Wolverine, Batman, Spider-Man, etc – characters who leap into action.

  • Head sticks out away from body, neck outstretched
  • Back heavily arched
  • Shoulder on forward arm large and prominent
  • Forward arm bent, muscles appear taut
  • Background arm slightly smaller, recede into distance
  • Bicep on background arm obscures forearm
  • Forward arm obscures midsection of the character
  • Both legs should be bent
  • Forward knee close to body (to create a ‘hunched over’ appearance)
  • Rear leg recedes into distance
  • Foot of rear leg with bent toes touching the ground propelling figure forward

10: Turnaround Point (or the Strong Female Character pose)

This is a TERRIBLE pose which has been brought to popularity by Kate Beaton, Meredith Gran and Carly Monardo to show how truly ridiculous it is – typically used by male superhero comic artists, contorting the female form to accentuate an exaggerated bosom and posterior. I decided to throw this one in for a laugh. Let’s see how this impossibly awkward pose is constructed.

  • Head tucked into the shoulder
  • Shoulder on background arm minimally drawn
  • Background arm smaller (receding into distance)
  • Hip jutting out on forward leg (WHAT – who stands like that??)
  • Forward leg bent slightly
  • Toes on forward leg flat with the ground
  • Background leg drawn with minimal detail  (hidden from view by forward hip and front leg)
  • Pointing arm outstretched
  • Center line of bod  facing away from the outstretched arm (BUH.. HOW.. I DON’T EVEN…)
  • Torso curved slightly to show “movement” in the upper body (read: show boobs and butt)

Once you’ve tried out these various poses, try variations of them to fill out your character sheets. If you scope out Google Images for action poses, you’ll find examples galore!

Andrés ‘ Drezz ‘ Rodriguez is the new guy here at Webcomic Alliance and is the author of the modern noir Online Graphic Novel entitled El Cuervo.  In his spare time he works as a stunt man on MTV’s Jackass and as a punching bag for UFC Fighter Georges St. Pierre.  If you have any suggestions for upcoming tutorials, feel free to connect with him on Google+ or you can follow him on Twitter at @ElCuervoComic



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  1. Great post, and when I got to the last pose I admit I went “ugh, he better mean “strong female pose” ironically.” So glad you delivered 🙂

    Still kinda grossed out though 😛

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