Proportions of puppet
You can look at photos of traditional marionettes for inspiration; there are many stock puppet characters, and they are generally designed in a certain way depending on their character.
- a witch generally has a big head, a long nose, and long fingers. She is hunched over with her head in front of her body, and is usually on strings so her head can sway back and forth.
- a princess has a round face and small hands.
- a knight has big shoulders, a smaller head, and carries a sword in his hand. He can have a carved body (his armor). He is usually on a wire so he can fight with his sword.
- a Kašparek (a jester- the Czech version of Punch) has a very big head, small body, big feet. He hangs only on strings so he can do lots of tricks.
- a devil has horns, and one foot is cloven. He is on a wire so he can have dramatic exits and entrances.
Draw picture of your puppet that is the actual size of the puppet (it can help to really lie an actual marionette on your paper so you have a sense of what a certain size puppet will look like and how heavy it will be). You should draw the character in costume and include any props in the picture.
Proportions of parts
With this drawing, you need to think about the proportions of the puppet more carefully:
- The head of a puppet is larger than the head of a real person. In a real person, the head is 1/7 of the human body; in a puppet, it should be around 1/5 of the body. If you are making a child or a Kasparek (the jester), the head is usually 1/4 of the body.
- The hands are also larger then they would be - at least 2x bigger than they would be in a real person (to scale).
- The body is usually smaller then the legs, which are longer so the puppet can walk more easily. The lower part of the leg is usually longer than the upper part of the leg; depending on the design, the top can be about 1/5 shorter than the bottom half.
- The feet are much longer than that of a real person - this allows more stability and looks better., A comical puppet can have even longer feet- but you must be careful, because if the feet are too heavy the puppet will not walk well. Feet are important- if they are too heavy or too light, the puppet will have problems walking.
It is best if the heavy part of the puppet is at the hips - if it is very light in the hips, then you might have to add some lead.
The weight of the puppet will be on a "center line" (described below under step 3), and the weight of the puppet must be balanced. For example, if there is a very large belly in the front of the puppet, there must be weight at the back of the puppet to counterbalance the belly - either a large bottom or a lead weight can be added.
- For traditional puppets, one hand is open and one is closed so the puppet can carry something (a sword, a quill, etc).
- Hair: you can either carve the hair (the traditional puppets' hair is almost always carved) or use materials and glue it on.
Possible problematic situations
- The nose can be as long as you want, but longer noses can break easily. A nose will not, however, interfere with your strings (if you have a long nose, you can put a dowel inside to make it stronger).
- Carved hair and beard cannot be longer the neck on a puppet with wire because it won't be possible to move head to left and right.
- It is better not to carve big ears, which go outside the head, because they can get caught in strings. (It is possible to put wires around the ears so they don't get caught in strings, but we really don't recommend this for a first puppet).
- Long beard and hair can also be problematic because they might get caught in strings.
- For a puppet with strings: if the head is larger than the shoulders, it will cover the shoulder strings which hold up the body (usually happens if head is more than 1/4 body).