[ A Better Artists Mannequin – Stickybones – Rapid Posing & Animation Made Easy: in depth review ]

Posted on April 25th, 2019 at 2:02am

Some info updated 23rd July 2019 =).

It’s been three years, but I’m happy to be able to bring you another artist mannequin review. I’ll be reviewing the Stickybones: Rapid Posing & Animation Made Easy + flying rig. I’ve been trying it out for the past few months and will be reviewing mainly from an illustration point of view. It’s fair to say it’s a real contender!

My previous reviews were the 1000toys 1/6 Synthetic Human Test Body and the SFBT-3 which are my main comparisons. Both happen to be”toys” that made compelling mannequins. However Stickybones is the first I’ve reviewed that was designed specifically to aid artists, designed by artists.

Full disclosure, Stickybones left a comment on my blog in 2016 mentioning that they were about to launch an Indiegogo for a poseable figure. At first I wished them luck only, but after some thought I did something I’d never done before (as blogging isn’t something I do a lot of) and contacted them asking if they’d be willing to send me a sample so I could honestly review one. So roll on 3 years in which they successfully got funded (smashed it really) and survived the perilous journey of manufacturing… they were kind enough to send me a sample earlier this year so here we are!

Where to Buy

At the time of writing, Stickybones informed me that they were starting to fulfill the 3rd wave of Indigogo orders as they came in batches from the manufacturer. They assured me everyone’s orders will be fulfilled.

You can still pre-order one now from their Indigogo page for an estimated delivery for June, so you haven’t missed out. Prices only at time of writing, always check their website for up to date prices:

igg.me/at/stickybones
www.stickybones.com

$89 USD – Stickybones
$121 USD – Stickybones + flying-rig
(see their Indigogo page for prices when you order more than one).

When I did my first mannequin review back in 2014, there were not many poseable artist mannequins out there. However there are a few now. While others might be cheaper I feel Stickybones is fairly priced for what it is.

Unboxing

While I’m no animator, Stickybones was begging to be used in a stop motion, what better than for the unboxing! Please forgive it’s newbieness, this is only really the second time I’ve done a proper stop motion.

In the box:

  • Stickybones (assembly required)
  • Magnetic pose plate
  • Instructions
  • Spare & non-magnetic alternative parts
  • Sticker

Flying rig sold separately (assembly required)

Stickybones (blue) and the flying rig (green) came in pieces and required assembly. It came well packaged. Standing with arms down Stickybones is approx. 8 1/2 in or 21cm tall. It was mostly straightforward following the image instructions but I will admit I didn’t realize for ages that I’d put the thighs on the wrong sides which restricted some of the center leg movement, oops. Sorted now. I don’t know if the arms are on the right way, but unlike the legs it doesn’t seem to make a difference movement wise. Some of the joints needed a bit more force to get them in than I was expecting but it’s doable.

Compared to the other two toys I reviewed, the manufacturing lines/process is more visible. I think the benefit to durability having the parts cast in whole pieces outweighs the finish. But honestly it’s a tool, it doesn’t matter to me personally.

Material

Updated 23rd July 2019 – I added this section as I now have been passed a lot more info about the materials and properties of the figure by stickybones which I thought is a great addition to this review.

Stckybones let me know they spent a long time developing the materials for maximum durability and strength. They say:

“Stickybones joints are likely to retain their ability to hold poses for the duration of a person’s lifetime, and we we can say with certainty, Stickybones joints will remain functional with the ability to hold the most demanding poses even with many years of continuous and constant use.  In fact, even after years of use, our prototypes from 2016 still hold full-range, free-standing off balance poses–the current version of Stickybones being manufactured(the ones we are shipping to customers) are even stronger and more durable.”

They also let me know that while there is a little bit of loosen up when the joints are first popped in, they should not loosen further. For me this is great news because my experience of the other toys made from more standard plastics, joint loosening has been a massive issue. So really glad to see they have thought about the longevity of their figure.

Proportions

Once assembled I think it’s pretty obvious that the hands and feet are pretty gigantic. But my guess is that compromises had to be made to accommodate the magnets and joints. It should also be noted that the hands only have 4 fingers, again I can imagine it was a compromise. I think most of us artists can take both these factors into account and compensate for them when drawing.

Update 23rd July 2019 – They have confirmed that posiablity, magnet size & foot stability (especially on my extreme gravity deifying poses) are the reason for the larger feet and hands. It was mentioned to me that they are planning a interchangeable “hand-pack” with static hands that will have more smaller hand proportions.

Other than what I already mentioned, the body proportions are pretty good in my view. As I always say, there is no one size fits all for human proportions, but for consistency across my reviews I’m using the heads method. It might seem that the crotch is high, but to me it just seems they have cropped it to allow for better moment.

Out of the head shapes I’ve seen in general, I really like this one, it feels easier to gauge the basic facial planes. I’m also thankful for a more neutral face shape unlike others which have a more manga influence. It’s clear that this model is about giving artists key reference points in line with figure drawing fundamentals rather than trying to mimic muscle which makes it different from others on the market.

Movement


Overall it has a very smooth, quiet and pleasure to pose. All the joints are ball and socket patented joints.

The two places I find this the biggest issue is in the elbow and fingers as it can easily get moved into weird unnatural positions. I will admit frustration with a losing battle with fingers! If they were stiffer i think it would help. Also the size of the hands can make some poses awkward as they just dominate the space like when crossing arms. The hands are my main gripe.

Update 23rd July 2019 – Stickybones has since let me know they are looking into updating their molds to address some of the finger popping out issues. I think it’s great they’re listening and tweaking:

“We are going to make some adjustments to our mold that will ensure the fingers do not pop off, when not desired… But we also do have plans to release a future “hand-pack” that would allow users to swap out hand poses (one of the benefits of a modular system) and those will be smaller.”

Because the joints are all push joints, I found that parts would often pop out which was difficult mid animation or would mess up poses that I’d have spent time on. And sadly a few times the legs popped out and fell on the floor causing the magnets to come away from the glue. The hip, finger, wrist, ankle and shoulder joints seemed the most susceptible to popping out as it’s easy to push it beyond it’s movement limits. A slightly opposite issue with some of the joints are they are very stiff. On one hand I want them to be somewhat stiff, on the other the toes I find the most difficult to position correctly because I can’t hold the toes and easily push the heels down to stabilize the foot… however these issues are mitigated by using the plate.

One of the massive strength of Stickybones is the leg moment. It feels very satisfying to easily make very dynamic leg movements/poses. I like to test the extreme limits to the legs both how far, wide and close the legs can move. The inside movement is always going to be limited due to plastic that cannot squish, but it’s definitely not bad when crossing over legs. It can also just about manage sitting crossed legged. I also love how close to the chest the knees can get to hug which the other two I reviewed couldn’t do. The groove in the back of the legs means that the legs can bend surprisingly far back. The flex of the foot and toes make the extension of the leg amazing and dynamic. I can imagine this would be great for dance and fight poses!

Another great feature of Stickybones is the the movement across the chest. The other two I reviewed had large chests that restricted the arm movement across. I mean, self hugs are very important even for mannequins!

The torso joints are stiff but in this case the right amount. I’m a fan of the neck/head movement. It’s very intuitive and very easy to move the head into subtle positions that bring the whole thing to life.

Magnetic Pose Plate

The absolute selling point of Stickybones is the magnetic pose plate. There are magnets in the hand, heels and toes which allows for all sorts of gravity defying poses! If you reeeeeally don’t want the magnets, there are spare parts without the magnets for the hands and toes, but not the heels. The magnets in the toes are the strongest whereas the ones in the heels are light. The magnet strength in the hands are surprisingly strong only really let down by the wrist joint. If only one magnet is in contact the model can spin, whether or not you want that to happen is another question. But I cannot stress enough how invaluable the plate is. It makes posing much quicker and gives the model some much needed weight. The plate could easily be put under paper or you could even make a custom set with extra magnets, maybe even upside down.

Flying Rig

You have to buy the flying rig separately. It’s made up of ball joints and pegs. The base has three strong magnets and has to be used with the pose plate or it falls over. It’s colour is perfect for green screening if you’re that way inclined.

I have mixed feelings about the flying rig. While it is needed to do non flat toe poses, it’s far too flexible in my opinion. This is due to the thin stick part that bends with the weight of the model is on it. While for illustration this isn’t a huge issue, I can imagine for animation the unpredictable effects of gravity mid sequence could be tricky. I question whether or not a 3rd party one would be better, however the green screen colour isn’t common with other display type stands. If the rig is sticking too far out, the plate cannot support the leverage, so moving the center of gravity is required at times. Despite my feelings the flying rig opens up the possibly of so many more posses which is the point of having a mannequin in the first place.

I’m on the fence about whether or not the high cost of adding the flying rig is worth it. I’d say it’s just about… just! But as long as you are aware of the limitations of the flying rig it’s worth a try.

Illustration

Ok I will admit, I’m not the best drawer of humans, creatures are my thing, so it’s been a long time since I drew a non-cartoon type one. I wanted to push myself by taking advantage of having a reference so I chose an angle I’d probably avoid like the plague! The great thing about having a mannequin is being able to look at it from different angles and choose interesting compositions.

After choosing an angle, I did this pencil illustration with Stickybones sat next to me. But there is no reason I couldn’t take a photo or video to save for later. I could move the model to different places and it stayed in it’s pose. If i did it again I would have to work on translating the shoulder joint from Stickybones to illustration better, but overall I enjoyed drawing from it.

Verdict

It’s important to remember that in general all mannequins have limitations in scope and should be treated as an aid rather than a replacement for studies of humans.

Cons

  • The hands are frustrating to pose and pop out a lot (but I’d still take poseable hands over static interchangeable ones). Update 23rd July 2019 – They will be tweaking their hand molds and adding interchange hand which means this may come off the cons list in the future.
  • Other joints sometimes pop out
  • The flying rig is a little too flexible
  • It’s difficult to balance without the pose plate

Pros

  • The pose plate is the hands down selling point of Stickybones!
  • It has an impressive range of movement for dynamic poses
  • It feels lovely to pose
  • The price is fair especially compared to the “toys” I previously reviewed

While I mainly reviewed this as an illustrator, I can totally see Stickybones being even better for animators! The fact that I tried my hand at animation as well as drawing a more ambitious pose shows it’s aided me with experimentation and trying things I might never have before.

It’s clear that it was designed by artists as most of the things I’d want it to be able to do it I could. I do have a few gripes with it but ultimately they are issues that I’ve been able to manage.

Update 23rd July 2019 – Long term, i initially had worries that the plastic would wear down like other figures I own. However Stickybones let me know that their the materials have been tested for longevity & strength. This means the joint funtion should with stand the test of time. I added a “Materials” section at the start to reflect this new info.

Stickybones has rightly become known as one of the contender poseable artist mannequins! I think it is well worth a look. Please do check out their website & social for inspiring videos and shared posts from the community. I’ll leave you with one of their videos that I super love:

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