I have never liked the publisher created character sheets. Not that they are terrible, in fact a lot of them are very nice and easy to use. It’s more the way I like to use them.
When I ran a LARP, a player had developed a very cool piece of software using Visual Basic. It maintained your character database, allowed custom character sheets, and let you do whatever you wanted by adding more data to it or limiting access as you saw fit. Being spoiled that early in my GM career, when I moved on to other gaming tools, I never forgot how easy my life was back then.
Now when I GM, I like having the versatility to have my sheets do calculations for me and having a database of sheets I can easily grab from. Using PDFs means I must save them as PDFs or print them, not my preferred way of doing the work.
Instead, I create sheets in Excel or Word (mostly in Excel). I have a great calculation tool that does a lot of my work for me, it will populate cells throughout the sheet by just selecting a character’s name, and if I ever need extra, I don’t have to go hunting through a lot of files.
The key to creating your own character sheets is to prioritize what is most important to play to least. I generally try and fit all the mechanics on the first page, so a player (or GM) can quickly find what they are looking for in an encounter. Descriptions, backgrounds, flavor text, character portrait, etc. goes on a second page where the player can reference it, but it doesn’t get in the way. The last page is in depth mechanics for powers or equipment the player may need.
If you need to make a complex sheet, like one for The Strange RPG, look at how you want that organized too. I purchased specialized sheet protectors for that and tailored my sheets to fit in those so players can swap out recursion cards quickly.
What’s important is that you and your players can use them and they do what you want. If you’re going to stick with the same layout as the original character sheet, that’s fine too, but you should ask yourself why you’re doing it and make modifications as needed (like for expanded powers or advantages). One you make two or three or them, you’ll get the hang of it.
To start, here is a batch I have used for many Gen Con events. As I find more of the sheets I have created, I’ll upload them to our site. The publishers make these all available for free on their websites or DriveThruRPG as they are presented in their rulebooks, and I am not including any rules. If you want a much fancier sheet, I strongly recommend going to them for what they produced.
On the other hand, if you want the power of a workbook, I hope you like them!