Learn how to draw a cartoon Did you think Mickey Mouse draws himself?

Are you fond of drawing, but don’t know how to draw a cartoon? In this post, you’ll find all the material you need to develop your creativity.

You probably want to draw a cartoon portrait, but you don’t know where (or how) to start. We assure you that it’s not a complicated procedure, even if you’re not the most agile cartoonist in your community.

If you want to exploit your potential as a cartoonist, this post is for you. We will talk about what is an artistic drawing and a cartoon style drawing, besides knowing the characteristics and importance of the cartoon. We will also delve into materials and tips for making cartoons and, of course, the main topic: how to draw a cartoon (from scratch and with references).

join us!

what is artistic drawing?

how to draw a cartoon? Let’s get to it, first we must go from the general to the particular. This way you will have a better context about what we will talk about next.

Let’s start by talking about what artistic drawing is. It is the graphic representation of elements that cannot be expressed in words (how poetic!) This discipline is based on the outlining and tracing of figures (or shapes) that represent the artist’s idea, in a visual way.

The good thing about artistic drawing is that it is a universal language that transcends languages and cultural boundaries. And although there is no single style of creative drawing (in the variety is the taste), the artist can perfect the modality with which he/she works best.

already interested in starting your artwork? Then, run to our blog post to learn how to draw step by step. Now it’s time to focus on our honoree of the day: the cartoon style.

what is cartoon?

Before learning everything you need to know about how to draw a cartoon, we must first define what the cartoon itself is. Otherwise, it’s like wanting to learn about soccer without knowing anything about this sport.

In case you are already aware of this information, you can go directly to the part of how to draw a cartoon.

If you’ve ever watched a cartoon, you’re probably familiar with the cartoon style. Practically, everything we see reflected in these creations is made based on this type of drawing.

So, what is cartoon? If we search the web, we will see that the concept of Cartoon has many connotations, but the one that interests us is the one related to the drawing style. This technique is based on the distortion of the physical appearance of living beings (or inanimate), and is usually associated with the cartoon style.

Now, what characteristics does the cartoon style have that make it the favorite of many cartoonists and illustrators? Let’s see it below.

Source: Unsplash

Cartoon drawing characteristics

You can be a very good cartoonist, but, if you don’t know the characteristics of this particular style, you will have a hard time learning how to draw a cartoon.

Since at WPana we take your constant learning seriously, we offer you the cartoon characteristics so you can create true works of art (yes, cartoon can be art too. appreciate it!)

Let’s take a look at some relevant aspects of the cartoon style.

1. Exaggerated features

Usually, in cartoon drawing, portrait designs of people are made. But this is not the most important thing.

Unlike humanized portraits, which are usually faithful to reality, the cartoon style usually exaggerates or minimizes features of the element to be drawn. The size of the eyes, the shape of the nose or some characteristic feature such as a mole… any element is represented in a particular way by this technique.

2. Used in illustrations or graphic novels

We know that cartoon is very popular on TV, thanks to cartoons. However, this style also matches perfectly with the inanimate format.

It is very common to see the use of cartoon drawing in graphic novels or illustrations, as they are ideal to represent fictional scenarios.

3. Differences between anime and cartoon

did you know that cartoon style is not the same as anime? Although they have some points in common, they do not fall into the same category.

In addition to the above, there are some characteristics of cartoon that differentiate it from anime (not counting the drawing style, of course):

Besides the exaggeration in the bodies or the factions of their drawings, these are simpler. The same goes for the landscapes and the environment.

Although it is not a general rule, the great majority of cartoon drawings are usually aimed at children, dealing with more relaxed themes (usually humorous).

In the case of cartoon style cartoons, they do not usually have a comic prior to the animation.

As a counterpart of the cartoon drawing, anime is the term used for Japanese animation. Its paper version would be manga, which is equivalent to a kind of comic book and is characterized by features such as the following:

It tries to be as descriptive as possible, both with characters and backgrounds.

It seeks to generate feelings in the viewer.

It is aimed at all audiences, so some works have complex and deep themes.

do you already see the subtle difference between cartoon style and manga/anime?

Source: Unsplash

Importance of cartoon style

If you thought learning about how to draw cartoon wasn’t going to do you any good, prepare to be surprised!

By depicting reality in a cartoon format, you’re not only offering a new perspective to the viewer, but you’ll create a closer relationship with them.

why does this happen? Because it is a friendly and relaxed style of drawing, it does not usually depict violent scenes that affect anyone’s sensibility. The features offered by cartoon drawing are usually harmonious and visually pleasing.

So don’t downplay the importance of the procedure on how to draw cartoon. Consider it a lesson that can serve you later on. And speaking of “later”…let’s see the materials you need!

Materials to draw cartoon style

To learn how to draw cartoon, you don’t need to move heaven and earth to get materials. You have two very valid alternatives to consider.

1. Hand drawing

If you want to make the cartoon drawing by hand, it would be a good idea to have the following elements:

Drawing pad or paper.

Erasers and pencil sharpeners.

Pencils for coloring.

Photo or reference model of what you will draw.

This last point is key: why do you need the photo of the model to learn about how to draw cartoon? Because you must visualize all the details to capture them in your image, otherwise, you are unlikely to get the results you expect.

2. Digital drawing

In case you want to make a cartoon drawing in digital format, you will need fewer elements. To carry out your first creations, it is enough to have:

A software like Photoshop (or a similar program).

A computer (laptop or desktop, it doesn’t matter).

A graphic tablet.

You can use other elements, but with the three we mentioned is more than enough to learn how to draw cartoon.

Tips for drawing cartoon

do you need to create a cartoon style portrait, but you don’t quite understand how to draw cartoon? Don’t worry, we have several recommendations that will fit you like a glove, together with the material we will introduce you to.

To develop these tips, we will rely on the knowledge of illustrator and WPana teacher, Guadalupe Pinos, and her explanations on how to draw cartoons.

1. Discover the main elements of what you want to draw

As in this specific case we are interested in drawing people, it’s a good idea to know more about the human body first. We are not saying that you should study an anatomy manual for it, but you should be aware of the elements that compose the structure you will draw.

Since in this section we talked about how to draw cartoons (and specifically about portraits), it would be a good idea to memorize the details regarding the main bones of the skull (the zygomatic arch, the parietal, the occipital, among others).we assure you that you will be able to better represent your illustrations with this information.

2. Determine the basic proportions

A face has some basic proportions, which you should know before drawing. The first thing you should know is the existence of the midpoint of the face, determined by the tear of the eye, and goes from the hairline to the chin.

We show it in the following image:

Source: WPana

This is the exact point of the face (of any face seen from the front). Both this point and the rule of thirds, will help you to know the basic structure of any face you are going to portray.

don’t you know the rule of thirds? It is the division of the human face into three parts, as you will see below:

Source: WPana

3. Think of the person in the portrait

If you’re serious about learning how to draw cartoons, you have to consider all the details. And this is a very important one.

Drawing a child is not the same as drawing an old person. Imagine you have to draw an older person with missing teeth; this causes the lower jaw to go up and completely change the basic proportions of the face.

And, like this example, there are thousands. Keep this in mind when drawing your caricature.

Source: Unsplash

how to draw cartoon from scratch?

The moment you’ve been waiting for during the whole article: how to draw cartoon? For this tutorial, Professor Pinos explains the considerations we should keep in mind before starting our sketch.

To exemplify the procedure on how to draw cartoon, we will rely on a drawing seen from the front.

1. Drawing ovals

We start this tutorial on how to draw cartoon with something easy. You will have to draw, in the simplest way possible, two ovals: one for the surface of the skull and the other below, which will be for the jaw.

This is the first and most fundamental part of drawing cartoon, since it will allow you to outline the contour of your face. Then, draw the guide lines of the face.

Source: WPana

2. Nose, neck, lips, eyes…and ears

Next, let’s go with the main elements of the face: the neck, the nose, the lips and the eyes. For this, we established the guide lines earlier.

You should try to draw everything separately to implement each element properly on the face. The guide lines should be enough to know the basic proportion of each facial feature.

3. Refine the features

Little by little, refine the features according to the basic proportions we explained before.

The important thing about how to draw cartoon, is that you try to make your drawing have coherence. Even if you try to exaggerate the features of the figure in the cartoon style, try to have an adequate balance between the height and the size of the eyes, or the shape of the lips, for example.

Source: WPana

4. Add the rest of the features

Once the most important elements are established, we move on to draw the complements, those small details that will turn your cartoon drawing into a more realistic sketch.

If it’s a man or a woman, if it has long or short hair… those kind of additions are determined by you. And if you feel it’s not right or not what you want for your cartoon drawing, feel free to delete whenever you want!

Source: WPana

how to draw cartoon with references?

Having understood the basics of how to draw cartoon from scratch, we will focus on the case when we have references at hand.

1. Establish the basic geometric lines

Professor Pinos explains that it is not about copying the portrait, but “exaggerating each of the parts”. And, as you will remember, exaggeration is one of the key elements to draw cartoon style.

However, be careful: it’s not about exaggerating the features of your cartoon drawing in a cartoonish way, but drawing them with a bit of graphic style (for example, keeping the distance between the eyes).

Source: WPana

2. Take into account the rules of proportion

Although the cartoon style allows us to skip some proportion rules, it is good to have them at hand, as they can be useful for certain drawings.

If we keep in mind the basic proportions, we can make our works more balanced.

3. Look at the most characteristic (facial) features

Once we have established the main and basic lines, we will have our character outlined the way we want. Remember that these lines should not be very detailed, we simply go to the general and characterize it (in case we were drawing a realistic portrait, it would be different).

We already know that, to cartoonize a character, we must have at hand all the features of the cartoon drawing. For this reason, it is important to notice which are the facial details that stand out the most of the model in question, and thus emphasize them in your drawings.

Source: WPana

To go deeper into the procedure on how to draw cartoon, we recommend you to take the online course Create your cartoon style portrait, taught by Professor Pinos. And if the excuse is money, you should discard that pretext… because these classes are free!

Cartoon drawing courses

Now that you know how to draw cartoons, are you interested in learning more about drawing in general? If so, then you couldn’t have landed in a better place.

We have multiple didactic tools that will help you in the process of drawing cartoons (or whatever you want to design). we present them to you!

Cartoon Animation for Film.

Illustration for non-illustrators.

Pencil drawing: From beginner to expert.

Gesture drawing from scratch.

Realistic face illustration with Wacom.

did you see how easy it is to learn how to draw cartoons? Even if you consider that drawing is not your thing or that it’s a skill you struggle with, making this kind of portraits will allow you to defend yourself in any rush.

The main thing is that you keep your strokes simple (you’re not doing realistic portraits) and know the most characteristic details you want to represent (or, in this case, exaggerate). The rest is a piece of cake

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