Being able to draw is a fantastic skill, and having cartoonist skills – whether you’re simply interested in learning how to cartoon yourself or draw your friends – is one of the best ways to stand out at parties, events, and at work.
In this guide, we’ll cover the five essential shapes behind the human face, as well as the tactics behind drawing the human figure. Read on to discover your inner artist and create some eye-catching, amazing cartoons.
Is this your first time cartooning? Enroll in our Beginner’s Guide to Drawing Cute Cartoon Characters to learn the basic shapes of the human face, the tactics behind drawing great bodies, and other core principles of modern cartooning.
The Five Shapes: How to cartoon yourself accurately
At the core of cartoon art is the human face. All but the most detailed cartoons can get by with basic bodies, but in order for a caricature to look good, its face needs to match up with the person it’s about.
Many people mistakenly believe that the human face is complicated. From wrinkles to cheeks, hairlines to lips, various features can make the face seem more difficult to draw than it really is.
Tom Richmond, one of the cartoonists behind Mad Magazine, breaks the human face down into five simple shapes: the head shape, eye one, eye two, the nose, and finally, the mouth.
By emphasizing or deemphasizing one or more of these features, you can make your cartoon resemble yourself or anyone else. The secret to drawing a great cartoon lies in making these shapes resemble the subject as closely as you possibly can.
Classic portrait artists understood the importance of getting these five shapes right in their paintings. The difference between portraiture and caricature is that portrait artists try to stay within the natural limits of proportion and scale in the face.
Learn more about the techniques used in portrait drawing by enrolling in our expert course, The Secrets to Drawing.
In caricature, proportion and scale is yours to play with. If the relationship between the five shapes of the face is correct, even the most unrealistic scale or proportion is still going to look like the person you’re trying to draw.
Before you start drawing cartoons of yourself and your friends, spend some time on the five key shapes that make up the face. Experiment by changing the placement of the nose, eyes, or mouth on the face and see what a dramatic change it can produce.
While cartooning is all about being creative and exaggerating certain features, you’ll always need to have the five shapes aligned and positioned in a way that accurately reflects the person you’re drawing a cartoon of.
Interested in learning more about drawing faces? Enroll in Learn to Draw and learn the secrets behind drawing the male and female head to pinpoint levels of accuracy.
Using observation to draw classic, memorable cartoons
Since caricatures aren’t about drawing the most realistic version of your subject as possible, observation is very important. You can make your caricatures much more recognizable by using your observations about a person’s face to form the basis of how they look.
Think about people you know or famous celebrities and how certain features stand out in their faces. From Richard Nixon’s nose to Jay Leno’s jawline, every celebrity has a noteworthy facial feature that makes them stand out in cartoons.
Some features are easy to use in caricature, while others aren’t. Think about which parts of a person’s face are most visible. Elements like the eyes, nose, cheeks, ears, jawline, hairline, and eyebrows are easy to manipulate into a great caricature.
Need something easy to draw to warm up your skills? This blog post on easy drawing exercises shows you how to start drawing and warm up as a caricature artist.
Others, like their facial shape and their expressions – Do they grin, smile, scowl, roll their eyes, squint, or wear glasses? – can be used to your advantage. Before you start to draw, make a list of two or three distinctive features about your subject’s face.
Working out which of your own characteristics to emphasize can be tricky. After all, no one likes to point out their own weaknesses. Ask your friends or family for their honest appraisal of which facial features they first notice when talking to you.
Interested in caricature? Learn more about how to draw the perfect face when you cartoon yourself and your friends in our course, How to Draw Caricatures.
Drawing the human figure to the right shape and scale
Drawing the perfect face is difficult, but drawing the perfect body is impossible if you aren’t familiar with the proportions and poses of humans. Bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and choosing the right size is the key to drawing good cartoons.
A lot of cartoonists neglect the body when they draw people, choosing instead to focus on the face. This is easy to understand, since faces are generally much easier for humans to recognize than bodies are
You’ve probably seen this before in cartoons – a huge face with a tiny, nondescript body attached to it. Some characters, however, are impossible to draw without the right body attached to them.
Drawing the body is difficult, and the best way to master the dimensions and scale of a human body is through lots of practice. Enroll in our course, Discover the 7 Secrets to Figure Drawing, to learn how to draw human bodies that look completely natural.
Simple Caricature: Drawing human faces with nothing but lines
Do you just want to draw cute cartoons of yourself and your friends? If you’d like to master the art of quick and simple cartoons, you can often do so with nothing more than a couple of simple squiggles.
Some of the best facial cartoons are about the relationship between lines. Once you know which line to draw where and how it relates to the next one, you can draw an excellent face without even thinking about the five shapes listed above.
Tristan Villanueva’s course, Quick and Quirky Caricatures, covers the basics of great caricature drawing in just 90 minutes. Learn how simple lines and exaggeration can be all you need to create a cool cartoon of yourself, your friends, or your family.
Ready to learn how to cartoon yourself?
Being able to draw caricatures is a great skill and a wonderful way to impress your family and friends. Better yet, it’s something you can do without buying expensive equipment. Get your market, your paper, and a photo and start cartooning today!