Starting with circles

If you're an avid reader or fan of comics, you know that most cartoon figures are short and small with a slightly large head. You see this in many classic comic strip characters, like Charlie Brown and Snoopy from Peanuts and Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes. Most of the modern cartoon characters on TV also have this type of body design.

Drawing a classic cartoon body begins with sketching a basic shape, either a circle or an oval, and building on it. Classic cartoon characters are often kids, and in real life, kids often have disproportionately large heads. In the world of comics you always exaggerate the obvious when caricaturing your subject, so in this section I show you how to start with a large circle for the head to make your character come to life.

Follow these steps to begin your character:

1. Sketch a large circle or oval in the middle of your paper.

The circle doesn't have to be perfectly round — just a rough sketch to define the area you want to use as a guideline (see Figure 7-2).

Figure 7-2:

The typical cartoon character drawing starts with a circle or oval.

Figure 7-2:

The typical cartoon character drawing starts with a circle or oval.

2. Add a smaller circle or oval below the large circle (see Figure 7-3).

Doing so helps you establish the space for your character's body.

Figure 7-3:

Many classic cartoon characters have heads that are larger in proportion to their bodies.

Figure 7-3:

Many classic cartoon characters have heads that are larger in proportion to their bodies.

Headsthat Are Cartoon Draw

3. Make sure your character's face is centered in comparison to his body.

Although this character doesn't look like much yet, you want to improve on his physique, center his face, and properly set the stage for his arms and legs. To do so, follow these steps:

• Draw a vertical line down the middle of the larger circle and then draw a horizontal line across the middle. Doing so helps you center the face if your character is looking straight ahead (see Figure 7-4).

Figure 7-4:

These vertical and horizontal lines can help center your character's facial features and set the stage for limb placement.

Figure 7-4:

These vertical and horizontal lines can help center your character's facial features and set the stage for limb placement.

How Set Limb Lines

• Draw a vertical line down the center of the smaller circle, and then draw a horizontal line across the center of the larger circle (as in Figure 7-4).

This helps you place your character's center of gravity and also acts as a guide when it's time to add arms and legs.

Notice that the center guidelines aren't exactly centered in the circles, and they appear to be slightly curved. They should follow the curvature of the circumference of the circles, giving the circles a more dimensional look and feel, just like a real head and torso.

The key to sketching your drawings is to be loose and not too structured, because you're just beginning the process. You just want to get a nice feel for the overall character; you don't have to draw a perfect geometrical shape.

4. Draw a square or rectangle where the lower body and legs go, below the small circle (see Figure 7-5).

The square space is important because it establishes the area for the waist and legs.

Figure 7-5:

Drawing a square below the torso helps your leg placement.

Figure 7-5:

Drawing a square below the torso helps your leg placement.

5. Draw the legs coming down from the square by sketching two vertical lines straight down for each leg.

The legs in this example are really nothing more than a few straight lines coming down into the character's shoes, which are just two small circles (see Figure 7-6).

6. Lightly pencil in the details (see Figure 7-7).

Figure 7-6:

A few lines and two circles become your character's legs and feet/ shoes.

Figure 7-6:

A few lines and two circles become your character's legs and feet/ shoes.

Cartoon Sneakers Circle

Draw light pencil lines to use as a guide so that you have a nice frame to ink over with either your pen or brush when you're ready for more detail. Using the center guidelines, start to fill in the face by adding ears, hair, and glasses. This guy's got real big glasses, which helps convey a bookworm look. For more information about drawing faces, see Chapter 6.

Figure 7-7:

Before reaching for your pen or brush to finish your character, pencil in more detail.

Figure 7-7:

Before reaching for your pen or brush to finish your character, pencil in more detail.

7. Add more details and accessories to the character to convey his personality (see Figure 7-8).

As you work on your character's face and clothing, small details start to bring him to life. You can show your character's personality without having to spell it out for readers. The pencil, calculator, and big glasses are good choices for this guy — they give clues about the character's nature. Use your own imagination and creativity and see what you can come up with.

Figure 7-8:

Your readers may instantly recognize your character as a boy genius.

Figure 7-8:

Your readers may instantly recognize your character as a boy genius.

Big Spectacles Cartoon Characters
Freehand Sketching An Introduction

Freehand Sketching An Introduction

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  • J
    How to draw disproportionate characters?
    1 year ago

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