drawing lessons for character design

7 best drawing exercises for creating cartoon characters

7 best drawing exercises for creating cartoon characters

You probably will agree with me when I say it’s REALLY hard creating cartoon characters that seems alive. But what if I tell you that…

freelance graphic designer

You can learn how to draw better cartoons spending just 30 minutes a day!

If you want to learn how to create professional cartoon characters this post could be a great starting point, I will share my best 7 quick drawing exercises for beginners to improve your drawing skills with some practice you will be able to draw characters like a pro.

Rabbit cartoon character
Skull cartoon character
Kid cartoon character
Old professor character
Kid character for drawing
Alien Cartoon character for drawing
Lizard cartoon character
Fat character for drawing
Feel free to download those characters sketches to practice.

1.- Rebuild a character like a pro.

Drawing Exercise: pick a professional mascot design you like and rebuild the character’s body structure like a master. In the following video I give you a few tips:

  1. Start with simple volumes. Newbies start drawing based on lines, it may work when you copy a character but you will fail miserably whenever you want to change the character’s pose because you didn’t understand the structure. This is the difference between copying a character and moving a character.
  2. Places eyes correctly. The easiest trick to place then in the right place is imagining the character is wearing a mask. Before drawing the eyes, draw the mask with the face expression you like.
  3. Painting shadows. If you don’t fully understand a volume, try adding shadowing, it will help you a lot.
  4. Draw the middle line. Splitting the character in 2 halves helps you to place elements in the right place and with the correct perspective. In this case my character is not completely frontal, so I displaced the middle line to the right.
  5. Draw hidden parts and then overlay elements. Observe how I drew the hand, then the fingers and finally the keys.
  6. Add details at the end, only when your character’s structure is solid. Starting just the opposite is a very common newbie mistake.
  7. Create horizontal lines adapted to the volume, it helps you to understand how to place elements.
  8. SECRET TIP: whenever you are happy with the result, flip your drawing horizontally (or put it in front of a mirror) and all small mistakes will pop up. When you observe a draw for long time, your lazy brain get used to it, by mirroring, you are forcing it to watch it like a new visual stimulus.
Ask the professor

What do we learn?: When we start creating cartoon characters, we tend to acquire lots of bad habits that will make our learning curve stepper. By rebuilding a character, constructed with solid foundations, and doing it like a pro, we learn good habits that will result in more natural shapes. It also give us strong principles to start posing our characters… the real challenge of any mascot designer.

2.- IMproving action lines in cartoon character

Drawing Exercise: choose an image of a cartoon character you like. You can use the mascots I created for KSA Pro League. Your task is finding the action line.

drawing exercise: action lineSome examples of good actions lines in action poses.

Ask the professor

What do we learn?: Creating cartoon characters with good action lines flow natural and dynamic even if they are in a relaxed pose. When the action line is applied to your mascot design properly, the pose becomes more interesting and easy to understand for the viewer.

3.- How to improve your character’s posing

Drawing Exercise: the task here is creating a character that communicates different moods, attitudes or actions without any lines, just a black shadow. If you do a good work your mascot design pose will be understandable.

drawing exercise: posingHere you can see some of my best silhouettes for a basketball player

Good tips to learn how to draw dynamic poses!
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What do we learn?: the pose is one of the most important aspects when it comes to show attitudes, which is key in creating good character designs. A good silhouette makes easier and quicker to understand the character’s pose. A pose can have different silhouettes depending on the position of the camera, you must learn to find the best angle.

4.- Reducing characters to basic shapes

Drawing Exercise:  your goal is reducing the complexity of any cartoon character to its basic shapes.

drawing exercise basic body shapesImage and character design property of Disney.

Good drawing tips!
Ask the professor

What do we learn?: this is a very good drawing exercise for beginners. If you want to learn how to draw cartoons  you must “understand” the basic shapes behind complex character designs, once you understand the basic shape you will pose the character easily. The outcome will be more dynamic and consistent.

5.- Sketching A CHARACTER from Visual REFERENCE

Drawing Exercise: we are going to look at any mascot character or object as much time as you need, then you have only 45 seconds to reproduce it (you can look to the cartoon while sketching).

character drawing exercise

I want to learn to draw like this!
Ask the professor

What do we learn?: Newbies tend to focus in the details of the character and ignore it as a whole, which is a huge mistake. By limiting the time to just 45 seconds you force your brain to focus in the basic shapes, this drawing technique is key to create well constructed poses.

6.- From basic shapes to detailed CHARACTERS

Drawing Exercise: the goal is building a mascot character using different basic shapes. Notice how simple and effective are he following characters:

drawing exercise basic shapesImage courtesy of Cedric’s Blog

Good drawing tips for beginners
Ask the professor

What do we learn?: simple and effective cartoons are made with very basic shapes. In this exercise we learn to put details into the right place. Once you master this drawing technique your characters will be well constructed.

7.- Draw A CARTOON from Memory

Drawing Exercise: choose a character design that you like for 2 minute. Stop and relax for 1  minute and then draw the cartoon from memory. If you find it too easy, try with more complex characters. Repeat the exercise until you get good results.

drawing exercise draw from memoryOriginal draw courtesy of Loisa
Ask the professor

What do we learn?: when we are not experts we tend to draw cartoon characters through visual references. With this exercise, we add resources to our mind. With practice, those resources will come to your mind automatically and you’ll learn how to draw characters unconsciously, just by imagining.

Become a Professional Character Designer!

Learn my best Photoshop tips and tricks about digital inking and digital coloring for character design. With technique and some practice you can also make a living from the characters you imagine.

Sergio Ordoñez Suanez
[email protected]

Hi there, I'm webmaster, designer and digital content creator of everything you see at SOSFactory. I love sharing my limited knowledge as more experienced designers did when I was a newbie.

  • PabloVM
    Posted at 10:03h, 21 September Reply

    Los seguire aver que tal

  • Carlosmlr
    Posted at 21:12h, 21 September Reply

    En verdad q siempre me llevo una gran sorpresa cada vez q entro en tu pagina….. Muchas gracias por ayudar a los q ayudarnos a mejorar en lo q hacemos…. Espero q siempre tengas unos minutos para dedicarnos aunque todos sabemos lo q t cuesta.

  • JCMaziu
    Posted at 06:28h, 22 September Reply

    Wow Sergio, cada vez flipo mas con tu página.
    En ella encontré la motivación que necesitaba para volver a dibujar. Aunque he perdido bastante práctica tu tutoriales me estan siendo de bastante ayuda.

    Saludos de otro boqueron.

  • Diana
    Posted at 14:59h, 22 September Reply

    Hola, Sergio, vaya ¡esta es una gran idea! últimamente siento que me bloqueo al querer dibujar algo, me encanta el estilo cartoon y suelo practicar con el libro de Preston Blair y cosas así, , voy a hacer los ejercicios y a ver q tal, te los envío para exponerlos por aquí. Saludos 🙂

  • Sergio Ordonez
    Posted at 16:06h, 22 September Reply

    [lang_en]Thanks a lot buddies, I´m glad you think its useful, much more to come :)[/lang_en][lang_es]Muchas gracias amiguetes, me alegro que os sea útil, muchas cosas más están por llegar :)[/lang_es]

  • K@5D
    Posted at 12:43h, 22 September Reply

    wow amigo genial, es buena practica para mi, ke buen espacio, ke buen material estas brindando gracias y saludos

  • Diana
    Posted at 02:36h, 23 September Reply

    Sergio, espero que muestres más bocetos como el de tu mascota, el ninja, 🙂 si es posible.

  • iPad
    Posted at 01:38h, 23 September Reply

    Que excelente!!! Voy a estar muy atento, me interesa mucho esta práctica.

  • Tebe
    Posted at 10:48h, 23 September Reply

    Looks quite useful, definately gonna spend some time with this later! Thanks for sharing as they say. 🙂

  • Skatt
    Posted at 08:41h, 24 September Reply

    Enhorabuena por el post y por el blog en general, tiene todo muy buena pinta, espero que estos ejericios y los que publiques en el futuro me ayuden a mejorar mis cutres dibujos 😛

  • Diana
    Posted at 14:52h, 26 September Reply

    jaja, gracias por ponerlos aquí 😛 el pajarito me quedó idéntico y la verdad que en el último ejercicio, me pareció casi imposible terminarlo en 45s! !Saludos!

  • JMChakon
    Posted at 18:18h, 28 September Reply

    Increible! esto me viene de lujo… intento dibujar… pero nada, no me sale con el papel en blanco 🙁 a ver si avanzo con tu clases 😉 GRACIAS!!

  • laurice
    Posted at 04:35h, 01 October Reply

    Quiero aprender español..

  • inedeo
    Posted at 22:04h, 01 October Reply

    HOLA saludos Sergio excelente tu blog y el nuevo diseño quedo expectacular y los temas muy bueno estos tutoriales estan muy bueno a practicar se dijo GRACIAS de nuevo.

  • Iriza-D
    Posted at 01:19h, 04 October Reply

    Decir gracias seria poco, mi muestra de admiracion es empezar a manchar el papel con grafito y sudor..

  • Diana
    Posted at 01:43h, 06 October Reply

    hey, que friki, solo yo he enviado mis dibus jaja 😛

  • Iriza-D
    Posted at 02:49h, 06 October Reply

    Mis dibujos no son lo q se llamen bonitos, asi q alomejor despues de hacerlo unas 30 veces me digne a mandarlos

  • josue esquive
    Posted at 22:00h, 06 January Reply

    Te mandaste!!! Uno de los mejores, debo decirte que con la poca experiencia que tengo,ver trabajos como estos te impulsa a continuar.

  • Fran
    Posted at 19:20h, 10 January Reply

    Buenas a todos, ayer mismo descubri este sitio,y solo puedo quitarme el sombrero frente a este pedazo de artista, por la calidad de sus trabajos, por su humildad de compartir sus conocimientos con todos los demas.Como he leido en otro comentario , este site me ha servido de motivacion para volver de nuevo a dibujar,sinceramente muchas gracias Sergio!

  • santiMalaka
    Posted at 18:15h, 27 January Reply

    wow! si señor!! esto es bastante útil, ahora estoy dibujando unos pollos y me vienen de maravilla para construir el personaje, necesito practicar mucho, pero bueno…en fin, muchísimas gracias Sergio! un saludo.

  • krish
    Posted at 12:48h, 17 March Reply

    Nice one.. looking for more in future…

  • Nitesh
    Posted at 16:26h, 26 October Reply

    hi sergio

    This would be helpful.But my problem is i can draw cartoon face by imagination but when i try to draw hands,leg and body.Every thing gets messed up.Face drawing is easy for me.

    Please suggest how do i improve it.

  • Sergio Ordonez
    Posted at 16:33h, 26 October Reply

    Hi Nitesh, I replied in your other comment.

    Please, check this link: http://tracyjb.deviantart.com/art/Lackadaisy-How-to-Draw-34701897

    It´s all about practice.

  • Nicolás
    Posted at 03:02h, 13 November Reply

    Esas siluetas estan dibujadas con una tableta digital?, o en hoja con algun marcador?.

    Siempre me gusto dibujar, desde que era chico pero al pasar los años deje de hacerlo y me concentre en otras cosas. Pero en esa epoca era muy bueno, podia dibujar cualquier personaje de dragon ball bastante similar al original (aunque tenia que estar viendolo), conocerte me dio esperanza de poder llegar a un nivel alto. Pensaba que para poder hacer trabajos como los tuyos necesitaba muchisimo talento y por ese motivo jamas volvi a dibujar. Hoy en dia estoy oxidadisimo, no puedo dibujar ni un cuadrado.

    Al leer lo que vos decias sobre que tu “talento” es practica practica y mas practica me volvio a dar esas ganas de dibujar. Como futuro diseñador grafico y web dibujar es la clave para sobresalir entre la multitud, no solo para mascotas y logos, sino tambien para hacer iconos o algunos detalles para nuestros proyectos que sean unicos y de gran impacto visual que no todos puedan conseguir bajandolos de algun stock.

    Estoy practicando entre media hora y una hora las siluetas, hoy es mi 2do dia y realmente mejore bastante, las primeras 10 siluetas fueron un asco, en ninguna podia decir que estaban haciendo mis siluetas XD.

    Tus siluetas son tan simples, pero tan buenas al mismo tiempo, espero que con practica y horas mas bien AÑOS pueda tener tu nivel, saludos y mil gracias Sergio!.

  • Sergio Ordonez
    Posted at 11:02h, 13 November Reply

    Hola Nicolás, muchas gracias 🙂

    Las siluetas están hechas con Wacom Cintiq directamente en Photoshop, pero eso es lo de menos, puedes usar papel y lápiz para practicar.

    Te animo a que sigas practicando, con mucha práctica y un poco de talento puedes llegar donde quieras.

    Mándame por email algunas de tus siluetas que las pongo en el post.


  • Nicolàs
    Posted at 14:11h, 13 November Reply

    Voy a hacer algunas siluetas en photoshop cuando no este tan oxidado asi te las puedo pasar, porque no tengo un scaner para subir los dibujos en lapiz, aunque es una de las cosas que tengo pensado comprar.

  • babi00
    Posted at 21:40h, 19 March Reply

    Thank you very much for your exercises! I’ll try to. Your work is very usefull! Thank you for all your hard work!

  • ...
    Posted at 13:47h, 14 August Reply

    Why you haven’t wrote that not everybody can learn? I copy since 3 years, i draw from references from abut one year and i still can’t draw at all from memory.

    • Sergio Ordonez
      Posted at 08:06h, 19 August Reply

      Absolutely everybody can learn to draw, 3 years drawing and no progress? You are doing something wrong. 

  • Cindy Glass
    Posted at 02:12h, 29 September Reply

    I`m doing very good progress now!  p.s. this is Cindy`s 10 year old daughter. 😀

  • joe...l
    Posted at 04:16h, 20 December Reply

    Sergio dejame decirte que soy un fan de tu estilo ,desde que por casualidad me encontre uno de tus tutoriales buscando en el internet,.
    me gustaria saber si me pudieras dar una sugerencia en como afinar los strokes , ya que ese es uno de mis mayores retos por el momento,aunque obtengo la figura adecuada, Siempre las lineas no me quedan tan limpias como quisiera.

  • Kevin. Smith
    Posted at 14:45h, 30 September Reply

    Thank you for this great compilation of videos tips tricks and concept ideas!

  • Donald
    Posted at 16:21h, 23 February Reply

    to all commenters… ENGLISH.. do you speak it?

    • sergio ordonez
      Posted at 17:22h, 23 February Reply

      This is a bilingual blog and everybody is welcome to use Spanish or English.

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