07 Aug 7 best drawing exercises to create amazing 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…
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 little to no effort.
1.- Rebuild a character like a pro.
Drawing Exercise: pick a professional mascot character you like and rebuild the structure like a master. In the following video I give you a few tips:
- 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.
- 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.
- Painting shadows. If you don’t fully understand a volume, try adding shadowing, it will help you a lot.
- 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.
- Draw hidden parts and then overlay elements. Observe how I drew the hand, then the fingers and finally the keys.
- Add details at the end, only when your character’s structure is solid. Starting just the opposite is a very common newbie mistake.
- Create horizontal lines adapted to the volume, it helps you to understand how to place elements.
- 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.
What do we learn?: When we start learning to draw, 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.
Some examples of good actions lines in action poses.
What do we learn?: 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.
Here you can see some of my best silhouettes for a basketball player
Good tips to learn how to draw dynamic poses!
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.
Image and character design property of Disney.
Good drawing tips!
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).
I want to learn to draw like this!
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:
Image courtesy of Cedric’s Blog
Good drawing tips for beginners
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.
Original draw courtesy of Loisa
What do we learn?: when we are not experts we tend to draw 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.
More drawing resources
Let’s create digital mascot characters!
I created some courses with all my Photoshop tips and tricks about digital inking and digital coloring for mascot design. With my technique and some practice you can also make a living from the characters you imagine.