Anyone who’s ever doodled in a school notebook knows how much fun it is to draw characters. And, whether it’s just your hobby or you have larger plans to be an illustrator, learning how to draw a character—either an original creation or one that already exists—is the first step in your artistic journey.

The good news is, it’s not that difficult! With some practice in the basics and some imagination, you’ll be churning out character drawings in no time. Here are a few tips that will help you get started and, hopefully, kickstart your personal creativity.

How to Draw Characters

There are a lot of ways to start drawing characters, and many different artists will have suggestions of where to start. The fact is, if you have paper and pencil, you’re 90% of the way there. 

If you’re really looking to up your character sketching game, here are two tips that will give you a head start.

Study Anatomy

There are countless resources out there that can help you with drawing human anatomy. For example, the Loomis Method and the Reilly Method are two different approaches to drawing heads and faces that many professional illustrators use.

Having a grasp on human and animal anatomy and proportions will make it so much easier to sketch a character of your own—if you know the rules, you’ll know how to effectively break them and add a ton of dynamics to your character drawing.

Create a Character Template

A character template is a common tool of illustrators who are drawing a new character. The template consists of several questions of your own choosing that will help bring a character to life. This can be family background, where they live, how they interact with the world, and any defining adjectives for the character. 

For example, a boy who was raised in a secluded mansion will look much different that a boy who was raised by wolves in the jungle. Get as detailed as you can in your character template so that you have a good sense of their background, personality, and story before you sit down to draw.

Easy Characters to Draw

The Tortoise 

turtles with top hats
Experimenting with color theory can result in totally different characters from the same sketch.

Sometimes a hat really brings a character to life. Illustrator Claire Lordon uses a top hat for this tortoise to help emphasize that they are a little bit older and a little bit old-fashioned. Change the hat, and you can have an entirely different character.

You can also experiment with colors to give your character a unique feel. The monochromatic blue tortoise looks a little more flashy than the traditional green and brown one above it.

Balloon Bear

bear with a balloon
This bear is created basically from one shape—the oval body.

Artist Lisa Glanz demonstrates how to look at a real reference and boil it down into its component parts. For this bear, she focuses on the main pear shape of the body to give the character a charming, huggable personality. Adding in small details of the face and sweet accessories helps a lot, too.

Find your own reference photos and try tracing over them, isolating the different shapes that make up the body. Diminishing or exaggerating some of them will help you create your own unique character.

Cool Characters to Draw

Once you have the foundations, there are so many cool things you can try to make. Here are a few ideas to get you started with cool characters of your own.

Gil and The Trident

Artist Ira Marks uses a class mascot to tell a story through his character drawing.

Sometimes you can approach a character drawing with a story first and image second. The character of Gil, pictured above, has an entire backstory that was created by the artist. Knowing this story allows him to imagine dynamic scenarios into which he can insert Gil.

This is a great place to practice your character template—the defining traits of your character that you can translate into the drawing.

The Musicians

illustration of people
Bright colors and big shapes make this character drawing stand out.

Proving that the body is just a series of different shapes, artist Anastacia Sholik exaggerates the human form for this colorful, dynamic piece. The focus is less about being anatomically correct—even though it’s still very clear these are human beings—and more about the poses and colors used. 

Drawing like this can give you much more freedom when it comes to anatomy. Try creating your own version of this work with alternate poses to see just how far you can push reality while still creating a recognizable image.

Cute Characters to Draw

Who doesn’t love making something cute? Whether it’s an animal or a new style you’ve never tried before, give these cute character drawings a go.

Happy Elephant

elephant sketch
When you sketch characters, start off with basic shapes and then add details.

In this sketch, you’ll notice the light blue lines underneath the darker drawing. These lines block out the basic shape of a character, as well as provide guidelines for the character’s face. All characters can be broken down into shapes; in this case, a circle for the head and torso, tubes for the arms and legs, triangles for the ears.

Adjusting your guidelines will create a different look for your character. Try making the body much bigger than the head, or shifting the eyeline up or down to put your own spin on this elephant. 

Chibi Characters

happy food illustrations
Chibi is a style of art popular in Japanese anime and manga.

Chibi is a great example of how subtly playing with proportions can alter the look of a character. Often portrayed with short, squat bodies, large heads, and eyes that sit much lower on the face, the look is instantly recognizable. It’s hard not to smile when you see a chibi character.

Artist Ecky O does an excellent step-by-step walkthrough of the style guide for chibi illustration.

Simple Characters to Draw

If you’re looking for something simple and easy to get you started, try thinking about color or shape. Something as simple as a circle can really come to life when you add some character to it.

Orange Cartoon

illustrated dot
Simple shapes translate to simple characters.

For this simple character drawing, your starting point is a familiar shape: the circle. You could use any of your basic shapes; for example, a triangle could be a piece of cheese or slice of watermelon.

The mixture of face parts with the simple limb placement really gets you far in creating character. The third orange is celebrating with its hands in the air, while the fourth is happily dancing. Practice combining different eyes, mouths, and limbs on your basic shape.

Shape Monsters

shape monster illustrations
Amorphous shapes and colors are brought to life with simple lines.

Artist Hanny Augustine starts her character creation by drawing simple shapes with different colored markers. After doing this stream of consciousness shape creation, she will use the shape to inspire her details. 

As you attempt this kind of character drawing, try coming up with a little story for the character that can help influence your expressions and details. For example, the one-eyed triangle monster is an alien abandoned on Earth, trying to find a place to fit in.

Always Be Drawing

The fastest key to success in any artistic pursuit is to always practice, so make sure you are drawing every single day. Repetition will allow you to absorb drawing basics so that you can start a new character drawing much faster and more efficiently.

Soon enough, you will be able to expand your talents from pencil and paper to programs like Procreate, drawing environments for your characters to live in, and creating larger-scale works. Best of luck on your character drawing journey!

Start Your Drawing Journey!

Creating a Dynamic Character: Drawing a Head in 3/4 View—Face Drawing