If you’re an aspiring illustrator, game designer or simply an artist looking to try something new, learning how to draw cartoon characters is the perfect way to hone your creative skills and let your imagination run wild.

Some of the world’s most beloved characters are cartoons you can use for inspiration. You won’t find a right or wrong way to go when drawing cartoon characters, so how you create yours is entirely up to you.

How to Draw Memorable Cartoon Characters

Becoming a cartoonist takes years of practice, but the likes of Walt Disney, Jim Henson, Matt Groening and Hanna-Barbera all started where you are. Check out their work before you pick up a pencil, and think about exactly how you want your cartoon characters to look.

Funny Cartoon Characters

Humor is subjective, of course. But making someone laugh with a cartoon character you’ve designed and drawn yourself is an incredible feeling. 

Three cartoon cats drawn in pencil, each with a different facial expression from laughing to sad.
Facial features are one of the best ways to emphasize humor with your cartoon characters.
Still from Skillshare class The Ultimate Guide to Drawing Cartoon Characters by Maria Avramova.

No matter what type of character you’re making, one of the best ways to infuse humor into your drawing is by giving your cartoon a distinctive shape or mannerism, such as a unique facial expression or wacky hairstyle. Deliberately subverting the viewer’s expectations of the cartoon instantly adds an element of fun.

If you’re struggling with a place to start, work backward from another character design you already have. Instead of starting over, remove one part of the character’s face and draw it again, but with differences. That could be making one eye much bigger than the other or redrawing their nose in a vastly different proportion to how it was previously.

Cute Cartoon Characters

Much like funny characters, cute cartoons often emphasize features in a way that a realistic drawing of a person or creature wouldn’t. Think about some cartoon characters you love—many likely have big heads or eyes to make them more lovable. So when you’re learning how to draw cute cartoon characters of your own, be inspired by what already exists.

Since the focus is on oversized outward appearances, these are some of the most straightforward cartoon characters to draw. Especially for beginner artists, you can focus on the one area of emphasis while keeping the rest of the cartoon character straightforward.

Cartoon pens, a pencil, eraser, and piece of paper, all with smiley faces on them against a yellow-striped background.
Even the simple task of adding a face can turn your drawing into a cute cartoon character.
Screenshot from Skillshare class How to Draw Cute Cartoon Chibi Characters by Ecky O.

Something as simple as adding a face to a drawing of an object, such as a balloon or even a pencil or pen can transform an everyday item into a super cute cartoon character.

Female Cartoon Characters

Whenever you’re drawing girl cartoon characters, the key is to remember how you’re going to distinguish them from any male characters you draw. 

Much like if you were drawing a realistic person, getting the anatomical proportions right from the start will make your female cartoon more accurate. Female cartoon characters typically have a smaller waist with exaggerated eyes or lips compared to male characters. 

A female cartoon character drawn in pencil with red wavy hair, brown shorts and a blue flannel shirt.
Female cartoon characters are typically identified by their hair and more defined waist shape.
Still from Skillshare class How to Sketch & Draw Cartoon Character with Colored Pencil by Amelie Braun.

Clothing also makes a big difference in identifying your characters. Using character generators is an excellent place to start building a backstory and identity for your character. From that point, you can draw female-leaning clothing to fit with the personality you want your girl cartoon character to have.

Male Cartoon Characters

Even if your boy cartoon characters don’t look like real-life humans, you still want to get their body proportions correct. In contrast to female characters, male cartoons usually have slightly broader shoulders and bigger legs, especially if you’re trying to draw a cartoon with muscles.

A male cartoon character riding a red rocket with purple and gold flames, with the sketchbook placed on a green table surrounded by colored pens.
Clothing and facial features are ideal ways to identify your cartoon character as a male.
Screenshot from Skillshare class How to Draw Cartoon Characters: A Complete Character Design Crash Course for Beginners by Sunit Kumar.

Using reference images can be helpful as you learn to draw cartoon characters. You’ll be able to work on individual body parts which mirror your reference, making your male cartoon character more believable. Once you’re finished, you can add clothing or any specific facial features to identify your character as male.

Black Cartoon Characters

Like other human-based cartoons, you’ll want to draw a male or female shape first, then move on to more defining features in their face and body. 

Remember, you should think beyond what’s on the page when developing character design ideas. Everything about your character’s visual appearance should be informed by who they are in the broadest sense—how old are they? What do they like to do? What kind of style do they have?

A Black male cartoon character wearing a yellow plaid shirt, red ascot and a beige hat smiles from the page.
Emphasis for Black cartoon characters should be on their hair texture and skin tone.
Still from Skillshare class Character Design Crash Course; Dynamic Design in Four Steps by Melissa Lee.

One of the essential parts to study is the texture of your character’s hair. Braids and curls may be tricky to get right the first time, but look at reference photos of Black models and try to copy the same hair pattern for your cartoons.

The expressive features of anime cartoon characters are a good starting point for understanding how to draw cartoon eyes for your Black characters. You’ll also want to consider the colors you use for your characters, particularly when choosing a shade for their skin.

Dog Cartoon Characters

Depending on the breed you’re trying to recreate, dog cartoon characters can be incredibly simple to draw. Think about what you love most about dogs—they’re usually cuddly, with big paws and cute faces.

Learning the basics of cartoon character design first will help you get your dog’s anatomy correct. Their limbs bend differently from those of a human, and they spend their life on four legs instead of two, so make sure you’re factoring those elements into your design.

Drawing dog legs can be difficult, though. To simplify your drawing, a seated dog is a good place for beginners to start since you don’t have to worry as much about movement in your drawing. 

A reference photo of a golden retriever with a cartoon version of the image next to it.
A reference image is an excellent place to start when drawing dog cartoon characters, particularly for getting the ears and eyes correct. Still from Skillshare class How to Draw Cartoon Dog Pet Portrait by Ecky O.

Your dog cartoon character will become its own unique design once you add the ears. Since every breed is different, this is where you’ll distinguish what exactly your cartoon dog is. Drawing dog ears is easy when you break them down into one of two options—triangles on the top of the head for pointy ears or teardrops hanging down from the side of the head for floppy ears.

Cat Cartoon Characters

While dogs are generally happy-go-lucky personalities, cats can have a mind of their own. Incorporating independence and a hint of sassiness into your cat cartoon characters will make them even more believable and lovable.

Cat cartoons usually have a bigger proportion difference than cartoon dogs, with more oversized heads than bodies to emphasize their facial features. This is especially true if you’re leaning into the big Puss-in-Boots style eyes or making your cat an evil villain with sharper-angled eyes and a smirking grin.

A kawaii-style cartoon cat drawing in black and white.
Take inspiration from Japanese animations and cartoons when working on easy cat cartoon characters.
Still from Skillshare class How to Draw Cute and Kawaii Cartoon Cat by Ecky O.

The easiest cat cartoons to draw are often Japanese-inspired characters. Kawaii-style cats are essentially oval blobs with two little ears on top and a few simple lines and dots for facial features. You’re likely familiar with the most famous kawaii cat, Hello Kitty, with Dutch rabbit Miffy also embodying this unique style.

Easy Cartoon Characters

The simplest cartoon characters are typically made up of only a few simple shapes, which makes them perfect for beginners to draw. Go back to your basic art skills and break down your overall character design into shapes such as squares, circles, and triangles.

A digital cartoon of a blue and gray owl standing on a monochrome branch and looking out with big eyes.
Most cartoons can be broken down into simple shapes such as circles and lines.
Still from Skillshare class Digital Illustration: Easy Simple Shaped Cartoons by Deanna Sheehan.

Easy-to-draw cartoon characters can be as impactful and loved as those with complicated designs. Ever heard of SpongeBob SquarePants or Tweety Bird? Even newer cartoons such as the Minions are just oval shapes with some arms and legs, with their facial features being the most distinctive part (and even those are easy to draw!).

Try not to let a complicated idea stop you from drawing a cartoon character. Instead, break your design into its core elements and build outwards from then on.

Unleash Your Inner Cartoonist!

You don’t need to make your cartoon characters complicated. Start with what you know, especially if you’ve worked on other art pieces before. 

Think about what exactly you want your character to look like before you begin drawing and how you can incorporate their personality into different design elements. Once you have those ideas nailed down, you’re ready to crack on with crafting your unique character!

Make Your Own Character!

Introduction to Cartoon Character Design

Written By

Holly Landis

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