Using basic shapes as a starting point for a cartoon character design is a much more fun and flexible approach than limiting yourself to more realistic proportions. The shapes you use will also determine what kind of personality your character might have.
In this short how-to-draw blog, we’re going to look at some basic shapes you can use to create your cartoon characters.
What are the basic shapes for characters?
The most commonly used shapes are circles, squares and triangles.
- Circles (and ovals) don’t have any hard edges and suggest a softer and kinder character. Using rounded shapes in your character shows that they are friendly and safe.
- Squares (and rectangles) have a solid and compact appearance and feel robust.
- A triangle has all sharp angles and will come across as dynamic and confident, or maybe even dangerous! It also suggests balance and stability.
By combining these shapes, you can create fun and visually exciting characters. Some examples of characters created using this method are below.
Exaggerating the basic character shapes
You can create more contrast in your character design by altering the size of each shape used. Start by breaking your character into three – the head, body and legs. Try not to limit yourself to a realistic body frame, because it will result in a less exciting outcome.
You could try altering the height of the head, body and legs to make the character more exciting.
Don’t forget to experiment with the widths of these shapes too. Have some wider than others and some narrower for more dynamics.
Once you have your shapes in place, you can join them together with a simple outline. Don’t forget to use some additional shapes to make up the details!
Some examples of cartoon characters
Below are a few examples of how you might draw cartoon characters with basic shapes.
Circular mother cartoon character
Some rounded shapes are a perfect choice for a friendly cartoon mother character.
The shape has been repeated in different sizes in her design, helping to make her friendly and approachable. Exactly the traits you’d like in a motherly character!
Triangular villain cartoon character
I’ve drawn this cartoon villain using a narrow triangle as the mainstay.
The pointy shoulders and head help to emphasise his appearance and lend a villainous feel. I’ve also made the legs the longest element, adding to his serpentine feel.
Square pirate cartoon character
A square shape has been used as the dominant form of this cartoon pirate character to suggest he’s stubborn and strong.
Supporting rounder shapes have been used for his head and limbs to show he’s not all bad.
Tip: When you’ve finished drawing your character, flip them the opposite way. This will allow you to see if there are any obvious flaws or if your character is leaning too much toward one side.