How to Draw Cute Cartoon Characters

Male cartoon character giving a thumbs up.

ladieruvbx/Pixabay

A cute cartoon boy or girl can be made into a talking animal character. It's a great introduction to cartooning and allows you to create a great variety of characters using a simple and very familiar body form.

Understanding the Archetype in Cartooning

This form of cartooning is called an archetype. Archetypes help us to communicate ideas about different types of characters and it is a way to describe something that is universally accepted.

We have "cute character" archetypes as well as archetypes for superheroes, manga characters, and other popular drawing styles used in cartooning and comics. These stylistic characteristics will become more apparent once you realize that they exist. You will be able to recognize them everywhere you look.

How to Draw Cute Cartoons

While the details of the cute character archetype vary, you'll recognize this general style of character from many favorite cartoons. Just look at Charlie Brown, Atom Ant, Felix the Cat, and even the Smurfs.

The body for all of these cute characters is basically the same. They often include big heads with small bodies, arms, and legs. While drawing, you can keep the character very neutral, or use styles of hair and clothing to make the gender (or species) more obvious.

Certain character types will be less similar between genders, but because the cute character takes its features from children's features, these characters are quite similar regardless of gender. They represent a time in life before the body fully matures into an adult or adolescent form, and thus gives it the "cute" appearance. So, as you will see, you can use these basic principles to create a boy, girl, or animal characters.

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Basic Proportions

Childish or babyish characters, like the Japanese Chibi character, take the basic proportions of a small child and exaggerate them by making the head larger than the body. You can see that the whole body is about two and half times the size of the head. 

Start Drawing Your Cartoon

  • Begin drawing your cartoon character by drawing the head. It should be a nice, round circle.
  • Add a smaller circle for the character's tummy below the first circle.
  • Add circles and ovals for hands and feet and join them with stick legs and curving line for the arms.

This will form the basis for all the variations of this character. If you imagine a pair of big round ears, this framework looks just like Mickey Mouse.

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Draw the Hands and Begin the Face

Next, we need to give our character hands and complete the simple lines connecting the body parts.

  • Draw two slightly curving lines between the head and tummy to complete the body.
  • More simple lines complete the arms and legs.
  • Four digits complete the hands (five often looks too cluttered).The hands are kind of big, but usually a smaller size than the head.

Start Drawing the Face

When drawing the face, make a "cross" through the head to help center it, put the line going left-to-right lower than the center. This will help make the forehead look bigger, thus making the character seem younger.

Putting the face is at a slight angle helps to create a more three-dimensional, interesting look. So rather than a symmetrical cross through the middle of the circle, draw it so that it is curved to one side.

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Give the Character Some Personality

Continue filling in details of your cartoon's face. Try to get your lines to be smooth and round. It can take a bit of practice.

  • Don't place the eyes too high on the head. You want the eyes to be level.
  • Make sure the eyes are big, and the nose and mouth are smaller. Big eyes seem innocent and help create the younger, cuter appeal.
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Drawing Hair and Clothing

Now add a spiky, fun haircut, a simple t-shirt, and some lace-up shoes. Simple is usually the best approach for these. You can change the character's appearance with just a few details. For a girl character, use a more traditionally feminine haircut and a pink shirt.

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Making Cartoon Girls and Boys Look Different

The classic cute cartoon body type works for both male and female characters because it illustrates a character that is not physically mature.

The cartoonist needs to use details to suggest which character is female and which is male. These details include clothing color, hairstyle, eyelashes, and optionally, lips for females. With lip color and jewelry (such as earrings), be careful not to use colors and styles which should be reserved for older characters.

Sometimes, drawing a character that is obviously a boy or girl means using stereotypes. If you want to avoid these, you'll need to be creative in your thinking. The other option is to accept that rejection of stereotypes also means having fewer visual cues to gender identity. It is your choice whether or not this matters for your character.

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Draw Cute Animal Characters

Taking the same basic shapes, we can easily turn the character into an animal just by adding whiskers.

Draw a Female Cat

In the cartoonist's animal kingdom, females are best recognized by their eyelashes! That one small detail is enough to give the viewer a visual cue about gender.

  • Add triangular ears, a thick tail, and some bushy, whiskery face hair.
  • Tabby stripes are another good visual cue, or you might like to try the classic black and white Felix the Cat coloring.

Draw a Male Mouse

The face of the mouse is almost identical to the cat's, just without the eyelashes.

  • Draw big, round, Mickey Mouse-style ears and add a thin mouse tail.
  • Give your character that classic gray mouse coloring, or opt for the browns we see in characters like Speedy Gonzales.