How to Draw a Caricature
by: Mario Furmanczyk

n this tutorial, I'll cover some basic information on how to draw caricatures. I attained most of this knowledge from Gary Fasen and other artists who I worked with over the summer at Six Flags Great America. I thank them for helping me out so much and for being such great sources of inspiration.

It's difficult to become a good caricature artist. There are a few key elements to a caricature that will separate the good from the mediocre. Keep them in mind while drawing.

Likeness - This is obviously the most important element to a caricature. Without careful observation, likeness can be lost very easily. I recommend drawing/painting portraits regularly. It'll be very helpful when you start drawing caricatures.

Life - This is one of the elements that I had most problems with over the summer. At first, it's difficult to grasp the understanding of what actually gives a drawing life. But once you see good artists at work, you'll know if your drawings have life or not. Basically, a drawing that has life should convey some sort of emotion or personality. In caricature, try to capture that particular individual's personality/character. Don't paste the same expression on every face.

Exaggeration - Imagine a line with two ends on it. One end is labeled "Exaggerated Caricatures" and the other end is labeled " Portrait Caricatures" Every caricature artist finds some spot between the two ends. It could be a mixture of both or completely one-sided. It's up to you to decide what fits you best but I will recommend trying to walk that long line over to Exaggeration a few times. As an artist, it will help you tremendously to be experimental. As Grigor Eftimov and Paul Roustan once told me, "once you reach a comfort zone with your art, try something else". That's some of the best advice any artist can have.

Line Quality - In a caricature drawing (or any drawing), line quality is important. Sometimes, good line quality is all that is separating a mediocre drawing from a good drawing. One of the main things to keep in mind is to have your lines varied as much as you can. Varied lines are much more pleasing to the eye than flat boring lines. Make sure your lines are thicker where there are harder edges (under nose, mouth, chin, eyes, all outer lines) and softer where there is detail (wrinkles, facial structure).

Also, vary the thickness of your individual lines and keep them smooth and confident. Here is an example of what I mean. Notice how the lines on the left side are lifeless and boring. The lines on the right vary in weight, from thick to thin. This kind of line can add a very dynamic look to your drawings.

Composition - This is important for any picture that you draw. Boring compostition kills the life and energy of the drawing. Make your composition dynamic. There can be a full book written on composition alone so I'll focus on composition relating to them park caricatures. When I first started drawing caricatures this summer I tried squeezing the people onto a page side by side. (yuck) Gary Fasen took me aside and told me to think of it as if I were looking through a window, visualizing a 3 demensional space which was occupied by people. It's best to stack each person (shortest to tallest) behind each other in space. Also, make sure you leave some space up top for their heads. Here is an example.

The Foundation:

When you first begin to draw caricatures, it's a good idea to establish a foundation on which to build on. Once you're comfortable with the foundation procedure, feel free to experiment and break rules. I will introduce to you the most efficient process of drawing a caricature. This process was first streamlined by my boss, Gary Fasen.

First, grab your photo reference or if you're lucky, live model. The caricature that you will follow in this tutorial is just a generic caricature of a woman just to make the process clearer.

Eyes: Next, start with the eyes. When you're drawing a caricature, you don't want to be limited by drawing the outside of the face. Although, some artists lightly sketch out the perimeter of the face when they exaggerate a lot. But for the most part, you'll want to sketch in the top eyelids first (from left to right) and work from there. Pay attention to how far apart the eyes are and how big they are. Don't forget those particular relationships to the outside of the face. Make sure you have your lines thick and heavy. The upper eyelids are one of the most distinct edges on the face.

ITip: f you're right handed, start with the left side of face and then move over to the right side (so you can see what you're drawing). Plus, this will help prevent unwanted smudging.

Nose: After the eyes, draw in the outside nostrils of the nose (again, starting from left to right). Pay attention to the relationship between the eyes and nostrils. If the nostrils are big, don't be afraid to exaggerate there. Also, observe how far down the nostrils are in comparison to the eyes. Some people have long noses and some short. It's an opportunity to exaggerate, too. The nostril lines are thick but the structure on the tip of the lines require softer lines.

Mouth: After the nose is drawn in, the mouth is next. Pay attention to how far the mouth is from the nose. I had problems with this because I'd draw in the top line of the mouth at the right location but once I would draw in the top lip, it looked like there was no space between the nose and mouth. Watch out for that. Be aware of how pouty the top lip is. Next, look at how wide the mouth is. If it's a big mouth/smile, make sure to take that person for a ride! The mouth requires a heavy line and so does the bottom line of the lip (because of the shadow). Cool it with the top lip line because there isn't a harsh shadow there.

Chin/ Cheeks/ Jaw/ : In that order. Draw the chin first so you know when to end your jaw line. You can exaggerate here. If it's a small chin, don't hesitate to fold that bottom lip over the chin! And if it's a huge chin, well...i don't have to tell you much here. After that, draw in the cheeks (only if the person has distinct cheek bones) and then the jaw. If the person has a soft face, just draw one line for the cheek and jaw. All of these lines should be thick and heavy because they are very distinct edges on the face.

Ears: Some people have the funniest ears. Pay attention to the shape an go all out if they're big dumbo ears. Start with the left one and then the right.

Hairline: Sketch in the lines for the hairline and make sure you let them know if they have a big forehead or not. These lines shouldn't be very heavy.

Hair/head: Finish up the basic foundation of the caricature by drawing in the hair/head. Go wild on the hair if they have it. The outer perimeter of the head is an edge. Therefore, it needs a thick line.

Eyebrows: Sketch the eyebrows and make sure the value that you put down matches the model's eyebrow value. Some ppl have thick eyebrows and some have virtually no eyebrows. Here is a sketch of how the hairs of the eyebrow generally grow. You can always simplify the eybrow especially if you're looking for a more cartoony look.

Details: I left out the details so far because it's easy to get caught up in them. Once you start spending too much time on a particular part like the eyes, you can lose the "life" and likeness of the caricature pretty quick. So leave out the details until you get to this point. Usually, the details require a softer line.

Eyes: Draw in the bottom eyelid and the bags, too. Some people have bags, and some ppl don't. They are pretty important to sketch in (if the person has them) usually with a light line. Leave out the eyeballs till the end because they'll add a nice finishing punch to the drawing if you wait till it's done.

Nose: Sketch in the bridge of the nose. these lines shouldn't be very heavy. They're just there to show structure.

Cheeks: Draw in cheek structure. Some people have more than others especially depending on how much fat is on the cheeks.

The caricature is just about complete. Add in the minor details (facial hairs, moles, freckles) and the neck/body. After that, complete the rendering whether it's airbrush, colored pencil or just pencil.

This is a good foundation for you to get familiar with. This process breaks down caricature drawing to a simplified form. Best of all, every kind of person can be drawn using this system. Keep practicing and eventually you'll begin to branch out and create your own process of drawing. This usually happens when you begin to "feel" your way through the drawing. Good luck and I hope this tutorial helped you out. Email me if you have any suggestions.

Don't forget to check out my caricature gallery!


any questions? email me
All rights reserved © 2003 Mario Furmanczyk