We have all seen caricatures, but you might not know the actual name of the picture itself. A caricature is almost like a cartoon and is somewhere between a portrait and cartoon style drawing. Caricatures are fun, humorous, and are designed to not only look like the subject you’re drawing, but to exaggerate certain features, whilst minimizing others. Put simply, the end result of a caricature should be that someone smiles or laughs when they see it.
Caricature drawing is an art form, but it is something that can be learned – great news! You might be rolling your eyes and wondering how you’re ever going to be able to master the art of drawing alone, let alone caricature art, but bear with it!
Practice really does make perfect, and there are plenty of resources out there which can help you create the ideal first picture. Sites such as Learn to Draw give you plenty of practical advice, and can help you understand the subtle skills that are needed to draw the specific lines and different features of caricatures.
It is true that some people are more creative than others, and that some people will find it much easier to begin drawing than others too, but bear with it! The process is fun and therapeutic too.
First things first, however, let’s break down the differences between caricature drawings and regular portraits.
What Are the Main Features of Caricatures?
You will no doubt have seen a caricature before, it is a drawing which jumps off the page in many ways, and is also of a person or situation. The person looks very recognizable, so it’s not the case that you are distorting them out of place, but they are supposed to be enhanced in many ways. For instance, if you were drawing Mick Jagger, you would pick out his most prominent feature, e.g. his lips, and you would enhance them further, to create a funny, yet true to life picture.
If you were drawing Donald Trump, you might pick out his mouth to exaggerate, as he is known for having many opinions – it doesn’t have to be a physical feature that is prominent, it can be a well-known personality trait, that can be displayed in their physical appearance.
The difference between a regular portrait picture and a caricature is really in the likeness. There is a fine line, because you want your caricature to be recognizable, but you don’t want it t be totally the same as they look in real life. You are basically taking a portrait, and you’re messing it up a little, to make it humorous and recognizable at the same time. Caricatures make great gifts, especially of their favorite celebrities, but you can do a caricature of anyone, it doesn’t have to be a famous person!
If you’re doing a caricature of a friend, be sure not to insult them however! You are enhancing for fun, not for any other reason!
What Equipment do You Need to Draw Caricatures?
There isn’t a whole amount of special equipment needed when you decide to go into the world of caricatures. Basically, you need the following:
- Paper! Of course, this is a must-have! A4 plain paper is best, as it gives you plenty of space to be able to exaggerate and go crazy. If you go for a sheet of paper that is too small, you will be too restricted and this could cause issues when you are trying to pick out the parts of the face that need to be made bigger, causing you to go too small and compromise on recognizability.
- Eraser. You’re going to be working with pencil, not pen, so you need to be able to correct your mistakes. There is no way you can draw caricatures with a pen, because you need to try things out, and pen is more permanent. Go for a white eraser, as colored ones may leave a mark on your page.
- Pencil sharpener. Don’t try and work with pencils which are retractable, e.g. the ones that you click at the top to show the lead. Instead, you need to be working with pencils that you sharpen yourself, and that requires a pencil sharpener. Literally, an old-fashioned, small pencil sharpener is best here, as you don’t want to over sharpen your pencil. If you do this, it will affect the lines you are drawing. The closed pencil sharpeners, e.g. the ones that collect the rubbish, and which don’t allow you to see when the pencil is adequately sharpened. Therefore, go old-fashioned here, and pick up your own mess!
- Pencils. We have mentioned the types of pencils already, e.g. the regular type, but what grade? Pencils come in many different types, and for caricatures, you need to be drawing strong, bold, and confident lines. A lad which is too soft is going to give you softer lines, and these aren’t bold enough for this type of art. Instead, you need to go for a harder lead, such as those found in 5B or 4B pencils. Having said that, art is about experimentation and it is about getting it right for you. Try different types of pencils and see which work best for you, but try the 5B or 4B option first and see how you go.
- Blender. This is a definite must-have. We have just talked about the fact that caricature art is about bold lines, but it is also about shading, to allow you to pull out the features that need exaggeration, and send the others into the background, whilst still being there. A blending tool is how you do that. You can buy these very cheaply, but you need to prepare your blender before you use it. You do this by basically drawing all over it! Yes, really! Grab a sheet of paper and scribble all over it with your pencil. Next, take your blender and roll it around on the paper, loading it up with as much lead as you can. Now, try and draw a line with the blender and see how it blends lines. If it is covered enough, then it will blend lines easier than if it is blank.
How to Draw Caricatures
We have talked about caricatures and what they are, and we know that this type of art is about exaggerating and minimizing certain features, in order to create a humorous likeness. Basically, caricatures are about two things – proportion and perspective.
You are drawing contours of the face that are accurate, and you are shading in the right places. If you do this, you get a likeness of a portrait, and then you mess it all up by picking out the features to blow up!
A good example of proportion is the eyes. For instance, if you are drawing a portrait and you draw someone’s eyes too far apart, or too close together, it is going to change the entire picture and make it look totally unlike the person you’re trying to draw. The features need to be accurately sited, but the size and exaggeration can be different in caricature drawing, i.e. proportions aren’t as important as in portrait drawing.
Caricatures are the same as cartoon drawing in so many ways, but as we keep mentioning, the proportions are exaggerated or minimized, depending on the person you’re drawing. Again, it’s definitely worth checking out online tools for helping you start your caricature career or hobby. It is all very well and good telling you how to draw caricatures in words, but you need to see images ad step by step pictures! Sites such as Learn to Draw, therefore, are fantastic for beginners.
Step 1 – Set up Your Work Station
Find a place to work that isn’t restrictive in terms of space. You need plenty of room to spread out and be creative! If you can sit near a window all the better, because the natural light will be able to help you decide whether to do the shading, as opposed to harsh, unnatural light. If you can’t do this, however, a lamp will do the job too.
Make sure you all have all the equipment you need, e.g. plenty of paper, your eraser, pencil sharpener, and a range of pencils. It is also good to have a printed-out photo of the person you are going to be drawing. You could, of course, find an online source, but we know that batteries on technology don’t last forever!
Make sure are comfortable, and make sure that your chair is set up for comfort too. You are likely to be sitting at your station, creating and changing things for quite a while, and you don’t want to be straining your back or neck.
Step 2 – Analyze Your Subject
Look at the photo of the person you’re going to be drawing very carefully. What are their main features? What are they well known for famous for? Is there a personality trait you can incorporate into your drawing? We mentioned Donald Trump earlier, and he really is a shining example of how to create personality traits as a visible sign in a caricature drawing. He is known for his loud opinions, like it or not, and you can show that in your caricature, to create a real image.
Take that photo and write down a few ideas. Brainstorm the main features and what that person is known for. If it’s the lips, e.g. Mick Jagger or Angelina Jolie, then plan to make them bigger. If its someone who is known for being sexy, play up the eyes. If it’s someone who has razor-sharp cheekbones, then you need to play on that feature.
Of course, caricatures aren’t only about maximizing and exaggerating, it’s about minimizing too. Are there any features that you could play down, which would ironically exaggerate another normally sized feature that is pertinent to the person?
Step 3 – Start with The Eyes
Most artists, whether caricature artists or otherwise, begin drawing the eyes first. This is because you can create your entire picture around the eyes, and it also ensures that you begin drawing in the center of the page, and you don’t run out of room as you go. You should begin drawing the eyes just a little above the center of the page and then draw outwards from there.
Step 4 – Move onto The Exaggerated Feature
Next up, you need to begin drawing the feature that is going to be exaggerated, e.g. the key feature that you identified from the photo or picture. The scale of this totally depends on the subject, i.e. if you’re going for those Jagger lips, you would need to go super big, to counteract the size of them in real life. That sounds insulting, but it’s not meant that way! Consider the subject, he is known for his large lips, so you need to go super big to be able to fit in with the caricature drawing style.
Step 5 – Keep Your Lines Bold
The key feature of caricatures is not about detail, it is about lines. When drawing caricature pictures, the lines need to be confident, bold, they need to stand out, and they need to be strong. When you begin to draw, make sure you press into the page and really mean the line, e.g. don’t be shy! The lines need to be black and they need to be thick. We mentioned earlier about the pencil not being over sharpened, and this is really the whole point of why.
When a pencil is sharpened too much, e.g. it is very pointed, it will create fine lines, lines which are more grey than they are black. This is ideal for portrait drawing and for sketching, but not for caricatures. Blunt pencils are best, and the thick and hard lead type is best, e.g. we mentioned 5B or 4B pencils.
Step 6 – Keep Your Shadows Light
In total contrast to thick and confident lines, your shadowing needs to be subtle, so as not to take over the actual line itself. You will use your shading tool for this part of the process, and make sure that you prepare it properly before you begin, using the process we mentioned in our equipment section. This is important because if you don’t do this part properly, your shading will not compliment the line at all. There is a difference between a light shadow and a weak shadow – you need to go towards the side of light.
Step 7 – Never Over-Detail the Hair
The difference between portrait drawing and caricature drawing is really evident when drawing hair. When you are drawing this part of the picture, you will simply draw the outline of the hair, with a few lines to show texture and length; you won’t draw individual hairs, as you would do if you were creating a portrait. This is one of the big similarities between caricature drawing and cartoon drawing, because you would do the same thing if you were drawing a cartoon.
Step 8 – Evaluate Before You Finalize
When you have done your first draft, take a long and hard look at it. Compare it to the original photo. Can you see a real likeness? The picture should look very much like the person it is supposed to be, not unrecognizable. If it doesn’t quite look like him or her, you need to go back to the drawing board and tweak. Are the main maximized features bold enough? Again, look carefully and tweak if necessary.
The beauty of drawing in pencil is that you can easily erase a few bits here and there and re-design, without having to go back to scratch!
Remember that the first go is going to take you a long time. You are not a professional, and you cannot be expected to whip up a caricature in ten minutes! It doesn’t matter how many edits you do before you are happy with the final piece, just take your time.
The important thing, however, is that once you have a real likeness and you have the right features exaggerated, you need to stop! Put the pencil down and don’t go over the top! This is when you risk creating a picture that doesn’t quite look like the person it is supposed to, and one of the key skills in drawing a caricature is knowing when to stop and step away from the process.
Practice Certainly Makes Perfect
When learning how to draw caricatures you need to remember that you have to put in the practice time, but always make sure that it is fun! The whole ethos of a caricature is that it is humorous and that it makes people laugh. The process should be equally as fun, and it should be something that you take pride in, something that you enjoy. Take your time, remember that you’re not going to get it right straight away, persevere, and just keep practicing. You will definitely get there in the end, but in the meantime? Enjoy!