Introduction: Let's Draw a Caricature!

About: I love making things, from sculpture to gadgets, caricatures to airbrushing. I'm always up for a DIY challenge!

Everyone likes to watch a caricature being drawn and most people like to have their likeness created. Caricature drawing is really about seeing and developing a style.

As I draw this caricature, I'll share notes about some features and alternative ways I treat them. So let's get started!


Paper- Computer printer paper works well for practice. I have paper cut to 12”x16” at a local paper supplier. A smooth surface is best.

Pencils or Markers- This is personal preference. I know artists that use markers or colored pencils. I prefer lead holders with 5B or 6B graphite to give a nice dark line, I use a 2mm thick lead for the facial features and a 5.5mm lead for everything else.

Blending stump- Called tortillons, this will be used to smear the lead to add shading in this Instructable. It can be used with some success with colored pencil as well. An alternative blending stump can be made by tightly rolling newspaper then gluing or taping it to hold it together. Sand the ends down to a dull stump. Then densely scribble a spot of lead on some scrap paper to transfer graphite or colored pencil to the stump.This tool will help add shading to your drawings.

Note on reference photos versus live caricatures: Live caricatures are easier to draw. You get to see the person in full 3D! Photos are flat and someone can look very different from photo to photo. If you are drawing from photos, try to get the largest photos you can, and get at least three, this will give you a better sense of facial features so you can better capture the person.

Step 1: Eyes

If your subject will be smiling, make sure they start now. The outside corner of the eyes get pushed up when smiling, so if they wait to smile until you draw the mouth, the drawing will not look right.

Draw the upper lid over the eyeball with a heavy line and the bottom lid with a thinner line. I use two unconnected lines on the lower lid so it seems to disappear. Thicker lines on overhang areas like the tops of eyes or bottoms of noses and lips create an illusion of shadow, while thin lines do the opposite.

Next add the eyelid, any eyelashes to the top lid, a parallel line to the outside lower eye line with a couple of tiny eyelashes and finally, a line or two to represent the orbiculus oculi, the muscle around the eye. If there are any crows feet around the eyes, you can add them now too.

I save the pupils and irises for last. They really bring the caricature to life and If you are drawing multiple people on one sheet of paper, placing the pupils too soon can throw off any eye contact between subjects.

I have added a few other examples of eyes so you can see different ways to capture various shapes.

Step 2: Eyebrows

We look funny without them, so do not forget them! Pay attention to shape, arch, starting and stopping points. Avoid drawing every hair, some dense squiggles for bushy brows or a smooth filled in outline for manicured eyebrows is fine.

Step 3: The Nose

This is typically the only place I sketch lightly first. I draw a light oval for the ball of the nose to determine placement and size. In this caricature, I start with drawing a heavy line for the main shape of the bottom of the nose. Next I add connecting lines between the eyes and the rest of the nose. A few extra lines give dimensions.

Step 4: The Mouth

To draw the mouth, start with the line over the teeth (the bottom of the upper lip). This should be a heavy line. Pay attention to how the two sides meet in the middle and how the lips rise or drop from this point. The corners of the mouth tuck into the cheeks, so add some lines or thickness to create this depth.

At this point you can either draw the bottom lip or the teeth. If the teeth extend over the lip, draw them first. Otherwise, finish the lips and add teeth, if visible. Next draw the top of the upper lip, or if your subject has a thin lip, don't draw it at all. Now is also when I add details on the lips, the top of the chin and the cheek lines. Remember dimples! I also added some hatch marks to the side of the nose.

Notes on teeth: Do not be afraid to draw big teeth big. Pay attention to the shape of visible teeth and create a shape to represent the bottom as a unit. Avoid drawing individual teeth. Any lines used to separate teeth should be short and not extend from top to bottom. Exceptions to this rule are gaps or missing teeth. Add the gum lines to also help separate the teeth.

Step 5: Face Outline and Ears

If you have a thick pencil, dull pencil or larger marker, this is where to use it. Varying line thickness within a drawing helps make it more interesting.

Start with the chin. This gives you a point to connect the sides of the face to. I sketched it in lightly for placement. Try drawing the sides of the face with as few lines as possible. This usually means you can do it in one, but sometimes two or three may be needed for prominent features like cheeks. Pay close attention to the shape and thickness of the face. The jaw angle is very important in achieving a likeness. It is a good idea when starting out to lightly draw in both sides of the face before committing to a heavy final line. Symmetry can be hard! On this three quarter view example, symmetry is not an issue.

Ears: Shape is important, but always simplify. Attempt to use 3 curves at most to create the outside of the ear; two will usually do. A few lines define the inside of the ear and some hatch marks create shadow.

Notes on ears: Everyone's ear are different from size to shape to placement. Paying attention to this can make a big difference in your final likeness. Sometimes drawing the ears and the hair happen at the same time.

You can tell your model to stop smiling for a while. :)

Step 6: Hair

Look closely at the shape and use quick strokes. Hair lines around the face are usually not drawn with solid lines. Working from the face outward works best for me. Using open lines can give the effect of hair growing out of the head instead of being stuck on. Any lines inside the outline of the hair should help define shape of the overall style. Coloring in dark hair completely only makes it look flat, so be sure to leave some areas of highlights to define shape.

Step 7: Neck and Body

Bodies can take longer than the head, so I only draw them when requested. I find a slightly undersized neck works well, but some people have large or thin necks, so go with what you see. Add an Adam's apple on men, some hatch marks for shadow under the chin or jaw and give a hint of shoulders if you want, you're the artist!

Step 8: Final Details

This is when I add fill in minor details. This includes the lines around the mouth, cheeks and the area of the forehead between the nose and above the eyes. Freckles are drawn as tiny open circles, instead of dots to keep them light. Ask your subject to smile one last time to add the pupils and irises. Make sure you leave a white spot in the eyes to add that “twinkle.”

If you are using markers, your drawing in done. Congratulations!

For pencils users, let do some shading!

Step 9: Shading

Use the blending stump to add shading like in the photos. Make sure to shade the eyeball under the upper lid, the top of the teeth and under the nose and chin. Try to avoid going over an area more than once, the transparency of the graphite will be obvious if you overlap. The blending stump can be used to darken the hair and skin. Just be careful to not flatten or muddy the drawing by overusing the blending stump. Let the features of the face show the likeness.

Conclusion: Well, you did it! You drew a caricature. Want to improve your skills? This is accomplished through practice, practice, practice. Remember to look at all the features as a whole while drawing. I hope this Instructable has given you a starting point that you can adapt to your own style. I welcome any comments or questions. Enjoy drawing!