Cartoon Drawing Styles to Draw Inspiration From

cartoon drawing styles

Most of us have grown up with cartoons from the iconic Mickey Mouse, good ol’ Goofy, and Donald Duck to Popeye, Tom Cat, Jerry Mouse, the Simpsons, etc. we’ve all had our share of personal favorites that we loved doodling or sketching.

Let’s look at some of the most popular cartoon drawing styles as we take a walk down memory lane.

Different Cartoon Drawing Styles Based on Time

Cartoonists have evolved with time and so has the art. From Inkblot cartoon styles to the modern caricatures, we’ve seen dynamic drawing styles that were hugely popular.

Old Cartoon Drawing Style

Old Cartoon Drawing Style

Image source: Pinterest

Some of the oldest cartoon drawing styles were commonly referred to as “Fleischer Cartoons” as they were majorly used by Fleischer Studios. This art style had extreme contrast in major body parts and used monochrome colors.

Some historians also call this “Rubber Hose Animation” because the arms and legs of the characters resembled rubber tubing with no knees or elbows. Stout bodies and elongated limbs were distinct characteristics of this style.

It was also referred to as noodle drawings since the arms and legs would move about constantly with no depiction of joints in the body.

Here are a few examples of this cartoon drawing style:

• Mickey Mouse
• Koko the Clown
• Popeye the Sailor
• Betty Boop

However, these old art styles have managed to make their way into the present world in the form of some recent video games like Cuphead, which takes inspiration from Betty Boop’s cartoon style.

Late 19th Century Cartoon Styles Drawing

Late 19th Century Cartoon Styles Drawing

Image source: Pinterest

The late 19th century saw a gradual change in cartoon drawing styles, paving the way for satirical and political drawing forms.

The advent of railways in the late 19th century meant easy distribution of magazines and newspapers to a wide audience.

Hence, cartoon styles based on political satire became a means of offering editorial opinions in bite-sized capsule forms. It was also the start of using cartoons as tools to provide an ongoing opinion on the prevailing social and political conditions.

The late 19th century saw the emergence of various cartoon styles, prominently caricatures.

Caricature

The caricature was a product of the Renaissance period when individual importance was given weightage.

It is a form of cartoon drawing style where an image of a real person is presented in a larger-than-life or distorted form while retaining the likeness. Usually, a salient feature of a person is seized upon and exaggerated, to create a comical or grotesque effect.

In simple words, caricature is an inflated piece of portrait art.

Though introduced sometime in the 16th century, it gained prominence in the late 19th century when cartoonists used the art style to comment on social situations and to ridicule public figures and politicians.

Caricatures are used even today to poke fun at politicians and film stars. The only thing that has changed is the tools. While previously caricaturists used pens, pencils, or charcoal for their drawings, artists today have access to advanced tools like Adobe Illustrator.

Modern Cartoon Drawing Styles

Modern Cartoon Drawing Styles

Image source: Pinterest

Some popular examples of this cartoon drawing style are those you find on channels like Pogo and Cartoon Network.

The use of various geometric shapes, thick outlines, and different colors are the main features of this art style.

This drawing style involves simple techniques devoid of intricate detailing and promotes a faster animation process thus saving animation studios’ a considerable amount of money.

A few examples of modern cartoon drawing styles are:

• Dexter’s Laboratory
• The Powerpuff Girls
• Codename: Kids Next Door

Different Cartoon Drawing Styles Based on Personality

Cartoonists use different tools and drawing styles to draw personalities while focusing on the minute aspects of their facial features and other characteristics.

For the characters to connect with the audience, there needs to be some story and personality, the depiction of which requires the usage of the right techniques and various art styles.

The most important aspect of cartoon art has been the shape followed by size and variance. Let’s see how shapes have been instrumental in depicting a character in cartoon art.

Use of Shapes in Depicting Personality

Use of Shapes in Depicting Personality

Image source: Pinterest

Shapes have been a universal depicter of body language in cartoon drawings. A character’s personality is usually conveyed by using a combination of various shapes like square, oval, or rectangle.

For example, to depict cartoon characters with stubborn and solid personalities, like bears or lions, square shapes are used for their face and body. To depict friendly, safe, and harmless personalities like babies and timid adults, oval shapes are often used in the portrayal. Examples, in this case, are Remy’s brother from Ratatouille and Russel from Up.

Angular shapes like triangles and rectangles are used to portray danger and villainous personalities. Examples are Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty and Jafar in Aladdin.

Cute Cartoon Drawing Styles

Cute drawing styles usually involve the use of oval and round shapes to portray a character’s personality. Some examples are:

Peanuts

peanuts

Image source: Pinterest

This drawing style by Charles M. Schulz is a wobbly art style where simple geometric shapes, mostly circles and ovals are used to depict strong emotions beautifully.

Powerpuff Girls

Though Powerpuff girls embody strength and superpowers, you can see the use of shapes like circles and ovals to describe the girls’ cute and gentle personalities.

Crayon Shin-Chan

Crayon Shin-Chan’s art style is very simplistic, almost as if it’s drawn with crayons. Disproportionate heads and body parts, thin outlines, and huge eyes are some of its features.

Realistic Cartoon Drawing Styles

Realistic Cartoon Drawing Styles

Image source: Pinterest

Realistic cartoons are a slightly uncommon style of drawing since they tend to incorporate tiny details and use shapes that are very in line with reality. This is in contrast to the general cartoon art styles which tend to simplify shapes.

Many artists make use of this art style, especially in the vectorizations of photos of people. Caricatures also fall under this category as they are generally very realistic, albeit in an exaggerated manner.

A few examples of realistic cartoon drawing styles are:

• Ugly Americans
• Archer
• Futurama
• Caricatures

Minimalist or Simple Cartoon Art Styles

Thomas was Alone

Image source: Pinterest

As the name implies, the minimalist cartoon art style strives for maximum simplicity. This is a trend that is followed in modern web design and has also entered the world of video marketing.
Often used to explain complicated things simply with the help of images and drawings, this art style also works well for infographics in marketing services.

The minimalist cartoon art style is widely used in video games as they are simple to create as well as faster to animate. It makes use of vectors and geometric structures with lots of colors often devoid of intricate details.

Some examples of video games that use this art style are:

• Thomas was Alone
• Minesweeper
• Pac Man
• Limbo

Stickmen is another great example of a minimalist cartoon art style. This drawing style consists of very basic techniques, but if done right, can pack a punch. This is also one of the first art forms people learn while starting their cartoon art journey.

Cyanide and Happiness

Image source: Pinterest

Examples of Stickman Cartoons are:

• Cyanide and Happiness
• Xkcd

Unique and Famous Cartoon Art Styles

Here’s a look at some unique cartoon art styles, most of which are pretty popular.

#1. Tim Burton Drawing Style

Tim Burton Drawing Style

Image source: Pinterest

Characteristic of a dark art style that is capable of conveying plenty of emotions, Tim Burton has a distinct feature.

Tim Burton’s characters are not dark for the sake of being dark but are representative of the layers of sentiments and expressions that are buried beneath the apparent darkness.

It’s now become a distinctive art form that has been adopted by several artists around the world.

#2. Hanna Barbera Drawing Style

Hanna Barbera Drawing Style

Image source: Pinterest

Hanna Barbera’s cartoons made use of realistic as well as minimalistic style of art in the right proportions to create memorable and lovable cartoon characters. Probably one of the most popular art styles, they’re easily recognizable for their fun and entertaining factors.

Some examples of Hanna Barbera drawing styles are:

• Huckleberry Hound Show
• The Flintstones
• Fantastic Four
• Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?
• The Smurfs
• Johnny Bravo
• The Powerpuff Girls

#3. The Simpsons Drawing Style

The Simpsons Drawing Style

Image source: Pinterest

This drawing style has become so widely popular that there are apps and websites available to create a Simpsons’ version of yourself.

With time, there’s been an evolution in the style, but key features like yellow bodies with huge globe-like eyes remain.

#4. Total Drama Drawing Style

Total Drama Drawing Style

Image source: Pinterest

Created as a parody of reality TV shows, Total Drama is an animated television series from Canada.

This drawing style makes use of angular shapes along with jagged edges and thick outlines depicting minute details.

#5. Adventure Time Drawing Style

Adventure Time Drawing Style

Image source: Pinterest

Using geometrical shapes, with some of its characters appearing to be almost boneless, Adventure Time drawing style is an example of a more modern art style. With bright, vivid colors that pop out the screen and the usage of thin lines, this art style promotes fluid animation.

#6. Family Guy Drawing Style

Family Guy Drawing Style

Image source: Pinterest

This uses a very easy style of art that makes use of simple geometric shapes like circles and curved lines to create fun, lovable characters.

Easy to replicate, you can attempt this art form with the help of several tutorials that are available online.

#7. Steven Universe Drawing Style

Steven Universe Drawing Style

Image source: Pinterest

Steven Universe’s drawing style makes use of various shapes and sizes to add details and personality to its characters.

It also uses techniques like gradation, where one color gradually transitions to another color, while using thin lines to add detail and separate the colors.

#8. Rick and Morty Drawing Style

Rick and Morty Drawing Style

Image source: Pinterest

One of the most inventive and dark-humored TV programs, Rick and Morty consists of a multiverse of characters and backgrounds.

There’s no specific art style involved in Rick and Morty cartoons. Majorly inspired by everyday items like walls or lanterns, these characters are brought to life using architectural patterns, geometric shapes, and random lines.

#9. Gravity Falls Drawing Style

Gravity Falls Drawing Style

Image source: Pinterest

Gravity Falls makes use of modern cartoon styles with simplified shapes and structures like circles and ovals along with thick outlines and bright colors.

This allows for quicker and fluid animation since it does not involve many details.

#10. South Park Drawing Style

South Park Drawing Style

Image source: Pinterest

South Park drawing style is minimalistic, full of vivid colors that are clean and strong, and devoid of any highlight or shadow. Using perfect geometric shapes with very little depth, this art style is a combination of realistic and modern art styles.

You can also create your own South Park avatar using the official website.

Disney Style Cartoon Drawing

Though Disney’s cartoon drawing style appears simple, it’s very expressive and flexible, possibly because it was made for animations.

The present Disney cartoons incorporate various art styles like modern, realistic, and to some extent, even minimalistic.

Let’s take a look at Disney’s evolution of art forms.

Classic Disney

Classic Disney

Image source: Pinterest

Disney started its journey with cartoons like “It’s Got Me Again!” and “Steamboat Willie” which continued for several years. This art style was one of the main inspirations for the video game Cuphead.

Mid-20th Century Disney

Mid-20th Century Disney

Image source: Pinterest

The mid-20th century Disney art style took inspiration from live actors. The films were shot before drawing cartoons. It was a step forward in the field of cartoon drawing and created a foundation for quality Disney movies.

Here are a few examples of this cartoon drawing art style:

• Cinderella
• Sleeping Beauty
• Sword in The Stone
• One Hundred and One Dalmatians

Modern Disney

Modern Disney

Image source: Pinterest

With a brighter, more detailed, and complex drawing style, Modern Disney’s art style is primarily a development of the mid-20th century’s Disney.

Though Disney has discontinued the creation of 2D cartoon drawing styles, there are, however, a few examples of more refined art forms like:

• Lilo And Stitch
• Treasure Planet
• The Princess and The Frog

Japanese Cartoon Drawing Styles

Japanese cartoon drawing styles are quite different from their western counterparts. Let’s have a look at Japan’s three specific art forms.

Classic Manga

Classic Manga

Image source: Pinterest

Manga is Japanese comics that is typically black and white with its own distinctive, aesthetic, and storytelling conventions.

When it comes to body, Manga characters have human-like proportions and the unusually huge eyes are the only difference.

With thin bodies and angular chins, this drawing style focuses more on feminine bodies. Few styles even exaggerate certain body parts like legs, which tend to be very long as compared to the rest of the body.

Here are some examples:

• GTO (Great Teacher Onizuka)
• Sailor Moon
• Urusei Yatsura

Modern Anime

Modern Anime

Image source: Pinterest

Anime refers to animated cartoons. Most modern anime styles have complexities, with lots of highlights and shadows in their characters and backgrounds.

Another characteristic feature of modern anime that differentiates it from western animation is iconography. The iconography can be anything from artistic symbols to character images.

Some examples of Anime iconography are:

• Huge sweat drops that fall down the head
• Spirals or Xs on eyes in moments of confusion
• Dialogue Bubbles

Few examples of modern anime are:

• Naruto
• My Hero Academia
• Attack on Titan
• Sword Art Online

Chibi Drawings

Chibi Drawings

Image source: Pinterest

A subtype of Manga style, chibi drawings feature characters that look a lot younger than they actually are. With child-like features, such as huge eyes, large head, and small body, Chibi art styles are just plain adorable.

Examples of chibi drawings are:

• Tamako Market
• Lucky Star
• Bottle Fairy

Related Questions

How Can You Draw Your Own Cartoon?

Practice plays a huge role here, but apart from that, you’ll also need inspiration from other artists to learn new styles or develop your own. There are several ways to improve your art styles and there is no dearth of resources online.

How to Motivate Yourself to Draw Your Own Cartoon?

The trick is to start and you’ll gradually gain the momentum to continue. Instead of focusing on getting it perfect at the first attempt, just pick up the pen and begin. You’ll also find several daily prompts and tools online.

A Few Parting Words

You will find plenty of cartoon drawing styles to pick and choose from in case you are looking to learn. Given that these styles are widely prevalent, it’s not likely that you’ll run out of ideas and inspirations anytime soon.

In the words of Joseph Barbera- “Making cartoons means very hard work at every step of the way, but creating a successful cartoon character is the hardest work of all.”

Carrie Nelson
Carrie Nelson wears many hats. She’s an avid quilter, author as well as a social media guru. Her love for quilting is evident in her books on the subject and she hopes to pass on her color balance and design skills to her readers. When not quilting or writing, you’ll find her knee-deep in home improvement projects.