How to Draw Caricatures

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HOW TO DRAW CARICATURES PART ONE: BASIC THEORY AND THE FIVE SHAPES This is the first of a series of articles I will post here on The MAD Blog about my theories, methods and processes concerning how to draw caricatures. A lot of this information is part of what I teach my theme park artists, so it is derived partly from the approach of doing live, quick-draw caricatures. However all of that can be applied to more studio orientated caricature work and I have also added points and concepts directly from the less time-constrained world of caricature illustration. Therefore this is not instruction for just the live caricaturist but for any artist interested in caricature for any purpose. These kinds of things always start out with a definition, but “caricature” is a hard thing to pigeonhole into a single sentence. How can you, when the word encompasses the elegant, minimalist lines of Al Hirschfeld to the lavish, value and color soaked paintings of Sebastian Kruger to the graphic, geometrical collages of David Cowles and everything in between? Despite the wild differences in style and technique, “caricature” is the tag that is placed on any of these works of art without hesitation. Obviously there is a connection beyond a common technique, school or format. So, what are the universal elements all caricatures have that identify them as caricatures? I would say there are three essential elements that transcend style and medium and must be present in a caricature: Likeness- If you can’t tell who it is supposed to be, then it is not successful. All good caricatures incorporate a good likeness of their subjects. Exaggeration- Without some form of exaggeration, or a departure from the exact representation of the subject’s features, all you have is a portrait. The level of exaggeration can vary wildly, but there must be some departure. A straight

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Transcript of How to Draw Caricatures

Page 1: How to Draw Caricatures




This is the first of a series of articles I will

post here on The MAD Blog about my

theories, methods and processes

concerning how to draw caricatures. A lot

of this information is part of what I teach

my theme park artists, so it is derived

partly from the approach of doing live,

quick-draw caricatures. However all of

that can be applied to more studio

orientated caricature work and I have also

added points and concepts directly from

the less time-constrained world of

caricature illustration. Therefore this is

not instruction for just the live caricaturist

but for any artist interested in caricature

for any purpose.

These kinds of things always start out with

a definition, but “caricature” is a hard

thing to pigeonhole into a single sentence. How can you, when the

word encompasses the elegant, minimalist lines of Al Hirschfeld to

the lavish, value and color soaked paintings of Sebastian Kruger to

the graphic, geometrical collages of David Cowles and everything in

between? Despite the wild differences in style and technique,

“caricature” is the tag that is placed on any of these works of art

without hesitation. Obviously there is a connection beyond a

common technique, school or format. So, what are the universal

elements all caricatures have that identify them as caricatures? I

would say there are three essential elements that transcend style

and medium and must be present in a caricature:

Likeness- If you can’t tell who it is supposed to be, then it is

not successful. All good caricatures incorporate a good likeness

of their subjects.

Exaggeration- Without some form of exaggeration, or a

departure from the exact representation of the subject’s

features, all you have is a portrait. The level of exaggeration

can vary wildly, but there must be some departure. A straight

portrait is not a caricature.

Statement- I believe a caricature must editorialize in some

way. The artist must be trying to say something about the

subject. It might be something to do with the situation the

subject is drawn in, it may just be a play on their personality

through expression or body language, it might be a simple as

making visual fun of some aspect of their persona or image.

Exaggeration itself can accomplish this in some cases. The best

caricatures say something more about the subject than that

they have a big nose.

By my ‘definition’, a successful caricature therefore looks like the

subject, is exaggerated to varying degrees and also has something

to say about the subject… some sort of editorial comment. In “live”

caricature at a theme park, that third item is often turned way

down or ignored completely, but in the case of caricatures for

illustration, it’s an important part.

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I’ve been working with young

caricaturists at theme parks for

over two decades now, and I’ve

learned one very important

lesson… it’s impossible to teach

someone to draw caricatures. I

can teach them to DRAW… that

isn’t so hard. Learning how a face

looks and works by learning

anatomy, how expression changes

the features, how the angle the

face is at changes the perception

of features, how hair grows and

falls about the head… those are

things that can be taught. Drawing

caricatures, on the other hand, is a

lot more about seeing what makes

the person in front of you unique

and personal interpretation than it

is about making good, confident

marks on the paper. I can explain

to someone exactly how to draw a

circle, but if I place a circle before

them and ask them to draw it and

they draw a square… well, that is

all about seeing and not drawing.

The ability to see, and after that

the ability to exaggerate what you

see for humorous effect in a

caricature… that has to be

developed. For most that means a

lot of drawing and a lot of looking.

Have you ever been walking along

at the mall or where ever and

along comes somebody with some

crazy, incredibly distinct face that

maybe sports a gigantic nose or a

Cro-Magnon brow or some other

obviously out-of-the-ordinary

features? Caricaturists have a

term for that kind of face… it’s

called a “field day”. Think about it

for a second… why is that face so

ripe for caricature compared to

the next guy’s? Are the features

really that different? If you took a

ruler and measured the size of Mr.

Shnozzes’s nose compared to Mr.

Normal, the difference would be

minimal. So why is he so easy?

Because you are SEEING a

difference based on perception,

and that is giving you your

springboard for a caricature. One

observation of what makes this

person different from “normal”,

and you are off and running. The

obvious features are easy

observations… it’s Johnny and

Susie Normal or, worse yet,

Johnny and Susie Supermodel that

are the challenge. That is where

developing an ability to “see”

becomes important. There is no

face that defies caricature, you

just sometimes have to dig a little

deeper to find the keys to unlock

the more difficult puzzle. In

caricature, the old adage of

“practice makes perfect” has

never been truer. The ability to

see doesn’t spring up overnight,

and I often tell eager young

caricaturists they have about 500

or so bad caricatures in them they

have to draw out first before they

start noticing the subtle things

that hide inside the “ordinary”


Although I say it’s “impossible” to

teach someone to draw

caricatures, it’s not impossible to

help them develop their ability to

draw them. There are many ways

and techniques to help an artist

develop their ability to see what is

in front of them, recognize what

makes what they see unique and

then amplify that uniqueness to

create a successful caricature.

There are general concepts that

apply to the overall approach of a

caricature as well as specific tricks

and tips for individual features

and important, main elements

that I will be sharing over the

multiple parts of this series of


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The human face is perceived by many as an incredible

complex object. There are about 52 muscles in the

face, depending on your source and its categorization.

Age, sex, race, expression (the face is capable of about

5,000 expressions) weight and environment can all

play a role in the look and perception of a given face.

Sounds pretty complex. Not really. Every building, no

matter how complex, starts out with a foundation and

framework. Look at this simple drawing:

Show that drawing to any human being in the world

and ask them what it is. Barring a language barrier,

they will tell you it’s “a face”. No other information

needed. In it’s most simple form, the human face is

made up of only five simple shapes:

Place these shapes in their proper relationship, and

you have a human face. It really is that simple. Drawing

the shapes accurately, so they recognizably represent

the subject’s features, is the basis for a good likeness.

Beyond that is nothing but details… things like dimples,

wrinkles, eyelashes, cheekbones, etc. They are the

decor to your building… the millwork, furniture and

drapery that makes the place unique and filled with

life. Without the strong foundation, however, it can all

come tumbling down.

What does that have to do with caricature? Everything.

I mentioned a single word in the last paragraph that

really is the secret to caricature as a whole no matter

what technique or approach you intend to practice:


It’s the manipulation of the RELATIONSHIP of these five

simple shapes that create the foundation for your

caricature. In fact, I’d argue that 90% of the entire

caricature resides in how you relate these five simple

shapes to one another. It is the foundation upon which

the rest of your building is built, where the real power

of exaggeration is realized. Make it good and almost

all the heavy lifting is done, the rest merely referring to

details. What do I mean by “relationships”? I mean the

distances between the five shapes, their size relative

to one another, and the angles they are at in

relationship to the center axis of the face. Distance.

Size. Angle.

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In traditional portraiture, the head is divided into

“classic proportions” (we’ll get into that more next

time), meaning the relationship of the features are

within a certain, accepted range of distance to one

another, size and angle relative to the face and head

shape. You achieve your likeness in a classic portrait, in

it’s most basic form, by correctly drawing the shapes

and then the details of each feature according to the

model in front of you while staying within the

framework of the “classic” proportions. Of course each

face varies minutely here and there, but still you do

not stray far from the classic formula. In a caricature,

like a portrait, the likeness is also achieved by drawing

the features as they really look… but you change the

relationship of the features based on your perceptions

of the face. The relationships you change are as I listed

before: distance, size and angle. Look at these VERY

simple drawings that demonstrate how you can change

the relationships of the five shapes and create very

different caricatures:

No detail, and all the shapes are basically the same

with the exception of the head shape (again, more on

that later… MUCH more) but all are distinctly different

and when the details are added will make for highly

varied caricatures. The difference is the relationships

between the features, and how they have been

exaggerated and changed. Caricature is not about

choosing one feature and making it bigger, it’s about

all the features together and how they relate to one


Here are some quick studies of the 5 shapes beneath a

few caricature sketches:

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The relationships differ in distance, size and angle from

one another. The bigger the differences are from

“classic” proportions, the more exaggerated the

caricature. It’s much easier to see the differences when

the details are removed and only the 5 shapes are left.

It’s also much easier to create those differences at this

simple, fundamental level. It’s easy to get caught up in

details when the important information rests beneath

the rendering.

How does one determine the “correct” changes to

make to a given person’s feature relationships to make

a good caricature of them? Well, that’s the trick, isn’t

it? That is were that pesky “seeing” comes in. In his

book “How to Draw Caricatures“, Lenn Redman uses a

concept called “The Inbetweener” as a basis for almost

every observation. It is basically the classic portraiture

relationships used as a point of reference for making

observations. Every caricature begins with the

observations the artist makes about the subject, and

how their particular face is perceived by them. MAD

legend Mort Drucker has been quoted as saying that

there is no “one correct way” to caricature a subject.

Any given subject can have several difference

interpretations with respect to the exaggeration of the

relationship of their features… and each may be as

successful as the other. That’s one of the unique things

about caricature as an art form. Portraiture is basically

absolute… Your drawing either looks like the person

with the correct features, proportions and

relationships, or it does not. Caricature is subjective to

a point. The artists’ goal is to draw how they perceive

the face, and exaggerate that perception. The result

may be different than how others perceive that face,

but if the three elements we described in our

definition are present it’s still a successful caricature.

Hirschfeld used to say he once drew Jimmy Durante

without a nose at all, yet it was still recognizable as


That’s not to say that any observation is appropriate…

after all you can’t give someone with a small, button

nose a gigantic potato schnozz and call it

“exaggeration”. That’s not exaggeration, it’s

DISTORTION. You can, however, choose NOT to

exaggerate the nose’s smallness but rather find

something else to exaggerate. That is the caricaturist’s

task, to find what it is about the subject’s face that

makes it unique and alter those relationships to

exaggerate that uniqueness.


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Previously I mentioned how the relationships between

features are the driving force behind caricature:

“Caricature is not about choosing one feature and

making it bigger, it’s about all the features together

and how they relate to one another.”

Actually caricature is about changing the relationships

between features, meaning their distance, size and

angle relative to one another, from what they truly are

and what is considered “normal”. Deciding what

relationships to change and how much to change them

is one of the caricaturist’s most important jobs, and

one of the most difficult to “learn”. The actual

difference between the relationship of features of

most humans does not add up to much in terms of

physical measurements… a “big” nose may be only a

fraction of an inch larger than a “normal” nose. Yet we

can see different feature relationships on almost

everybody, some which seem very pronounced. That is

because we spend basically our entire lives looking into

people’s faces… we go it when we interact, work, play,

go shopping or to church… we are social beings and

our faces are both our identities and our method of

communication. Our ability to observe minute

differences becomes very fine tuned. Mostly it’s

unconscious, but we see that fraction of an inch larger

nose as “big”, or we see this person’s eyes as large or

this person’s mouth as small based not on physical

measurements but on our overall perception of the

features and how they relate to one another.

Consciously making those observations, especially for

those faces in which the unique aspects are not

obvious, is the most difficult part of drawing

caricatures. There are some techniques and methods

you can use to help make those observations.


It’s important to start somewhere, and the best place

is with what is considered “normal” relationships of

features for two reasons. First, knowing these classic

proportions will help you as a caricaturist to observe

where your subject’s face might differ by providing a

point of reference to compare it to. Second, once

you’ve made these observations you can use that same

point of reference, the classic portrait proportions, as a

guide to get as far away from as possible to create your


Let’s start out looking at the classic human proportions

in traditional portraiture (this is boring, but it’s

important). One method that has been used for

centuries is by using the width of an eye, from corner

to corner, as the primary frame of reference:

In this method, the head is five eye widths wide, with a single eye width between the eyes, and between the outside

eye corners and the outside of the head. The nose is one eye width wide, and therefore the nostrils are equal to the

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corners of the eyes. Another simple method for establishing the “normal” relationship between eyes and mouth is

via the equilateral triangle that should be formed by the points of the outside corners of the eyes, and the center

point of the bottom of the lower lip. Every book on learning to draw the human face has some similar method of

standardizing the proportions of the average face.

Do human faces really conform to these exact relationships? No, of course not. That’s the point. There are

differences from this face to that, some very slight and some more pronounced, and the caricaturist exaggerates

these differences to create a caricature. Knowing what is supposed to be there is half the battle of seeing where

things are different.

Again, making these observations is the trickiest part of doing caricature, but the good news is you don’t have to

come up with a shopping list of deformities in order to do a caricature. In fact, all you have to do is come up with one

good observation. Just one and you can use that as your cornerstone and build your caricature around it. It could be

as simple as: this person has a skinny face… or big eyes… or a small mouth… or a square jaw… or a bent nose… or

whatever. More than one is better, but just one will suffice?


Why is only one observation enough? Because “no

feature is an island”. What I mean is that all the

features relate to one another fundamentally, and you

cannot make a change to one feature without it

affecting the others. This is one of the few constants

you can rely on with respect to drawing caricatures:

Action and Reaction. In physics every action causes an

equal an opposite reaction. In caricature the action of

changing the relationship of a single feature to the

others causes the others to react in often predictable

ways. You cannot change the eyes without affecting

the nose, mouth, head shape, etc. and how it affects

those other features follows (for the most part) a

predictable path.

Say we make an observation about our subject that the

eyes seem far apart. If we move the just the eyes

farther apart and leave the rest of the face untouched,

we have a bizarre looking result:

There is awkwardness to the “caricature”

We can’t ignore the effect on the other features. The

act of moving the eyes father apart forces the other

features to react. Typically when the eyes move father

apart, the nose moves closer to the eyes, the mouth

moves along with the nose, the head becomes wider

and, in turn shorter:

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The features work better

together here

Additional observations can

change the path of the

reaction. Say our

observations are that the

eyes are far apart, but the

mouth is also far from the

nose. Because of that

action, the lower part of the

face must be longer, and

therefore the top part of

the head becomes smaller:

Hmmm… looks like my


Head shape is often the

most affected, and is not

coincidentally a big focus. In

fact part three of this series

will deal entirely with head

shapes. For now we will

stick with the interior

features and their



I have talked a lot about

simplifying the face by

boiling it down into the 5

Shapes, but it can get even

simpler than that in terms

of both making observations

and in playing with the

relationships of features to

make a caricature. In fact I

believe there are two

absolutely crucial, key

components to any

caricature: The head shape

and the “T” shape. These

are the two elements of a

face I look at first and try to

make observations about,

because with them I can

push, stretch and

exaggerate the face to great

effect with relative ease.

When I talk about the “T” Shape I am speaking

of the geometric shape created by the eyes

and nose as a single unit. In simplest terms

they create a capital “T”. Sometimes the “T”

can be short and wide, sometimes it can be

long and thin, or somewhere in between. The

angle at which the eyes rest to the center axis

of the face can change the “T” into more of a

“Y”, or more of an arrow shape. I treat the “T”

not as a set of simple lines but as a contour

shape with thickness, therefore the stem (or

nose) of the “T” can be thicker or thinner at

one end or the other, and the arms (or eyes) of

the “T” can also change in thickness to

accommodate big round eyes or narrow,

squinty ones. Imagine a contour capital “T”

drawn around the eyes and nose in varying


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The shape of the “T” reacts to changes

you make to the relationship of the eyes

and nose. In most cases the eyes and

nose work in a predictable tandem

within their relationship. Imagine that

the eyes and nose are connected by a

string that travels through a two wheel

pulleys located in the center of the eyes.

The length of the string is constant. If the

person’s eyes are moved farther apart,

the string pulls the nose closer into the

eyes. If the nose is made longer, then

the eyes are drawn closer together. All

of this takes place within the “T” shape.

The mouth, nose and chin have a similar

connection. They have a constant

amount of distance between each other.

If the mouth is perceived as being close to the nose, the chin moves a

little farther away as a reaction. There are similar rules that apply to

the head shape, which we’ll get into next time.

This is extreme simplification, but I have said before the simpler you

can make the shapes you are working with, the easier it is to

exaggerate them and create your caricature. If you imagine a shape

as simple as a “T”, it’s very easy to exaggerate that “T” shape and

then plug in the features as they really look within your simple shape

and you have your caricature. Take a look at these caricatures and

the “T” shapes within their head shapes:

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The “T” Shape and head shape

combine to create the base of

your caricature, over them the 5

shapes further define the

relationships of the features, and

over the 5 shapes the features

themselves are drawn and things

like bone structure, anatomy,

expression, skin, hair and other

details work to create the likeness

and bring the underlying structure

to life. It’s still all built on these

simple foundations.

I would suggest as an exercise to

forget about rendering and

drawing details caricatures for a

moment and fill up a few

sketchbook pages with nothing

but the head shape and “T” shape

of the faces you see when paging

through a magazine. Draw one

quickly using just your initial

observations and first impressions

of the face. Then look back at it

and try to see where it differs

from the “normal” template of

classic proportion, then try it

again, this time exaggerating your

first try. Do this with a dozen faces

a day, and see how your ability to

“see” the caricature in a given face



When I first started drawing live caricatures I felt that the eyes

were the most important part of the face, and I put a lot of

emphasis and focus on them. I still think the eyes are a crucial

element, but over the years I’ve come to believe that the head

shape is the most important part of a caricature.

The head shape is the fulcrum upon which a caricature hinges.

The heavy lifting of all exaggeration is accomplished via the shape

of the head, and it is more easily accomplished that way.

Considering that the head shape is a single shape, it is easier to

recognize how that shape differs from “normal” and it is easier

still to draw a corresponding simple shape that exaggerates those

properties as opposed to the more complex multiple relationships

of the features. By stretching and exaggerating the head shape,

you create the framework within which your other features and

their relationships are drawn to achieve your caricature.

I have spoken of the “5 Shapes” and the importance of their

relationships already, but digging a little deeper it’s accurate to

say that the head shape is “Shape 1″ and the other four shapes

are planets to it’s sun, working within it’s all encompassing field of

gravity. If a caricaturist can “see” and exaggerate the head shape,

all the other features fall into place and follow along. In the last

lesson I talked about the “T” shape being a focal point of the basic

caricature, but it’s really the “T Shape” and

the head shape together as a whole that

acts are the basic foundation of a

caricature. With those shapes and their

relationships established, the rest of the

caricature quickly follows suit.


I talk endlessly about seeing shapes within

the features and the face, and the

importance of drawing those shapes

accurately to capture likeness and to create

a convincing drawing. Again, it’s difficult to

teach anyone to “see”… that ability is

developed over time via practice and hard

work. Still, there are a few techniques and

tricks I have learned that can help artists to

better see what is in front of them, and

better interpret it in their drawing. Many

work for any feature or “shape” within the

face, but some are specific for individual

features. Head shapes have several of these

tricks for both initial observations and


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As with Redman’s ‘”Everyman” concept, it’s

important to have an understanding of classic

human proportion an anatomy to have a

springboard from which observations can be

made. This is important both for helping to see

what makes a given face unique by comparing

it to those “normal” proportions, and for

helping to exaggerate those unique aspects by

giving the artist a “starting point” from which

to depart as much as possible.

The classic adult head is an oval, slightly

flattened along the top. The head is exactly

divided in half at the eyes, meaning there is

equal distance from the horizontal line of the

eyes to both the top and bottom of the head.

The head is five eye widths wide, and the

widest point is typically at the temples, but can

be anywhere from the cheekbones to just

above the ears. The

distance, or more

accurately the “mass” of

the head above and below

the eyes, and how those

two areas relate, is a

crucial part of the head

shape as it relates to

caricature. I will refer to it



The head shape is really

made up of a lot of

different features including

cheekbones, cheeks, brow,

jawline, chin, forehead,

hair, etc. While these are

all important elements of

the whole, at this stage we

need to treat the head as a

single shape and keep it as

simple as possible. Simple

shapes are easier to draw,

control and manipulate

than ones with a lot of

complex elements to them.

It’s easy to get hung up on

the details and not be able

to see past them to the

underlying foundation.

Here are some tricks to help

make initial observations and

come up with a simple head


1. Squint Your Eyes:

This is an old portrait artist’s

trick. Squint your eyes or

close them so you are

looking through your

eyelashes at your subject.

This eliminates the details

and forces you to see only

vague shapes and forms.

That makes it easier to see

the simple shapes and drawn


2. Points of Reference:

I look for these with every

feature I draw. What I mean

by “points of reference” is

finding a specific point or

part of a feature to use as an

anchor point from which you

can make your observations.

Each feature has unique

points of reference, but in

general things like horizontal

or vertical dividing lines can

always be used for this


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With the head shape, the horizontal line

create by the eyes is a good point of

reference. Using this imaginary dividing

line, it’s easy to see how much of the head

lies above that lie, and how much below. I

also will look for the widest point of the

head shape, knowing that once I have

found these points I need only to make

sure the rest of the head shape lies in

between them. I will also look for straight

lines along the contour of the head shape,

and draw them accordingly. Finally, I will

look for points along the face contour

where there is an angular change of

direction. The back of the jaw and sides of

the chin will often have these points. Any

or all of these points of reference can help

you “see” the rest of the head shape by

comparing what is around it to the point of

reference you have established.

3. Shape Association:

This is a strange but effective way of

grasping a simple head shape, and for

exaggerating it at the same time. Try to

associate the head shape of your subject

with the shape of some inanimate object you are familiar with.

Maybe this person has a head shaped like a lightbulb (small,

narrow bottom of the face with a big forehead) or that person’s

head shape may remind you of a peanut (squeezed at the

temples). Whatever strikes you. I don’t mean you draw a light bulb

with the face on it, but rather use your imagination and keep that

object in mind as a template for the head shape you draw.

Of course, it’s a fun exercise to draw those objects with faces on

them just for fun and practice. Doing that helps your ability to spot

those associations within your subject’s head shape.

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I mentioned earlier that the head

shape is a place where

exaggeration is most easily

applied to the greatest effect. This

is because altering the head shape

to any appreciable degree creates

a drawing radically different than

a portrait. Any change to the head

shape from the “normal” shape

has a very high impact to the

viewer, and the features, by way

of their necessary relationships

within the head shape, are forced

to follow suit and become

exaggerated. My analogy of the

head shape being a “fulcrum” is

an apt one, because the slightest

change in the head shape can

radically change all other aspects

of the face. Because the head is

treated as a single shape, it is

relatively easy to make those

exaggeration decisions and

execute them. Unlike the interior

features of the face, which change

with expression, the head shape is

a constant that only changes with

the angle of the head, and then

only as any object will change

when rotating in space. When

exaggerating the head shape, all

you really need is ONE

observation about it to build your

caricature upon. It could be as

simple as observing that the

model has a skinny face, or a large

chin, or a small forehead. Multiple

observations are great, but one

strong one is all you need because

it will create a cascading effect

with your drawing to define your


Here are some methods of seeing

and exaggerating the head shape:

1. Visual Weight:

One key to exaggerating the head

shape is to decide where the

“visual weight’ of the head lies.

That can be as simple as using the

afore mentioned line of the eyes

as a reference point and asking

yourself “does more of the face lie

above the eyes, or below?” That is

visual weight… the placement of

head mass relative to some point

of reference like the line of the


We know that in a “normal” proportioned head the mass is equal. However how we perceive the face is different

than it’s physical measurements. Whenever you can depart from the equal mass rule it’s important to do so. That is


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2. The Law of Constant Mass:

There are very few “rules”

that are universal as it

applies to caricature…

things like expressions,

posture and unique

physical attributes make it

almost impossible to be

able to say “this is always

true”. Here is one rule

that never changes,

however, and it’s a

powerful tool to create


exaggerations… the law of

constant mass. By using it,

you can take that “one

observation” about the

head and follow through

with the rest of the head


Imagine you have

sculpted a perfectly

proportioned head out of

wet clay. Your head is

done, but you have used

up all your clay. You decide you want to create

a caricature rather than a realistic bust of your

subject. Looking at the model you decide they

have a large jaw, so you want to make the jaw

bigger. With no more clay to work with, you

need to get that clay from somewhere to pack

on to the jaw and make it larger. Where do you

get it from? You take it from the top of the

head, taking away from the size of the top to

make the bottom bigger. That is the law of

constant mass.

The head has only so much mass. You cannot

make one area bigger or smaller without

affecting the other areas. A person with a big

chin will automatically have a smaller top of a

head. Likewise someone with

a big forehead will also have a

smaller bottom of a face. This

serves to create

exaggerations of higher

impact, since the perception

of a large jaw is made more

pronounced when the top of

the head is smaller. It’s the

same concept as when a gray

value appears closer to white

when surrounded by a much

darker value and looks darker

when surrounded by white.

The law of constant mass also

works sideways, with respect

to the width of a face… if the

face is very wide you need to

take mass from both the top

and bottom to create that

width. Of course this will also

affect the relationships of the

interior features, because

they must now fit within he

exaggerated head shape.

3. Rubber Concept:

Another way to think about how the entire head shape is affected by a single observation is to imagine a head made

of soft, goo filled rubber. Now if we make the observation that our subject has a narrow face, we need to squeeeeze

our rubber head like a vice to make it narrower. The effect of this is that the head bulges out on the top and bottom.

If we decide the head is wide, we pull the outsides out… the result is the top and bottom get sucked in. If we squeeze

the forehead, the jaw bulges out.

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What is good about this method is

that if we imagine the features of

our subject also molded into the

initial rubber head, we can see

how they will faithfully follow the

squeezing, stretching and it’s


It’s important to trust the follow

through of the cause and effect

associated with the exaggeration

of the head shape via the law of

constant mass and/or the rubber

concept when drawing a

caricature. Even if that lantern

jawed subject does not appear to

have a small top of the head, it is

important to follow through with

that moving of the mass if you

want to emphasize that jaw and

maintain a balance in your

drawing… otherwise your

exaggeration will be awkward and

a lot less clear.

The shape of the head is a crucial

element to a good caricature…

arguably THE crucial element.

Accurately observing the head

shape, making good decisions on

where to place the visual weight

and exaggerating that shape is

central to an effective caricature.


I’ve written in past tutorials on drawing caricatures

that you can’t really teach someone to draw

caricatures… that is more about developing their

“sight” and observation skills and also developing an

ability to find that which make an individual face

unique and exaggerating it. Since every face is different

this is an exercise in personal observation and decision.

Therefore after I have gone over the information in my

pervious tutorials, I switch gears an concentrate on

teaching rookie live caricaturists how to draw the

individual features, both how to see them, exaggerate

them and how to draw them in line to best effect.

Here is where style becomes an issue. What I have

written about previously can apply to almost any style

of caricature, from the richly painted to the most

minimalist of line. In these next series of tutorials some

aspects of what I talk about will relate specifically with

a style of caricature like my own… based on cartoon

line either inked or in some other medium. Therefore

those with different sensibilities and styles can take

from it what they will and apply what makes sense to

them, and ignore the rest. I will try to center my

discussion on that which applies to a broader range of

styles than just my own.

My method for teaching the individual features begins

with a lesson on real anatomy. I’m not a big believer in

memorizing every anatomical name but I do believe

you must have a good working knowledge of how a

Page 16: How to Draw Caricatures

feature is put together in order to have a good command over the drawing of said feature. Following the anatomy

lesson, I talk about different techniques to help “see” the shape of the feature and understand how to draw it,

including realistic proportion. Finally I talk about interpreting the feature in terms of exaggeration and incorporating

it into the whole.


Seeing and drawing anything is

all about shapes and the correct

drawing of them or in the case of

caricature the correct drawing of

the exaggeration of them? Either

way you still have to “see” the

object you are drawing and

understand it’s form first. We

have all seen depictions of artists

on TV raising their arm

outstretched towards their

models with the thumb out from

the fist and squinting their eyes

before drawing. That is supposed to represent an old artist’s trick of using

their thumb, or hand, or pencil or some other object to measure their

subject’s features relative to one another, or to see angles or other

relationships. The thumb is supposed to be a “point of reference”… a

constant that is used to make accurate observations of the subject.

Establishing points of reference in the face is key to helping to “see” shapes

and make observations. With each feature and the face overall I will suggest

several things I use as constant points of reference, which I can then use as a

starting point from which other observations are based. Any kind of drawing

can benefit from this simple concept.

Our first feature is the eyes. I’ve always felt that the eyes of a caricature are

the center of everything, literally the center of the face but figuratively the

center of expression, personality and “life” as it were. Therefore I’ve always

place special emphasis on the eyes and begin and end with them, after the

head shape, as the focus of almost any caricature.


The human eye is made up of a round orb (eyeball) that rests

in and slightly protrudes from a socket of bone and tissue,

surrounded orbital muscles and by covered by skin in the

form of eyelids. The visible parts of the eyeball include the

pupil (black circle in the center of the eye), the iris (colored

area around the pupil) which includes the

stroma (the thread-like fibers that radiate from

the pupil out to the edge of the iris), and the

sclera (whites of the eyes). The tissue

surrounding the eyes include the inner and outer

canthus (the “corners” of the eyes), the

caruncula (the small, reddish, oval shaped piece

of tissue in the inner corner which is sometime

incorrectly referred to as the ‘tear duct’), and

the semilunar fold (where the eyeball meets the

caruncula). The eyelids consist of the upper and

lower lid plates (the actual eyelids that fold

down and up to cover the eyeball), the eyelashes

or cilia, which are attached to the free edges of

Page 17: How to Draw Caricatures

the lid plates in a double or triple row and are short, thick and curved hairs.


Despite what I said about the importance of

the eyes, the eye is still just another feature

and it has a shape like any other feature of

the face. When I refer to the “shape” of the

eye I am talking about the visible portions

of the eyeball, created by the space

between the upper and lower lids.

The exterior part of the eyes, like the lids themselves and the

area that surround the eye also are very important in capturing

the eye itself, but it’s that initial shape that you use and a

springboard for the rest of the eye. In order to “see” the eye

shape, you must ignore the pupil, iris and all the lines and

visual noise that surround the eye, and look at just the pure

shape. Imagine an eye this pure white like the Exorcist eye…

that white is the shape you are looking for. Remember also

that the eye is not flat, but protrudes quite a bit from the face

and the lids have a definite thickness to them.

Typically the eye is NOT shaped like a football or an

almond. The upper and lower lids are not mirror

images of each other. In fact, they are very different.

The lower lid is usually much less of an arc than the

upper lid, moving more straight across from corner to

corner. The upper lid overlaps the lower lid in the

outer corner, and and is farther removed from the

horizontal axis of the eye, which is created by an

imaginary line connecting the corners. This horizontal

axis, or “corner to corner” line, is a central part of

making observations about the eye, it’s shape and it’s

relationship with the rest of the face. More on that in a


The eye shape is more of an asymmetrical ying-yang

shape that a symmetrical almond. The upper lid line

rises somewhat sharply from the caruncula, peaks

about 1/3 of the way across the eye and then arcs

more softly towards the outer corner. The lower lid

does the opposite, it’s “peak” being it’s lowest point,

about not quite 1/2 of the way from the outer corner

in, and arcing to the caruncula. In the simplest of

geometric terms, the eyes are quadrilaterals with the

four points being the inner and outer corners, the

highest point of the upper lid and lowest point of the

lower lid. Naturally we don’t draw the eyes with

straight lines connecting the dots, but in “seeing” the

shape in simple terms like this we can use these points

of reference to better capture the shape of the eyes, as

Page 18: How to Draw Caricatures

well as using them to manipulate the feature for exaggeration purposes.

Let’s get back to the “corner to

corner” line I mentioned earlier.

This is very useful in helping to

determine not only the shape of

the eye, but it’s relationship to the

axis of the face. Imaging the line

going from the outside corner of

each eye inward to the inside

corner and then onward to the

center axis of the face, what we

really have it the central angle of

the arms of the “T Shape” I talked

about in an earlier tutorial. By

looking at how that line intersects

the eye itself, we can see how

much of the eye shape lies above

the line, how much below, where

the contour lines of the eye shape

travel along that line. We can also

see at what angle the eye lies to

the center axis of the face. Are the

outside corners of the eyes higher

than the insides? Lower? Even?

Are they the same or is one

different than the other? You can

use the line to exaggerate the

angle you see to great effect. The

Corner-to-Corner line is a great

tool for observation and “seeing”

the eye itself, as well as a point of

reference both both accurate

drawing and observation.

Another method I use for understanding the eye shape is to look for any straight lines in the contour of the eye.

Lines that are straight or nearly straight can be used as another point of reference for seeing the rest of the eye and

also used as beginning points for the actual drawing of the eye itself. In many cases, the longer part of the upper

eyelid, that from the “peak” to the outside corner, is often close to a flat line. Look for straight lines and observe

their relationships to the rest of the eye shape’s contour to better “see” the eye shape.


The exaggeration of any feature must be done with the

whole in mind, and not be treated as some separate

entity. Seen in a vacuum, it might be tempting to

exaggerate the size of the eyes because they have a

round and wide eyed look. However when the rest of

the face is taken into account, it might very well be

that the eyes need to be small and beady within a

massive face. Exaggeration in caricature is all about

the relationships of the features to one another, and

not the features themselves taken individually.

However many of the observations you might make

about the eyes can factor into the essential whole,

especially the angle the eyes are at relative to the

center axis, and the shapes of the eyes themselves.

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The angle of the eyes is the easiest thing to

exaggerate. If the outer corners are higher

than the inner, then you simply make them

higher still, and vice versa. Once you make

the observation, doing the resulting

exaggeration is easy.

Exaggerating the shape of the eye is a little

trickier. It can be easy to compromise the

likeness, but when done right it actually

enhances the likeness of the caricature.

That’s because the shapes of features are

also describing the expression of the

subject, and exaggerating expression is a

central part of good caricature. If

someone’s eyes become squinty when they

smile, drawing them squinty-er will

exaggerate their expression as well as their

face, and expression is personality.

Capturing personality is an essential goal. If

your eye shape is squinty, make it squintier. If it’s wide open, make it more wide open. They should still look

like the eyes you are drawing, but with your observations as a

guide you turn up the volume a bit… or a lot if you can without

losing the likeness.

Take this set of eyes that are very round and intense:

Page 20: How to Draw Caricatures

We can exaggerate the shape of them as well as their

look by emphasizing the whites surrounding the

pupil/iris, and the roundness of the lower eye. In this

case I also exaggerate the angle of them by raising the

outside corners. Not by much in either case here…

what I am really exaggerating and trying to capture is

the intensity of the eyes themselves. Those little

observations combine to allow me to get that piercing


Certain styles of caricature will go farther and

“interpret” the shape and actually change it into a

representation of the shape itself. Here are those eyes

as might be drawn by Al Hirshfeld:

or Mort Drucker:

An artist’s individual style aside, it comes to the same…

seeing the shapes and uniqueness of the features and

drawing it in a way that describes it for the viewer to


As always, caricature is about PERCEPTION and not

hard physical reality. In this picture, our perception of

the eyes of this model is changed by the makeup

surrounding them:

Page 21: How to Draw Caricatures

The heavy eyeliner and over-thick exterior lashes near

the outer canthus make her look like the inner whites

of her eyes are much larger than the outer, giving her a

“walleye” look that we can make fun of:

Here are some caricatures from some of my sketches where the eyes are a central part of the exaggeration or

personality of the subject. Drawing eyes that really look back at the viewer can make for a startling effect.

Remember the exaggeration of the caricature involves all the features and their relationships. The eyes may not be

as important in another caricature, but as they are one of the chief agents of human communication and expression,

they are always of import.

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