How to Make Your Own Free Cartoon Drawings on the Computer


Cartoon drawings are made by breaking down a form into its simplest shapes and abstracting them in an artistic way. The abstraction can be handled in a way to invoke humor (Bugs Bunny), political commentary (Doonesbury) or simply to create a different-feeling world than the one we live in (Lady & The Tramp). You can create cartoon drawings on the computer by using drawing programs such as Adobe Photoshop.

  • Open a new canvas in Photoshop by selecting "File" then "New" in the menu bar at the top of the screen. Choose a size for your piece, remembering that your image will become pixelated if you decide to make it larger later, but it will become more crisp when sized down (so work at, or bigger, than the intended size).

  • Use the tools available in the toolbar at the left to start your image. You usually want to use the paintbrush tool to begin drawing (the "B" button is the shortcut). If you make a mistake, simply select the eraser (E) and undo as you please. You can also zoom in and out with the magnifying glass (use the left mouse in the window to zoom in, or alt+left mouse to zoom out), or the slider found in the Navigator window. If you are curious about what a button does, simply hover your mouse cursor over it, and a descriptive box will appear showing the name of the button's function.

  • Learn the power of layers. Unlike drawing on a traditional pad of paper, you can use the layers in Photoshop to eliminate the extra steps of erasing, or using a light box to trace. The layers window is located at the lower right of the screen, or within "Window > Layers" if it has been hidden. To add a new layer, press the "Create a New Layer" button at the bottom right. Layers should be named to reduce confusion as you are working; double-click on the layer to rename it.

  • Play with the opacity and fill on each layer to determine the hierarchy of your sketches. Like traditional cartooning, the basic crude shapes will be on the lower layers and built upon as you develop the sophistication of your cartoon's line.

  • Test the progress of the finished line by hiding the sketch layers; press the eye located on the left of your layer. When satisfied with the expression of your finished lines, delete the sketch layer by dragging it to the trash or by using the "Layer > Delete" option in the menu bar (with the layer you want to delete selected).

  • Save the completed cartoon as a Photoshop file, jpeg, or whichever format you prefer when you are done.

Tips & Warnings

  • When drawing in this format, spend some time familiarizing yourself with a program such as Photoshop, and practicing your basic shapes (like circles and squiggly lines) with a Wacom Tablet. If drawing is new to you, the disconnect between tablet and screen will seem less noticeable than for an experienced draftsman, but through practice comes comfort.
  • Drawing is achieved through practice. The computer is simply a tool for the draftsman, so don't expect it to be any easier than traditional cartooning.

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  • Photo Credit Mathis Wienand/Getty Images News/Getty Images
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