How to Draw Caricatures Digitally

Mott and Hank Caricature

I have spent the past few days watching YouTube Videos, reading other people's blog posts, and working in photoshop, researching how to make a successful cartoon style caricature. My project was for a commission of a lovely older couple. I don't have a great quality of markers so I opted to create the piece digitally. 

My Mistakes: The definition of caricature is a portrait that takes a person's most distinguishable features and exaggerates them so that the portrait comes out funny or satirical.

  • Originally I thought that meant I should just be able to take the reference photo, lasso select certain parts of the face, and distort them. NOPE! Distortion and exaggeration are different. I also limited what exaggeration could be. It's not just making things bigger! Sure, making your subjects big nose BIGGER is one point of caricature, but there are other forms of exaggeration that should NOT be ignored such as curvatures, length of lines, thickness or thinness, and much more. 
  • Sketching without thinking about the basic underlying shapes was another big and time-consuming mistake. When I realized I should probably go back to the basics of regular un-caricatured human faces, which have shapes within the head, it was a lot easier and faster to figure out how to exaggerate while also making sure the subjects still sort of looked like themselves. So map out your subject faces, find the circles, squares, and triangles of the face and line up the facial features accordingly!


1. I did about 15 thumbnail sketches while looking at my reference photo. I focused primarily on the woman's face because that was the one I knew I'd struggle with the most. (She was also the one to commission so she'll probably be more interested in how she looks instead of her husband.) If you look at my sketches, a lot of them made her look evil, or monkey-like, because I was overexaggerating. Instead of it being a funny caricature it was an ugly one. 

2. I took the reference photo and sketched on top of it in Photoshop. This was extremely helpful in learning the features of the face in relation to each other. It's also a great method to feel out what makes that persons face their own. 

3. I hid the layer with the reference photo, revealing only my sketch. Then, I played with it by exaggerating some things. I added lines that weren't necessarily there but were implied by the structure of the face. I also lasso selected the eyes and enlarged them to give them emphasis, and took away the corners that closed in the eyes so they'd have more of cartoon energy. The lips were also enlarged this way. I emphasized the curves of the cupid's bow by making them more defined and curved, which actually gave the caricature a cartoon look I hadn't anticipated. Win-Win! So try a bunch of things, and if you mess something up or don't like it, you can always sketch back over your reference photo. 

4. After my sketch was completed and caricatured as I liked it. I took the sketch and placed it into Sketchbook to color and finish it up. {I had never used Sketchbook before this project. I honestly didn't know much about it until Wacom support recommended it to me. It's NICE and a whole lot simpler to use than Photoshop. }

5. I traced over my sketch with black lines first! Make sure your brush varies its thickness depending on the pressure of your pen. If it's all one size your caricature might look chunky. You don't have to trace everything in your sketch with a black line. Some of the lines in my sketch like the cheekbones are indicated by color instead of heavy black lines. Your bold black lines should be reserved for important structures like the shape of the head, ears, eyes, nose, and more. You can add accent lines for wrinkles, aging, or even the cheekbones if you like later on after you've colored it. 

6. I kept my sketch layer visible the entire time. So now I have a layer of lines and my lighter sketch underneath. My sketch helps me to know where to color and also gives me the structure of the face. 

7. COLOR IT! I used the Copic markers in Sketchbook and turned the density waaayyyy down to maybe 8%. This allowed me to layer the marker and have the colors mix easily for a REAL Copic Marker look. 

8. Then you clean it up. Some of my colors mixed into each other, or I didn't like how the hair looked around the neck. So this is where I took my time making meticulous (or extra AF) changes to my caricature. This is for a client so I want to make sure I am doing my very BEST WORK. 

9. DONE! I'm still determining if I'd like a background color for mine. Although I don't think I do. If you do happen to want a background, create a separate layer underneath your caricature and draw in the background so it's not directly beneath the figures. I changed my background to green and because I used transparent markers it seeped through the couple and gave them a dark tinge! 😭😭

10. Congratulations! YOU'RE AMAZING! YOU DID IT!

I hope this was helpful to someone looking for a simple way to make a great caricature. If you have any questions or additional tips and comments, I would love to know!

Let's talk about it gang! Til' next time❤️

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