Cartoon Animals Using Shapes

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CARToon animals using shapes

Using basic shapes, learn how to turn your pets or other animals into fun cartoons with personality!

CARTOON animals using shapes

Experiment and explore your own unique artistic style by turning your portrait into a cartoon!

the inspiration

the inspiration



Explore your technical abilities by looking for simple geometric shapes in your subjects as the building blocks of your own illustration.

Geometry is a type of mathematics that looks at shape, size, position of figures, and properties of space. All of these mathematical principles are also a huge part of art and drawing! Instead of being intimidated by a complex image, look for simple geometric shapes to help you establish basic forms to start your drawing from.

We're going to be looking for basic shapes in animals in order to create cartoons with their own unique personalities to explore your own style and characterizations.

How many different shapes can you see in front of you right now? I can see a rectangular screen, square keys, and a circular power button. What do you see?


  • Sketchbook paper, cardstock or printer paper
  • Reference image of an animal
  • Pencil
  • Eraser
  • Alcohol markers, coloured markers or pencil crayons (oil pastels, watercolour or acrylic paints will also work with heavier paper)

WHAT to do


1. Begin by selecting a photo of your pet or an animal that you can find a great image of online, in a book or magazine.

I will be using a picture of my pet bunny, Pasha, wearing a flower crown last year.

2. Before we start drawing, try to think of a character for your animal. What do they like? What are they thinking in your photo? What does their daily routine look like? What makes them happy? What makes them sad?

Create a list of ideas.

Since I am using a photo of my own pet, I know quite a bit about her personality. She certainly didn't like wearing the flower crown despite how cute she looks in it. She is a very bossy bunny. I'm going to try to capture some of her personality in my cartoon.




3. Now it is time to start drawing. Start by looking for basic shapes like circles, ovals, squares and triangles.

For rabbits, I like to use two ovals for the face. One vertical oval, and one horizontal oval that interlock. As Pasha is sitting at an angle, I have shifted the ovals as well.

I can also see two circle-like shapes for her body, and two long triangle shapes for her ears.

Rough out the basic shape of your animal using as many simple shapes as you can see.



There are two types of geometric shapes: two-dimensional or plane geometric shapes, and three-dimensional or solid geometric shapes.

For example, a plane shape would be a circle. A sphere would be a solid shape as it is three-dimensional.

Look out for both kinds of shapes when sketching your animals. It will help you explore perspective. For instance, I see a dog nose as more of a cylinder than an oval. This will help later when we are creating depth and dimension with our cartoon.

4. Once you have your basic shapes, you can start to add features like eyes, mouth, nose and hair.

NOTE: Keep in mind that the direction of your hair is essential when drawing an animal. Not all of your animal's hair is standing up or sticking straight out. As a general rule, try to keep the direction of the hair unique to each shape you have drawn.

For example, with Pasha I can see that the hair on her forehead is going up towards her ears in my vertical oval. Meanwhile, the hair around her nose in the second oval is going out to the side.

Carefully consider your eye placement. For rabbits, their eyes are on the sides of their face more like a horse. So I have placed Pasha's eyes outside of my oval as opposed to inside of it.


5. Once you are happy with your basic shape, you can start to rough out details and the background.

TIP: You can use your photo as a reference, but you don't have to strictly adhere to it. Feel free to add or ignore any items that you don't think add to your piece.

The flowers are essential to what I want to say with my Pasha characterization, but I don't love having the blanket on the wall as well so I have only drawn it on the floor.

Don't be scared to put your animal in a completely different environment than your photo either. Put a rabbit in space! Try out a setting to fit with the brainstorming you did earlier about your character.




6. Just like we did with our Cartoon Portrait lesson, we are going to use a black marker and outline selective features.

What parts of your animal stands out the most? Which elements best highlight your character?

MORE TIPS: Vary your lines and don't create a solid outline. Use a combination of short lines, hatches or dots. For depth, I've put lines closer together to create shadow and dimension.

7. Add a speech or thought bubble to help communicate the idea of your character to the audience.

8. Begin colouring your cartoon with alcohol markers, markers or pencils crayons. As with painting, work in layers. Since we are using markers, start with your lighter colours.


EXPeriment with TYPOGRAPHY

Typography is the art of arranging letters to be legible, clear, and visually appealing to the reader.

Typography involves style, appearance, and structure, but is also aims to create a certain emotion and convey specific message to the reader.

Think about the fonts you use creating a document. What does Times New Roman make you think of what? What about Papyrus or Comic Sans?

How can you use the different font styles as another means to communicate your character?

9. Continue colouring, paying special attention to your colour selection to help define your character.

While Pasha is albino, I have made her eyes one of the brightest and only red pieces in the image to help illustrate her discontent with the flower crown on her head.

10. Add your text to your speech or thought bubble. Consider the typography we discussed above when writing your text.

By using an angular and hatch-like text for 'why,' I'm helping to illustrate that Pasha isn't very pleased with her owner AKA myself in this particular moment.

What would a more bubbly or round text say about Pasha instead? Play around with your text on a separate paper before finishing your piece.



  • Try this project again, but use another photo of the same animal. Place your character in an entirely different environment. Does this affect your design choices? Why or why not?
  • Repeat this project again, but choose another animal. How could you bring in elements of caricature we discussed in our other lesson? How does this help to express your new character?


We'd love to see your cartoon animals! Leave us a comment below or share them with us on social media.

Comments 1

  1. Love this project! Drawing animals is so relaxing and then giving them a voice and a character is just….amazing!!!!

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