A good friend asked me to show how I put together my cartoons so here is a

take on how to do this… I try to use classic cartooning techniques from the 194os. An inspiration is the ever insightful John K’s Cartoon Curriculum. Some of the techniques he points out will be covered here though probably not in as much detail. The animating techniques include such things as, action lines, composition, color theory, ball on ball construction, etc, are what I am applying while looking at fundamental construction of great cartoonists such as Bill Waterson, Berke Brethed, etc.

Rough Copy


First I draw a rough copy of what I am looking for in a scene analysis of the copy is below. Roughs are imported into an iPad and a drawing app called Procreate (haha). Seriously though, Procreate is an amazing art tool. All of the lines below ultimately end up being layers in the art tool; yielding a final ink copy that can then be painted.

Action Lines


So in the first drawing I have just drawn two basic action lines (see blue lines above, not the circles) for the two characters in the frame, and where their heads will be roughly. Action lines are used to build a framework for a character’s construction and the rest of the character should flow around the lines, and be a reflection of them. Note the two characters are looking at each other, and the lines are drawn to complement each other.


In the prepped copy the green lines represent the structure for the face. This controls where the features go. Preston (the character on the left)’s features are divided into the four quadrants, upper left (left eye), upper right (right eye), lower left, ear and mouth, lower right, nose. As the character is turned around their features adjust and change sizes by these guide lines. If you were to pick up a toy figure and look at its face you could see this process by rotating the figure. The character on the right has different features and different guidelines.

The red lines represent the character’s construction; technically I used a mix of ball on ball construction and wire framing which we’ll cover in the next post. The main thing to note is that all the characters’ red line structure is in harmony with the action lines.