Secrets for Drawing Caricatures

You have no doubt seen caricatures of politicians, celebrities, and other famous people in the media and online. These artworks are obviously cartoons ‒ yet they still look like the person on which they are based. How is this accomplished (you may ask)?

The facial characteristics of most people wander outside generic guidelines. These deviations from what is considered “average” are used by artists to create caricatures. For example, if the eyes are far apart, draw them even farther apart. If his or her eyebrows are heavy, thick and dark, draw them heavier, thicker, and darker! If he or she has a big chin or nose, draw it larger! If the hair is thin, make it thinner and if it’s thick, draw it thicker!

But, that’s not all! Professional caricaturists also exaggerate the following facial spaces:

  1. The vertical distance from the hairline down to the eyebrows.
  2. The horizontal distance between the eyes, from one inside corner to the other.
  3. The width of the face from the outside edge of one cheekbone to the outside edge of the other.
  4. The vertical distance from the bottom of the nose to the top of the upper lip (as an aside, this distance is considered the most important distance on the face).
  5. The length from the edge of the bottom lip to the bottom of the chin.


Draw a caricature of someone you know, such as a family member or a friend, either from life or a photo! Choose a good photo or find a patient model. If you work from life, be prepared for a few giggles! A brief overview of the process is as follows:

  1. Observe the overall shape of the head and face, and exaggerate it as you draw.
  2. Lightly sketch the location of each individual feature. Constantly refer to your model for unique or unusual aspects of their features that you can exaggerate in your drawing. (Remember, this person may draw your caricature someday, so be nice!)
  3. Continue adjusting and changing until you are happy with your drawing.


About Brenda Hoddinott
Award-winning artist and author; illustrator, art educator, curriculum designer, co-owner of, owner of Drawspace Publishing, and retired forensic artist Brenda has developed art curricula and taught multidisciplinary arts since 1980. During her 25-year career as a forensic artist, Brenda worked with diverse criminal investigative agencies including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canadian Department of National Defense, private investigative agencies, and municipal police departments. Brenda and her partner John live in the suburbs of Halifax, Nova Scotia with their two SPCA rescue dogs: Timber the Huskador and Katie the Pitweiler. Their blended human family includes five adult children and two grandchildren. Books by Brenda Hoddinott include: 2012: Introduction to Contour Lines (Drawspace Publishing) 2012: Introduction to Drawing (Drawspace Publishing) 2011: Illustrated Dictionary of Art-Related Terms (Drawspace Publishing) 2010: Getting Started with Drawing (Drawspace Publishing) 2004: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Drawing People Illustrated (Alpha Books) 2003: Drawing for Dummies (Wiley Publishing, Inc.)

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