If you want to draw a girl or a woman in a cartoon way, it may be hard to find a tutorial that shows how to draw a female body without sexualizing it. It's true that the cartoon style uses simplification and exaggeration to be more effective, but it doesn't mean that you can draw the female form in only one way—even if it's a pin-up drawing.
In this tutorial, I'll show you how to draw a cartoon woman without same-face or same-body syndrome. You'll learn everything about female form drawing—the proportions of a female body, various shapes of the body, and how to draw a cartoon female face step by step.
1. Female Body Proportions
The main difference between a female and male body lies in the waist area. Females tend to have wider hips, for two reasons: they're anatomically wider to make giving birth possible, and estrogen makes fat accumulate in this area. This makes the waist look thinner. Males have smaller hips and wider chest/shoulders, so the waist isn't as noticeable.
So, to create a difference between a female and male body in cartoon style, put the focus on the waist in females and on the shoulders in males.
Body Shape Types
But it isn't the end of it. The ratio between the shoulders, waist, and hips differs among females, creating four basic body types:
- Hourglass: the shoulders are as wide as the hips, and the waist is much smaller than this. Although this type is often considered the most feminine, research shows that only 8% of women have this type of silhouette.
- Rectangular: the shoulders and hips are equal, and the waist is only slightly smaller than them. This is the most popular type of silhouette for women.
- Inverted triangle: the shoulders are wider than hips. Although this is considered a masculine body shape, in reality it's more common in women than hourglass!
- Triangle: the hips are wider than shoulders.
But this was just about the skeletal ratio. The fat accumulation affects the silhouette as well, and females tend to accumulate it more easily than males. In women, fat usually accumulates in the hips, buttocks, and thighs, but the skeletal proportions affect the final outcome:
- Low fat: when there's little fat in the body, the skeletal proportions are more visible. The hips are angular, because it's fat that makes them round. Although the waist is thin, it may not look small, because the hips without fat may look smaller as well, reducing the contrast.
- Medium fat: here, the skeletal proportions dominate the silhouette. The hips are rounded. It is possible to be fit with a medium level of fat, because women burn fat more slowly—especially in the hips area!
- High fat, diamond shape: when fat is accumulated in the stomach area, the waist can be lost. However, if the hips stay wider than that, it may appear as if the waist moved higher.
- High fat, apple shape: here, fat has been accumulated in the waist area, making it wider than the hips and shoulders. This is a popular type of silhouette for post-menopausal women because estrogen stops directing fat to the hips. It can occur in younger women as well, if they didn't have wide hips or a narrow waist before gaining weight.
- High fat, pear shape: when the hip bones are wide, gaining weight around the waist may not affect the contrast that much. The triangle shape is kept—it just gets rounder.
Besides this, there can be other factors affecting the proportions:
- Some women are naturally built smaller: shorter, with lower measurements in shoulders, waist, and hips. They may have a normal level of fat and appear skinny regardless.
- It's possible for the torso to be longer. This may make the waistline look shallower and the legs shorter.
- The legs are typically as long as the body over the hip line. But they can be longer!
- People with dwarfism will usually have a normally shaped upper body, with only the legs and/or arms being shorter.
Disclaimer: body types are often described in different ways in different sources. I chose to describe them in a way that is the most useful for drawing. It may not be consistent with every list of body shapes you can find on the Internet.
If you want to learn more about the human body, check out these tutorials:
- Human Anatomy Fundamentals: Basic Body ProportionsJoumana Medlej19 Jun 2021
- Human Anatomy Fundamentals: Advanced Body ProportionsJoumana Medlej10 Dec 2013
- Human Anatomy Fundamentals: Muscles and Other Body MassJoumana Medlej06 Feb 2014
- Human Anatomy Fundamentals: Flexibility and Joint LimitationsJoumana Medlej06 Mar 2014
2. How to Draw Breasts
Breasts are often drawn as simple spheres stuck to the chest, but it's not a requirement of a cartoon exaggeration. You can draw realistic breasts in a cartoon way! You just have to understand how they work.
Imagine breasts as water balloons attached to the chest with skin. They change shape because of gravity, and they may hang lower when the skin gets weaker (3).
When drawing the breasts in any view, it's good to draw them as ovals, slightly heavier at the bottom. Keep in mind that they're not separate from the rest of the body—they're attached to the breast muscle, which goes under the armpit.
Breasts come in many shapes and sizes, but there's one rule: the bigger the breasts, the lower they hang and the less circular they look. Breasts appear circular and close to each other only in two cases: in some types of implants (3), and in a push-up/sports bra (4).
3. Cartoon Female Face
Female and Male Facial Differences
Because the cartoon style simplifies facial features, the difference between females and males can get blurry. That's why feminine features get exaggerated:
- The eyes are big, round, and low in the face.
- The nose is small and not too visible.
- The eyebrows are thin and high.
- The lips are big.
- The neck is thin.
- The face is oval.
This is a general recipe for a cartoon female. However, it's not necessary to stick to all these elements. On the contrary, drawing every female this way will inevitably lead to the same-face syndrome—a popular issue where every character looks like the same one, just in different clothes and with different hairstyles.
The easiest way to solve it is to mix the feminine features with masculine ones—after all, that's how it works in the real world. Some facial features are called feminine not because they only appear in females, but because that's what's traditionally associated with females. Different cultures may have different ideas of feminine facial features, so you're not doing anything wrong by adding masculine lips to a female character.
Female Face Shapes
Although oval is considered the most feminine face shape, just like with the body shape, it's not the most popular. There are many shapes that you can use to avoid same-face syndrome:
You can also play with the distances between the facial features.
- Human Anatomy Fundamentals: Basics of the FaceJoumana Medlej09 Apr 2014
- Human Anatomy Fundamentals: Advanced Facial FeaturesJoumana Medlej09 May 2014
There's another reason to ignore the official cartoon rules for a female face—females of various ethnicities have different facial features, and they shouldn't be ignored for the sake of achieving a "classically beautiful character". There are many types of beauty—use them in your drawing and say goodbye to the same-face syndrome!
The femininity of cartoon characters is mostly achieved by using youthful features, especially huge eyes that bring an infant to mind. But it doesn't mean that all your female characters must be the same age! You can create age differences among your characters by adjusting the distance between the chin and the eyes. You can also make the eyes and lips smaller, and add some simple wrinkles.
- Human Anatomy Fundamentals: Drawing Different AgesJoumana Medlej02 Sep 2014
- Cartoon Fundamentals: How to Draw ChildrenCarlos Gomes Cabral27 Aug 2014
4. How to Draw a Cartoon Female Face Step by Step
Let's draw a cartoon female face now in three different styles: semi-realistic, typical, and baby-like. First, draw a circle. Draw a cross inside it.
To draw a character consistently, you must be aware of its facial proportions. It can be helpful to use any of the guidelines that are easy to replicate—for example, one-third or one-half of the circle's lower half.
Draw the eye shape. For a realistic face, keep the eyes high and relatively narrow. Place them lower and make them rounder for cuter faces. There are no strict rules here, and you can experiment to create your own style.
Add the curve of the eyebrows.
Add the lower part of the face. The proportions will affect the final look of the face: realistic faces have more space between the eyes and the chin than "babified" ones. As always, make sure you know which guidelines you are using to keep your character consistent.
Add the nose as a simple circle.
Add the lips in the form of a simple line. Regardless of the style, keep the lips one-third of the way from the nose to the bottom of the chin.
Add the ears.
Add the neck.
Draw the iris inside the eye. The cuter the character, the bigger the iris should be.
Draw the pupil. The same rule applies here.
You can learn more about drawing cartoon eyes (and other facial features) in this tutorial:
Add the shape of the upper eyelid.
Add the shine in the eye. It should be asymmetrical.
Draw the nose.
Draw the lips. First the line between them...
... then the upper one as a simple shadow, and the lower one as a curve.
- How to Draw Lips and a MouthMonika Zagrobelna23 Apr 2018
- How to Draw Cartoon MouthsDaisy Ein06 Dec 2018
Add the eyebrows.
Draw the hair. Keep the lines simple and flowing.
- How to Draw Natural, Textured, Afro Hairstyles (Afros, Locs, Braids, Twists)Daisy Ein30 Sep 2018
- How to Draw Anime HairMonika Zagrobelna21 Nov 2018
- How to Draw Hair Step by StepMonika Zagrobelna11 Jul 2017
- How to Draw Natural, Textured, Afro Hair (How to Draw Curly Hair)Daisy Ein08 Sep 2018
Finish the drawing by erasing the guidelines and drawing the final lines over them.
5. How to Draw a Female Body in Cartoon Style Step by Step
Let's draw the whole female body now. Think of a pose or find a reference that you like. Using references is not cheating, as long as you only look at them and don't trace them. I used these:
You can find more references on DeviantArt.
Sketch your pose in a simple way. Try to capture the main curve of the body and legs.
Add the chest and hips. Keep in mind that these don't have to be the anatomical, skeletal chest and hips, but rather the whole area of the body simplified to an oval. For example, you don't have to draw an hourglass silhouette to change it to an apple later—draw it as an apple already!
Add the arms. Keep them simple, as if you were shaping pieces of wire.
Add a simple head.
Add the joints. Refer to the diagram at the beginning of this tutorial. If you discover that something is wrong with the proportions, it's a good time to fix them.
Define the position of the face. Draw the center lines.
Add basic features to the face.
Add the muscle masses and the breasts.
Add the fingers.
- How to Draw Anime Hands and FeetMonika Zagrobelna14 Nov 2018
- Human Anatomy Fundamentals: How to Draw FeetJoumana Medlej08 Aug 2014
- Human Anatomy Fundamentals: How to Draw HandsJoumana Medlej15 Jul 2014
Outline the whole body, as if the character were naked.
Draw the final lines. Don't forget to use a reference for the clothes! If necessary, draw the guidelines for the clothes first—it's better to spend some extra time planning these than to ruin a nice drawing with a rash decision.
Finally, clean the guidelines. You can also add shadows with a grey marker.
Now you know how to draw a woman using the cartoon style. If you want to learn more about drawing cartoons, check out our other tutorials: