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Design

Cartoon Fundamentals: How to Draw the Female Form

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This post is part of a series called How to Draw Cartoons.
Cartoon Fundamentals: How to Draw Cartoon Hands
Cartoon Fundamentals: How to Draw Children

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.

If you're drawing digitally, perhaps you want your work to look more like it's created with pencil and paper. If this is the case, may we recommend one of the many Photoshop brush sets available on GraphicRiver, including this Classic Art Brush Pack.

Classic Art Brush Pack
Brush Pack Professional volume 4 - Classic Art

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.

female male proportions comparison
These are realistic proportions. As you can see, the difference is not that striking. In cartoon style, you can exaggerate it.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. Triangle: the hips are wider than shoulders.
body shape types female

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
female body shapes

Besides this, there can be other factors affecting the proportions:

  1. 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.
  2. It's possible for the torso to be longer. This may make the waistline look shallower and the legs shorter.
  3. The legs are typically as long as the body over the hip line. But they can be longer!
  4. People with dwarfism will usually have a normally shaped upper body, with only the legs and/or arms being shorter.
body shape variation

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:

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).

how to draw breasts

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.

realistic breasts drawing

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).

how to draw breasts sizes

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.

feminine masculine facial features
Feel free to add more than one masculine feature to your female faces and see how far you can go without misgendering the character. In fact, you can draw a fully masculine face for your female character and mark her femininity with the hairstyle and clothes.

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:

  1. Long
  2. Round
  3. Oval
  4. Square
  5. Heart
  6. Diamond

You can also play with the distances between the facial features.

female face shape types

Ethnic Differences

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!

female beauty types ethicity

Cartoon Aging

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.

cartoon aging

4. How to Draw a Cartoon Female Face Step by Step

Step 1

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.

draw a circle

Step 2

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 face proportions

Step 3

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.

draw eye shape

Step 4

Add the curve of the eyebrows.

draw curve eyebrow

Step 5

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.

draw lower face

Step 6

Add the nose as a simple circle.

draw nose

Step 7

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.

draw lips

Step 8

Add the ears.

draw ears

Step 9

Add the neck.

draw neck

Step 10

Draw the iris inside the eye. The cuter the character, the bigger the iris should be.

draw iris

Step 11

Draw the pupil. The same rule applies here.

draw pupil

You can learn more about drawing cartoon eyes (and other facial features) in this tutorial:

Step 12

Add the shape of the upper eyelid.

draw upper eyelid

Step 13

Add the shine in the eye. It should be asymmetrical.

draw eye shine

Step 14

Draw the nose.

draw cartoon nose

Step 15

Draw the lips. First the line between them...

draw cartoon mouth

... then the upper one as a simple shadow, and the lower one as a curve.

draw cartoon lips

Step 16

Add the eyebrows.

draw cartoon eyebrows

Step 17

Draw the hair. Keep the lines simple and flowing.

draw cartoon hair

Step 18

Finish the drawing by erasing the guidelines and drawing the final lines over them.

draw cartoon face step by step

5. How to Draw a Female Body in Cartoon Style Step by Step

Step 1

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.

sketch body pose

Step 2

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!

sketch body shape

Step 3

Add the arms. Keep them simple, as if you were shaping pieces of wire.

sketch arms

Step 4

Add a simple head.

sketch head

Step 5

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.

sketch body joints

Step 6

Define the position of the face. Draw the center lines.

sketch head rotation

Step 7

Add basic features to the face.

sketch cartoon face

Step 8

Add the muscle masses and the breasts.

sketch muscles

Step 9

Add the fingers.

sketch hands

Step 10

Outline the whole body, as if the character were naked.

draw cartoon body

Step 11

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.

draw female body

Step 12

Finally, clean the guidelines. You can also add shadows with a grey marker.

how to draw cartoon woman

Good Job!

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:

how to draw female body
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