How to draw and paint cartoons on Photoshop (I)

In this brief tutorial we will see how to draw cartoons in the classic American style (looney tunes, animaniacs, etc.). This work process is not suitable for making cartoons, since for this, animation software such as Animate (previously called Flash) is usually used, but it is a suitable foundation to make from unique illustrations to digital comics.

Tools and materials

  • 80g paper, A4 format and HB pencil.
  • For inking: permanent markers for technical drawing, 0.2 and 0.4 thick.
  • Digital part: Wacom Intuos Art tablet.


I chose Ecuadorian wildlife as inspiration for these cartoons. The animals chosen are: a condor, an alpaca, a guinea pig, a spectacled bear and a jaguar.

Ecuadorian wildlife
Image source:


Ecuadorian Tigrillo (Oncilla)
Image source:


1. Turning the artwork digital


To digitize a pencil drawing, it is best to start with a scan of at least 300 dpi resolution. In this case, once I had scanned the drawing, I went straight to drawing with my tablet on a new layer, above the scanned image and blocking this layer.

The basic tools for this work are the brush (key B) and the eraser (key E). Note: You can customize keyboard shortcuts in the Edit menu> Keyboard shortcuts … (or Alt + Shift + Control + K keys).


2. Basic shapes

Although on paper I started by drawing the sketches almost directly thinking about the final forms and the sketches are continuous figures, not fragmented, in this section I discuss how to decompose that figure into simple geometric shapes with volume. This exercise allows you to decompose figures into elements that are easier to represent. It is a practice usually recommended for a basic level of drawing.

The main figures in which this jaguar can be decomposed are spheres, cylinders, and conical shapes. Mastering the drawing of these elements allows a better understanding of the volume and, with practice, working in perspective more easily.

3. Inking

For the inking of the jaguar I used the graphic tablet. Personally, it is not my favorite way of inking, because it is a way of working that does not allow the same comfort and ease of drawing as in a support such as paper. However, it is possible to ink in this way, using Photoshop tools such as view rotation, layers, eraser and straight lines (using the Shift key between each click). The other characters I inked them with technical drawing markers.

This stage, something uncomfortable to perform on a standard graphics tablet, can be carried out more easily with the rotate view tool (R key) and constantly zooming (keeping the Z key pressed and holding left click while moving the mouse or pen on the tablet). The difficulty is especially mechanical, because it is not very natural to draw with the view away from the tip of the pencil, but with time and the work method previously described, one can get used. There are several advantages of working from the beginning digitally: saving time, materials, editing flexibility, …
For the digitization of the other characters, after having scanned them, I used a level adjustment layer to eliminate gray tones and obtain the maximum contrast between black and white.
The next thing was to change the blending mode ‘Multiply’, so as to transparent the white color of the layer and to see the color in the lower layers.

4. Colour

Finally, for coloring I chose a basic technique, which simply consists of making selections with the lasso and magic wand tools, and then filling in the selected areas (with Ctrl + Backspace or Alt + Backspace keys to fill with the first or second color of the inkwell).

Since each character has at least two colors, I separated the background color from the top colors in layers. I organized each group of colors in each character’s own folders for easier handling, turning at the end of the strokes and colors of each one into an intelligent Object (right click on the corresponding layer / s and Convert into an intelligent object) .

Almost at the end of the process I realized that the tones selected at the beginning for each character, being based on the reference photographs, were too dark and neutral to be cartoons, so I modified them with the color adjustment layer.


As you can see drawing cartoons in Photoshop is a fairly simple process, especially when previously done inking paper. The next thing is to simply handle the layers correctly to separate the color strokes, and as they said in those times … (That’s all) x3 folks!

Cómo dibujar caricaturas en Photoshop


If you wish, you can practice from the base of the original .psd available here.

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