Monday, November 17, 2008


Original pencil art

The biggest communication tool humans have is our face. We pay more attention to people's faces than any other part of them. In cartoons we assign a disproportional size and emphasis to the face because of this.

Certain parts of the face are the important elements that make the expression.

Main features, eye brows, eye shapes, pupils, cheeks, nose and larger teeth shape

These essential features have thick lines to draw attention to the emotion of the character

The Mouth Shape-

the overall shape of the mouth is very important to the expression and should have a slightly thick line to draw attention to the shape - whether it is an open mouth or a closed mouth

The shape of the mouth itself tells us a lot about the character's emotion.

The Smile Line-

the lines at the edges of the mouth shape are very important. I like to make them a bit thicker in the middle-which gives the effect of a shadow
this helps solidify the expression.
Cheeks and Smile explanation

the smile lines and the cheek above together create a form - a piece of flesh that is somewhat triangular
this form stretches and squashes to make expressions-whatever the smile line does affects the cheek line above

that form points to the top of the nostril like an arrow

when inking a smile line or a cheek line you have to look at the other line at the same time so that the two lines together make a fleshy sensible form

The Eyebrows-

The eyebrows are also very important to the expression

Eyebrows are generally thick in the middle of the forehead, and pointy near the temples


Head outline and face combined

Even without the details and wrinkles, the expression should read strong and clearly



then the individual teeth are thinner


all details are subject to the larger features that they help define. They have to flow sensibly around the head in the same directions of the parts of the expression they help define.

None of these lines should "float" or be arbitrary. They need to help the face be fleshy

these lines are thinner

Individual teeth

Wrinkles- crow's feet, eyebrow wrinkles, bottom lip wrinkles

Tongue split

Side by side comparison


coolhand said...

another great post as usual

Toncho said...

You know what John?... You know what? You're an $%&#! Nah, nevermind.

I just bought a couple of books on cartooning (they didn't have PB's which I am still looking for) and none of them is as valuable, as interesting or, well, just AMAZING as your blog.

Kudos to you! please keep posting this valuable information.

PS. Quick question; what do you suggest for us flash animators who can't afford "Real" animation, nor fancy Wacom boards to draw?

OK, now I'm depressed xD.

Niki said...

these thing you do are really amazing. I've been noticing a lot of animators who ( to me at least) look like they know what their doing. is there like a list out of animators currently live who got their stuff straight?

Ryan G. said...

Nice John. I kind of took the logical approach more than the emotional but it all makes sense. Thanks for the tips!

Jazzy said...

we should pay you someday for all this great knowledge that you're giving to us!

Putty CAD said...

Thanks for these tips Mister K,

I find all this stuff fascinating and hope it will make my cartoons better!

I think you should make a book for all us novices, I'm sure it would sell tons!



SoleilSmile said...

Thanks, John. I noticed that not all of your lines end with a point especially when they converge with other lines. Could you enlighten us about this technique in a later post?

Grateful in advance:)

Gudrød said...

Just lovely, and very comprehensive. Creating a hierarchy of line strengths is such an important element that is often forgotten.

Elana Pritchard said...

you should turn your posts into a book and sell a million copies! yeah, that toncho guy thinks so too!

Hans Flagon said...

I hope that tongue is going somewhere as it looks like an odd inbetween pose that could be misinterpreted if a scene was split between several inkers taking away the context.

Caleb said...

Thanks for this stuff, John. Amen on a cartoon book by the creator of Ren & Stimpy. You always seem to mention the things that other instructional stuff overlooks, with a better sense of humor.

So in most cases, is it better to make the head sillo slightly bigger than the body sillo?

CrazyHarmke said...

this emotional-information probably makes my inks better ^_^

Jamie Gallant said...

Hi John,
Your stuff would make a cool book. Have you seen Eric Goldberg's book? And if so, what do you think?


Niki said...

Hay Mr. John. something I hope you haven't seen yet

Will said...

Your the man john =) thanx so much for this, i jst bought ren and stimpy 3 and a half =) just to see more of your handy work =). Have you posted anything about scene design yet?

Slack-a-gogo said...

John - thanks as always for the great technique and tips posts. I'll never take the animation route, but your tips have been a great help for me with my personal cartooning. After a lifetime of doodling without much craft, you've been a great resource as I try to step it up and employ some practiced skills. And add me to the choir - please put this all in a book some day.

Masked Stinker said...

Your lessons are so clear and helpful.

Why couldn't any of my teachers teach this way?

Maybe I'd learn something from them.

Zachary said...

is this what your trying to do with the george liquor show?

Niki said...


I hope your only trying to fake insanity.

Mattieshoe said...

John, just wanted to let you know some of the images are broken on this post, which I feel is a pretty damn important one. Just something you might want to consider, because I feel like these are all just so valuable to artists.