There are many cartoon drawing styles and types that you can learn from and get inspired! From simple cartoon drawing styles to famous ones that you keep seeing in shirts, the TV, and Youtube, there is no end to them!
I’ve listed the top cartoon drawing styles with a few examples for you to check out, so let’s get this started!
Old Cartoon Drawing Style
Let’s start with the very old cartoon drawing styles from many years ago.
Most of the times people reference this type of cartoon drawing as “Fleischer Cartoons” since the art style was heavily used by Fleischer Studios.
These art styles are in black and white and with very high contrast body parts most of the time.
This style is also characterized by usually having short bodies and long limbs.
In fact, some people call this style of drawing (and then animating) noodle drawings. Since the arms and legs, the entire motion in fact, of the character would move a lot as if there were no bones in their bodies.
Some examples of this cartoon drawing style are:
- Mickey Mouse
- Betty Boop
Here are some more images of this specific cartoon drawing art style!
On a side note, some recent video games have managed to bring that art style back into the modern area. For example, in the video game Cuphead, the art style is HEAVILY influenced by cartoons such as Betty Boop.
Here are some examples of Cuphead’s art style.
You can definitely see where the Cuphead artists got their inspiration!
Modern Cartoon Style
This is one of the most common art styles that you can see on a channel like Cartoon Network.
On a general note, the main characteristics of this art style are thick outlines, very geometric shapes, and colorful colors.
One of the big reasons to do the art this way is that by using simple shapes with not many details, it makes the overall animation process quicker, and saves money to the studios. Still, it’s quite a good looking cartoon art style!
This art style has been popularized by several modern cartoons, here are a few examples:
- Gravity Falls
- The Powerpuff Girls
- Codename: Kids Next Door
- Dexter’s Laboratory
Here are some example images of a modern cartoon art style.
Realistic Cartoon Style
A more uncommon cartoon style, since in general cartoon drawing tends to simplify shapes, the realistic cartoon art style tends to add details and keep shapes very in line with reality.
In fact, this art style is mostly seen by artists doing vectorizations of photos of people.
To some extent, you can also include Caricatures in this category. Caricatures are generally very realistic, besides the whole enlargement and shrinking of specific body parts!
Some examples of realistic cartoon art styles:
- Ugly Americans
- General Caricatures
Japanese Cartoon Art Styles
Japanese cartoon art styles tend to be quite different from their western counterparts.
In fact, I decided to divide this into 3 different specific art styles since they are quite different from each other. I feel like I could divide this even into more parts, but I don’t want to fill this article with just Japanese cartoon art styles!
Old Japanese manga characters tend to have very human-like proportions when it comes to their bodies, with the difference of having quite big eyes most of the time.
In general, this art style also tends to focus on more feminine bodies, with very angular chins and thin bodies. Some styles would even exaggerate some parts of the body, for example, really long legs, compared to the rest to the body!
Here are a few examples of mangas that have this art style:
- Sailor Moon
- GTO (Great Teacher Onizuka)
- Urusei Yatsura
- Oh My Goddess
And here are some images for this classic manga art style.
The modern anime style tends to have more of a complexity, which is mostly seen in drawings of characters in motion.
Nowadays, this art style also has lots of shadows and highlights in their characters and environments, giving it a new level of complexity.
Here are a few examples of modern animes that have this art style:
- Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood
- Attack On Titan
- Sword Art Online
- My Hero Academia
And here are a few images showing off this modern anime art style!
Finally, here’s a style that I love to work with.
The chibi drawing style is what you can see a lot in my articles, I tend to use a “mini” character as a mascot to help me show some processes, like in my post about Art Composition For Beginners!
This art style is focused mostly on making your characters into a tiny version of themselves. Like if you were compacting them into a very small container.
Some examples of series that use this chibi drawing art style are:
- Himouto! Umaru-chan
- Lucky Star
- Bottle Fairy
And here is an image example of this cartoon drawing art style.
Also, if you’d like to draw your own chibi characters, be sure to take a look at my Chibi Characters Step By Step Drawing Course!
Minimalist Cartoon Art Styles
The minimalist cartoon art style is mostly seen in video games, and tend to be used for either liking the overall style, or for time saving!
Since these tend to be more simplistic, they also tend to be quicker to create and most importantly, faster to animate.
A lot of times this cartoon drawing art style is done with the use of vector art. It’s also mostly geometric and with clean colors without a lot of details.
For example, there is the video game Thomas Was Alone.
And this character by Pablo Hernández Delgado.
As you can see, there can still be quite a level of detail on this art style, while keeping it pretty minimalistic.
Another example of a minimalist cartoon art style is, for example, using stickmen!
This is a very basic style of art, but it can work pretty well if done properly. It’s also one of the first things people draw when starting to learn to draw.
One of the most known examples of stickman done right is the xkcd comics.
Unique Cartoon Art Styles
Let’s now very briefly go over some pretty unique cartoon art styles! Most of these are very popular and highly recognizable right away.
Tim Burton has a very characteristic and dark art style that still carries a lot of emotion. It isn’t dark for the sake of being dark, you can see that his characters have several layers of emotion expressed in them.
In fact, Tim Burton’s work has become so popular, that quite a few artists have mimicked this art style into their own.
For example, here are some Pokemon done in a Tim Burton art style, created by Vaughn Pinpin.
This cartoon art style is so widely popular, that there are even quite a few websites that you can use to create a Simpson's version of yourself. For example, the Simpson Maker.
The style itself had some gradual evolution throughout the years, but the main features always remained! The yellow bodies and the big and white sphere-like eyes were always there.
Disney had a pretty evolutionary cartoon art style over the years.
It started with what I call Classic Disney, with cartoons like “Steamboat Willie” and “It’s Got Me Again!”.
This art style was a staple for many years and really brings a nostalgic feeling to people that have watched them during that time.
As I mentioned before, this art style was also one of the base inspirations to the video game Cuphead.
Mid 20th Century Disney
During the mid 20th century, Disney started working more and more with live actors, drawing from reference and filming shots before drawing the cartoons.
It was a huge step forward when it comes to cartoon drawing, and it really helped set the standard for Disney quality movies.
Some notable examples of this cartoon drawing art style are:
- Sleeping Beauty
- One Hundred And One Dalmatians
- Sword In The Stone
Here’s an example of how Alice in Wonderland was shot before doing the cartoon versions.
Modern Disney’s art style (not counting the 3D movies) is mainly a direct improvement of mid 20th Century’s Disney.
This cartoon drawing style has gone brighter, more detailed and more complex in general.
Unfortunately, Disney has mostly stopped creating 2D cartoon drawing styles recently, but there are still some examples of this more refined art style like:
- Lilo And Stich
- Treasure Planet
- The Princess And The Frog
Here’s an example of this modern Disney art style.
Peanuts (Charlie Brown)
Peanuts cartoon art style by Charles M. Schulz is a very handmade and wobbly art style. And it’s amazing.
The way Mr. Charles does the simplistic but with such strong emotions art, it’s really a wonderful thing to see. Every little character ties in together very well, and they are very geometric (although with wobbly lines), made of circles, rectangles and so on.
South Park art style is very perfectly geometric and with very little depth. It’s very rare to see any shadow or highlight in this cartoon art style, and the colors are pretty strong and clean.
It’s one of those easily recognizable art styles, just like the Simpsons. And just like the Simpsons, it has many fan-made character creators.
Not only that, but it also has an official South Park Character Creator, so check that out if it interests you!
Dragon Ball / Chrono Trigger (Akira Toriyama)
Akira Toriyama’s art style is one of the drawing styles that anyone that has seen Dragon Ball during their life immediately recognizes.
It’s characterized by his characters having big almost rectangular eyes, a lot of geometric shapes and definition in the muscles (mostly the latest versions of Dragon Ball).
He has also done characters for the video game Chrono Trigger, which also has this exact cartoon drawing art style.
A more modern example of a cartoon drawing style, Adventure Time’s art is very geometric and its characters are practically boneless.
This allows for more fluid animation. The art itself is also quite colorful, with bright colors really popping out of the screen.
Other than that, the characters usually have very tiny eyes (except for a few cases) and the lines are very thin.
Hayao Miyazaki Art Style (Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke…)
Hayao Miyazaki’s art is a beautifully crafted drawing style, where he takes a detailed approach on how he builds his characters and environment.
This drawing style is characterized by having thin lines, human-like proportions and very round anime-styled eyes.
There was some evolution of this style from, for example, Castle In The Sky to more recently Ponyo, but the base of this cartoon drawing style was always there.
Crayon Shin-Chan’s art style is very simplistic in nature as if drawn with… well, crayons.
One of the most interesting aspects of this art style is that the artist doesn’t mind pushing the limits of the characters. As you can see, the heads, for example, don’t have quite the proportions and shapes that a human would have.
The lines are generally very thin, and the eyes are big (on most characters) in simple black and white colors.
Lupin The 3rd
Lupin The 3rd’s art style has evolved over the years, but the base art style stayed the same.
The simple thin lines with big with eyes done like colored pencil sketches really make this an amazing art style.
Betty Boop’s art style has very contrasting black and white colors all over.
We’ve mentioned this before on the old cartoon drawing art style section, so I’ll keep it brief!
Very thin lines with a high amount of black shapes in the characters, it’s not saying enough, but you will recognize this style right away.
Fist Of The North Star
Fist Of The North Star’s art has a very grungy drawing style, which you can particularly see in the original manga.
The characters here tend to have super-human like proportions and are drawn with very dark shadows, just like the art style I’ll talk about next.
Berserk’s art style is very dark and detailed.
If you look closely at the original mangas, this art style very rarely has blocks of dark shadows. Instead, the artist has drawn the shadows using hatching techniques.
This way the art itself looks very detailed and even the textures are created with some amazingly thorough hatching techniques.
Definitely worth checking this art style out for inspiration.
Calvin And Hobbes
Bill Watterson’s art style while doing Calvin And Hobbes is very simplistic with a mix of thin and medium-sized lines.
This fantastic art style is very unique and has been replicated over and over again by many artists who love his work. The colors are watercolored, giving the books a calming and smooth style.
One of my favorite comic book collections ever, with an amazing cartoon drawing art style!
Powerpuff Girls’ art style has very thick lines and geometric shapes.
This is a modern take on cartoon drawing that we already have given a few examples of in another section.
The shapes of the characters and environment are VERY geometric and the colors are clean, with rare use of shadows and highlights. Most of the times these colors are also very bright, to appeal to a younger audience.
A mix of vector art and realism, Archer’s art style is a very interesting one.
It’s basically a strip down of features from a realistic drawing. The proportions are mostly the same and the placement of the features as well. The major difference is the lack of details on this art style and the use of cell shading for the shadows and highlights.
A fascinating art style that has become somewhat popular in the modern era.
How do you create your own art style? A big important factor is of course practicing, but besides that, you’ll need inspiration from other artists and learning new skills. I talk about the specifics on my post on how to improve your art style.
I don’t feel motivated to draw! Not quite a question, but I understand. There are quite a few ways to break out and start drawing even if you’re not feeling motivated! I cover a few in my article on how to motivate yourself to draw.
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