Cartoon Body Formulas
I spent a lot of time on cartoon heads. There’s a lot to know about drawing heads. There’s just as much to know about drawing the body. By “body”, I mean the torso and hips.
Cartoon bodies can be simplified so that you don’t need to go as deep as you would with the head although, for best results, it’s good know how to draw a more realistic anatomically correct body.
In this lesson I’ll show you some simple body formulas you can use, and how some of those formulas can be modified to draw some slightly more naturalistic looking body shapes. We’ll go over:
- Super Simple Cartoon Body Shapes
- The Bean and The Bullet
- The Chest Area
- The Underwear Hip Shape
- Modifying the Formula
- Freddy Moore Body Types
- Bruce Timm Body Types
- Anime Body Types.
Super Simple Cartoon Body Shapes
When it comes to cartoon body shapes, anything goes. Start with basic shapes: Squares, Circles, Triangles. Pull them, push them, make them interesting:
Stick heads arms and legs off of them, and you’ve got a cartoon body. It’s really dead simple. If you want it too look more solid, add solidity. Give it form.:
Make it up, you’re the cartoonist, you make the rules.
If however, you want someone else’s cartoon body type formulas, then read on.
The Bean and The Bullet
By far, the most commonly used cartoon body shape is “The Bean.” Another helpful shape that I personally like to use is a modification of “The Bean,” I’ll call, “The Bullet.” It’s a shape I learned from my favorite Figure Drawing teacher, Steve Huston. So let me explain these shapes.
The Bean is exactly what it sounds like. It looks like a bean. It’s made up of two spheres. One on top, one on the bottom, separated by a small space, connected by lines on the side. What you end up with is a modified cylinder of sorts. When it bends, it looks like a bean. This shape is meant to represent the torso and hip area together.
The usefulness of The Bean comes from it’s flexibility. It can be bent, stretched and twisted easily. It can also be modified to create many different types of torso shapes. It’s a fairly standard shape for most traditional, western, animated cartoon characters, from Mickey Mouse and his gang to the Looney Tunes characters.
And once you get used to the simple Bean made of two spheres, you can change those shapes to cubes, cones, cylinders and wedges to make even more varied body shapes:
The Bullet is similar to the The Bean. However, it’s just a tad more complicated. It’s made up of two shapes, a bullet shaped cylinder facing down, inserted into a soft cornered box hip area. The idea is that the bottom round bullet part of the upper shape immediately creates the shape of the abdominal muscles adding an anatomical feel to your drawing from the start.
If The Bullet is difficult to grasp, you can first start with The Bean and once you have it the way you want, you can convert it to The Bullet after, as you will see in a moment.
This shape is best used when drawing more naturalistic, anatomical cartoon characters such as anime or action adventure characters. But it can also be use to supplement a modified Bean shape to add more naturalism to an exaggerated cartoon shape:
When drawing either The Bean or The Bullet from the side view, don’t forget to make sure to the natural rhythms for the body to get a naturalistic convincing look to your characters.
The Chest Area
If you’re going to add a bit of convincing naturalism to your cartoons, whether it’s to add some pecks or breasts, you’ll want to have a simple chest formula to work with.
Here’s how I approach the male chest area:
- After deciding where to put the center of my torso, I find the area where I think the shoulders will be. I do this by drawing a shoulder line near the top of the bullet shape. I put a dot for the pit of the neck where the center line and the shoulder line connect. I also add two line on the right and left of the pit of the neck for the neck.
- I decide where I want the bottom of the pecks and draw a line wrapping around the form there. This is different for every character. I also add arm tubes that connect to the shoulder line.
- I then connect the bottom corner of the pecks to the shoulders and end up with a shape like this. This is NOT anatomically accurate but it’s a helpful guideline that can be adjusted with the particulars of each character.
- Now here’s where it get interesting. Starting near the bottom of center of the pecks draw a rhythm line the travels up the center and turns before it gets to the pit of the neck. This line travel over to rhythmically create the shoulders. This connects the chest area with the shoulder creating a unified shoulder girdle. Once that’s done, you can add two concave lines from the neck to the shoulders to create the shoulder muscles. If the male is very muscular, these line would be drawn convex.
- And that’s it. I have a male chest lay in. This is enough of an under drawing to start.
But what if you want to draw a female chest area? Well, it’s pretty much the same thing with some slight adjustments:
- You start exactly like the male chest, with a shoulder line, pit of the neck and neck.
- Then you draw the arms and the bottom of the pecks. Yes, women have pecks. Surprise!
- Connect the pecks to the shoulders as with the male.
- Here’s where thing change up a bit. To add bosoms simply draw two slanted egg shape on the corner of each peck. This slant varies depending on the type of bosom. Like men’s chests, not all women have the same type of bosom.
- Now create a rhythm line connecting both bosoms to each other and to the shoulders to make them feel as if this whole area part of one unit. Once that’s done you draw the concave lines of the shoulder muscles.
- And you’re done. You now have a female chest area lay in to draw over.
That and variations of that, is all there is to it.
The Underwear Hip Shape
Whether your hip area is more box like or cube like, once you’re ready to define it more, you can turn into, what I call, “the underwear” shape. It reminds me of men’s briefs.
This shape is not unique to me. I got this from The Famous Artist School book on The Figure as well as Walt Reeds book on The Figure. I found this hip shape comes just as handy for cartoons as it does for naturalistic figures.
Here’s what it looks like:
It closely resembles a bowl with two holes cut out on the bottom.
It can be placed on any shape. Like this:
The reason is to better define where the legs will be inserted into the area. I’ll show you how this helps once I start writing about the legs.
The Formulas In Action
Once you have these elements down, you can start modifying them to create all kinds of different body types and styles. You can make animals, different types of men, different types of women. It’s up to you and your experimentation.
Let’s see how these formulas work using some popular cartoon styles…
Freddy Moore Style Bodies
The Bean is pretty much the foundation to most of the Freddy Moore style. It’s very easy to see in Looney Tune type characters and Mickey Mouse type. But you can also see a more advance, more naturalistic version of the style in Disney animated features.
Below is a Looney Tunes type body. I didn’t add chest or bellybutton details because this body can be used to make bunnies, cats, dogs, mice…etc, as well as people:
- It’s simply made of two balls, top one about half as big as the bottom.
- Which you then connect together. Adding some form and direction.
- And you have the body type.
This is not “the only” Looney Tunes body type but it’s a very common one.
If, however, you’re going to for a more Disney princess type, here is a simple archetypal body formula for that:
- Again, two balls. This time, the top ball more egg shaped and only slighting smaller than the bottom one.
- Except this time you join them with two “c” curves that bend inward creating an hour glass shape. Adding direction, pecks and a small ball on the chest to define the bosom. Usually the bosoms aren’t big. Don’t forget to add the underwear hip area.
- And that’s it. The final body type is usually very simple without a lot of anatomical detail.
Remember, this is a body formula not an absolute. The final result can vary greatly depending on your needs.
Male bodies that are in this more Disney type look, differ far more. so there isn’t just one body formula that you can adjust from. However, the body type below should be helpful. Below is just one:
- This one top ball is much bigger than the bottom.
- Again, connect the balls flattening out the shoulders. Make sure to define the forms and direction plus add pecks and hips.
- And that’s it, you’ve got a dude.
Now let’s see the bullet in action using a more action adventure style…
Bruce Timm Style Bodies
Similar to the Freddy Moore Style except I found that using The Bullet works best for these as a foundation. The construction would look something like this:
- First start off with a regular Bullet shape. Making sure the hip shape flares out.
- Then add the “underwear” shape, chest rhythms and the shape of the Latissimus Dorsi (Lats). Which gives the torso the exaggerated hour glass shape. Notice the triangle shape created to the shoulders is much wider than the hips
- And you’re done. Simply draw the final details, leaving out most of the construction.
The male has a similar process:
- Start with the bullet, only don’t flare out the hips. They should just go straight down.
- Add the chest rhythms, shoulder girdle, and large modified ellipse for the Lats.
- For the final line, just leave some of the details, shown below and you’re done.
Just a reminder, this isn’t THE way it’s on ONE way to draw in this style.
If you want to get even more naturalistic, like with an anime style, you can. Let me show you…
Takahiro Kimura Anime Style Bodies
The most naturalistic version of the formula comes in play in this anime style. There’s far less exaggeration here. The Bullet comes into it’s own when drawing in this style. Let’s begin with a female torso:
- Again, you start bullet shape with the hips flared out.
- As with the Bruce Timm style above, you add the chest rhythms and hip shapes. BUT you don’t add the exaggerated Lats. This style is a bit more natural. Also, this style often has slightly larger bosoms. Notice the shoulder and hips, unlike the Bruce Timm style above, are almost the same width.
- Once that’s all done, you pretty much get rid of most of the construction and add the top line of the Clavicle.
The male is the same with a bit more anatomy showing:
- Start with a bullet. You may add a tad bit of flare at the hips if you want.
- Add the chest Rhythms, hip shape, and Lats. As large or as light as the type of male you want.
- Once that’s done, you’ll need a bit of anatomy knowledge to put in all the right lines in the right place. These cartoon type characters tend to be much more naturalistic.
And that’s how you use The Bean and The Bullet to draw three different cartoon body types. As you can see, the formula is very versatile.
Cartoon Body Turn Arounds
As I’ve done before, Here’s a body turn around of all three styles. Beginning with…
Freddy Moore Torso Turn Around
Bruce Timm Style Torso Turn Around
Takahiro Kimura Anime Style Torso Turn Around
And that’s that. You should be able to draw any type of cartoon body you want with the info I’ve given to you. Remember, the more you know real anatomy, the better your final drawings will be.
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