Using Design Software to Draw Simple Cartoon Style Graphics
Many Graphic Designers are not naturally gifted cartoonists and so hand drawing effective cartoon devices may not be an option. Fortunately Designers can turn to their design software to produce cartoons that have a hand produced feel.
There are a number of options for this depending on the Designer’s favored software packages and the main choice will be between a vector line drawing package, such as Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape, or an image editor such as Adobe Photoshop or Gimp.
Whichever application is chosen, the general technique will be the same, with a photo being used as a guide which is traced over using a pen tool. After deciding which application to use, the Graphic Designer will next need to decide if to use an existing photo or to pose a picture specifically.
Tips for Posing a Base Photo
The easiest way to get a usable base photo to work from is to find an assistant to either pose for or take the photo for the Designer. That however may not be possible and in that case the Designer will have to both pose and take the photo.
Many modern digital cameras have timers that allow a user to press the shutter release and then strike a pose before the camera takes the photo. Alternatively rather than taking a single image, it may be easier to take several pictures concentrating on a different aspect of the pose in each photo – for example taking a photo of a pointing finger separately.
Designers should also remember that photos can easily be reversed so it may not be necessary to photograph the right hand, as a photo of the left hand can be flipped.
Drawing the Cartoon
Whether using a vector line drawing application or an image editor, the technique is basically the same, using a pen tool to draw lines around parts of the photo that are then filled with color, building up the image bit by bit. If necessary, several photos can be used and the traced sections can be combined together to form the final image.
Drawing the different elements on separate layers will make managing them easier, particularly if they are grouped together by section, such as all the elements of the left-arm or the head on a separate layer.
During this process, the Designer may make some changes to the picture, to exaggerate some aspects or completely redraw some features, such as adding another person’s head. An easy way to change features is to trace them first and then distort or scale them, perhaps to give the effect of more extreme perspective.
Some applications allow outlines to have brush style effects applied to them and this can be used to help make a finished image appear more hand drawn, though the weight of the outlines may need to be adjusted.
Using these simple techniques, Designers who do not have natural cartoon drawing skills can produce effective results, without having to pay a dedicated cartoonist to produce the final piece.