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Larry's Toon Institute Paintbrushes BASIC HEAD CONSTRUCTION Part 1


Character Design for the Head is very simple. Like all character design is it based on simplified anatomy and construction. All characters can be broken down into basic 3D shapes or forms.

We will design our basic head using a ball. Remember - think 3D forms.


Once we have the ball. We draw an eyeline (a) horizontally around the ball. Then, draw a line vertically, (b) the centerline, perpendicular to the eyeline.


The bottom of the eyes are anchored to the eyeline (a). The top of the nose is anchored below the eyeline.

The eyelines show the up and down and tilt directions of the head.

HINT: Due to perspective the eye closer is larger than the eye farthest from us.

The centerline shows us the left and right direction the ball (or character) is facing.


Add the pupils and the mouth and bottom lip. Bottom lips are very important to expressions and dialog.

HINT: The mouth is drawn slightly to one side - it keeps the design assymetrical and it makes the character more appealing.

The pupils are always drawn as complete shapes (4a) - and not as cutouts (4b).

Add the ears (4c)...for human characters they generally begin at the eyeline.

Find the crown of the head at the back and draw the hair forward from there.

HINT: Think of it as covering the ball shape of the head.

Continue to cover the sides of head (ball) and you have the basic head construction.


When drawing eyes begin with the pupil and let the eye shape and the eye brow radiate from it.


Using the same principles of a simple head design, let's create other characters.

Again, draw a ball, then, draw the eyeline and the centerline. Remember, these lines ALWAYS curve around the ball. In fact, draw 2 or 3 balls with eyelines and centerlines.

Now add the eyes (anchored above the eyelines) and forms for snouts or muzzles below the eyelines.

HINT: Part of designing characters is play so play with different forms (3D shapes).


Okay, one more time... draw a ball with the eyeline and centerline (7a).

Draw the eyes above... and the snout below...(7b).

Note in drawing (7c), the bottom of the snout or muzzle is the top of the animal's mouth. Also, when the character has REALLY large eyes, you can draw brows above the eyes. These brows parallel the eye shape.


  • Like all character design, the head is based on anatomy
  • Use forms (such as a ball) as a basis of your design
  • Use eyelines to anchor the eyes, snout (and human ears)
  • Eyelines show the direction - up and down or even a tilt
  • Centerlines show the direction the character is facing (left and right)
  • The pupils are complete shapes.
  • Human ears begin at the eyeline.
  • The hair covers the ball of the head and begins at the crown and comes forward.
  • Snouts like noses are anchored to the bottom of the eyeline.
  • The bottom of the snout is the top of the mouth.



All images copyright © Larry Lauria, 1999
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