How to Draw Cartoons > Cartoon Composition

Composition is the making of the picture. It corresponds more or less to the melody in a piece of music or to the plot of a story. It concerns the proper placing of the elements of the picture. There are hundreds of rules for picture composition, but you do not need to pay any attention to them. Books have been written about it, but they are all pretty confusing.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

    1. Keep principal character or chief point of interest well toward the center of the picture - or coming into the picture. Never going out.

    2. Keep principal characters facing toward you. Do not turn their backs.

    3. Keep a certain balance of lights and darks in your picture. For example, put your women in light clothes, your men in dark clothes, or vice versa.

    4. Do not leave vacant spots in your picture. If you are drawing people in a room, for example, put pictures on the wall, books on the table, and so on. Make it interesting.

    5. Once you have completed a composition, do not spoil it by fussing over it. Instead, drop it and start another, similar to it, but better. You know the saying that it takes two to make a good picture - one to draw it and one to hit him on the head before he spoils it.

    6. Use your common sense. Remember all the great pictures of the past were drawn before there were any rules of composition. The rules were made later to fit the pictures.

The center of interest in this illustration is not the figure in the doorway with her back to you, but the small seamstress kneeling on the floor, cutting a dress. Attention is called to her because: (1) she is the only figure dressed entirely in black; (2) the figure in the doorway looks toward her; (3) she is placed in such a position in the composition as to accent her; (4) space around her partially "halos" her.

Notice the drawing above. Here the important figure-"Dumb Dora"-is emphasized by accenting her figure in black, the only black area in the whole composition.

A simple composition where there is no need for background. The little white rabbit relieves monotony. The leaves of the overhanging tree are only suggested by a few lines. The composition could be changed by adding a background of hills and trees, or clouds and a flock of birds.

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Simple perspective for cartoons

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