5 Tips for Killer Springfield Style Caricatures

Hey there, it's Dean! I've had great fun creating the drawings you see on Springfield Punx, and I wanted put something together to encourage you to try it yourself. Maybe you've wanted to make your own Springfield Punx based on the actors and celebrities in your own favorite movies and shows - or perhaps draw a family member or friend. It really is one of the coolest, funnest ways to caricature people.

In that spirit, I'd like to present these 5 Tips for Killer Springfield Style Caricatures;

1. Follow the 'Rules'

When it comes to drawing people who really look like they inhabit Springfield, be sure to follow a few universal rules;
  1. People (well, caucasians anyway) have that famously peculiar yellow colored skin.
  2. It may be bigger or it may be smaller, but everybody has an overbite.
  3. There are no such things as chins.

Stick with these rules and you'll be well on your way to caricatures that look right at home in the world of the Simpsons.

2. Don't Over-Exaggerate 'Real People'.
While not a hard and fast rule, this is an important guideline - Generally speaking, when people who exist in the 'real world' appear on the Simpsons, their features are *usually* not quite as exaggerated as regular Simpsons characters. Most celebrities who turn up on the show don't have the same huge googly-eyes as Homer and Bart.


This of course is to give a better likeness of the real person, not to exaggerate just for the sake of exaggeration. Don't get me wrong though, people's features certainly are exaggerated for the style! In fact, (depending on the person) a certain distinctive feature - a big nose, eyes, ears, etc. could indeed be as pronounced or more pronounced than on Homer Simpson, Sideshow Bob, or Comic Book Guy etc.


A lot of Simpson fan art is along the lines of 'Homer dressed as Wolverine' or 'Chief Wiggum dressed like Elvis', and that's fine if that's what you're trying to do. When you're trying to Simpsonize a friend or real life celebrity though, you'll want to approach things a little differently.

3. Give Yourself an 'Anchor'

Now we'll get into some more detail about how we'll be putting together our Simpsonized faces.

So when you're drawing Springfieldized people, I find it's good to find yourself an 'anchor point' - That place where you draw outward from and build upon. It could be the nose, the eyes, the mouth or you may even feel more comfortable starting with the overall shape of the head itself.

For me, I like the nose, as it's at the center of the face and is a pretty defining characteristic on a person - certainly a Simpsons style person.

From there, I like to get in the basic shape and position of the eyes as well as the rough shape of the head - all in proportions that look right to me. We'll get more into that next...

Anyway, play around with your drawings and see what feels most natural for you, then you'll have a comfortable place to start your drawing every single time.

And while you're doing that, keep this next important tip in mind as well...

4. Basic Shapes Make for Good Caricatures

As these drawings are caricatures, the usual caricature guidelines apply. That is, that everything - head shape, body shape, facial features - can all be broken down into basic shapes. Simpsons style characters have a heavy reliance on basic shapes.

As a note - if possible you'll want to gather a lot of different photos of the person you're Simpsonizing. You can even make yourself a quick photo collage for easy reference. Photos from a bunch of different angles will help a lot, and be sure to get photos of the head at a 3/4 angle, as Simpsons characters are almost always seen at that view. Straight head-on shots are pretty rare on the Simpsons.


As an example, I enjoy drawing Tom Baker, (the actor famous for portraying the 4th Doctor from Doctor Who) as he has a very distinct and cartoony look to him already. He's got a wonderful shark-head shaped nose that I begin with.

Next I add some spheres for his friendly bright eyes, placing them where it seems to look right. Then a basic shape for the head and following that, the unique mouth/lips with that famous Simpsons overbite.
Take notice in the photos of the person you're drawing - the distances between the eyes, between the 
nose and mouth, and where some features are in relation to others. Notice how these distances and shapes can subtly change when the person's expression changes, when they smile or when they get angry. Adjust your drawing accordingly.
Notice the cheeks and how far they pop out. For some caricatures, they can even extend past the mouth.

Look at the neck, and remember that it will be the stand-in for the chin. A big manly chin can translate into a thick, strong, tree-trunk-like neck. Slope the neck a bit more to mimic a smaller or weaker chin. Beards or stubble can be expressed as zig-zag lines or solid areas like on Homer.

Remember that generally the fewer lines you can get away with, the better. This is especially true for females, as too many lines will make a woman look masculine.

Go in, layer by layer, adding more detail.

For extra elements (hats etc.) you can trace them over your original sketch and scan them separately.

If you get really really stuck on a certain facial feature, don't agonize over it for hours, just revert to a more simplified, generic shape of what it roughly looks like to you. Simplicity is not a bad thing here.

Anyway, you can also draw the character's body using basic shapes, like circles/ovals to get the shape of the torso, hands and feet. Get the shapes for the arms and legs by imagining them as play-dough snakes. Don't be ashamed to use the eraser a lot as you learn. Mr. Eraser is your friend!

(Click image to enlarge)

5. Don't Be Afraid If Your Own Style Shines Through


It's quite possible that your own style will shine through beneath the stylized Simpson look... Don't worry about it! In my mind, there are many different 'interpretations' and 'sub-styles' that can fall under the Simpsons style in general. Your version could even differ from what might eventually turn up on the show.

If you're still not sure what I mean, stop by the magazine stands next time you're out and pick up some of the many Simpsons comic books being put out by Bongo Comics. There are often a lot of unique and interesting variations on the 'Simpsons look' in those comics, depending on the artist.  It's a testament to the flexibility of the Simpsons style, and allowing for a little of your own influence will add character to your work anyway.

Just be sure to work within those three rules we discussed earlier and you should be just fine. It's a cartoon after all! Have fun with it!

If you're at all curious about the actual process of taking pencil sketches to finished colored Punx, (as well as the software and hardware involved) please check out my article "How To Draw Eye-Catching Cartoons (The Springfield Punx Way)".

You can also catch this video using the process to create a cartoon alien.

Feel free to send your questions or pass along some of your Springfield-ized creations!

Thanks! See you later!

15 comments:

  1. Hi Dean, a great look behind the scenes. Love yr work and will give it a shot. Regards, Mark

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  2. This is great could you show me how to do hands, male and female their what i'm having trouble with

    Philip

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  3. Great tutorial. Love your stuff!

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  4. you're the man, pal!!!

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  5. Very cool blog. I really like the background and detail you put into everything. Good job.

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  6. Excellent you are brilliant you inspire me! You are the best

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  7. You inspire me! You are the best! So original and so creative, Incredible!, buddy you are a God and thanks for all your drawings, See Ya

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  8. Thank God The World have someone like you man!

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  9. Thanks for this inspiring tutorial.

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  10. I must say I like your blog very much, thank you.

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  11. Wow! Inspiring drawings! I love to draw made up characters! There is a handful of people's creations that inspire me to draw and you are one of them. Kudos on the blog posts!

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  12. Thanks for sharing. Love your works.

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  13. Very good! Which software program did you use?

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