7 Tips to Improve Drawing Cartoons

By Jeff Scarterfield | Posted 2/9/09 | Updated 8/28/23

"Nothing happens until something moves." — Albert Einstein

Pick up a pencil and draw!Surely you've heard it before. If you want to get better at drawing — then of course — you've got to practice. And it's true. If learning how to draw, or even improve at drawing is your goal, then putting the pencil to the paper is the first step.

Here, let's take a look at this thought as well as some other ideas to help you with practicing drawing:

1. Pick up a Pencil and Draw!

You got it. Right now. Pick up a pencil, a pen, a marker…

And draw!

If there's one thing that will help you get better at drawing — it's the desire to want to do it in the first place. And of course, the more you want to do something, the more you're going to do it!

Just by reading this, it's quite clear that this is a subject you're passionate about. Still, this whole idea of actually 'doing' and even better. 'Doing MORE' is very important if you want to see improvement in your abilities.

OK — so do more. But how exactly?

Simple. By actively seeking out more opportunities to put the pencil to the paper.

In my case, growing up it was rare to find me NOT practicing drawing. Sketchbook, notepads, in my student planner, chalkboards, whiteboards, on my desk in class, the backs of receipts, on paper place mats and table covers at restaurants, stick at the beach — there was always a way get at it!

It's true, this type of dedication is a whole lot easier when you love what you do. And so…


You're passionate about drawing. So just like the famous Nike slogan says, "Just Do It!" You've got the desire. Let nothing hold you back. Draw because you want to, because you love to. And yes — do it more often!

2. Be in the 'Right' Mindset

Right as in the 'right side of the brain'? Precisely. When practicing drawing, it's important have and maintain a more creative train of thought.

The lines we draw are representative of the thoughts we think. And in realizing this connection, it's important to be able to both think AND draw creatively.

And how do you accomplish this?

Right Mind SetRelax. Loosen up. Let go! And in doing so, take on a more 'free-flowing' approach with respect to the lines you put down on paper. Instead of fixed, rigid lines — switch over to quick, wispy, sketchy ones, gradually bringing the desired image into view.

In doing so, it'll be easier to maintain the 'right' train of thought — with less focus on how your drawings will look when they're finished, and more focus on the process at hand — that of being creative.

And this brings us to another important point: drawing in the moment!

3. Draw 'In the Moment'

Have you ever attempted a drawing — yet before you began, thought, "It's got to be a certain way!"

You know, when you have that almost EXPECTATION as to how your drawings 'should' look when they're done.

Well, it most definitely does help to have a goal. And yes — getting your drawings to look the way they're 'supposed to' is indeed something we're after.

But always remember: Learning and improving at drawing is in no way a 'one shot deal'. It's a dynamic, ever-changing process, one that always has the potential to yield a number of different results.

So while practicing drawing, don't be so concerned with how the finished product will look. Instead, be open-minded as to how your drawings may turn out.

Not every drawing will look the way you want it to. And very few drawings will ever be 'perfect'. But — every drawing will be a learning experience for you.

The message?

Embrace the experience for what it is — a process of learning. Treat each new drawing as a stone on the pathway to success and with each new creation, you'll be one step closer to your goal.

Draw in the moment!

4. Make Mistakes

That's right! Make mistakes. Make lots of them. Too many too count!

It's tried, tested and true — in order to succeed, then at some point in time (and often at many points in time) — you're going to have to end up failing in one way or another.

A few possible examples:

  • The left eye's too big!
  • That looks more like a dog than a cat.
  • Just can't get the proportion right!
  • Went over the lines again.
  • Why are hands so difficult to draw!?

Every drawer's been there. I know I have! There are all sorts of frustrating situations that come up when practicing drawing. But as mind-numbing as they can surely be, making mistakes is actually quite helpful. And not only that, but necessary!

Make mistakes!

Still, when practicing drawing — it doesn't take much to get discouraged when something doesn't work. It's easier to simply give up.

Of course, giving up isn't going to lead to success. You've got to press on — persistent and determined to make it happen!

So how NOT to get discouraged then?

Always keep in mind — every skilled artist had to start somewhere. And in order to eventually become 'gifted' at their craft, they had to make a TON of mistakes along the way.

So the next time you mess up a drawing (or two!), chalk it up as experience, and then keep right on going along the path to success.

5. Repeat Repeat Repeat

Building upon point number one, 'Pick up a Pencil and Draw!' and the previous point, 'Make Mistakes', repetition — as with many situations where you're looking to improve at something, is quite helpful when it comes to practicing drawing.

Really — it's a lot like the practice you'd do when learning an instrument, speaking a new language, or improving at a sport. Repeating the same thing over and over and over — as tedious as it may seem at times really will make you better!

With each 'lap', following a specific course to complete the drawing at hand, the path of which your pencil takes — becomes more and more familiar.

Sometimes, you'll find a faster way of doing something — a 'short cut' so to say. Other times, you'll learn of a different path to take altogether.

Unlike when drawing something entirely different each time around, by drawing the exact same thing — you can gradually 'tweak away' until you achieve the desired image.

So the next time you're practicing drawing, don't hesitate to draw it again a few times. And then again! Getting that extra practice really does make all the difference.

6. Don't DO Trace!

The word 'trace' is almost taboo in the world of art.

Still, with respect to practicing drawing, tracing is just another form of 'doing'. And as you, I, and every other artist knows — the more you draw, the better you get!

Often, when making mistakes in your drawings it can be a bit frustrating to keep on going — even though this is the best thing to do. One thing that can help to continue moving forward, and help you learn from your mistakes in the process (leading to improvement) is tracing over your own work.

In doing so, not only do you get the extra practice through repetition — but you really get to see how even the slightest difference in a line or two can drastically change the finished product.

This is especially helpful when you're just starting out, and have a difficult time maintaining proportion from one drawing to another.

By tracing over your work, producing 'refined versions' of the original — you really can learn a lot about your own drawing technique and style.

In short: DO trace when practicing drawing. It will help you improve.

7. Draw Like You!

Perhaps the most important factor with respect to practicing drawing, is being able to 'draw like you' — developing your own original, unique drawing style.

And how do you do this?

Well, simply put — by drawing what you LOVE to draw!

Draw what you love to draw!A good example is learning a new language. The learning process is much easier when there's a specific reason for doing so — a 'theme' that you can strategize around so that words, sentences, grammar, idioms, etc. all fall into a specific category — one that you're truly interested in.

So with respect to drawing then, is there something special that interests you — a topic with all sorts of opportunities to draw what you love? Wildlife? Sports? Fantasy? Which is it?

Going back to the first point — drawing is a whole lot easier when you love what you're doing. And, in drawing the things you enjoy — you'll be more inclined to 'let go' and focus on coming up with your own unique ideas.

Eventually you can begin challenging yourself. For example, you could:

  • Change the thickness and curvature of your lines
  • Adjust the proportion of your sketches to something slightly less realistic
  • Add some kind of 'trademark' unique to all of your drawings (similar styled eyes perhaps?)
  • And the list goes on!

In time, through practicing drawing the things you love — and by trying out new ideas along the way, you'll gradually develop your very own unique style, one that you can apply to drawing pretty much anything.

You'll be drawing like you!

And there you have it. Seven tips I really think will help you with practicing drawing.

What's next then? You know what what to do. Pick up that pencil, and get to it!

©2009 by Jeff Scarterfield. All rights reserved.

Jeff ScarterfieldJeff Scarterfield is an art instructor who creates drawing lessons aimed at making the learning process both simple and fun.