7 Actionable Tips to Improve Your Cartoon Composition
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


  1. Use simple shapes to start your composition
  2. Apply the rule of thirds in your layout
  3. Create depth with overlapping elements
  4. Balance your color palette
  5. Experiment with line weight
  6. Utilize texture for added interest
  7. Convey emotion through exaggeration

As artists, we're always looking for ways to improve our craft, and one area that often needs a bit of fine-tuning is cartoon composition. If you've ever wondered how to improve composition in cartoon, this guide is for you. We'll explore seven actionable tips that can significantly enhance your cartoon composition skills, helping you to create more engaging and visually pleasing works. So, let's dive right in!

Use Simple Shapes to Start Your Composition

Ever noticed how some of the most iconic cartoon characters are made up of simple shapes? That's not by accident. Starting your cartoon composition with simple shapes can be a game-changer. Here's why:

  • It simplifies complex objects: Complicated objects can be broken down into simpler forms. This makes it easier to draw and ensures a more solid and balanced composition.
  • Helps with positioning: When you sketch with simple shapes first, it becomes easier to place your characters or objects in a scene. You can quickly adjust and rearrange these shapes until you're happy with your layout.
  • Paves the way for consistency: Consistent characters and objects are key in cartoons. By using the same set of simple shapes, you ensure that your characters remain consistent throughout your work.

So, next time you're starting a new cartoon, remember to start with simple shapes. It might seem like an elementary step, but it's a proven method on how to improve composition in cartoon. It's like building a house—you need a solid foundation before you can add the decorative details.

Apply the Rule of Thirds in Your Layout

Here's another secret on how to improve composition in cartoon—applying the rule of thirds. If you've dabbled in photography or art, you're probably familiar with this concept. But did you know it's just as effective in cartoon composition? Let's unpack this a bit.

Picture your canvas divided into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines—like a tic-tac-toe board. The rule of thirds suggests that you should place the important elements of your composition along these lines or at their intersections.

  • Creates balance: When elements are placed according to the rule of thirds, it results in a more balanced and natural-looking composition. It feels less forced and more pleasing to the eye.
  • Guides the viewer's eye: Our eyes naturally gravitate towards the intersection points of the grid. Placing key elements here can guide your viewer's attention to where you want it.
  • Improves storytelling: The rule of thirds also aids in storytelling. By placing important actions or reactions at the intersection points, you can make the story more engaging and compelling.

To sum it up, applying the rule of thirds can be a powerful tool in your cartoon composition arsenal. It helps to create a balance, guides the viewer's eye, and enhances storytelling. So, the next time you're sketching out your cartoon, remember to envision that tic-tac-toe grid—it might just take your composition to the next level!

Create Depth with Overlapping Elements

Ever wondered how to add a sense of depth to your cartoons? Overlapping elements is your answer. It's a simple trick, but when used effectively, it can significantly enhance your composition and make your cartoons more dynamic and engaging.

Overlapping is exactly what it sounds like—it's all about having one thing in front of another. Here's how it works:

  • Creates a sense of depth: By placing one character or object in front of another, you're creating a 3D effect on a 2D canvas. This gives your composition a depth that can make it look more realistic and engaging.
  • Enhances interest: Overlapping elements can create intrigue. It makes the viewer wonder what's behind the overlapping object and encourages them to explore the rest of the composition.
  • Guides the viewer's eye: You can use overlapping to guide the viewer's eye around the composition. For example, if one character is pointing at another character behind them, it can draw the viewer's attention to that character.

Remember, while overlapping can be a powerful tool to improve composition in cartoons, it's essential to use it wisely. Too much overlapping can create confusion and make your composition look cluttered. So, keep it balanced and use it to enhance, not overwhelm.

Next time you're working on a cartoon, give overlapping a try. It could be the game-changer you've been looking for to add that extra depth and interest to your compositions!

Balance Your Color Palette

Learning how to improve composition in cartoon isn't merely about shapes, lines, and positioning—it's also about color. A balanced color palette is one of the most vital elements in creating a visually pleasing cartoon.

Color plays a significant role in setting the mood, highlighting important elements, and creating visual harmony. Here are a few tips to strike the right balance with your color palette:

  • Choose a dominant color: This is the color that will cover most of the composition. It sets the overall tone and mood of your cartoon. For instance, if you're creating a serene, peaceful scene, you might choose a soft blue as your dominant color.
  • Pick complementary colors: These are colors that sit opposite each other on the color wheel. They provide high contrast and can make your cartoon stand out. For example, a character with orange hair will pop against a blue background.
  • Use analogous colors for harmony: Analogous colors are next to each other on the color wheel. Using these can create a harmonious and soothing effect. For example, a combination of green and yellow can create a calm, nature-themed cartoon.

Remember, while there are rules in color theory, don't be afraid to experiment and break them. The most important thing is that your color palette serves your story and appeals to your audience.

So go ahead, play with colors, and see how a well-balanced color palette can bring your cartoon composition to life!

Experiment with Line Weight

Now that we've explored the power of color, let's shift our focus to another dynamic tool in your cartoon composition kit: line weight. Line weight refers to the thickness or thinness of a line. It might sound simple, but it's a game-changer when it comes to figuring out how to improve composition in cartoon.

Here's why:

  • Variety adds interest: Using a variety of line weights can make your cartoon more visually interesting. Thick lines can bring attention to important parts of the scene or character, while thin lines can delicately detail less significant areas.
  • Depth and dimension: Line weight can also create a sense of depth. Heavier lines tend to pop forward, while lighter lines recede into the background. So, if you're drawing a character who's up close, you might use thicker lines than for the background landscape.
  • Emotions and mood: Line weight can influence the mood of your cartoon. For example, heavier lines might make a scene feel more serious or intense, while softer lines could create a gentler, more whimsical atmosphere.

Think of line weight as the secret ingredient that can add spice to your cartoon composition. So, grab your favorite drawing tool and start experimenting with line weight today. See how it can elevate your cartoon compositions to a whole new level!

Utilize Texture for Added Interest

Texture, in the realm of cartooning, is like the background music in a movie — it subtly enhances the overall experience. If you're wondering how to improve composition in a cartoon, adding texture is a smart move. Here's how texture can play a starring role in your cartoon composition:

  • Visual Interest: Texture can make a flat image feel more tactile and visually interesting. For example, you could add texture to a cartoon character's fur or the bark of a tree in a background scene.
  • Setting the mood: Just like line weight, texture can also influence the mood of your cartoon. A rough texture might suggest a harsh environment, while a soft texture could indicate a cozy, comfortable space.
  • Creating a sense of reality: Even though cartoons are often exaggerated, adding texture can make your scenes feel more real and relatable. It brings an element of the real world into the fantasy world of cartoons.

So, how do you add texture to your cartoons? It could be as simple as adding dots, lines, or cross-hatching to suggest texture. Or you could try more complex techniques, like blending or stippling. The key is to experiment and see what works best for your style and your story.

Remember, texture is like the icing on the cake — it might not be the main ingredient, but it's often what makes the final product truly mouth-watering. So go ahead, add a dash of texture to your next cartoon composition and see the difference it can make!

Convey Emotion through Exaggeration

When it comes to expressing emotions in cartoons, subtlety is not always your best friend. If you're pondering over how to improve composition in cartoons, consider the power of exaggeration.

  • Amplifying Expressions: Let's say your character is surprised. Instead of drawing a simple wide-eyed look, you could exaggerate by drawing the eyes popping out of the head. This amplifies the emotion, making it clear and entertaining for the viewer.
  • Enhancing Actions: If your character is running, don't just show them with one foot in front of the other. An exaggerated running pose, with arms flailing and legs stretched to impossible lengths, can convey a strong sense of urgency and speed.
  • Exaggerating Proportions: By playing with the proportions of your characters, you can convey specific traits. A character with a massively oversized brain could be seen as highly intelligent, while a character with large, muscular arms might be viewed as strong and powerful.

Exaggeration in cartoons is a fantastic tool for conveying emotions and actions. It's like shouting in visual form. However, it's not about distorting everything beyond recognition. The art lies in knowing what, when, and how much to exaggerate. It's all about balance.

So, next time you sit down to sketch, don't be afraid to push those boundaries. Remember, in the world of cartoons, exaggeration is not just acceptable—it's expected!

If you're eager to enhance your cartoon composition skills even further, don't miss the workshop 'Tips To Compose More Compelling Photos' by Austin James Jackson. Although the focus is on photography, the composition principles discussed in this workshop can be applied to your cartoon creations as well. Learn from an expert and take your compositions to new heights!