Drawing Glossary

What is a Caricature? Definition and Purpose of Caricatures

March 20, 2023 by

In this guide, we’ll be touching on everything you need to know about caricatures.

Let’s dive in!

Table of Contents

What is a Caricature?

A caricature is when a caricature artist creates a drawing of an actual person – Politician, entertainer, etc. – in a way that exaggerates particular features or distorts them. The features of the subjects in the portraits are emphasized or simplified to make a point. 

It can be defined as a drawing with a comic hint or a portrait in cartoon style.

The portrait isn’t a fictional character but someone the audience knows and understands what the exaggerations are pointing to.

A picture that speaks louder than words is the philosophy behind caricatures. Caricature artists use charcoal, pencil sketch, paints, etc., to make them.

Moreover, with the creation of software like Adobe Illustrator, artists have made caricature drawings with them instead of more traditional methods.

Have you ever seen cartoon-like drawings of politicians in newspapers? They look silly, but they are ridiculing the politicians in question.

These are, in fact, caricatures. If you want further clarifications, think about Enola’s drawings of her oldest brother in the Enola Holmes movie.

The portraits had big heads and small bodies and were comical and silly. Caricatures aren’t like flat designed characters.

Editorials use caricatures to invoke reactions from the readers like laughter and more often to ridicule politicians, celebrities, and public figures. 

Still, you can make caricatures of close friends to make them happy.

Furthermore, you may think that caricatures are the same as cartoon drawings in newspapers but they both have their differences.

You need to understand the differences if you want to make caricatures.  

You should know some tips and techniques for making caricatures to lean to make them. Moreover, you can learn caricature art through trailered courses and practices.

After all, practice makes perfect.

What is a Caricature example
caricature example

What is the Purpose of a Caricature?

Caricatures have their purposes and are often used in editorial pieces to ridicule or satirize politicians. They can be drawn to compliment a prominent media figure.

Most caricatures have a hint of humor and are used more to induce chuckles from the readers. Similarly, they are made typically of celebrities, popular public figures, politicians, etc.

Often, a part of the subject is selected, and the artist may replace it with features of birds, animals to make a point. Moreover, you can replace parts of animals or birds with human anatomy.

Moreover, caricatures can be used to make an analogy of a person with animalistic actions. 

Unlike a portrait, a caricature artist distorts or enhances a certain part to show something to the audience.

Moreover, caricatures of historical figures are a source of knowledge for historians and teachers. 

What is the Purpose of a Caricature
caricature example

What is the Difference Between a Cartoon and a Caricature?

While caricatures and cartoons are essentially two different art forms, most people often confuse and consider the same.

1. Caricature

A caricature is defined as a drawing of an actual person that enhances or simplifies a physical characteristic of that person to make fun of them or make the readers laugh.

2. Cartoon

On the other hand, a cartoon is a fictional character that may or may not generate humor for the audience. 

Both caricatures and cartoons are drawn by hand, charcoal, pencil, paint, and advanced technological methods like design software such as Illustrator, etc.

While caricatures are still drawings, cartoons are usually used for comic strips and animation on the TV screen. 

Another significant difference between caricatures and cartoons is that caricatures are exclusively distorted portraits. Meanwhile, cartoons can be a person, an animal or a bird, scenery, or anything else.

cartoon example
cartoon example

Typically, caricatures are drawn with more attention to detail, and a caricature artist will add color in detail, etc. While a caricature is illustrated in the style of a cartoon, it can be painted or made with detail.

In contrast, a cartoon is usually drawn with less superior artistry, such as the comic strips in newspapers like Doonesbury. However, cartoons for visual screening are highly sophisticated and complex.

For example, Anime (Japanese cartoons) have great imagery and visuals of the characters and the sceneries. 

When Were Caricatures Invented?

Caricature is derived from Italian terms, carico, caricatura or caricare. These terms all mean ‘to exaggerate’ or ‘to load’.

In the 1590s or 1600, Annibale Carracci used caricature in the portraits that he sketched.

Since caricature wasn’t considered an art form at that time, he just exaggerated people’s portraits. 

Caricature remained an Italian art style for many years. Still, in the Northern part of Europe, between 1525 to 1569, Pieter Bruegel the Elder and other such contemporary artists drew exaggerated or enhanced portraits. 

Some say that the biomorphic gargoyle-like animals found in manuscripts from the Late Middle Ages were an earlier form of caricature.

Historians argue that Hieronymus Bosch (from 1450 to 1516) used such types of artworks in his art, for example, in his painting, Garden of Earthly Delights.

Similarly, the Italian designer Guiseppe Arcimboldo (from 1227 to 1593) used pans, pots, vegetables and tools of workers in his portraits of Kings and Emperors. 

Around the 1700s, caricature art style made its way into London, and Arthur Pond, a publisher, published a series of caricatural drawings by artists like Annibale Carracci.

These satirical caricatural drawings and paintings were well-loved by the public, and before long, artists in England adopted this new emerging art form. 

The first painter to try this new technique was Willian Hogarth in 1748 when he painted an anti-French caricature with French soldiers and a French monk.

It was the first time the word caricature was recorded for this new art form. Later in the 18th Century, caricature artists like Thomas Rowlandson and James Gillray made caricatures for political depictions such as the French Revolution. 

Caricatures spread to the French shores, and artists like Honore Daumier (from 1808 to 1879) became famous for their political caricatures.

Moreover, caricatures were published for the First World War and even WWII. After the First World War, caricatures transformed the US and were colorful, amusing, and elegant. 

Even today, caricatures are a widespread tool to cut down politicians. If a public figure has a wide or a long nose, caricature artists will exaggerate it.

Similarly, they also vividly depict a particular politician’s behavior in caricatures via animal body parts, etc. 

Caricature example
caricature example

How Do You Make a Caricature?

Making a caricature requires art skills, but it’s not hard if you’ve covered all the basics. Have all the equipment – sharped pencils, erasers.

Caricatures are usually drawn in cartoon drawings – cartoon faces make for good humor. 

It would be best if you used different quality pencils since the pencil type will determine the quality of the drawing. It will help if you use harder pencils for the nose, chin, mouth, eyes, and the subject’s structure.

In contrast, you should use softer pencil lines for detail such as wrinkles. 

Now that you know what to look out for in pencils, let’s start making a caricature

1. Choose a Subject

It would help if you chose a subject. It can be a family member, a friend, a public figure, a politician, or a celebrity. Use a clear picture of your subject as a guide for making the caricature.

One picture may not be enough, so you can use 5 to 8 pictures to understand your subject’s features. 

2. Determine What to Exaggerate

Then, find what parts that you want to exaggerate or give a whimsical touch.

You should exaggerate more than one part, like the nose, hair, and eyes, etc.

If your subject has a small nose, you can target that or anything else that stands out to you. You can depict behaviors, too, like how your subject shrugs their shoulders. 

3. Draw Outline

Then, draw a rough outline of your subject and its unique head shape.

Also, make a rough sketch of the body, and you can add the type of clothes that your subject usually wears. 

4. Draw Other Features

After the basic outline, you should draw the other features of your subject’s face.

If the subject has a wide forehead, you should make it even wider, or if their nose is long and thick, you should exaggerate it. 

5. Eyes

Next is the eyes. If your subject has wide eyes, you can give them animated eyes that express their feelings.

Moreover, beady eyes like a button will work in the case of small eyes. 

6. Nose

Most people have a small, big, lumpy, or straight nose, so drawing a nose isn’t hard, but you should exaggerate their nose to add more character to your caricature

7. Mouth

Furthermore, the mouth is as important as the eyes.

It would help if you thought about the shape of their lips and what feeling you want to express through them.

For example, is your subject laughing or shouting. Do the same with the hair. 

8. Wrinkles

Add minute details to your caricature-like wrinkles, etc. Finish up the caricature. 

To further explore how to draw a caricature, we also recommend this video by RowserWorld:

How Can You Learn Caricature?

You can learn how to draw caricatures by taking courses on basic cartoon drawing or specific caricature courses.

Learning to draw faces, different expressions, body styles, and other features takes practice.

However, caricature isn’t just about drawing, it’s also about seeing what’s unique in the subject.

Different artists will see other things in the features and the shapes of the subject’s anatomy. 

You can take a course on Udemy or other reputable sites to learn caricature art.

The best course to try is Proko Art of Caricature that will teach you how to draw and adapt your drawing based on your subject.

Their high-quality videos guides will teach you everything there is to know about caricatures.  

Other courses you can go for are Pencil Kings, and ToonBoxStudio, etc. If you can’t afford these courses, you can try a free online course on SkillShare.

It has a vast collection of drawing courses about caricature and cartoon or comic art. 

Similarly, it would help if you worked on your basics and practice drawing portraits in cartoon style.

You can try making caricatures of celebrities or your family members to learn it.

After much trial and error, you’ll get better at drawing expressive faces and caricatures with good proportions. You’ll also be to find your personal style.

Final Remarks

Now that you know what a caricature is, the purpose of caricatures, and the difference between caricatures and cartoons, you can make them more easily.

You can take courses to learn caricature art in-depth and understand what it entails. 

To make great caricatures, you need to know how to draw portraits, faces, bodies, features, and also minute details that make up a face.

You can learn by practicing making caricatures of your friends and family or celebrities with unique head shapes.