003: The Basic Tools Needed for Making Caricatures

Posted: Sunday, August 02, 2015


In the film The Mask of Zorro, there is an older Zorro who is trying to teach a younger, eager disciple who is wanting to take up the mantle to fight the main antagonist(s). The younger Zorro is very zealous and wants to jump into this large world of being a vigilante, but he is unskilled and needs to start small. The older Zorro makes him stand in a circle whose radius is only the reach of the younger Zorro.


The small circle represents the world in which the younger Zorro has to master first before he steps into a larger world.


Every How-to-Draw book I’ve ever purchased overwhelms you with all the tools necessary for drawing. You start off wanting to get the most expensive and professional-grade tools, because you want to start off in this larger world without mastering the smaller ones. Those expensive and professional tools take a bit to master and if you start with them you’re more likely to get discouraged.


The tools we’re starting with are basic. They are things that you can carry with you on the go and can get at almost any store. It’s important that I reiterate this in the beginning—the tools will not make you a better artist. They only help. You are the ultimate tool. The best tool you’ll ever have is intentional, deliberate practice.


If you can be skilled with the most basic tools, you will be even more skilled with the extra tools.



A number 2 pencil is just fine for starting off and you can find them at any store that sells school or office supplies. If you have an art supply store nearby then get a soft graphite pencil; an HB will be just fine. We want to go with a soft graphite because we  don’t want it to dig into the paper too much.


I like mechanical pencils and they have their place, but for starting out it’s better to stay loose and rough. Mechanical pencils tend to be too controlled for the experimenting and rough sketching.



You are going to use your pencil to draw out your *cartoon (*Please note that cartoon means something different than what you’re probably used to). The cartoon is the *base linework (*i.e. your construction lines or template)  for your drawing, so from now on when you see the word cartoon you’ll know what I’m talking about. I don’t want you to be confused into thinking I’m using another word synonymous for caricature.



The marker is going to be used when you’re making your final pass at the work to make it tight. A Sharpie is pretty easy to find and a safe bet. There are packs that have varying thickness. Try to get a pack or packs that have ultra-fine, fine, and king size. The more control you begin to have you’ll be able to create fine lines even with a thick marker, but for now get the different weights to feel the difference in your hands.



Since you’re going to be doing a lot of practice I would suggest that you get a ream of copy paper, newsprint or an inexpensive sketchbook. Art supplies get expensive and there is a lot of different paper you can buy when your work becomes more polished, but we’ll talk about that in a future post. I don’t want you to be too concerned with price; I want you to be able to draw and sketch without worrying if you’re wasting money on practicing.


My personal preference is a hardcover sketchbook because it’s easy to keep track of and document your growth. You’ll be surprised how different your work looks from the first page to the last if you’re practicing everyday.



Notice how I did not mention erasers? When you are starting off and especially when we’re practicing we do not use erasers. Erasers are for people afraid to make mistakes. You are going to make mistakes in the beginning, so let’s get that thought out of the way. Fear no longer,

friends! I still make mistakes and I’ve been doing this for years.


You officially have all the bare-minimum and basic tools you need to start caricaturing. Join me next week as we discuss further on how to put these tools into practice.

Every face has a story to tell and I want to teach you how to tell it.