008: Overcoming the Challenges of Caricaturing a Newborn



Posted: Sunday, February 14, 2016

My wife recently had our first baby, a little baby girl. Since my wife got pregnant I have been thinking about making the baby’s announcement card. I knew that I would probably want to do a caricature or some type of illustration of my baby that I could send out to people. I had 9 months to create it, but the only problem was that I couldn’t really get started because I needed to know what the baby looked like — details, I know!


When she was born it was a wonderful experience. She was so beautiful. She didn’t get an elongated, misshapen head that often happens to newborn babies when they’re passing through the birth canal. Thankfully she wasn’t  an ugly baby either; she had plenty of hair and was equally proportionate all-around.


Unfortunately, that is kind of a problem (from a caricature standpoint); she looks like your typical, generic baby (Yes, I can say that because I’m her father). Maybe if she did have big ears, or a square head, or even lots of rolls she’d give me a little to work with, but nope, she’s a perfect-looking baby (but I am a bit biased).




Literally 5 minutes after she was born. What a cute-looking baby!


When i tried to caricature her I learned that babies are generally difficult to caricature because they really don’t have any outstanding features yet. For the most part, and especially with newborns, babies are just round globs of cute. How do you caricature that?


After I did a few iterations of her I had to think of this challenge as a problem to solve. I often say that you have to dig deep, do your research and look for the details that everyone else is overlooking.


In this process I am trying to look for enough details to simplify. Babies generally have big eyes; that’s a given, so I had to look at what else my daughter had that was unique for a caricature. 




She has big, sleepy eyes, but sometimes sleepy can make you looked angry or drugged-up (my daughter is neither).


She did have a lot of hair. I often forget that a lot of babies are born with sparse hair or they’re bald. My baby had a lot of hair and it did seem to go in a general direction; so that was something that I could work with.




GEEZ! Lookit all that hair!


My baby has lots of cheeks, just like her mother, so that was something else to work with.




They both have the most adorable cheeks!


Now it just took some fine-tuning to round everything out in a simplified way. I chose a sketch that I thought had her best and most common expression and overlaid it with tracing paper, redrew it with a blue micron, and smoothed out the kinks and roughness that were there from the sketch.




I use vellum tracing paper and non-photo red pencil to clean up any roughness in a sketch instead of having to redraw the whole thing again. It saves time.


Using the tracing paper to make it as close to a final illustration as possible, I can now take it into Adobe Illustrator and “fix it in post”.


I dropped the drawing into Adobe Illustrator and began to vector her face. From a vector standpoint it is nice to work with smooth, curved lines. Smooth, curved lines make the vectoring process a bit easier in my opinion.




curved and tapered lines mean less points and that makes things look smoother when vectoring artwork in Adobe Illustrator.


Once the illustration was complete I placed it inside the same blue circle that I have my personal logo. The color combination of light blue, grey, white, inside of a circle have become part of my brand, but also our family. I’ve created a caricature of my wife, and another iteration of myself that is not my logo, for other things we’ve sent out as a couple, such as wedding invitations and thank you cards. It seemed fitting to incorporate my daughter into the same aesthetic.




She’s a bit more detailed than the caricature of my wife and I, but because of her lack of features it made sense to add a bit more in this iteration of her.


My wife in the family caricature/icon set.


This is another iteration of my face based off of the logo I currently use. There is a bit more to my face and it’s less simplified than my logo.


The caricature/family icon is complete for now. The announcement card is currently being designed and I have a good idea how I am going to incorporate the image into it. I will be sharing the completed version of it as soon as it is done.


Babies, and especially newborns, are challenging to draw because of their lack of definition and character, but even despite not having awkward features even the most generic-looking baby has caricaturable features that you can derive.


Every face has a story to tell (even newborns right out of the oven) and I want to teach you how to tell it.