4 Tips for Drawing in the Disney Art Style

In our previous blog post, we mentioned that many artists have taken inspiration from Disney’s animated films. We don’t just mean professionals, either. Anyone can learn how to draw in that iconic art style. Whether you want to do justice to your favorite characters or create your own with that recognizable and expressive look, the following tips can help.

Study and Reference Official Art

The earliest Disney artists had no reference for the house style except in their own minds. You can pull up Disney art on demand with a quick internet search. That’s at least one advantage you have: nearly a century of work on which you can base your sketches.

Tracing over official artwork is a great way to start getting a feel for the style. As you pore over and imitate the sketches, pay attention to the finer details and analyze the anatomy. Notice how different facial and body structures are still flexible enough to portray all kinds of expressions and motions.

Break Down Bodies and Parts

This piece of advice may sound destructive, but it’s actually constructive. A physical body really is multiple parts that comprise a whole, and the same goes for an illustrated body. Even those parts consist of other parts. Artists need a robust understanding of how they connect and affect each other.

The eyes are an important example. Disney characters typically have bigger peepers than actual people, but they still obey certain laws. When the head is facing to the left, but not totally in profile, the bridge of the nose covers part of the left eye. Realizing these little details is how novices become masters.

Combine Shapes to Form Bodies

In the end, cartoon bodies really are just stacks of geometric shapes. Take the head: for most characters, they’re a mix of a sphere and an ellipsoid. The former is the cranium, holding up the hair and the eyes. The latter is the jaw, where you put the mouth and chin. Stretch, condense, or shift them to create different recognizable character types.

The rest of the body is much the same. Necks are typically thin rectangular prisms, connecting the head to a larger prism. Alternatively, you could make a sphere overlap most of that prism to create a big belly. Start your design with basic three-dimensional shapes in this manner, then play around with them.

Learn How Disney Exaggerates Anatomy

Different art styles take different approaches to face and body design. Disney is no different. In addition to the aforementioned largeness, their characters’ eyes are often round-edged rhombuses with eyelashes that are always in side-view. These choices waver between stylistic (bigger eyes are more expressive), realistic (the shape), and practical (side-view lashes are easier to animate).

Other aspects of the body are often exaggerated to highlight more notable anatomical aspects or portray personality. Babies have even bigger eyes on their even bigger heads. Muscular characters eschew the typical thin neck for a trapezoidal bulk. Those with lanky figures may have wider hands than others to accentuate their long, thin arms.

Disney Art on Demand at Your WDW Store

You can only truly learn the Disney art style by actually pumping out sketches. They may bear little resemblance to the originals, but with time and patience and practice, you could learn to make professional-grade artwork.

If you want to see artwork from actual professionals, whether for tracing or inspiration, you can get Disney art on demand at Your WDW Store. Shop from a great selection of masterful illustrations today.