Cartooning and illustration is a huge field and there’s so much to learn. But you can shave time off the learning process by working with the best materials.
And that’s my goal with this post: to organize the absolute best books on cartooning for artists.
You’ll find books covering all topics from basic cartooning to theory and practical application. If you’re an aspiring illustrator or cartoonist then this post is sure to have something for you.
Skilled artist Christopher Hart shares many delightful tips in his book Cartoon Faces. Every cartoon character expresses emotion through their face. And this guide will cover everything you need to study and master facial expressions.
Each chapter is filled with step-by-step examples to help you learn different facial expressions for a variety of characters. You’ll learn to study specific areas like eyebrows, mouths, and eye shapes to express a broad spectrum of emotions.
Cartooning is all about exaggeration and showing rather than telling. Chris knows how to teach in a step-by-step manner so this book is the one resource you’ll need for facial expressions.
Note that this book is generally geared towards kids but it can work for brand new artists as well. It’s mostly aimed at readers who have no artistic skill and need to start from zero.
If this describes you then Cartoon Faces might be an excellent addition to your library.
Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice
If you need more of a “getting started” manual to cartooning then you’ll want a copy of Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice. The author Ivan Brunetti has been published in the NY Times and The New Yorker among many other big publications.
In this book Ivan teaches you about cartooning from a fundamental perspective. You’ll learn the basic philosophies and cornerstones of cartooning with explanations for paneled comics, single-page cartoons, and storytelling through panels.
Later chapters delve into tools of the trade and more specific techniques for styling cartoons aimed at a target audience.
This is not a step-by-step cartooning book. It’s more of a guide to cartooning from the perspective of an accomplished cartoonist. You’ll learn plenty of techniques for planning ideas, drafting them out, and completing cartoons with style.
Chris Hart is a big name in art books because he’s such a prolific author. One of his better titles Modern Cartooning takes a look into character creation for illustrators.
This book spans 160 pages full of illustrations and sketches that lay out a step-by-step approach for drawing creative characters. Chris writes very detailed guides to help the reader learn to observe their drawings and make corrections.
All of his exercises can be improved upon by drawing from life and studying shapes, proportions, and similarities between objects.
There is no easy path to cartooning. It takes dedication and years of effort spent perfecting the craft. But if you’re willing to put in the time and follow these instructions you will see huge strides in your artwork.
The Mad Art of Caricature!
Perhaps the best known style of cartooning is caricature. This type of drawing always comes from life and it’s meant to distort certain features in a realistic way.
The Mad Art of Caricature! is the definitive guide for beginners hoping to learn caricature art. The author Tom Richmond is an award-winning caricature artist with almost three decades of experience.
In this book you’ll learn all the fundamental techniques of caricature from exaggeration to careful rendering and distorting proportions. Each chapter covers a different feature explaining how to notice subtle differences in each person and deciding what to exaggerate.
Over the course of this book you’ll learn a lot about observation and drawing to exaggerate while still holding onto something unique about the subject.
And if you’re looking for a more comprehensive caricature guide check out Proko’s new caricature course covering all this stuff with HD video exercises.
Each chapter is split up by the type of animal focusing on individual features of each creature. In total the book hits just over 200 pages and it’s full of great advice for new cartoonists.
It does help if you already have some artistic experience but Chris’ writing style can work well for newbies too. And this is one of the best guides for learning to distort animals in a cartoony fashion.
If you’re looking for more realistic lessons then check out our animal drawing guide featuring the best books on realist sketching for hundreds of creatures.
How to Draw Cool Stuff
This title is just generic enough to push you away while still capturing attention. How to Draw Cool Stuff is a really simple drawing book and it’s mostly aimed at kids.
But complete beginners might get something from these lessons since they push right into cartooning with step-by-step exercises. Each chapter starts with a bit of theory waxing on about technique, fundamentals, and the end goal of a piece of work.
Then near the end of each chapter you’ll find a bunch of exercises that you should copy on your own. There is no foolproof way to follow this guide and magically get better.
However the explanations are so simple and each exercise gets broken down into smaller shapes. This is the best way to start learning as a beginner and the more you practice the better you’ll get.
Every character you make should take on a life of its own. Chris knows this better than anyone and in this book you’ll learn why it’s so important.
The book has a weird chapter structure where you’ll study different pieces of anatomy and styles from a character’s lips, hips, hands, hair, and feet. But other chapters delve into character techniques based on age, size, and personality.
Chris has decades of experience drawing and cartooning so he’s one of the go-to guys for new artists.
This book is perfect for beginners who don’t know where to take their style. Chris offers a bountiful selection of styles to study from and replicate in your own work.
Humongous Book of Cartooning
If you’re looking for a cover-all book focusing on every topic then you want the Humongous Book of Cartooning. It’s full of everything you could imagine from people, pets, animals, cars, and common household objects.
The beauty of cartooning is getting to see a certain object through an artist’s lens. But when you just start out you won’t have a unique style to play with.
This book offers 200+ pages of stylish drawings that you can copy and restyle on your own. Each chapter has dozens of step-by-step exercises you can follow to design characters, animals, and pretty much anything you want.
It’s not the best book out there but it does cover a lot of depth. So if you’re looking for cartooning inspiration and tutorials to draw anything then this book can help you out.
This book teaches everything about basic cartooning and illustration from how to develop your own style to drawing and writing your own stories. There is no required skill level and the early chapters cover some very basic materials that you can use to get started.
I would say this is another book geared towards kids but it can work well for newbies with no drawing experience too. It’s definitely a fun read and it’ll get you thinking about how cartooning works from character design to story development to the final product.
If you want to get really good at cartooning then you just need to practice and put in the hours.
This collection offers plenty of resources but they won’t take you all the way. I do recommend grabbing a copy of Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice since it talks in-depth about how cartoons are made.
But if you want to go further then check out our best books on comics along with other related books about illustration and exaggeration in art.