Cartoon Skeleton Drawing in 4 Steps With Photoshop

A cartoon skeleton drawing that can be hung during Halloween or any other holiday event is handy to have around. Show your spooky side and follow along in this guide will look at the process of creating a neat and clean skeleton cartoon drawing.

The skeleton is more than just a collection of bones. In Western cultures, it is a symbol used to show death and decay. As mentioned, Halloween is a popular holiday where this motif is used. Another popular holiday is the Day of the Dead where skeleton costumes are popular attires.

In drawing, there is a simplified version of it in the form of a mannequin. This mannequin is a set of simple shapes pieced together to help decide on the proportions of the human body as well as perspective accuracy.

Each mannequin is uniquely different for every artist and only serves as guidelines for the human body. Hence, drawing a cartoon skeleton drawing is just an exercise that builds on this mannequin. The challenge is to fill the mannequin with the right amount of bones.

Sketching the cartoon skeleton drawing

Before starting the cartoon skeleton drawing, draw in the mannequin first. For example, this particular mannequin will have a circle for the skull, a square for this chin, an upside down heart for the chest cavity, ovals for the hip lines, and various cylinders for the limbs.

These basic shapes will dictate the proportions of the human body and can be exaggerated to fit the needs of the cartoon. Next, use these shapes and fill in the common features of the skeleton such as the rib cage.

cartoon skeleton drawing step 1 from cgattic.ca

Continue to fill in the contents of the shape all around the body. A few pointers is to have two bones for the forearms and the shin, add in teeth in the skull, as well as separating the individual bones on the hands and feet.

When this rough sketch is done, thicken up the lines as best as possible. Any inaccuracies in the amount of bones will be corrected later. The idea is to have the sketch ready in terms of overall drawing composition.

Cleaning up the cartoon skeleton drawing

The line drawing will be the spotlight of the cartoon skeleton drawing. Here, almost every bone is drawn or redrawn in better clarity. This step can be done by editing directly the rough sketch or it can be traced on a new layer.

Starting with the head, bulge out the cheeks, darken in the nose opening, round out the eye sockets, and add in individual teeth. Take care in creating a round skull. If the face is directly facing the audience, symmetry can be created by simply copying the face and then flipping it horizontally.

cartoon skeleton drawing step 2 from cgattic.ca

The most detail will come from the upper torso. In it, count the amount of ribs as it wraps in on the central 'T' shape of the collar bone connecting to the sternum. There should be 12 on each side. However, the cartoon may not have enough room to show it all.

After that, behind the rib cage, detail out the backbone as it links to the pelvis. The only key thing to remember is that there are holes that will need to be drawn in. Other than that, work on the fingers on the hands and feet to show individual joints.

Coloring the cartoon skeleton drawing

The line art on its own is enough to finish the skeleton cartoon drawing. Especially for any print outs, white and black is preferred. However, if there is a need to detail out the skeleton even further to make it pop up, then additional coloring is necessary.

To prepare the bones for texturing, a background color is necessary. Therefore, the goal in this step is to fill in the cartoon with a single flat grey color. The quickest way to do that is to highlight the skeleton outline using the magic wand tool on the line drawing.

cartoon skeleton drawing step 3 from cgattic.ca

Click anywhere on the outer perimeters of the line drawing to lasso a silhouette. After that, create a new layer underneath. With the lasso still selecting the outline, go to Edit > Fill in Photoshop, select a neutral grey color, and hit OK to fill it in.

Even though this process is straight forward, there may be some areas that are filled in unnecessarily. Specifically, the holes around the pelvis area will need to be cleared. Simply use the erase brush to clean out the extra grey.

Shading the cartoon skeleton drawing

Adding smooth gradients is one way to simulate smooth bone curvatures. This is most apparent on the skull's forehead. The best brush for this job is a large soft round brush. First, lock the layer down before any coloring can be applied.

Set the radius of the soft round brush to half of the forehead. In small circular rotations, gently fill in a light white to bring the forehead out. This technique of simple shading will need to be applied to the front of the chin and the center of the upper jaw.

cartoon skeleton drawing step 4 from cgattic.ca

To indent the cheeks just underneath the eye sockets, switch to a chalk brush and gently block in a slightly darker grey to create an indent. Do this do the side of the jaw and roughly where the ears are located as well.

For every other bone, it is fairly straight forward. Just concentrate on shading a small area on the edge of each bone with a slightly dark grey. Any areas within these bones that require it to stand out will be blocked in with a white color.

Once all of these simple shading is done, the final step is to create a small rim light on almost every single bone. The rim light will contrast with the dark grey found on the edges to truly make each individual bone pop out.

The quickest way to do this is to click on the layer to bring out the layer style. In it, use the 'Inner Glow' style to quickly generate a white outline. While this trick is useful, there will be areas that require manual painting of this rim light. Feel out the drawing and paint it in accordingly to finish the cartoon skeleton drawing!