How to Draw Everything with 3 Shapes

Whenever you draw cartoons - or anything for that matter, one of the most important things to keep in mind is --- keep it simple.

And, with respect to many of the lessons here on this site, indeed - you'll discover many different ways to go about simplifying your drawings.

No matter what it is your creating - whether it be a person, an animal, a car or a house... everything - in some way or another, can be broken down into three simple shapes - the circle (or oval), square (or rectangle), and the triangle.

Drawing of three shapes image

Of course, it's obvious that with most drawings there are many complicated 'curves, twists and turns' of the pencil involved. The key is to be able to see past all the detail... all the extras... and focus only on the core structure of what it is you're drawing. This is where the 'simplicity' comes in.

So then, let's take a look at how things are both made up of - and can be broken down into... three simple shapes!

What Can You Draw with These Five Arrangements of Shapes?

To begin, take a look at the following five groupings of circles, squares and triangles. Again, by square - I also mean 'rectangle' and by circle - I also mean 'oval'. Each set, when assembled in a particular way, will create a simple image that's recognizable to pretty much anyone.

Any ideas as to what 'things' they'll form?

A variety of simple shapes

Grab a piece of paper and go ahead and sketch some of your ideas out. Don't be concerned at all with perfection. And don't try to reproduce these shapes in the EXACT same way that I have. Simple, quick rough sketches will do just fine. Also, put your shapes together so that they overlap.

When you're done, take a look at the next example where I've 'put the shapes together' to form five easily recognizable things...

How do Your Shapes Come Together?

Surely, there's more than one 'thing' that you could create with each of the above sets of shapes. And really - it doesn't matter what you came up with, so long as it's something people can recognize.

Here's how I arranged them...

Making basic drawings from simple shapes

So, did you come up with any of these? If so - wonderful! If not - equally wonderful! Everything is made up of a unique arrangement of shapes. And depending on what it is you're drawing, this arrangement can vary. The main thing is that you're able to put shapes together - to form - something!

Now, looking at the above arrangements, what do they look like to you? Does a tree, a sun, a house, a hand and a face sound OK? Most definitely, each grouping is very easy to recognize.

But then again - based on the arrangements I came up with... you may see them as a tennis racquet, the end of a flail, a really short pencil, a strange looking fish, and well... the last one looks almost too much like a face to be anything else. :-)

Or - if you arranged your shapes completely different than mine... maybe you came up with something like this...

Making more drawings from the same simple shapes

Now we've got a whistle, a nature setting, a TV, a globe on a table, and a ping pong paddle with two ping pong balls.

Pretty neat isn't it! Really, we can make all sorts of different things with only a few simple shapes. Next, in one final example, let's turn these arrangements of simple shapes into the actual 'things' that they come together to create.

Create Pictures for Each Arrangement of Shapes

To better appreciate the various forms that our arrangements of shapes can take on, go ahead and finalize them so that they look how they're 'supposed to'.

Above, I mentioned fifteen different possibilities. And of those fifteen - here's what ten of them look like once completed...

A variety of drawings based on three simple shapes

Of course - this is just how I chose to draw them. The shapes themselves maintain the form of whatever it is you wish to draw. It's up to you to get creative, taking things to next level. And this is where you can - if you like - deviate from the form of which your arrangement of shapes create. It's also where the detailing comes in!

Drawing of a fish based on the structure of a hand

Well, I hope you enjoyed this lesson. Perhaps now, you have a better appreciation for how only three simple shapes - circles, squares, and triangles... can be arranged in many different ways to create many different things.

And just for fun... to the right you can see the strange looking fish I was talking about before. :-)

See you again soon, for yet another helpful cartoon drawing tip!