Think back over all the babies you know - your neighbours' or relatives' babies, cartoon babies like Boss Baby and the baby in Ice Age... maybe even your own baby.

What strikes you about them all? And what is it about babies that make them so remarkable, noticeable and memorable? Do all babies have the same effect on you - animal babies as well as human ones?

Drawing babies can be challenging, especially newborn babies. Floppy, wrinkly and utterly helpless; even in the flesh, some people think the newly-born are devoid of babyhood - the particular combination of features that makes babies so appealing.

What are those ingredients? And if essential 'babyhood' is so elusive, why do artists persist in drawing babies?

Before Superprof art tutors give their tips on how to draw babies, they answer these questions and others.

We also invite you to leave your opinions in the comments section: why do you like to draw babies?

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Why Some Artists Love to Draw Babies

It's called the Kinderschema: the particular arrangement of features and characteristics that make people melt at the sight of a baby - animal or human.

Those characteristics include a large head - large in proportion with the rest of the baby's body; big eyes, fat cheeks and a plump body. Other features include a rounded head - with or without downy hair, a bulbous forehead and the suggested softness and smoothness of their skin.

And, of course, their inherent innocence. That's not a physical trait; it's reflected in their wide eyes and trusting, open body language.

The Renaissance saw babies depicted more as cherubs
Fortunately, paintings of babies became much more cherubic during the Renaissance. Photo credit: istolethetv on Visualhunt

When artists draw babies, inevitably, these are the features they incorporate into their work. It wasn't always like that, though.

In the Middle Ages, babies tended to look like tiny, grumpy old men. Receding hairlines - some with male pattern baldness; surly, downturned mouths and, often, gloomily-ringed eyes. Some, such as the baby in Madonna of Veveri, painted in 1350, actually look like miniature adults.

In that particular painting, the baby has well-developed chest muscles, a well-formed, protruding nose and eyes that are somehow aware. It's a rather creepy-looking baby, in this writer's opinion.

Fortunately, the Renaissance put an end to Middle Age babies that resembled homonculi - Latin for 'little men'. Renaissance babies took on the likeness of cherubs, the type of baby that artists today love to draw: round heads, fat cheeks, large eyes and dimpled, grasping hands.

Back to Kindserschema, now.

This is the same impulse that makes us not reject our young even when they spit up, fill their nappies and forbid their parents any prolonged sleep for the first two years of their lives. It is an evolutionary adaptation that ensures we will take care of these weak, adorable things no matter how much they disrupt our lives (and ruin our clothing).

Artists possessed of an extra dose of Kinderschema relish the challenge of drawing credible portraits of babies. Considering how, today, it's much easier it is to capture babies' likeness through photography - or, better yet, through video, you might say that those Kindserschema artists are true stalwarts of the art world.

Still, whether they draw 'real' babies or cartoon babies, you should never compare them to artists who draw Kawaii simply because both represent cuteness.

Cartoon Babies Versus Human Babies

It's much easier to draw a cartoon baby than an actual baby. As an artist, you have license to make your cartoon baby drool excessively, bear springy tufts of hair or have their jaw unhinge, the better to bellow when they're displeased. Nobody will get offended or threaten to sue you for exaggerating their baby's features or distorting their physique if you're drawing cartoon babies.

By contrast, if you're under commission to sketch a client's baby, you run the risk of client wrath for drawing their baby objectively - as you see it, not with the adoring eyes of a parent gazing upon their progeny. And even if you do a good job, you might still suffer criticism for drawing their baby realistically rather than an idealised baby that bears only a passing resemblance to your model.

Getting babies to pose for a pencil portrait is another chore. For one, depending on the child's age, they may not even be capable of sitting up and, if they are, how will you get them to stay still long enough for you to draw them?

Many baby portrait artists prefer to take photos of their subjects and then, working from memory and using the snaps as guidelines, they will draw the closest resemblance to the baby they can.

Note that if your client wants you to draw them kissing their baby, you should have some idea of how to draw kisses. Yes, there's a technique for that.

Cartoon babies are easier to draw than real ones
Drawing cartoon babies is much easier than drawing real ones. Photo credit: Ian Kershaw on VisualHunt.com

How to Draw a Cartoon Baby

Because it's far easier, we'll start with drawing cartoon babies. Remember that this is just a blueprint; you may later experiment to find the best way for you to draw a baby.

Our proposed baby is about eight months old. They can sit up on their own and they have all the features that make people say "Awww! How cute!"

Start by drawing a large oval; that will be the baby's head. Next, grid the face by drawing perpendicular lines, just as you would for any human face. However, because the baby's eyes are supposed to be large, you should draw the horizontal line just below centre.

Because babies' ears tend to be lower than adults', you can draw your cartoon baby's ears just where the horizontal gridline ends. These ears need not be terribly detailed just yet; small ovals will suffice. We'll give them form later.

The next steps:

  • under the head and in-line with the face's vertical gridline, draw an oval, open at the top. If you're thinking 'soft-boiled egg with the top off', you've got the right idea. This will be the baby's body.
  • where the head and body ovals meet, outline the arms: two linked ovals, much like the paper garland chains you probably made in school.
  • toward the lower end (and on either side) of the body oval, pencil in two more sets of linked ovals; these will be the legs and feet.
  • fill in your baby's face: one eye in each of the upper quadrants and the mouth straddling the vertical gridline
  • cover baby's head with fine wisps of hair; maybe a sassy forelock
  • connect all of the ovals for each body part with flowing lines
  • erase the outline ovals

You may choose to draw a smiling baby by adding dimples and drawing their mouth upturned, perhaps even adding a couple of teeth and a drop of drool. Conversely, you could draw a crying baby by scrunching up their eyes and drawing a large oval for a mouth with parentheses on either side, to give the impression of fat cheeks.

Colouring seems to be one of the most challenging aspects of drawing cartoon babies. If you draw the baby with clothes on, it's not quite as hard as getting the skin tone and contour shading exactly right. And then, there's the small matter of dimpling and fat rolls... did you want to draw a chubby baby?

Artists who draw Groot and Baby Groot don't have the same challenges because Groot in either incarnation keeps a fairly neutral palette.

Drawing real babies is more challenging
Capturing the essence of babyhood is more challenging when you draw a real baby. Photo credit: "freedom" koan-sin tan on VisualHunt

Drawing a Human Baby

Whether you're drawing a baby on commission or just because you like the challenge of drawing real babies, you have to up your game a bit because drawing babies is quite different from drawing cartoons of babies.

You'll start with a rectangle whose width is half again the size of its height. This dimension is critical to ensure proportionate placement of eyes, nose and mouth.

Next, starting at the rectangle's upper left corner, draw a cresting wave that ends below the right upper corner. The peak of the wave should crest about one third of the rectangle's length. Once you're satisfied with that line, you may erase the rectangle's top line. You should also round the rectangles' lower corners and erase the 90-degree ones.

Now, things start to get a bit tricky.

From side lines, toward the top of your form, sketch in two open notches. These will give your baby's cheeks the desired plumpness. You may also alter the bottom of your form with small indents to form the suggestion of a chin.

Now, we get ready for the eyes.

Unlike drawing cartoon babies, we won't grid the face. Instead, we draw two slightly angled lines, starting from either chin notch and reaching almost all the way up to the form's upper line. The face should now have three sections.

Draw the curve of the baby's left upper eye, extending from the top of the segment line to the cheek notch. Complete the eye by drawing a less exaggerated arc for the bottom eyelid. On the right side, you'll again start from where the vertical line ends but don't draw the upper eyelid all the way to the cheek notch, as that will throw your perspective off.

Instead, draw the upper lid's outer edge just under the face's upper line. And then, between the vertical lines, sketch in the baby's nose and mouth. 

From here, it's all about definition. For instance, you'll want to emphasise the baby's outer eye lines but slightly shade the inner lines of the eyes. Also, you might suggest a pouty, rosebud mouth but you can always fill the lips in later.

Now, you only need to add contrast and tone to your baby. Colour in the eyes and shade those chubby cheeks; don't forget to shadow the nose, as well.

Drawing a lifelike baby takes a lot of practice; you don't have as much freedom to accent your drawing as you would drawing cartoon babies.

Still, if you're looking for ideas for things to draw, a baby may just be the right challenge for you.

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