How to Draw a Circle

To draw Mickey Mouse you need to know how to draw a circle

Knowing how to draw a circle is a basic skills for artists. For animators - it's a must.
Practically every animated character starts with a circle, so let's get down to business:

Learn to Draw From Your Shoulder

The only joint in your arm that can make a full, smooth circular motion is your shoulder. 
It's a ball-and-socket joint, and the first step in drawing nice round circles is learning how to draw from the shoulder.

Exercise 01: Start By Drawing REALLY BIG Circles

How to draw a circle - exercise 01

Find a large whiteboard, or the biggest sheet of paper you can get. That would be a full A1 paper, and mount it up.

Stand, don't sit. 

Warm up your shoulders for a few minutes. Roll your head, then your shoulders, then your whole arms.

Now take a marker or a pencil and draw the largest circles you can make, using your whole arm.

Practice drawing circles in both directions - clockwise and counterclockwise. Again, and again!

When you have gotten used to the feeling of using your whole arm, and drawing from your shoulder, move on to a regular sized paper (A4) or your wacom tablet.

Now, on the smaller scale - practice drawing from your shoulder. Don't lean or rest your hand on the table. Make your arm float over the surface, even if you are drawing very small circles.

Watch the video further down this page to see a great demonstration on how to draw circles like a pro.

Drawing Circles Practice: The Cheat Sheet

Drawing Circles Practice - cheat sheet

Download these Circle Practice Cheat Sheets, and practice tracing the light gray circles. (hover over the image - right click - save image as).

You can:

  • Print them out and trace the circles with a pencil or colored crayon.
  • Use a light table and trace the circles on a new sheet of paper.
  • Import the jpeg to Photoshop or any drawing software you prefer. Set a new layer over the cheat sheet, and trace the circles with your Wacom Stylus.

Once you manage to make more or less decent circles when tracing, try freehand.

Exercise 02: Draw Figure 8's

How to draw figure eights

Practice drawing figure eights, back and forth, in both directions. Here too, draw on the largest paper or board that you can find. Move your whole arm, from the shoulder.

You will find, as most people do, that one side of your 8 is rounder and smoother than the other, which is flattened or squished ,or stretched.

Work on the less-round side. Make a conscious effort to smooth the curves out, make it nice,  round and consistent.

Practice practice practice!

Practice drawing circles and figure eights every day, for 10 minutes. Do it when you have a coffee break, on during boring meetings :-)

The Circles exercises go hand in hand with the Curves exercises here.

How a Disney Animator Draws Circles

Mickey Mouse is made up from circles and curves.
Here's a video of Disney Animator Michael Surrey showing us how to draw Mickey Mouse.

Pay attention to how his hands hover over the page, how he practices the circular motion before putting the pencil to the paper:

Now that was old school classic animation :-)
Let's move on and see how Animator Eric Goldberg draws curves on a Wacom Cintiq.

Next: Learn to Draw Curves >>

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