So I just knew I hadn’t quite nailed that Racoon Moon illustration. It was cute, but somehow not cute enough.

This has been a learning curve, so I thought I’d share my discoveries. Below is a progression from my first *final* draft, yesterday’s edits, and this morning’s breakthrough. (Click below to see as slide show.)

The biggest difference is the eyes. I was told by an friend and one-time Hallmark artist that the character must be making eye contact with another character or the viewer. My first raccoon wasn’t doing either. (Maybe I’ll go into eye contact/eye highlights in another post, because I’m still learning that trick.)

The other thing I learned was big eyes get a bigger “awww” response. I definitely think small eyes can be super cute and expressive (think Snoopy), but we naturally associate big eyes with babies, and babies are super cute, right? (At least mine were. There are definitely some ugly babies in the world!) Babies also have big heads, small noses and small-ish mouths. My raccoon was already good on those items, so no adjustment needed there.

Now here’s the thing that you probably won’t notice right off (I know I didn’t)… pointy edges vs. rounded edges. Did you know that humans naturally associate pointy things with danger? Think JAWS. Got an immediate visual/fear response, didn’t you? So, even though my raccoon wasn’t sporting jagged, deadly teeth, he was pretty pointy, and therefore gave off a prickly vibe. So I rounded off those corners and voila! Cuteness!

Granted, I’m still learning, but I have a feeling that my illustrations are going to get a much bigger “aww” response with the use of these new discoveries.

General cuteness characteristics recap:
-Eye contact is key
-Big head/small body
-Small mouth and nose
-Big eyes
-Soft edges/no “pointies”

Please feel free to comment and add some tips of your own. Again, I’m totally in learning mode!

Oh, and if you have a chance, check out this great article: