Finding Inspiration from Tim Burton’s Art Style

Whether you think it’s creepy or wonderful, you can’t deny that Tim Burton’s art style is a unique style all his own. He has created thousands of sketches since he was a kid. Those monsters, characters and environments drawn out led to the creation of many quirky and award-winning films.

Edward Scissorhands,1990. Johnny Depp says that it wasn’t until he saw Burton’s sketches that he understood who he was to play. “I instantly fell for the character — he made his way into my body.”

Tim Burton’s Rise to Fame

After graduating with a degree in animation from the California Institute of Arts, Burton worked as a Disney animator. He stayed there for less than a year. Striking out on his own, he pursued his own style and passion projects. He became known for his blend of fantasy and horror. Titles like Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas quickly became cult phenomenons. 

“I’ve never really felt like a writer. It was always a visual thing for me,” Burton says.

“WILLIE WONKA,” 2004, Pen and ink, watercolor

“THE RED QUEEN,” 2008, Pen and ink, colored pencil

Tim Burton’s illustration style is definitely unique. You can get a whole book dedicated to his illustrations and explore the gallery artwork in an interactive game on his website.

A Signature Art Style Inspires Fan Art

With most beloved media and artists, fan art is inspired. Many artists have tried to imitate Burton’s style, drawing characters from different Disney films or other pop culture series.

Japanese artist Yoko has created a series featuring the characters from Frozen. Artist Michael Kenny created Tim Burton inspired art featuring the Doctors from Doctor Who

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Vaughn Pinpin took the Tim Burton fan art another direction and explored the art style using the characters from Pokemon. The little pocket monsters in this style definitely have a heavy dose of creepy and a little less of the usual cute. Imagine seeing that pop out of a Poke ball!

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The Tim Burton Elements of Drawing

Breaking down Tim’s style, one of the most important features is the eyes. They’re always the largest facial feature and have a very dark edge all around. Those dark shadows and lids give the characters a creepy, otherworldly vibe.

Burton’s figures also have a very exaggerated proportion for the figure. The limbs are long and extremely thin. Legs are practically sticks and fingers are often long and claw-like. Stretch out those characters as you draw!

Make sure to vary the line weight. Burton uses dark, prominent lines as well as extremely thin, light lines. Burton’s colors are often more muted, with a lot of black and gray in the illustration. A pop of color can be seen here and there but often it’s one dominant color like a bright red. Don’t be afraid to dive into that dark, gothic style! 


Want to enjoy some dark characters but don’t want to draw them? Check out Alice’s Wonderfilled Adventures by macabre artist Abigail Larson. Filled with 70 different illustrations and patterns in Abigail’s edgy style, you’ll enjoy coloring for hours. Maybe this time Alice can be a little dark and gothic. 

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