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How To Draw Nightmare Before Christmas Characters

Updated on July 20, 2014
The Nightmare Before Christmas Jack Skellington drawn by Me
The Nightmare Before Christmas Jack Skellington drawn by Me

This is the time of year for holiday cheer, and jolly, and all that...stuff. Well, maybe some of us don't think about Santa and elves and reindeer this time of year. Maybe some of our heads are filled with something else. Maybe some of us are thinking about "Kidnap the Sandy Claws, beat him with a stick, lock him up for ninety years, see what makes him tick."

It's not that I don't like good ole Saint Nick or Christmas time, but who doesn't love mashing two great things together, like peanut butter and jelly, raisin and bran, or Halloween and Christmas. Listen to this, and tell me you're not intrigued. "There's children throwing snowballs, instead of throwing heads, they're busy building toys, and absolutely no one's dead!"

How about this Christmas, you add a little nightmare. I'd like to show you how to draw the Characters of Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, so you can draw them anywhere you want. Doesn't that sound like fun?

We'll start with Jack Skellington, because, hey, he's the Pumpkin King, and basically a glorified stick figure. I'll follow that up with his faithful companion Zero, who's a flowing bed sheet that's all about getting the shimmer in the lines. Then it's on to Oogie-Boogie, a floppy sack of stitches and a cold grimace. And we'll finish it off with poor Sally, basically a circle on a patchwork oval and triangle.

Think about it, posters--presents--cards, starting this year, you can decorate for Christmas like never before.

Are you ready to get started?

Time required: take your time

Difficulty: medium

Cost: All it costs is some time


  • paper
  • pencil
  • colored pencils (optional)


1. This is the beginning of Jack. He's basically a glorified stick figure in a Shakespearean pose. His body's width is the same as his head's width. His arm's and torso are both kind of short, while his legs are extremely long. Also, make sure to line out the face and hands.

2. Now, give the body some more dimension. Expand the chest into a suit jacket, and give the arms and legs some depth. The neck should also sort of pipe down, like a vase, from the head. Add lines for fingers, for now, and triangles for the shoes.

3. Add details to the garments. This can be tricky. The hat fur leans to the right, while the hat itself actually waves to the left in kind of an M-shape. Just dangle the beard from the face. It should hang from his cheeks and have a small gap between his chin and neck. Then add wrist and boot cuffs, as well as a belt.

4. Now, add Jack's facial expression. Jack has a number of awesome facial expressions, but I chose one of his defaults. The eyes are like almonds. Make sure to make them standing ovals, but line out some sides, so they have a bit of depth. Then add the nostrils, and the mouth. The mouth is great. Jack's smile should never be a full smile. It's always a bit wavy, and devious, and covered in stitches.

5. Finally, clean up the drawing. Erase any unneeded lines. Close up the hat, darken around the eyes, and fill in the fingers. Since his left foot is raised, add an angled tombstone for effect. And ta-da, "JACK..THE PUMPKIN KING!"

6. Next up is Zero. So, start it off with a circle with a plus sign in it. Add his eye to the upper left corner. Zero is basically nothing more than a floating sheet, so flair out the far and near sheet. Both halves begin in front of the mid-line of the face.

7. Finish off the flow of the sheets, remembering that Zero is just a floating sheet. He really has no substance, so be free with it. Think shimmery thoughts.

8. Now, draw his nose and mouth. Extend his nose from his forehead in a major angle straight up. It should actually extend higher than his forehead. Bring it back down into sort of a cheek behind his eye. Then add the ball for a nose at the end. Then add the jaw underneath. It should sort of look like he's smiling when you're done.

9. Zero's ears are a big part of his look. Again, think shimmery thoughts, because, even when Zero is standing still, his ears never stop moving, and they never flop to his sides. They always remain horizontal, and flowing. So, imagine two narrow flags on a windy day. One extends from the far side of the head, and the other from the near side, so it should overlap.

10. Finally, add the finishing touches. Erase any unneeded lines. Clean up a few areas. Add some extra lines to the front of the bottom sheets to make them look a little like feet. Add three crease lines below Zero's neck, and darken his eye. And ta-da, "You're the head of the team, Zero."

11. Now, let's do Oogie-Boogie. He's basically a burlap sack, so start with an angled circle for a head, with an angled cross down the middle. That should be symbolic for his character. Then dangle the bag down to the floor. Don't bother being too precise. Think of it like a loose triangle from his nose to his feet.

12. Next, hang off his appendages. Start with the tip of his head, but don't finish it. Begin the angle, but don't bring it all the way back. Hang two loaves for arms, one angles, and one not, and then two more loaves for feet.

13. Now do his face, using the cross as guidelines. His eyes are angled down like tear-drops. His nose is an upside-down T-shape. And his mouth is a big wide grin. Then bring the tip of his head back along, but bring it back behind his head, with jagged edges for some expression.

14. Of course, add some folds and stitching.

15. Now, clean it up. Erase any excess lines. And add a candy cane snake for the Christmasy effect. And, "SNAKE EYES!!!"

16. Sally is probably the toughest one, but you've made it this far, so let's keep going. Just begin the standard shapes. Her head is more oval than circle, and her expression is saddened, so angle it a bit down to the right. Also, angle the neck as well. Otherwise, add an oval for the chest, add the arms, the dress, and legs.

17. Add some more details to the dress and socks. The Dress shoulders raise a bit up around her neck, and her socks bulge.

18. Now, do the face, and think stitching.

19. It's time for the patchwork dress, and take your time here. It's not a matter of getting it perfect, because I guarantee very few people will know the difference if one patch is wrong. It's a matter of making it look strange. So angle out the patches, and think asymmetrically.

20. Now, clean it up. Erase any unnecessary lines. Add all the stitching, and any final touches. And, "Mmmm! See? Scrumptious."

21. Here's the final scene, as a poster I'm working on. It's Jack, with Zero, Sally and Oogie-Boogie, in one of the most famous scenes of Nightmare Before Christmas. It's just a rough sketch, so far. I'll probably color it with pencils before I hang it up, but you still get the idea of what I was going for. "How horrible our Christmas will be! No. How Jolly!"

Good luck, and have a Merry Christmas! Let me know in the comments below how you did.

How horrible (or jolly) will this Christmas be? Let me know what you think.

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    • boneworld profile image

      Jackson Thom 3 years ago from West of Left South Lucky

      @AtlantaGeorgia LM: Thank you! I'm glad you got into it. I love these characters. I think they're timeless, and so easy to draw when you break them down into their parts. I'm glad you got something out of it. Thanks for stopping by!

    • AtlantaGeorgia LM profile image

      AtlantaGeorgia LM 3 years ago

      Nightmare Before Christmas is one of my favorite movies and learning how to draw these characters is so much fun. Your instruction is incredible.