Bryan Cranston Caricature: Capturing the Essence of Walter White

Bryan Cranston finished caricature

Before I even start to talk about my Bryan Cranston Caricature, I want to ensure you know about one of the most popular television series of all time and the character that Bryan Cranston brought to life in that series.

Bryan Cranston's portrayal of Walter White in the hit TV series Breaking Bad was nothing short of phenomenal. Throughout the show's five seasons, we saw Walter transform from a meek high school chemistry teacher into a ruthless drug kingpin. It was this transformation that drew me to paint a caricature of Cranston as Walter White.

At the beginning of the series, Walter is a man who is stuck in a dead-end job and struggling to make ends meet. He is diagnosed with cancer and given only a few months to live. This is the catalyst that sets him on a path of self-discovery and transformation. Walter decides to use his chemistry knowledge to start cooking methamphetamine with his former student, Jesse Pinkman, in order to provide for his family after he's gone.

As the series progresses, we see Walter become more and more ruthless in his pursuit of power and money. He lies, manipulates, and even kills in order to protect his empire. But despite all of this, there is still a part of him that cares about his family and wants to do right by them. It is this complexity in his character that makes him so fascinating to watch.

In painting a caricature of Bryan Cranston as Walter White, I wanted to capture this complexity. I wanted to show the two sides of Walter's character – the ruthless drug kingpin and the caring family man. By exaggerating certain features of Cranston's face, such as his eyebrows and his trademark bald head, I was able to create a graphical version of Walter White that captures his essence.

Before we get into the actual painting process, I like to let people know the equipment I use. I paint all of my caricatures on an iPad pro using the Procreate app with standard brushes. Using the iPad Pro along with the Procreate app is a fantastic way to create digital caricatures.

The iPad Pro's large, high-resolution display provides an immersive drawing experience, while the Procreate app offers a wide range of brushes, tools, and features that allow for detailed and precise digital painting. With this powerful combination, I can create stunning caricatures with ease, and the portability of the iPad Pro means I can literally take it anywhere. So, without further ado, let's get into it.

Step 1 - The Sketch

My Bryan Cranston caricature begins with research and finding the perfect reference photos. In this case, I found two. One I used for the main photo (shown below) and one I used for the bandage across his nose.

After I found the reference photos, it's time to start drawing. A crucial aspect of creating a great caricature is starting with a solid sketch. Without a clear foundation, it becomes difficult to build on the features that will be exaggerated. In this case, Bryan Cranston has been sketched out with all the features that will be emphasized. With a strong sketch as a starting point, I am able to focus on bringing out the unique characteristics of Bryan and creating a caricature that really captures the essence of Walter White.

Bryan Cranston
Bryan Cranston sketch

Step 2 - The Base

Once the sketch is complete, we get to move on the fun part, coloring! Now, I am a firm believer in layers. Procreate is much like Photoshop in that the program offers the use of layers. This is a personal preference.

I have painted many caricatures without using layers where all the color is on one simple layer much as it would be if you were using traditional media. However, I find that using layers allows much more flexibility when constructing my caricatures. To begin, I chose a dark bluish color I plan on using as the sky in the final painting. This allows me to see the colors better as I lay them in. I then flesh out the base of Bryan (forgive the pun) with a base skin tone and then build the detail using lights and darks. I've also added some base to his goatee here that will serve as a background for the hair later.

I have to admit that I saved these step-by-step photos after having completed the painting so they don't really represent the actual steps. Here you will see a lot of detail around the yes including shadows where his glasses are and such. I didn't actually put that in until later but I had no way of going back. In future posts, I will be sure to save the step-by-step photos as I do them instead.

Bryan Cranston Caricature Step 2

Step 3 -The Neck

I like to get all the flesh tones layered in and so move on to the neck. If his arms or hands or anything part of his body was showing, I would have added that as well. This is where layers start to come in handy. I create a new layer behind the head and paint the neck. This gives the benefit of not having to worry about accidentally covering up any of the work you've already done and makes it much easier to add shadows and details.

Another truly great feature of Procreate is the Alpha Lock feature which allows you to basically "lock in" a shape you've painted. So, once you've painted the basic shape of head and neck, turn on Alpha Lock and now, you won't have to worry about accidentally coloring outside of the borders of the shape. This is a huge time saver!

Bryan Cranston Caricature Step 3

Step 4 - Adding Detail

Next, I like to move on to the nose and eyes. In the case of Mr. Cranston, my reference photo for the main painting didn't include the bandage on his nose. I really wanted that because I thought it really represented what he went through during the run of the show. So I simply added it in! I used separate layers for both the nose and the bandage and continue to build them up.

Bryan Cranston Caricature Step 4

Step 5 - The Glasses

Next comes the glasses which are very easy to add to the painting using layers. The glasses are an integral part of Cranston's character and really start to pull together the painting. We start to see Walter White emerge now. I paid close attention to the detail and highlights here but didn't go overboard so as to be distracting. (Now the shadows of the glasses make sense, don't they?)

Bryan Cranston Caricature Step 5

Step 6 - The Hair

Now it starts to get fun! I've already added some base color where his beard should be. Now I get a darker color and start laying in the hair detail. This includes the thick, bushy goatee, eyebrows and the indications of stubble on his signature bald head. I slightly exaggerated his goatee here because it is a prominent feature.

I used a stubble brush to add the stubble on his scalp and kept it light. Just wanted and indication of some hair up there mostly represented by a darker color. The eyebrows are not very detailed. Rather, they are represented by some dark areas. This is where the layers come in handy. Since I have the glasses on a different layer, I can easily add color to a layer behind the glasses without ruining all the work I've done on the glasses!

Bryan Cranston Caricature Step 6

Step 7 - The Wrinkles

Ok, this was my favorite part. The wrinkles! No Bryan Cranston caricature is complete without the wrinkles! Again, using a separate layer, I used a sketch brush to simply draw all the wrinkles. Once they were all there, I used a paint brush and started adding shadows and highlights to each one.

These wrinkles scream Walter White to me and really brought the painting together. I worked with these for quite some time to get them all just right. I switched back and forth between adding detail to both the wrinkle layer and the base face layer to get the depth and quality of the wrinkles to blend just right.

Bryan Cranston Caricature Step 7

Step 8 - The Shirt

Now that the face is mostly done, I start adding the clothes. As usual, after adding a new layer, I begin painting the shirt. I kept this layer over the top of the skin layer which easily covers any rough edges of the skin.

I spent some time here on the shirt getting the pinstripes just right. Never underestimate the detail in a shirt. It would have been easy enough to just paint the shirt green but I would have lost a ton of detail had I done that.

Bryan Cranston Caricature Step 8

Step 9 - The Jacket

I finish up the clothing by adding another layer over the shirt layer and painting in the jacket. This helps to conceal the rough edges of the shirt and completes the painting of the figure.

Bryan Cranston Caricature Step 9

Step 10 - Finishing Up

To complete the painting, I added in some desert-looking landscape with a dark, ominous sky and some clouds. I blurred the whole layer just a bit to give the illusion of depth, signed the painting and called it one of my favorites to date!

Bryan Cranston Caricature Step 10

And that's it! Bryan Cranston caricature, done! I went back and touched up a bit of detail here and there. Honestly, I could have worked on this painting for several more hours if I wanted to but part of being an artist is knowing when to call it done. If you want to see more paintings like this, head on over to our David Slatten Caricatures portfolio page. If you'd like a caricature painting of your own, head to our order page and let's get started!

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