Don't Forget the Props
Closely related to costuming are the props your characters may carry. A prop can give insight and added depth to your character's personality. An odd prop — a sock puppet, for example — can also take a fairly generic character and define him or her as unique.
Some of the most-used props are tobacco related. Put a calabash pipe in a man's mouth and you have shades of Sherlock Holmes. A cigar-wielding creature immediately comes off as a crusty curmudgeon. Cigarettes, too, add a shade of personality to their smoker — not only by their presence, but also in how they are held. Perhaps the most powerful props are eyeglasses. Immediately, glasses make the wearer look more intelligent. This is especially true of round, wire-rimmed frames with thick lenses. Glasses usually make the character more serious, more studious, and less physically threatening.
Some props are so powerful they remain part of the cartoonist's lexicon long after they've passed into history. Few doctors actually wear those headbands with the reflective metal disk in front … except in the comics. The same goes for Native Americans and feathered headdresses. Not all tribes wore them and some headdresses have serious religious significance. But, sadly, you'll rarely see a Native American cartoon character drawn otherwise. Other props are more subtle. Draw two generic characters. Draw a clipboard in the hand of one. Now, who takes orders from whom — and who has more information? The one with the clipboard is in charge.
Be careful when drawing glasses. If you draw the character's eyes — especially the aforementioned dot eyes — behind the lenses, there's a tendency to make the face look permanently surprised. If there are no eyes behind the lenses, the resulting face is often dispassionate.