In illustrated and animated media, hair is usually depicted to show the general form, but not sufficiently granular to show each individual strand. The result of this is that subtler hairstyles are hard to get right. This goes for facial hair, as well, as while it's easy to draw a full beard, showing a character only has slight facial hair could be challenging. Fortunately, filling in the jawline with a solid color (usually brown, gray, or brownish gray) is a pretty effective shorthand for this, allowing the appearance of a slight beard without requiring distracting and/or difficult levels of detail.
This trope is not simply a cartoon character having a five o'clock shadow. This trope refers specifically to stubble being illustrated by filling in the affected area with a solid color (or occasionally, a gradient), as if the selected area was filled with the paint bucket tool. The area will sometimes have an outline, or a few added details, but the color does the bulk of the work.
In some digitized forms of animation, solid-colored stubble is usually drawn in its own distinct vector or shape to allow for easy coloration. The stubble lines would "pull" or automatically fill in the coloring whenever they are moved or reshaped. Traditional cel-shaded animation, on the other hand, would have everything redrawn and recolored with every movement.
Contrast Perma-Stubble, where a five o' clock shadow is meant to portray grit. This trope is about the animation technique, rather than the significance of the stubble. Compare Tooth Strip, where the general shape of the teeth are shown, as opposed to each tooth individually.
- FernGully: The Last Rainforest: Ralph and Tony, Zak's bosses, have stubbles on their faces, with Ralph's extending around to his ears, while Tony's is confined to the front of his face.
- In the credits of The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part, Rex Dangervest's stubble is represented by the lower half of his face being colored beige.
- The Road to El Dorado: Tulio sports a solid brownish-grey stubble throughout the entire movie, in addition to a soul patch. It also counts as Perma-Stubble, as he never shaves it off.
- Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers (2022) has Peter Pan, aka the Boy Who Never Grew Up, aged up to a balding, corpulent has-been with eye bags and a persistent darkness in his lower face. Pan (now going by the moniker Sweet Pete) has plentiful body hairs that are drawn individually, but the facial stubble is solid color.
- "Weird Al" Yankovic, in the song "Bedrock Anthem" about The Flintstones, says that Barney Rubble "doesn’t like to shave/He’s got caveman stubble". While Yankovich himself doesn't fit this trope, the stock footage of Barney (and Fred) match their usual appearances.
- Emmett Kelly created the "Weary Willie" character, modeled after hoboes during the Great Depression. Part of Kelly's theatrical makeup includes darkening his lower face, as though sporting two weeks' worth of stubble. Considering Kelly's character is a luckless hobo, this feature signals that for Weary Willie, shaving is a luxury he can rarely afford.
- LEGO Island: In the first game, the lower half of the Brickster's face is solid gray to represent stubble. It's a bit of Early Installment Character-Design Difference, since the sequels (and the physical LEGO sets for Island Xtreme Stunts) give him more detailed stubble represented as tiny black dots on his yellow skin.
- Nintendo's Miis have the option for a solid gray jawline, resembling stubble. Can overlap with full facial hair.
- Happy Tree Friends: Russell, befitting his pirate motif, used to have a swath of gray around his mouth, but it was removed later on in the series.
- Homestar Runner:
- Homestar himself will have this, typically when he's just woken up. He actually comments that it's just cinnamon applied to his face, and we see him apply it at least once.
- Crack Stuntman also has solid brown coloration for stubble, despite being blond.
- A common feature of Hanna-Barbera cartoons:
- The Flintstones: Fred Flintstone's character model is darker in a wide area surrounding his mouth — complete with a black outline. Same goes for Barney Rubble.
- 2 Stupid Dogs: Befitting the show's simplistic art direction, Mr. Hollywood has a grayish-brown patch extending from his eyes down to his shirt collar.
- Wacky Races:
- Each member of the Anthill Mob has a gray patch encircling their mouth. This continued when they appeared in the spin-off series The Perils of Penelope Pitstop.
- Rufus Ruffcut has a tanny section of solid stubble that takes a slight lift on each cheek before curving back down to his jawline.
- Dan Vs.: Louie, the undercover cop from "Elise's Parents", has a muted brown section running from his jaw to his ears and nose, even when crossdressing.
- The Fairly OddParents!:
- Adult Timmy from "The Big Problem", being a series of Bait-and-Switch setups regarding his desire for adulthood, shows him fantasizing to be a muscular, clean shaven man, only to instead be mildly overweight and have solid gray stubble on the bottom half of his face.
- "Love Struck" sees the world divided between men and women. With men taking less care for keeping up their appearances, almost all of them have gray stubble form an arch over their mouths.
- Channel Chasers: The figure hunting down Timmy and his fairies has a rectangular patch of gray, extending from his jaw to his upper lip.
- Gravity Falls: Grunkle Stan has practically half his face covered in a solid colored grey color to indicate stubble. Zigzagged, however, as his own twin brother, Ford, has a grey gradient on his face to indicate a more clean-shaven face, though later it's shown that he prefers burning all his facial hair off over shaving. A flashback shows them both with grey gradients when they were younger, but one also has short lines to indicate thicker stubble since he's been driven paranoid and hasn't been taking care of his appearance.
- The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy: Hoss Delgado, while having a few stray hairs thrown in, has his stubble predominantly shown by coloring the area between his nose and neck gray.
- Hey Arnold!: Pigeon Man, who opts out of society in favor of spending time with birds, has a gray patch over his chin and mouth, plus a few stray hairs.
- The Legend of Korra: When on the run in Book 4, Varrick has gray stubble running across his jaw and beneath his signature mustache, implying he doesn't currently have the luxury of shaving.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- Caballeron has a solid patch of grey on his snout with a set of darker dots along it to give off the appearance of uneven stubble.
- Zephyr Breeze, a lazy, young-male-adult, has a minty-gray line running along his jawline and arching over his mouth.
- The Simpsons: Homer Simpson, his father Abe, and most male members of the Simpson family have what looks like a light brown muzzle for a beard. Homer is unable to shave without it growing back almost immediately. Despite not being a Simpson, Lenny Leonard has it too.
- SpongeBob SquarePants: Episodes set in the caveman times like to put brown circles around the male characters' mouths to show them unshaven - despite fish not having facial hair.
- Steven Universe:
- Greg Universe has a pear-shape of dark stubble under his nose and around his mouth and cheeks, except in flashbacks to before Steven's birth when he looked more like his smooth-faced son. This falls in line with Greg's otherwise-unkempt appearance.
- When Steven ages himself up into a young adult in "So Many Birthdays", he has dark shading around his square jawline, yet loses it when he gets to middle age.
- Superman: The Animated Series: Seen when the title character demonstrates how he shaves by bouncing his heat vision off of a mirror.
- Time Squad: Buck Tuddrussel, a time cop who has been described by other characters as being grossly unprofessional in his appearance, has a large chin that is completely dark gray in color with black stubble unevenly distributed.
- Total Drama: Chris McLean has a tanny row of stubble reaching from his jawline to his ear level, and extending upwards around his mouth. This is further accentuated in A Blast From The Past, where Chris becomes paranoid about being replaced by a younger looking host, and thus, his facial hair is temporary gone.
- Total Drama Presents: The Ridonculous Race: Pete, of the Tennis Rivals, has brownish gray stubble running between his ears and taking a slight dip to pass under his nose.