Drawing Cartoons & Comics For Dummies®

Table of Contents


About This Book

Conventions Used in This Book

What You’re Not to Read

Foolish Assumptions

How This Book Is Organized

Part I: Drawing Inspiration: Getting Started with Cartoons and Comics

Part II: Creating Cartoon Characters

Part III: Cartoon Designs 101: Assembling the Parts

Part IV: Cartooning 2.0: Taking Your Cartoons to the Next Level

Part V: The Part of Tens

Icons Used in This Book

Where to Go from Here

Part I: Drawing Inspiration: Getting Started with Cartoons and Comics

Chapter 1: The Skinny on Cartoons and Comics

Understanding the Different Genres

Following familiar characters: Comic strips

Expressing a viewpoint: Editorial cartoons

Delivering the punch line: Gag cartoons

Getting Started with Drawing

Drawing a basic character’s head

Sketching a character’s body

Honing your skills

Peering into the Future of Cartoons

Understanding the changes

What the Web offers that syndicates don’t

Chapter 2: Looking at the Different Cartooning Genres

Getting Funny with the Standard: Comic Strips

Eyeing a comic strip’s characteristics

Watching the birth of an American art form

The modern funny papers

Grasping why comics are still popular

Making Readers Think: Editorial Cartoons

Eyeing an editorial cartoon’s traits

Editorial cartooning: An American tradition

Sophisticated Humor: Gag Cartoons

Defining gag cartoon traits

Identifying two influential gaggers

New Yorker cartoons

Web Cartooning

Chapter 3: Getting Your Workspace Ready to Go

Searching for a Workspace

Looking at your options

Utilizing a small space

Setting Up Your Workspace

Making your workspace ergonomic

Choosing a practical workspace surface

Buying a chair that won’t break your back

Lighting your way

Organizing your space

Getting the Right Supplies

Picking pens and pencils

Other drawing supplies

Visiting the Computer Store

Selecting the right computer

Customizing your hardware

Identifying the software you need

Chapter 4: Starting with the Drawing Basics

Putting Pencil to Paper

Knowing what pencil (and paper) to use

Going from lines to making shapes

Doing rough sketches

Tightening up your sketch

Grasping the Art of Inking

Understanding how using a brush differs from pens and pencils

Getting comfortable with using a brush

Inking 101: The how-to

Erasing sketch lines

Creating Tone and Texture



Fixing Mistakes

Using an eraser

Mastering cut and paste

The joys of white correction fluid

Chapter 5: Coming Up with Ideas

Getting Inspired for Storyline Ideas: Just Open Your Eyes

Looking for and keeping track of ideas

Connecting ideas to your cartoon’s theme

Eyeing some do’s and don’ts to writing believable story lines

Keeping Your Sketchbook Close By

Why constant sketching keeps you sharp

Drawing stick figures: Cartooning shorthand

Adding Humor to Your Story Lines: Good Writing Trumps Bad Art

What constitutes a good joke: Timing is everything

Deciding whether cartoons have to be funny

Using loved ones to test your material

Taking Action When the Ideas Run Dry

Tying two topics together

Thinking outside the box versus conventionality

Part II: Creating Cartoon Characters

Chapter 6: Starting from the Top

Drawing the Head

Creating basic head shapes

Exaggerating and distorting the head

Placing the features

Drawing the head from all angles

Dotting the Eyes

Sketching the basic eye

Buggin’ out eyes

Wearing glasses

Raising an eyebrow

Just by a Nose: Sketching the Schnoz

Drawing a basic nose

Considering various sizes and shapes

Can You Hear Me? Crafting the Ears

Drawing the actual ear

Looking at ear shapes and sizes

Drawing the Mouth

Crafting the mouth: The how-to

Focusing on all those teeth

Adding facial hair

Figuring out the jaw

Getting All Emotional: Look in the Mirror

Mad or angry face

Sad face

Happy or laughing face

Scared or surprised face

Chapter 7: From the Neck Down

Giving Your Characters Personality

Making your characters mirror your style

Caricaturing your characters

Building the Body: Drawing the Standard Character Type

Starting with circles

Moving circles for different looks

Drafting Arms and Hands

Drawing arms

Lending a hand with fingers

A Leg to Stand on: Drawing Legs and Feet

Starting on the right foot

Spacing the legs and hips

Deciding on Dress

Drawing your character’s garb

Dressing for the occasion

Adding accessories

Chapter 8: Designing Human Cartoon Characters

Understanding Why Developing a Regular Cast of Characters Is Key

Pinpointing the main characters

Including supporting cast

Creating Your Core Group

Centering on the family

Keeping your characters consistent

Experimenting with Male Body Types

Dear old dad

TV news anchor or used car salesman

The geek/nerdy guy

Trying Different Female Body Types

The modern mom

The matronly grandmother

The girl next door

Creating Those Crazy Kids

Talking babies

The little kid

The bully

Chapter 9: Giving Inanimate Objects Personality

Cartooning Everything, Including the Kitchen Sink

Drawing the world around your characters

Caricaturing just about anything

Having Fun with Household Items

That comfy ol’ sofa

The lounge chair

Animating appliances

Calling All Cars

The family car

The sports car

Truckin’ down the road

Putting a Face on an Inanimate Object

The talking car

Making the toaster talk

Smiling sunshine

Chapter 10: Exploring Anthropomorphism: Creating Animals and Other Creatures That Talk

Pets Are People, Too! Drawing Classic Cartoon Animals

The family dog

That darn cat

Pet goldfish

The World Is a Zoo

Puts his neck out for others: The giraffe

Acts like the tough guy: Mr. Rhino

They Came from Outer Space

Beaming down aliens

Cyborgs and droids

Classic robots

Chapter 11: Drafting Editorial Cartoon Characters

Defining Editorial Cartoons

Understanding the Pen’s Strength: What an Editorial Cartoonist Does

Finding Ideas and Forming an Opinion

Setting the Scene for What You Have to Say

Grasping the art of visual metaphors

Using stereotypes to convey your message

Letting the art make your point

Going the altie route

Drafting Believable Caricatures

Knowing how to capture a likeness

Drawing a president: The how-to

Creating Classic Editorial Cartoon Characters

The Republican Party elephant

The Democratic Party donkey

Uncle Sam

Part III: Cartoon Designs 101: Assembling the Parts

Chapter 12: Putting Everything in Your Comics in Perspective

Grasping What Perspective Is

Starting with the vanishing point and horizon line

Introducing 1-2-3 point perspective

Recognizing the wrong perspective

Putting Perspective to Practical Use

Sketching common, everyday objects in perspective

Juggling multiple elements in perspective

Looking down: A bird’s-eye view

Putting Your Characters in Perspective

Lining up body shapes

Drawing from the top of the head down

Drawing characters in the correct scale

Chapter 13: The Art of Lettering

Preparing to Letter

Appreciating the role lettering plays

Spending time perfecting your skills

Selecting the right pens

Making Lettering Part of the Art

Knowing the differences between handwritten and computer fonts

Placing your lettering

Fitting in your lettering

Utilizing word balloons

Going the Simple Route: Picking a Type Font

Going the Hand Lettering Route

Creating your own unique fonts

Creating drama with action words

Keeping Track of Your Spacing

Chapter 14: Directing the Scene

Eyeing the Importance of Layout

Planning your layout

Comparing foreground and background

Telling the story in shadow

Creating visual drama

Setting the Scene

Details make the difference in a scene

Creating your scene

Part IV: Cartooning 2.0: Taking Your Cartoons to the Next Level

Chapter 15: Cartooning in the Digital Age

Digitally Formatting Your Drawings

Choosing a scanner

Scanning your work into the computer

Setting the correct resolution

Selecting a Photoshop mode: Bitmap, grayscale, RGB, and CMYK

Getting a Grasp on Photoshop Basics

Becoming acquainted with your toolbar

Cleaning up your artwork

Coloring and Shading in Photoshop

Converting your bitmap file

Working in layers

Coloring with Photoshop tools

Shading and highlighting with the Burn and Dodge tools

Saving Your Work

E-Mailing Your Art Files

Chapter 16: Making Cartooning Your Livelihood

Deciding to Go Full Time

Evaluating whether you can handle the career

Looking for honest feedback

Checking with the professionals

Knowing the Market

Doing your initial research

Starting locally

Selling to the syndicates

Grasping How Syndication Works

Creating a Winning Submission Package

Attaching a straightforward cover letter

Choosing samples of your work

Dealing with the Ups and Downs

Coping with rejection

Welcome to success (but don’t expect much)

Turning Your Hobby into a Business

Meeting the criteria to call yourself a business

Keeping the IRS happy

Maximizing deductions

Putting in a fax and separate phone line

Keeping accurate records

Promoting Your Work Online

Why being on the Web is important

How to make a splash on the Web

Part V: The Part of Tens

Chapter 17: Ten Steps to a Finished Comic Strip

Researching the Market

Developing an Idea

Composing a Theme and Main Idea

Creating Your Characters

Designing the Setting

Writing Your Scripts

Penciling It Out

Slinging the Ink


Scanning In Your Work

Chapter 18: Ten Secrets to Breaking in to a Cartooning Career

Making the Decision to Pursue Your Dreams

Belonging to a Syndicate

Jumping into the World of Comic Books

Marketing to Greeting Card Companies

Selling Your Work to Magazines

Joining the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists

Being Part of the National Cartoonists Society

Looking at the Most Popular Cartoon Site on the Web

Checking Out Cartoon Blogs

Reading about Cartooning

Drawing Cartoons & Comics For Dummies®

by Brian Fairrington


About the Author

Brian Fairrington is a nationally syndicated, award-winning editorial cartoonist and illustrator and one of the few U.S. cartoonists whose political leanings are conservative. Brian began his career in the mid-1990s while he was a student at Arizona State University, where he began drawing cartoons for the student newspaper, the State Press.

Arizona State University is home to the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, one of the more prestigious journalism programs in the country. The newspaper is part of that program but is independently operated by the students. During his undergraduate years at the State Press, Brian won every major national award, making him one of the most decorated cartoonists to come out of college. His honors include the John Locher Memorial Award, given by the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, and the Charles Schulz Award, given by the Scripps Howard Foundation. Brian is also the two-time winner of the Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Award, as well as a ten-time winner of the Gold Circle Award, presented by Columbia University’s Journalism School.

While still in college, Brian’s cartoons were nationally syndicated by the Scripps Howard News Service. After graduating, he became a cartoonist for the Arizona Republic and the East Valley Tribune, both in the Phoenix area. He then moved from Scripps Howard to become nationally syndicated by Cagle Cartoons, and his work is currently distributed to more than 800 newspapers, magazines, and Web sites. His cartoons have appeared in The New York Times and USA Today as well as on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News. Additionally, his cartoons regularly appear on MSNBC’s Cagle Cartoon Index, the most popular cartoon Web site on the Internet.

The in-your-face approach and conservative flavor of Brian’s editorial cartoons have brought him notice from fans and critics alike. His work has been the subject of editorials in the Wall Street Journal and numerous other publications. He was featured on MSNBC’s Imus in the Morning show and was most recently profiled on CBS News Sunday Morning. Brian is a regular guest on the Phoenix-based TV show Horizon, where one of his appearances garnered an Emmy Award for news programming.

Along with Daryl Cagle, Brian is the author and editor of The Best Political Cartoons of the Year series of books by Que Publishing. To date, Brian has published seven annual “best of” cartoon books featuring the best cartoons from all the top editorial cartoonists in the country.

Brian has done numerous illustrations and full-color artwork for such magazines as The New Republic and Time, among others. A collection of Brian’s original cartoons is on display at the Ostrovsky Fine Art Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona. An Arizona native, Brian resides there with his wife Stacey and their four children. He can be reached at


This book is dedicated to all those individuals who love to draw and have grown up (and are still growing up) with a passion for drawing cartoons. Thank you to all the cartoonists who inspired me as a kid with all the wonderful and fantastic art that made me want to follow in their footsteps.

A special dedication goes out to all the cartoon fans who, though they may not be able to draw a straight line themselves, still appreciate the funny, strange, wacky, and sometimes serious world of cartooning. Cave drawings were the first cartoons, and it’s safe to say in the end that someone will probably draw a cartoon on the outside of the big bomb that blows up the world. Until that day, this book is dedicated to everyone who reads it. As we say in the cartoon world, “Kaboom!”

Author’s Acknowledgments

I have to thank Mike Lewis, the acquisitions editor for this book; Chad Sievers, my project editor; and the entire Wiley team for their assistance and patience. I want to thank my literary agent Barb Doyen for all her wonderful motherly advice. A huge thanks to Sharon Perkins for all the tremendous help she provided me on this project. I’d love to work with her again in the future.

I have to thank my wife Stacey, who has put up with all the late nights needed to draw the art and write this book on time (okay . . . never on time). Thanks also go out to my wonderful children: Chase, Hayden, Blake, and Lauren, and the 435,567 times they asked me, “What are you drawing?” Thanks to all my friends and extended family who haven’t seen me over the last six months and are probably wondering what happened to me.

Lastly, I want to thank anyone who has ever run for political office or who is thinking about running for office. As long as you feed your egos and relentless thirst for power by entering the crazy world of politics, I will always have material.

Publisher’s Acknowledgments

We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments through our online registration form located at For other comments, please contact our Customer Care Department within the U.S. at 877-762-2974, outside the U.S. at 317-572-3993, or fax 317-572-4002.

Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:

Acquisitions, Editorial, and Media Development

Project Editor: Chad R. Sievers

Acquisitions Editor: Mike Lewis

Copy Editor: Todd Lothery

Assistant Editor: Erin Calligan Mooney

Editorial Program Coordinator: Joe Niesen

Technical Editor: David Allan Duncan

Editorial Manager: Michelle Hacker

Editorial Assistant: Jennette ElNaggar

Art Coordinator: Alicia B. South

Cover Artwork: Brian Fairrington

Cartoons: Rich Tennant (

Composition Services

Project Coordinator: Lynsey Stanford

Layout and Graphics: Samantha K. Allen, Reuben W. Davis, Christine Williams

Special Art: Brian Fairrington

Proofreaders: Laura Albert, Betty Kish

Indexer: Claudia Bourbeau

Publishing and Editorial for Consumer Dummies

Diane Graves Steele, Vice President and Publisher, Consumer Dummies

Kristin Ferguson-Wagstaffe, Product Development Director, Consumer Dummies

Ensley Eikenburg, Associate Publisher, Travel

Kelly Regan, Editorial Director, Travel

Publishing for Technology Dummies

Andy Cummings, Vice President and Publisher, Dummies Technology/General User

Composition Services

Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services


You may think cartooning is just for kids, but that’s far from the truth! Cartooning is a highly lucrative enterprise. Cartoons influence the way people look at political and world events, they make people think, and they help people laugh at themselves. Cartooning is more than just funny characters telling jokes — it’s a snapshot of real-life situations where you, the cartoonist, can share your opinion about life and its endless interesting situations. Being able to draw is only one facet of being a good cartoonist. Being able to get across a compelling point with just a few pen strokes and to add the details that make your cartoons stand out from the pack is equally important. This book shows you how.

About This Book

This book is for people interested in drawing cartoons, whether they’re novices unsure where to start or pros who want to improve their art or find better ways to market themselves. Every top-selling cartoonist in the world started out as a beginner. It takes time, practice, and some talent to become a successful cartoonist, but it also takes determination and the desire to stick to it until you become good at it.

More important, this book can show you how to create your very own cartoon characters in a fun environment. I give you step-by-step instructions on how to create not just human cartoon characters, but others like cars, animals, and other creatures. You may even decide to make an unusual inanimate object your main character! And because cartooning is more than just drawing, I also give step-by-step instructions on how to come up with ideas and color your cartoons.

Conventions Used in This Book

Every For Dummies book has certain conventions to make it easier for you to get the information you need. Here are some of the conventions I use in this book:

Whenever I introduce a new technical term, I italicize it and then define it.

I use bold text to highlight keywords or the main parts of bulleted and numbered lists.

The Internet is a wealth of information on everything from the history of cartooning to great sites to buy expensive supplies for less. Web sites appear in monofont to help them stand out.

What You’re Not to Read

In today’s busy world you may be juggling a full-time job, your better half, kids and pets, friends and family, and a wide assortment of other responsibilities. You don’t have much free time. In aspiring to improve your cartooning abilities, you simply want the essential info to help you. If that’s the case, feel free to skip the sidebars — those boxes shaded in light gray. Sidebars present interesting (I hope!) supplemental info that helps you gain a better appreciation of the topic, but the info isn’t essential to understand the topic, so you won’t miss anything if you skip them.

Foolish Assumptions

In writing this book, I make a few assumptions about you:

You want to know more about cartooning in general.

You want to know how to draw some common cartoon characters and make them interesting.

You want to know how to liven up your cartoon backgrounds and settings.

You may be interested in a career as a cartoonist.

Note: If you’re looking for a complete art course, this book isn’t for you. Although I give specific, step-by-step examples of how to draw basic characters and backgrounds, I assume you already know how to pick up a pencil and draw basic shapes. You also won’t find a complete art history here, although I do give quite a bit of cartoon history throughout the book.

How This Book Is Organized

For Dummies books are written in a modular fashion. This format gives you the option of reading the book from beginning to end, or alternatively, selecting certain parts or chapters that are relevant to your interests or experience. I organize this book to start with the basics and build up to the more advanced concepts. The following describe each part in more detail.

Part I: Drawing Inspiration: Getting Started with Cartoons and Comics

Part I is all about getting familiar with the nuts and bolts of cartooning. What art supplies do you need to get started? How can you set up a workspace that’s efficient without breaking the bank? Can you draw cartoons at the kitchen table with nothing more than a number 2 pencil? What’s the first thing you do when you sit in front of a blank piece of paper?

This part answers those questions and then leads you into the harder questions: What types of cartoons are you interested in drawing? How do you develop your characters? And the oft-asked and hard-to-answer question: Where do you get your ideas?

Part II: Creating Cartoon Characters

Part II is all about drawing and developing characters. The chapters in this part teach you to draw your characters starting from their heads right down to their toes, whether your characters are people, animals, or inanimate objects. I also look at the fine art of satirizing the political landscape with editorial cartoons.

Part III: Cartoon Designs 101: Assembling the Parts

Cartooning is much more than talking heads and word balloons. Creating a background perspective that adds detail and interest, deciding how to letter your cartoons, and setting a scene that enhances your cartoons without interfering with your main point are all part of what I cover in this part.

Part IV: Cartooning 2.0: Taking Your Cartoons to the Next Level

Part IV goes deeper into the cartooning world. I look at the impact computers have had on the cartooning world, and I describe tools and toys available today to help you fine-tune your work, like Photoshop. If you want to make this your life’s work, this part gives you the tools you need to evaluate your work and find out if you have what it takes to make it in the big time.

Part V: The Part of Tens

All For Dummies books contain the Part of Tens section, which gives you fun, helpful information in easily digestible chunks. In this part I review ten steps to creating a finished cartoon, from first pencil stroke to final product. I also help you launch your new career with ten steps to breaking into the cartooning world.

Icons Used in This Book

Throughout the book, I use icons in the margins to highlight valuable information and advice. Here’s what each one means:

Remember.eps This icon points out something that’s important to remember, whether you’re a novice cartoonist or a more experienced one.

Tip.eps This icon indicates helpful hints, shortcuts, or ways to improve your cartooning.

warning_bomb.eps I use this icon to alert you to information that can keep you from making big mistakes!

TechnicalStuff.eps The text associated with this icon goes into technical details that aren’t necessary to your understanding of the topic but that may appeal to those who want more in-depth information.

truestory.eps The info that this icon highlights isn’t essential, but I hope these anecdotes about the world of cartooning help you appreciate just how rich that world is.

Where to Go from Here

If you want to know every single thing about cartooning, start at the beginning of the book and read straight through. However, you don’t need to read the book in sequence. You may be looking for specific info on certain aspects of cartooning, in which case you can refer to the table of contents or the index to find the subject you want. Each chapter is meant to stand alone, and the info each contains isn’t dependent on your reading previous chapters to understand it.

If you’re brand new to cartooning and aren’t sure where to start, Chapter 2 helps you understand the different cartoon genres and choose the genre that best suits your interests. If you’re a beginning cartoonist and need some drawing pointers, jump into Chapter 4 and start with the drawing basics. If you’re already drawing but want to improve your characters, check out Chapters 6 and 7.

Part I

Drawing Inspiration: Getting Started with Cartoons and Comics

426838 pp0101.eps

In this part . . .

Are you a budding cartoonist, or would you like to be a professional cartoonist someday? The world of cartooning is more diverse and interesting than you may realize. In this part, I explore the world of cartooning, including the different types of cartoons and the tools you need to draw them. I also give you tips on how cartoonists come up with their ideas, and I help you find humor in everyday life. After you know where to look, you’ll have more ideas than you’ll ever be able to use.

Chapter 1

The Skinny on Cartoons and Comics

In This Chapter

Exploring the various cartooning genres

Understanding some drawing basics

Considering the future of cartooning

So you want to be a cartoonist? Or maybe you already consider yourself a cartoonist — and a darn good one — but you don’t have the slightest idea how to market your work. Or perhaps you just enjoy drawing and you’d like to become better at it.

If you want to draw cartoons, you’re not alone. Right about now, thousands of budding cartoonists are doodling on any scrap of paper they can find, dreaming of breaking into the cartooning business someday. And who’s to say you won’t be the next Charles Schulz or create the next Garfield? One thing’s for certain: If you’re a cartoonist with something to say and you get your point across well, you can — thanks to the Internet — be published anytime and anywhere, even if it’s just on your own Web site or blog.

Many people draw well, but they aren’t sure how to adapt their drawings for the cartoon or comics market. Others have new ideas, but they draw somewhat crudely and need help pulling a cartoon together. Whether you’re brand new to cartooning and want to experiment with different characters and settings to create your first strip, or you’ve been drawing for quite a while and want some helpful advice to improve your characters, you’re probably looking for someone to give you a few pointers. You’ve come to the right place.

This chapter serves as your jumping-off point into the world of cartooning. Here I give you an overview of cartooning and the different cartooning genres that I cover in this book, I show you how to master the drawing basics, and I discuss how cartoons are marketed and how those markets are evolving. If you’ve always wanted to be a cartoonist, this chapter gives you the skinny.

Understanding the Different Genres

To be a cartoonist, you need a firm grasp of the different types of cartoons and comics in today’s market. I discuss several in this book. Some categories that were once popular now face challenges with the ever-changing market, especially traditional comic strips and editorial cartoons that are married to newsprint.

However, other forms of cartooning that were once off the beaten track have exploded in popularity; they include webcomics, editorial cartoons on the Internet, graphic novels, and comic books. The traditional markets are changing, and the new markets provide an exciting opportunity for cartoonists to get in on the ground floor of cartooning’s future.

Remember.eps If you love to draw cartoons and are thinking about trying to become a professional cartoonist, study the categories in the sections that follow and the details about each. Do you have to stick to just one genre? No, but many cartoonists do, which helps their work become identifiable. Check out Chapter 2 for more on different genres and how to work within them. No matter what type of cartooning you may be interested in, it all begins with the basics of drawing and character development. Great ideas and great character development are what make animation in all its forms continue to be popular (refer to Chapter 4 for drawing basics).

Following familiar characters: Comic strips

When you think of cartooning, comic strips may be the first thing that pops into your mind. Comic strips are basically a satirical look into the lives of the characters that inhabit them. Comic strips often reflect the subtle truths about our own lives in their observations and insights into the world around us. Comic strips have the longest continuing run of popularity among cartooning genres, largely because people like to follow their favorite characters. This genre historically has been a staple and popular feature in newspapers. As newspapers face market challenges and try to adapt and evolve, popular Web-based comic strips have popped up all over the Internet.

Modern comic strips were first created at the turn of the 20th century as a way to attract readers to newspapers. Comic strips appeared on the scene long before other forms of entertainment media — like radio, movies, and TV — became popular.

Expressing a viewpoint: Editorial cartoons

Editorial cartoons are a popular and sometimes very controversial form of cartooning. Editorial cartoons are simply cartoons written to express a political or social viewpoint. They also first appeared on the scene about the same time as the modern newspaper gained widespread popularity.

Early newspaper publishers used editorial cartoons the same way they used comic strips — to attract readers. Editorial cartoonists in the early part of the 20th century were the media celebrities of their day. Their cartoons preceded TV by several decades and were a source of information and entertainment for readers. Editorial cartoons of that era were very influential, even influencing political elections and reforms. From Thomas Nast and his exposure of corruption in the underbelly world of New York politics to the Washington Post’s Herbert Block (better known as Herblock) landing on Nixon’s enemies’ list during the Watergate scandal — and up to the scathing criticisms of the war in Iraq — editorial cartoons have played and continue to play an important role in the annals of political discourse.

Editorial cartoons have evolved over the last century and remain very popular today. However, market realities are challenging for new editorial cartoonists. The profession has traditionally been tied to print journalism, and in the past few years, newspapers have had massive layoffs and cutbacks. But like comic strips, editorial cartoons are thriving on the Internet, and unlike their print counterparts, the Web versions are done in full color, and some are even animated. Check out Chapter 11 for more info on editorial cartoons.

Delivering the punch line: Gag cartoons

Gag cartoons are another popular category. Gag cartoons may look similar to comic strips, but in fact they’re quite different. Unlike comic strips, most gag strips don’t have a regular set of characters or story lines, and they’re usually single-paneled. Each new cartoon is a brand new gag or visual punch line delivered in a single frame or box.

Despite not having regular characters, gag cartoons do have advantages over comic strips. One main advantage is that they’re marketable to publications and Web sites that want a lighthearted, joke-of-the-day feature that a strip with characters may not fulfill. Gag cartoons tend to be more generic and better suited for these markets. One of the most well-known gag cartoons, The Far Side, set the bar high for the genre, and the next-generation successor to Far Side creator Gary Larson has yet to surface, so get busy, before someone else beats you to it!

Getting Started with Drawing

To begin drawing your cartoons, you need decent quality supplies and a designated workspace. Chapter 3 goes into the art of setting up an office, cubicle, or corner for your art and which supplies you need.

Remember.eps Before you go to the store and spend any money on supplies, keep in mind that although expensive drawing tools are great, they won’t help you at all if you don’t have a little talent and a strong commitment to practice. Your best bet is to try different drawing supplies to see what works best for you. And whatever supplies you end up getting, just be sure to draw, draw, draw!

Drawing a basic character’s head

Your character’s head is the focal point for the reader, so you need to understand a few simple basics in the construction and design of the cartoon noggin:

Start at the top with the head shape: Begin with a simple shape, usually an oval or small circle. In cartooning, almost every detail is exaggerated, particularly when drawing from the neck up. In real life the human head is disproportionally larger in kids than adults and gets smaller in proportion to our bodies as we grow. In Chapter 6, I spell out the steps necessary for the basics when drawing your character’s head, whether you’re drawing a child or a senior citizen.

Fill in facial features and expressions: The face is the epicenter of all expression, and cartooning is all about exaggerating expressions for effect and drama. In Chapter 6, I show you numerous examples of expressions and their relationship to the different facial features. In addition, I explore the options you have regarding the size, shape, and position of the facial features, as well as the different types associated with male and female characters.

Sketching a character’s body

Designing a cartoon character’s body is always a challenge, and in many ways it’s not unlike building or designing anything else. You have many different parts, and as a designer you’re in charge of how they fit together to achieve the best design result. Cartoon characters can be created in an assortment of different sizes and shapes. In Chapters 7, 8, 9, and 10, I discuss the basics of character body types and overall construction and the options you have regarding male, female, and creature shapes and sizes.

Honing your skills

To get better at anything, especially a physical skill like drawing, you need to practice. And practice. And practice some more. Consider these basics when honing your skills:

When first starting out, it doesn’t matter what you draw — just draw something. After you have the drawing basics down, you can concentrate on your content.

Persistence is the key, and you’ll get better over time. Practice makes perfect.

Copying the art of other cartoonists when you’re young and learning to draw is okay as long as you never claim it as your own. Make sure you develop your own style and ideas if you want to be a professional.

Try and create something fresh while still being marketable. Your mind works in a way different from any other human being’s. Take advantage of your unique perspective on the world to find something different, but not so far out there that it’s unmarketable except to the very odd.

Don’t be afraid to ask others for advice, especially if they’re cartoonists themselves. And remember, your mom isn’t the best person to critically judge your work, although she’s great for your ego.

Not sure how to improve your art? Check out Chapters 4 through 11 for more specifics on drawing everything from parents and kids to the family pet and the family car.

Peering into the Future of Cartoons

For many years the syndicate model has been the primary way cartoons have been marketed. With this model, syndicates sell comic strips to newspapers to build readership for their features. However, this business model is changing, and quickly. This section takes a closer look at how things are changing and what the future holds.

Understanding the changes

Newspapers are going through an evolutionary period, and the end result may not be encouraging for newsprint. The Internet has become a more and more popular venue for aspiring cartoonists and even veteran cartoonists to upload their cartoons.

Two factors have hit newspapers hard in recent years:

The economy and its effect on advertising. Advertising is one of the largest streams of income for newspapers, and without it they’re forced to make big cutbacks, layoffs, and in some cases fold altogether.

The generational shift to getting news from the Internet. This has had a profound effect on newsprint, and not for the better. Although newspapers have made the shift to the Internet, the operations are more scaled down and pale in comparison to the print editions.

One problem with marketing online is that the traditional syndicate model doesn’t work on the Internet like it does in newsprint. For example, newspapers cater to and service individual markets, so a syndicate could take the same comic feature and sell it to multiple newspapers. This worked because the people in Denver weren’t reading the same newspaper that the people in New Jersey were reading, so it didn’t matter that the same cartoon content ran in each paper. The syndicate could essentially sell the same feature content over and over again.

The Internet basically destroys this model. Unlike newspapers, which represent many markets across the country and throughout the world, the Internet by comparison is one big market. Why would a newspaper’s Web site pay for content that can seen by the same set of eyes elsewhere just by clicking a button? The Internet puts access to almost every newspaper in the world right at your fingertips.

The answer to this changing market is exclusivity. One comic feature is put in one place and all readers must come to it, instead of the old syndicate way of the cartoon going out to readers via their local paper. This model changes the dynamic considerably and points to webcomics as an eventual successor to traditional comic strips.

What the Web offers that syndicates don’t

Many webcomics are similar to comic strips you read in the newspaper, except that they’re only available on the Web. They’re also only available on one Web site that the cartoonist creates. If people want to read the webcomic, they must go to that site.

Cartoonists can generate revenue from webcomics in a couple of ways:

Advertising: The more people come to read the comic, the more traffic the Web site gets and the more likely it is to pick up a small amount of revenue from advertising.

Merchandise and books sold on the Web site: Many online print-on-demand (POD) companies cater to Web sites that can offer books for sale as well as other merchandise such as T-shirts.

The creator of a webcomic has more control over his feature than a traditional cartoonist does, but he also must bear more responsibility. Webcomic creators are like small businessmen. They’re responsible for not only writing and drawing the comic feature — just like if they partnered with a syndicate — but also the Web site design, advertising, marketing, and sales of related merchandise. The upside is the webcomic creator keeps 100 percent of the revenues instead of giving half to the syndicate.

The Internet has a vast sea of popular webcomics. They’re done by amateurs and professionals alike, who take advantage of the ability to publish anything on the Internet. The more advanced webcomic creators display their features in full color and even use some animation.

The future of cartooning has more to do with the public’s appetite than with newsprint. The future of comic strips is in transition. Many of the newsprint-based comics may die along with print. As long as the public loves to read comics in all their forms, cartooning will live on indefinitely. New strips will take their place on the Internet. There’s no indication that the public will stop reading or that those who have the cartooning bug will stop drawing. The future may seem uncertain on one hand, but on the other hand, an exciting new frontier is just waiting to be explored. The Internet is a vast, relatively new place where cartoons of all kinds will be born and will flourish.