Cartoon Anatomy Of A Single Panel Gag

My anatomy of a single panel cartoon will show my recent techniques how I create cartoons from start to finish. I am including screen shots from the very first rough sketch, to the inking of the artwork and finally the high resolution image file.

These steps may just provide the insight and motivation needed in order for you to efficiently begin to create your own stream of quality gag cartoons. I decided to create a typical business cartoon as an example.

The finished product will probably be added to my archive of business cartoons as that category has been one of my favorite topics to produce over the years. What I do is first conceive the idea during a typical gag writing session by jotting the concept onto three inch by five inch slips of paper for easy managing of ideas.

I then take the concept from idea and put it on a sheet of paper. Usually a good high quality 8.5X11 inch sheet and begin sketching the idea in freehand. I’m providing the very first sketch that I designate as #1 in red highlights.

The pencil I use is a non photographic Prismacolor Col-Erase brand, number 20044 Blue. Why blue? Because it’s non photographic when you put the inked artwork on a scanner or photocopier and only your black ink lines will duplicate. This will speed up your production time greatly.

You won’t have to go back over the artwork and meticulously erase all of the sketch lines and then clean off the drawing to ready it for scanning or copying. These days, I draw in blue pencil, ink and scan and basically archive the originals for storage and work with my image files accordingly.

The are formatted in Photoshop and stored in designated folders on my hard drive and then uploaded online or sent as submitted files to who ever I choose to show my work to.

As you’ll see in sketch #2, I have given the cartoon layout a potential cartoon word balloon, while jotting my potential idea directly underneath the cartoon and choose the best option as I now get ready to add ink over the sketch.

I use a Rapidograph brand technical drawing pen for inking, so the next inked image I present here , you’ll get an idea of how it looks so far and hopefully this give a little more insight into my “production” of gag cartoons.

I made my choice on the final cartoon…I liked the version with the word balloon. Even though I added the same verbiage in hand-lettered text as the gagline below the actual cartoon characters, that is not a problem because I can simply crop it out when I go into Photoshop and format the artwork. I included side by side visuals that you can review in version #3 below…what do you think?

Now I decided to take it to yet another level and simply colorize the cartoon and archive it in case an editor wants a colorized version or a black & white version. Providing options to all of your potential clients and any inquiries you receive will be vital and you want to show flexibility.

So in essnce, here below is the final colorized cartoon that ought to give you a basic idea on how I start a cartoon from the very first blue line sketch, to the inked version and ultimately the full color cartoon. Do you have other questions as to how I produce my cartoons or have any ideas on what would make an interesting article to write about in regards to my cartoons? Contact me if you have any ideas, I am very open to suggestions and I can be reached anytime if you write me at and hope my visual samples involving a “cartoon anatomy” were helpful and insightful.  Thank you for visiting the ToonBlog!

cartoon anatomy

my wife is picking me up for lunch. hide these company income statements!