Developing your cartoon style

Cartoon style development or drawing style has to be nurtured, refined and honed over a lifetime I think.cartoon style development When a new cartoonist contacts me asking advice, so many times I am left in a quandry on where to start, what to say and how to explain it.

Many years ago I blogged about the cost of art school and I queried many fellow cartoonists. Alot of different feedback came in from all sorts of cartoonists, humorous illustrators and graphic designers on that kind of education it takes to develop a decent cartooning “style”.


That being said, I’ll try and offer my own thoughts on what I feel sets the stage for what can be considered a decent cartoon style style development. Keep in mind, if you want to be a cartoonist, it will take a lifetime.

Developing a decent cartooning style takes patience – commitment

Because you’ll always learn new techniques and stumble upon unknown ways of laying something out either through other fellow cartoonists or through something discovered by trial and error.

I’m sharing an old acceptance letter when I was first starting out and selling my cartoons to any trade magazine I thought would be interested in what I draw. This one was a pharmaceutical or medical publication called Patient Aid Digest. Mind, you they didn’t pay much but that amount back in 1977 was probably worth what 20 or thirty bucks is worth today.

Cartoon style development requires a sketchbook

But the point is, I was trying to learn how to write quality ideas I thought would sell (obviously I was achieving that) and at the same time, brushing up on how a person should look in the overall cartoon itself. How to draw hair (look at other magazines), do those styles in a separate sketchbook and then how to draw decent looking footware (clothing catalogs are a great reference) and then keep a sketchbook handy and continually draw what you see and experiment in your sketch book.

A sketchbook can also include loose leaf pages in a folder

Set it aside and look at what you created. It takes patience and repetitive discipline working in your sketchbook, but that too, will be an invaluable tool in attaining a cartoon style you’ll be comfortable with. I’m still not comfortable with my own style after forty plus years doing this cartooning thing on a full time freelance basis.

Yes, I’m making more than ten bucks a cartoon, but looking back at that old letter made me realize that I had to start and take that first step….not just sketching and trying to develop something but actually feeling comfortable enough to make complete (what I considered) sellable cartoon submissions….up to a point where at my peak, I was keeping just over 2,000 different cartoons in circulation to a variety of newsletters, magazines and trade publications including newspaper chains and then branching out into illustrating book projects for different publishers on all levels.

Don’t obsess over the appearance of your work when first starting out…don’t even obsess about money. I say this, because if you’re good, the number of acceptance letters you receive over time will be your best barometer that tells you you’re headed in the right direction.


Don’t give up and put your pens and paper away if this is what you’re looking to do with your talent.  If you need to find a side job to put food on your table and pay bills, so be it.

Draw your cartoons on the side, but once you realize the income you’re generating from cartoon sales supersedes the income from your nine to five, I think you’ll realize you’re headed in the right direction! Above and beyond everything else, you’ll never stop when it comes to your cartoon style development.