Creating Gag Cartoons

Single Panel Gag Cartoon Creation

Creating gag cartoons is a simple process for me. In the past I obsessed over the type of paper I would use for gag cartoons I created, and made certain the paper I always used was a 25% cotton bond watermarked paper that was rather heavy at a 20lb. weight. It did hold up well after repeated use and handling by editors when back in the day I was ignorant and circulated original art to editors at different magazines.

Now I don’t care what I draw on, as long as the paper’s surface is smooth enough to accept the waterproof India Ink I use. My preference for drawing paper these days is simple copy paper. I can find it anywhere….at grocery stores, Wally World or even the hardware. Drawing a one panel gag shouldn’t be complicated. Go figure!

Gone are the days of my making a beeline to my favorite art supply store (it was called Commercial Systems) which sold oil paints, canvases for painters, easels, acrylic paints and brushes of all kinds.

They even had a separate section with little cabinets of different sized Speedball drawing tips and pen tip holders. Not to mention larger drawers chock full of zip-a-tone and Chartpak shading film…ideal for a cartoonist who wanted to add that “dotted half tone” look to certain parts of their work or specific cartoon characters!

Creating Gag Cartoons

What I’ll show here is a simple process beginning with Step #1, #2 and #3 on how a gag cartoon evolves and the process I go through in drawing a gag cartoon from start to finish. I of course will first need an idea or cartoon gag to set the stage, first.

Simple Steps Drawing A Gag Cartoon

creating gag cartoons

Step #1 – Concept is sketched onto standard copy paper. Don’t fuss over what kind of pencil to use, as long as you can sketch out your idea and you feel comfortable with it’s appearance . . .it’s ready for inking.


inked cartoon

Step #2 – Cartoon is fully inked in by going over the pencil lines and areas I want to fill in with black like the character’s hair and belt are completed. Ready for cleaning


finished cartoon

Step #3 – Image is cleaned up and pencil lines erased. Extra minor details added like a few birds in the background, cross-lines in clouds to make them stand out a bit, leaves added on lawn and now ready for scanning into Photoshop. My favorite erasers are the soft rubber Paper Mate brand that are labeled ‘Pink Pearl’.

Cartooning tools I use are very basic


cartooning pen

Weapon of choice is a Koh-I-Noor Rapidograph technical pen. It uses waterproof India ink which is distributed via a cartridge you can manually refill when needed


cartooning tools

Guts of the pen show this longer two inch cartridge which is nice if you draw a lot of cartoons – you’re not refilling as often.


The brand of ink that works best for the pen above. It isn’t as “gummy” as traditional Higgins brand dipping ink and it disperses from pen in a smooth flow.

©Copyright DansCartoons – inquire for licensing usage by contacting Dan Rosandich

This is as simple as can be…and the only caveat is to be certain you clean the ink cartridge often. I don’t use the bulb for plunging the mechanism connected to the pen tip and haven’t used one. As long as you clean using plain warm water and / or soaking the guts of the pen and drying all components before reassembly and usage. Here is the final cartoon after scanning, adding a regular font for the gag line across the bottom and archiving on my system. Voila, a one panel gag comic!

Note that even though the cartoon was illustrated horizontally, it’s final formatting and sizing presents it in an almost perfect square format, thanks to Photoshop. Creating gag cartoons isn’t a science. Draw your cartoons vertically or horizontally, whatever you feel comfortable drawing, just lay out your sketch in that manner and the rest will fall into place. If you don’t want to do rough pencil sketching of your gag panel cartoons, you can also create them free hand like I do in this short video where I am creating a free hand gag panel cartoon.

If you have questions about creating gag cartoons or other drawing techniques, contact me anytime.

As you can see, I am totally “old school” and don’t rely much on technology to produce my work. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of excellent cartoon maker software that is easily available online.

Not to mention drawing tablets such as the Cintiq or even on iPads, used in conjunction with software like Procreate. Cartooning offers many variables to the new artist who decides to enter the business!