How To Become A Cartoonist: A Step-By-Step Guide

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 17 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Cartoonists convey humour, a story or a message through cartoons. Cartoonists can be self-employed professionals or may work in the film, television, newspaper or publishing industries. If you have a talent for drawing and an interest in pursuing a career in this field, it is beneficial to know the steps to become a cartoonist. In this article, we examine how to become a cartoonist, the qualifications required to become one and the different job opportunities available.

Related: 12 Types Of Drawing Tools Essential For Artistic Careers

What Does A Cartoonist Do?

The duties of a cartoonist may vary based on the industry they work for. Their responsibility revolves around creating cartoons and producing the final version as per a company's or a client's needs. The specific duties and responsibilities of a cartoonist are:

  • Brainstorming ideas for drawings

  • Designing and outlining comics and cartoons

  • Generating commission-based work

  • Creating personal projects

  • Sending comics and portfolios to publishers

  • Communicating with clients and customers

  • Collaborating with other artists, such as writers and producers

  • Marketing their work through advertisements or social media

Related: Graphic Designer Vs. Graphic Artist (Comparison And Details)

How To Become A Cartoonist?

Knowing how to become a cartoonist may be the first step to take towards becoming one. An interest and the skill to visualise and make cartoons is a basic requirement to become a cartoonist. Artistic talent, creativity and the ability to tell interesting stories are some other requirements to become a cartoonist. Follow these steps to become a cartoonist:

1. Pursue a degree related to arts

Students from any 10+2 stream can pursue a bachelor's degree in arts. But for a master's degree, colleges may specify a bachelor's degree in arts or a related subject as the eligibility criteria. A formal degree in an arts subject can train you in disciplines like design, illustration, animation and caricature. It can also teach you how to use technology to enhance your skills.

You can find work opportunities in domains like graphic design, multimedia, animation and digital illustration. Cartoonists may not necessarily require formal education to practise, but earning a bachelor's degree related to art may benefit you if you intend to search for a job. A degree can also equip you with technical skills and provide industry-related knowledge. If you want to become a cartoonist, consider pursuing the following degrees:

  • BSc (Bachelor of Science) in Gaming and Animation

  • BSc in Animation

  • BSc in Animation and VFX

  • BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) in Animation, Graphics and Web Design

  • BA (Bachelor of Arts) in Animation and Graphic Design

  • BA in Digital Filmmaking and Animation

  • BDes (Bachelor of Design) in Animation

  • MSc (Master of Science) in Gaming and Animation

  • MSc in Animation and VFX

  • MSc in Animation

  • MFA (Masters of Fine Arts) in Animation, Graphics and Web Design

  • MA (Master of Arts) in Animation and Graphic Design

  • MA in Digital Filmmaking and Animation

  • MDes (Master of Design) in Animation

Related: What Are Popular After-Graduation Courses In The Arts?

2. Join a diploma or a certificate course

Diplomas are short-term courses that teach specific skills and workflows relevant to a career field. Diploma courses can last between six months to two years. Some advanced diplomas may require a bachelor's or master's degree in a relevant field. After procuring a bachelor's degree, you can join a post-graduate diploma course to enhance your skill set and improve your employability. Certificate courses are highly specialised and may last anywhere between two weeks and three months.

Certificate and diploma courses are usually career and industry-specific courses. They also expose you to the practical application of concepts that you learn in your degree program. If you are keen on pursuing a diploma, you can consider the following courses:

  • Diploma in 2D and 3D Animation

  • Diploma in Screen and Media Animation

  • Diploma in 3D Modelling and Animation

  • Diploma in Animation and Visual Effects

  • Diploma in Cartooning and Animation

  • Certificate in VFX

  • Certificate in 2D Animation

  • Certificate in 3D Animation

  • Certificate in Graphic Design

  • Certificate in Computer Graphics

Related: Online Fine Arts Courses (Skills And Career Opportunities)

3. Build a portfolio

A portfolio is an introduction to an artist's published and unpublished work and their most important accomplishments. A portfolio can also contain evaluations, recognitions, testimonials and feedback from professionals, art critics, teachers, peers and employers. It can include the cartoons you have drawn as part of your college, diploma or certification programme.

For an artist, their portfolio is as crucial as a resume for professional growth. You can also create a website or web page, add selected work and accomplishments, and create a digital portfolio. If you do not have a formal art-related academic qualification, a portfolio can interest a potential employer and draw their attention to your artistic capabilities.

Related: How To Make A Portfolio: A Step-by-Step Guide

4. Learn multiple cartooning styles

Cartoonists may have unique styles for drawing and rendering. You can practise and develop your proficiency in multiple cartooning styles. You can use a variety of approaches, techniques and styles to expand the content of your portfolio and your body of work. There are about 25 popular cartoon styles, including traditional, modern, noodle, minimalistic and anime. Using technology and digital illustration styles, you can create unique styles and also patent them through online platforms. Learn more styles to improve your employability.

Related: What Does A Character Designer Do? And How To Become One

5. Acquire relevant technical skills

Cartoonists can draw their designs by hand or use digital tools to create characters, backdrops and other elements. The use of technology in this professional domain is on the rise. A cartoonist can familiarise themselves with relevant technical skills to improve their output, increase productivity and add value to their resume. If you want to become a cartoonist, consider mastering these tools:

  • Photoshop

  • Illustrator

  • Aftereffects

  • InDesign

  • Procreate

Related: 14 Essential Photoshop Skills (With Tips To Improve Them)

6. Develop soft skills

Though your artistic talent becomes instrumental in becoming a cartoonist, you can also equip yourself with the right soft skills to become successful in this line of work. Combining artistic talent, technical skills and soft skills can help a cartoonist find sustained success. Some essential soft skills for a cartoonist include:

  • Creativity: A company may assign a cartoonist to work in multiple genres or styles, and being creative can help them create good quality projects in diverse domains.

  • Written communication skills: Cartoonists may write captions, dialogues and titles for their cartoons. Incorporating humour, wit and satire, and creating engaging captions is crucial to a cartoonist's work.

  • Emotive communication skills: Cartoonists communicate with their audience through their cartoons. Developing an ability to communicate emotions effectively helps them to connect with their audience better.

  • Organisation skills: Cartoonists may work alone or with a team. They may also work on multiple projects simultaneously with strict deadlines and staying organised is an essential skill that helps them maintain productivity.

  • Self-motivation: Experimenting with new ideas can often help cartoonists stay motivated in their line of work.

7. Practice basic techniques routinely

A 30-minute practice session on a routine basis can improve your drawing. Create a character using a visual reference or draw a character from memory. Keep building and improvising on your characters. Watch videos and tutorials from experts to learn new professional techniques.

8. Identify the type of cartoons you want to make

There are many types of cartoons and cartoonist careers. Since cartoonists can create cartoons in more than one style, you can identify the type of cartoons you want to create. You can create political cartoons, comic strips, web comics or web toons. Some common job roles for cartoonists include:

  • Editorial cartoonist

  • Digital cartoonist

  • Inker

  • Penciller

  • Colourist

  • Comic writer

  • Comic scriptwriter

  • Comic illustrator

  • Animator

  • Background artist

Once you know the type of work you want to create, you can focus more on that specific area and explore relevant opportunities for work. This understanding can also help you work on the specific formats of cartoons, including:

  • Booklets

  • Comic books

  • Comic strips

  • Editorial cartoons

  • Graphic cartoons

  • Manuals

  • Storyboards

  • Merchandise

  • Advertisements

  • T-shirts

  • Greeting cards

  • Video game packaging

9. Become an intern

Gaining professional experience is very important for an artist's career growth. Internships can give you the opportunity to work with professional cartoonists early on in your career. You can look for paid or unpaid internship opportunities with organisations that employ cartoonists, and look for full-time opportunities there after you gain some entry-level experience. If you want to work as a freelancer or a part-time cartoonist, internship opportunities can help you understand industry requirements. You can look for internship opportunities in the following organisations which employ cartoonists:

  • Newspapers

  • Publishing houses

  • Film and television production houses

  • Advertising companies

  • Media companies

  • Art institutes

Related: What Are Internships and How Do You Find One?

10. Apply for open positions

Once you have developed the required skills and gathered relevant qualifications, you can start applying for open positions. You can contact the placement cell of your institute or browse job search websites to know about the most recent job opportunities. You can also prepare a short list of companies that hire cartoonists and check their websites regularly to look for open positions.

Related: How To Create An Artist Resume (With A Guide And Examples)

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are associated with Indeed.

Explore more articles