How to Become a Cartoonist

By Eric Hammer

So, you want to become a cartoonist, huh? For many people, it’s a dream come true to become a cartoonist since the work tends to be fun and often tickles people’s childhood fantasies of one day writing their own comic books and graphic novels.

Learning to become a cartoonist however does take quite a bit of effort on the part of the student. It’s not enough to have raw talent, though you definitely do need to have that as well. You must also hone your skills so that you can learn how to draw pictures on the spot based on nothing but basic descriptions given to you by a client.

These days, those wishing to become a cartoonist also need to spend time learning about the various computer based tools that are part of the art landscape such as Photoshop. These tools will become an integral part of your work and you will often be expected to know how to sit down and use a drawing stylus together with such programs to create the material that someone has requested.

How Much Can You Make?

As with most creative types of jobs, those who are interested in becoming a cartoonist do it first and foremost for love of the work and only secondly because they want to make a living. Competition can be quite fierce for jobs as well meaning that entry level positions will likely be relatively low paying, offering somewhere in the low $30Ks. However, for professional cartoonists with years of experience, especially for those who can also create story lines around their cartoons rather than just drawing images, salaries can reach the low six figures. Average salaries tend to be in the neighborhood of around $50,000 a year.

Ways to Make More | Related Opportunities | Tips

In addition to the more traditional ways of earning a living as a cartoonist, you may consider working in street vending, offering to create caricatures for tourists. You can also often earn much more if you are able to come up with story lines for your cartoons in addition to the basic drawings.

Keep in mind that people who want to become a cartoonist need to also learn about technology. Therefore, be sure you are comfortable with technology and software as well.

If you enjoy working in the field but don’t think that being a cartoonist will pay much, you may also want to consider other related art forms such as graphic designing and painting. Many people who are interested in cartooning also find these pursuits to be quite gratifying since they tend to be related and involve working with their hands.

Qualifications / Requirements

While you do not need a formal degree in order to be licensed as a cartoonist (because there is no such thing as a "licensed cartoonist"), it helps tremendously to get formal training in the world of cartooning. A number of schools offer both accredited and non accredited degrees in the subject.

First Steps

Start by drawing your favorite characters from various comic strips and graphic novels. Work on perfecting your technique and make sure that you are not tracing a picture but instead truly copying it. Once you have that down, you should apply to a professional cartoonist’s school to further hone your craft and to learn more about the subject.

Resources - Cartoonist school. - National Cartoonists Society. - Industry news. - An example of a comic book artist (his website).

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