Cartoon Artist

What Is Cartooning?

Cartooning is the process of drawing still cartoons, which are usually meant to be humorous. These cartoons are often featured in print publications, like magazines and newspapers, as well as online publications, like blogs and websites. Sometimes cartoons will consist of just one picture, while others will consist of several pictures. This type of cartoon is often referred to as a comic strip. A very long series of cartoons, on the other hand, is often referred to as a graphic novel.

Characters and scenes in most cartoons are generally not drawn realistically. Instead, most features are exaggerated, and people and animals may appear to be caricatures or “cartoonish”. Many cartoons also have some sort of caption, or speech and thought bubbles can be used to make the characters' words or actions apparent.

Cartooning is much more than drawing funny pictures, however. Most cartoons are meant to convey a certain message or point out some type of irony. Depending on the intended audience, cartoons might either be very complex or they may be a little simpler. For instance, political cartoons may depend on dry humor and subtle irony, and they are usually meant to put a more serious political situation in a somewhat humorous light. On the other hand, cartoons depicting married life are usually a little simpler, and they often exaggerate common marital problems, which can make these situations humorous.

The process of cartooning can also be used to create storyboards, which are used when producing animated films and video games.

Work Environment

A cartoonist is the person that illustrates, or draws, cartoons. Sometimes, cartoonists will also add the captions, speech bubbles, and thought bubbles as well. Other times, these words are added by separate writers.

Many cartoonists have a different perspective on life than most other people. For instance, the are often able to see the humor in everyday life or more serious situations. One of the most important characteristics that any cartoonist should have is a good sense of humor.

When drawing a cartoon, many cartoonists will typically use the traditional method of a paper and pen. Later, they may scan their cartoons into a computer and edit them or add other elements, like color and words. Some cartoonists, on the other hand, will use computer software from start to finish.

Cartoonists who create storyboards will usually illustrate how an animated story will come together. Typically, a storyboard cartoonist will interpret a script, and draw pictures to represent different scenes. This helps actors or animators, along with directors, see how a story should look and progress.

Education Requirements

Technically, there are no strict education requirements for a career in cartooning. Generally, though, cartoonists are gifted artists. They may also take a few courses in drawing or illustration in order to hone their skills.

Cartoonists who are interested in creating storyboards, however, will usually need to earn a degree in fine art or story-boarding.

Salary and Job Outlook


The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have any hard information regarding the specific career of cartooning. Some sources, however, suggest that the annual salary of a cartoonist is around $30,000 to $60,000 a year. Many cartoonists do not make a livable wage from their cartooning, however. Instead, they will usually hold a “day job” in order to make ends meet. Cartoonists who are lucky enough to have their cartoons or comic strips syndicated, on the other hand, may be able to make a decent wage. A cartoonist that creates storyboards will also usually make a good annual salary. Learn more about Comic Book Art Careers.

Job Outlook

The majority of self-professed cartoonists are considered to be freelancers. They will typically draw cartoons and submit them to different print and digital publications, in hopes that those publications will accept them. Depending on how talented or successful cartoonists are, their cartoons or comic strips may get syndicated, meaning that they will appear in a certain publication every day, week, or month. Cartoonists who create storyboards are often hired by small and large production studios.

Helpful Resources

  • Interview with Julian Alexander,
    Creative Director & Graphic Designer

    Anna Ortiz
    Anna OrtizJun 24, 2012

    My first break was landing an internship at The Drawing Board, formerly the creative department at Def Jam. Being there fueled my desire to pursue design. But a Stress magazine cover I designed in 1996 was the first time my work was produced on a large scale. When the i...

  • Interview with Mike Dawson, Cartoonist

    Anna Ortiz
    Anna OrtizNov 19, 2014

    Mike Dawson drew comic strips in the Rutgers Daily Targum for four years, self-published several comic books, and got his first book deal in 2008 for his tongue-in-cheek memoir, Freddie & Me, an autobiographical account of his childhood obsession with the band Queen and...

  • Get Paid to Do What You Love: Seven Strategies to Make Money as an Artist

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    Anna OrtizJul 10, 2017

    Doing what you love and making a living from your art is a goal that is within reach. Here, we offer a few tips to help you get your dreams off the ground. Try these seven strategies to make money as an artist.

  • Five Ways to Jumpstart Your Art Career

    Anna Ortiz
    Anna OrtizJul 17, 2017

    An art career cannot happen overnight. Becoming an artist takes dedication, hard work, and a plan. Learning early lessons about how to develop your skills, attract clients, and market yourself can help you generate early results.

  • 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started My Art Career

    Anna Ortiz
    Anna OrtizJul 19, 2017

    The life of an artist is often glamorized, while the real challenges of being an artist tend to be glossed over. Here we provide a few tips on how to deal with early challenges, like facing criticism, dealing with frustration, and meeting the right people.

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