Future cartoonists can choose from a wide variety of undergraduate and graduate level training programs that vary in their focus and technical requirements. We discuss these considerations for selecting a school and explore several of the available online degree programs.
How to Select an Online Cartooning School
Those with a mind for art and storytelling may be interested in pursuing online courses and programs in animation or illustration. These courses can train students to create still, panel-based cartoons or lively animated characters. Students must weigh the focus of the program with the technical requirements.
Focus of Program
Those who wish to create panel-oriented cartoons, such as political cartoons or comic strips, may find a certificate program in cartooning or a degree program in illustration to be a good fit. Graduates of these types of programs go on to become storyboard artists, freelance cartoonists and advertising illustrators.
Individuals aspiring to bring cartoons to life through moving imagery might consider an online animation program. Graduates work in various media industries, including filmmaking and video game development. Online animation programs may be more likely to require the purchase of specialized industry-standard software programs.
Since the fields of illustration and animation often involve the use of modern software suites, students need to have computers capable of handling the demands of the required applications. Online students are encouraged to consult with individual schools as to whether the courses offered require a Macintosh or PC. Online students also need to inquire about any specialized software requirements for illustration or animation coursework.
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Online Programs with Cartooning Courses
Online Certificate in Cartooning
Instruction is often self-paced and is usually delivered through DVDs, with some online exchange of assignments or exams. Basic pen and ink drawing techniques are covered along with the concepts of perspective, shading and tone. Lessons are focused on utilizing drawing skills to create character and emotion in gag cartoons, comic strips and related illustrative art. An online certificate in cartooning can generally be completed in less than one year. Additionally, some programs offer coursework in the business side of cartooning, such as:
- Portfolio development
- Contractual arrangements
- Copyright procedures
- Personal and business taxes
Online Associate of Arts in Illustration
The curriculum blends artistic and technical courses in drawing with classes related to cartoon illustration. Students enrolled in a 2-year associate degree program develop pen and ink drawing skills and build their portfolios. Coursework includes training in:
- Figure drawing
- Digital media
- Calligraphy and letterform
- Story, process and techniques
Online Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration
A thorough education in the fundamentals of art is included in the program through courses in color, composition and figure drawing. Students typically have the ability to tailor the curriculum to meet their needs through elective courses applicable to cartooning. Internships are sometimes available for online students. Students take classes such as:
- Fantasy illustration
- Illustrative imaging
- Drawing heads and hands
- Advanced perspectives
Online Associate of Arts in Animation
In addition to coursework in cartooning, students take art and technical courses to develop creative and practical skills. Common classes include:
- Modeling and texturing
- Character design and animation
- Background painting
Online Bachelor of Fine Arts in Animation
Students looking for more thorough studies in animated cartooning can opt for a 4-year Bachelor of Fine Arts degree program. This option builds students' artistic and hands-on skills with multiple types of animation, including cartooning and video game animation. Graduates typically leave school with a thorough portfolio of their work, which they can present to potential employers or use to promote their skills on a freelance basis. Students take courses in:
- Life drawing
- Filmmaking theory
- Composition and design
- Animation layout
Online Master of Fine Arts in Animation
Advanced training in cartooning and animation can be found at the graduate level. Students may have the opportunity to specialize in a particular area of animation. A thesis or other final project is generally required, and students whose main interest is in cartooning can specialize therein. The thesis or final project is generally reviewed by working professionals prior to graduation. Topics include:
- Nonlinear narratives
- Post-production techniques
- History of animation
Schools With Online Programs in Cartooning
Sessions College offers an online associate's degree program in illustration that can be completed in six semesters. Students complete a portfolio and capstone project. They also learn how to use Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator and take courses in digital illustration, history of art and commercial illustration.
The Academy of Arts University has an online associate's, bachelor's and two master's degree programs in illustration. The Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration helps students develop a professional portfolio. The Master of Arts in Illustration program puts an emphasis on professional style while developing a portfolio. The Master of Fine Arts program also requires a portfolio that emphasizes visual communication and technical abilities.
Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design provides an online Bachelor of Fine Arts in 3D Animation degree program. Students develop a professional portfolio and also complete a thesis. The program totals 123 credits and core classes include topics in computer animation, animation sound design and stop motion animation.
Students interested in studying cartooning can choose from several online certificate, associate's, bachelor's or master's degree programs in cartooning, illustration or animation. Potential students should keep in mind the focus of the program and technical requirements as they select the program that best fits them.