There's so much more to cartooning than drawing comic books or Saturday morning cartoons. The field encompasses positions from editorial cartoonists to digital artists of video games. Interested artists may not need a formal education, however, a background in drawing and digital imagining would be very helpful.
Cartoonists use a blend of art, storytelling, social commentary and humor to entertain and inform their readers. Some cartoonists also use dramatic elements, like plotting and character development, to tell sequential stories.
|Required Education||Degree in a design or art-related helpful|
|Other Requirements||Personal artistic portfolio; proficiency in basic computer graphic programs|
|Projected Job Growth||4% from 2018-2028 for multimedia artists and animators*|
|Median Salary (2018)||$72,520 for multimedia artists and animators*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Many cartoonists work independently, developing their own ideas for cartoons or comics, as well as drawing and marketing them. Others work in teams, producing graphic novels or cartoons for large publishers.
Using ink, pencil, charcoal, paint or computer software, cartoonists create caricatures, single comics and serial comic strips for newspapers and comic books. Their work is also seen in greeting cards, advertisements, magazines, trade journals, calendars, graphic novels and manga (Japanese-style cartoons).
These cartoonists specialize in political commentary. Their art frequently appears in the pages of newspapers and news magazines. Some editorial cartoonists tackle issues of national or international import, while others focus on politics and events in their local communities.
Digital cartoonists use computer technology to produce comics that are read on the Internet, as well as cell phones and other wireless communication devices. Some of these comics are also available in print and archived on the Web, while others are seen only in digital publications.
Inker, Penciler, Colorist or Letterer
These job functions are part of a team effort to produce comic strips or books. An inker adds dimension to an illustration by outlining figures in ink and emphasizing backgrounds. Pencilers use a script to create a layout and outline action figures. Colorists take photocopies of layouts after they've been inked and prepare them for printing, coding the pages for color separation. And letterers write the dialogue in a cartoon, often in a balloon coming out of a character's mouth.
Comic Writer, Scripter or Illustrator
Comic writers, or scripters, write the scripts for a comic strip or book, outlining scenes and detailing the action. Some approach their work as if it were a screenplay, giving full descriptions of scenes and sound effects, including dialogue. Illustrators work on the drawings in a comic book and create storyboards to plan the story, panel by panel. Their jobs also might include writing narrative.
Similar to an inker, a background artist inks in the backgrounds in comic strip panels or book layouts. Background artists are rarely used, and when they are, the work is often performed by an assistant or an intern, or it's subcontracted.
A college degree isn't necessary to be a cartoonist, but learning the basics of drawing is recommended. Increasingly, cartoonists also need to know how to create comics on a computer using graphics programs.
Editorial cartoonists might benefit from a background in journalism, political science or another subject pertaining to the content of their cartoons. Newspaper editors often look for a combination of experience and education in their editorial cartoonists, in addition to artistic talent.
Getting Started in the Industry
Since many large metropolitan newspapers are shrinking, reducing staff and editorial content, the best way to break into cartooning might be to approach the editors of smaller newspapers or journals or online publications. Editors and art directors often wish to see a portfolio of sample cartoons to get an idea of a cartoonist's skills.
Another option for aspiring cartoonists is to submit their comics or editorial cartoons for distribution by a syndicate, which supplies comic features to newspapers and other media outlets across the country. Major U.S. syndicates include Creators Syndicate, King Features, Washington Post Writer's Group, Universal Press Syndicate, United Media and Tribune Media Services. In addition, some comic book companies, like Marvel Comics and DC Comics, offer internships in various aspects of comic book production.
With a 4% growth in the industry predicted through 2028, artists interested in cartooning have much to look forward to. The industry is in constant need of artists for everything from advertising work to layout design and inkers for comic books. Cartoonists have plenty to choose from career wise, but a little bit of digital art education can take them a long way.