How to Create Your Own Cartoon: Design and Layout

So you like to draw and you have an idea for a funny cartoon. You’d like to make a finished cartoon or comic strip, but you don’t really know where to begin. It’s not that difficult, once you know the details. Here’s how to create your own cartoon, starting with design and layout.

In this case, I’m talking about a one-panel gag cartoon, the type you see in the political cartoon section of the paper, or in magazines. You could also make multiple-panel comic or cartoon strips, to show several things happening in sequence.

Those are a little more complicated, because in addition to having to draw the individual boxes, you need to think about sequential drawing. In other words, how the series of pictures creates a sense of drama or action. You need to consider comedic timing, pausing for effect, if necessary. You’ll also need to think about how you will show your punch line in a picture.

Sure, you can have the character standing there saying the punch line, but if you are somehow able to make it even funnier with the cartoon, all the better. This can be by adding a silent character reacting to the situation, or by having the speaking character involved doing something that looks funny.

But since there is no time to go into the entire theory behind comedy and sequential drawing and the like KissCartoon, I suggest you consult one of the many excellent books out there that cover the subject in depth. The website at the end of this article has recommended resources you can check out.

Let’s get back to your cartoon. We are starting with the design and layout. Because you only have one box (called a panel) in which to tell an entire joke, or just a few boxes (panels) in which to tell an entire story, you need to carefully plan your layout and design. You want to maximize the use of what little space you have.

The first thing to consider is that in English speaking countries, we read from left to right. Therefore, the speaking sequence should match that pattern. In other words, don’t have the first speaker on the right and the second speaker on the left. Don’t put the set-up on the right side, then the punch line on the left. Reverse your cartoon, and keep the punch line on the right.

Or have the punch line on the left, but have another character reacting to it on the right. If you are in doubt, re-draw a rough sketch of your cartoon with everything flipped, and ask a couple people which version works better.

When you do make your own cartoon or comics, you are the director and the producer. You call the shots and create the timing and drama. Start with learning how to create your own cartoon design and layout, and move on to the drawing next. This takes practice, but your efforts will be rewarded when you can draw cartoons and comics that make people laugh.


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