Quirky pen cartoon of the cartoonist's brain, by Joana Miranda

Single panel gag cartooning is a challenging yet rewarding process on many levels.  For those of my fans who are curious how I work, here’s my step-by-step guide for creating cartoons:

  • Start with a strong emotion (anger, exasperation, love, surprise, jealousy, oblivion, etc.)  The more personal to your own experience, the better.
  • Google the emotion and read multiple articles taking note of any interesting phrases, words, or descriptions you come across. (I find that Googling “Huffington post + a phrase that includes my emotion word” is often a good place to start.)

  • *Search for synonyms, antonyms or words that rhyme with your key words.
  • *Look for “play on word” possibilities.
  • *Be open to letting your mind wander.  You may be surprised where you end up!
  •  *Research any potential cartoon themes using the Google IMAGE search to make sure your cartoon idea hasn’t already been done.

*These steps sometimes take me days and LOTS of note taking.  I keep my notes on my computer in a “Cartoon Gag” word document.  It’s important to have a record of your process since you never know when a discarded idea might jog your funny bone…

  • Sketch out your cartoon idea lightly in pencil.
  • Revise.  Scan your sketch into a photo-editing program (or hold it up to a light) so that you can see the reverse image of the sketch.  You’ll be amazed how many flaws you see when you reverse the sketch.
  • Ink over your final pencil sketch.
  • Choose a color palette.  For cartoons for publication, I stick with either black and white line drawings, or shades of gray.  For my shop at Etsy I have more leeway to introduce pops of color.
  • Pat yourself on the back.  Not only have you stretched your brain and your creative eye, but you’ll probably find that the strong emotion you started out with is now transformed…therapy doesn’t get much cheaper than that!


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