Beginning Drawing Lesson 7 – Cartoons

colored pencils

(Click HERE to download this lesson for printing)

What Are Cartoons?


Simply put, cartoons are a way to tell a story.

It could be a funny story, as in the Sunday “funnies”.

It could be a serious story, as in a political cartoon.

I could be a story told with nothing but pictures.

It could be a story told with pictures accompanied by a caption below the image.

It could be a story told with pictures containing speech “balloons” that contain the characters conversations.

It could be a story told within a single picture or “frame”.

It could be a story told through a series of pictures placed in multiple “panels” or “frames”… we call this a comic strip.

It could be a story told through many pages of pictures within panels… we call this a comic book… or a graphic novel.

It could even be a story told through an animated cartoon through film or video.  The last several Star Wars movies included computer generated characters that were so realistic that you couldn’t discern which were “cartoons” and which were live actors.


Single Frame Cartoons

The type of cartoons we are going to look at first are called “single frame” cartoons.  These cartoons tell the story through one single picture,

They may have a frame around them… or not.  Most of the frames are squares or rectangles. The “Family Circus” cartoons you find in your daily papers have a frame that is a circle.

Most single frame cartoons have a caption below that displays what the characters are saying.  But some tell the story by only using images.


Is Text The Most Important Element? Or the Picture?

Cartoons basically have two elements… the drawing and the text… right?

But which is more important?

I say it all depends upon the actual cartoon itself.

First, let’s consider the picture…. I have seen cartoons that tell the whole story with stick figures… and they worked very well.  I have also seen cartoons with intense realism that work very well also.  You have to make a decision about what is required visually to tell the story.

How about the text…

I have seen cartoons with very “frilly” text fonts used to tell the story… and the fonts actually add to and are part of the message.

I have also seen cartoons with very simple hand drawn lettering that work very well as well.

The important part, though, is that the text has to be readable… if you can’t read it, you will not understand the story… and the message is lost.

So, the first thing we will work on is producing simple, readable text.


Lettering Practice

Remember back to your time in kindergarten, first grade, or even pre-school… one thing you did was learn and then practice your letters, right?  And then, along about 3rd grade, you began to learn cursive, and then, guess what… no more manuscript, or printed lettering.

As we get older, our printed lettering becomes very sloppy, and almost unreadable.

As a cartoonist, or comic artist, you need to have printed lettering that is foremost neat AND readable.  So your first assignment for the week is to practice your manuscript lettering.

The main thing to concentrate on here now is to DRAW your lettering… don’t WRITE because it will most likely NOT look good… DRAW!

Below you will find a complete alphabet that I have drawn for you… both upper and lower case.  Practice DRAWING your letters.  Focus… make the letters perfectly.

lettering practice

If you would like to download the lettering practice sheet, here is the link:   Click here to Download ===>  Lettering Practice Example


The assignment for the week is to create at least one single-frame cartoon.

What is meant by “single-frame”?  This means that you only have one picture telling the story.  Actually, the cartoon may not even have a frame… just a picture… perhaps with a text caption below it.  Here are a couple of examples:

cartoon example 1 cartoon example 2

This cartoon has a frame, but it doesn’t have a text caption… the whole story is told through the drawing.

This cartoon has NO frame, but it does have a text caption that completes the story.


Follow These Steps to Complete a Single-Frame Cartoon

  1. Using a pencil, draw the frame (if there is one)… if needed, use a ruler.
  2. DRAW the text… if you do the picture first, you might not have room for the lettering.
  3. Next, draw the most important characters.
  4. Finally, draw the minor characters and any background objects needed.
  5. Ink your cartoon with felt tip pen… take your time… BE NEAT!
  6. Erase any unwanted pencil construction lines.
  7. If you wish, you may color the cartoon with colored pencils.