Nine Tools Every Cartoonist Needs

I know there’s a lot of you out there (and reading this blog) probably want to make comics too – but don’t know where to start.  You might not even know what you’ll need to start making comics.  Well, I have a list made up to get you started.  And now loyal readers, I will tell you the nine tools every cartoonist needs.

1. Your Hands – This is probably the most important tool of all.  Every cartoonist needs this.  Train your hand and there is nothing you can’t draw.  Make sure you take care of your hands too.  Take frequent breaks when you’re drawing.

2. Your Mind – This is just as important as your hands.  Train your mind.  Learn all that you can and practice.  Training your hand to work with your mind is very important.


3. Pencils – This should be a no-brainer.  Pencils are amongst the tools every cartoonist needs.  You have your standard wooden pencils and mechanical pencils.  But be sure to experiment with other pencils.  There are graphite sticks, which are basically pencils without the wood.  There’s also flat sketching pencils or carpenter’s pencils (second from the right).  While some of these may not be necessarily suitable for drawing comics, try them out anyway in your drawing and sketching out ideas.  This can influence the work you do in comics.

Various Pens

4. Pens – The pen can be a challenging tool.  It’s not as familiar as the pencil; that tool is something we’ve used since children.  The pen is not.  But it’s still a tool to use.  The pen can provide a sense of immediacy in your drawings.  Unlike the pencil, you cannot erase your mistakes.  You have to work quickly yet carefully to draw what it is your drawing – be it people at the coffee house, the 1997 Ford Explorer parked at the end of your street, the birds stopped to perch on the trees, etc.  Oh, and don’t forget how useful the pen is for writing down ideas.

5. Sketchbook – This is another important implement in the cartooning arsenal.  Sketchbooks come in all shapes and sizes.  I have a really big 11×14 hardcover book as well as some smaller ones that fit in my pocket.  Take a small sketchbook and go out there to sketch.  You never know what you may find to capture in pen or pencil in your sketchbook – it could provide an idea for a character or even a whole story!

6. Computer – In this digital age, a computer is no longer a luxury.  It is a necessity!  If you draw your comics entirely on the computer, then get the best one you can afford and invest in a tablet to use for your drawing.  Even if you work traditionally like I do,  you still need a computer for email, blogging, and social media.  These electronic wonders are vital to your success as a cartoonist.

7. Ruler – For those of you who can’t draw a straight line, here’s something that can…a ruler!  Now you have no excuse.

8. Business Cards – In some cultures, you are considered a nobody without a business card.  In the world of comics, you’ll need a business card or you might as well be a nobody.  It’s important to have these to hand out.  Be sure to include your name, email address, and URL for your site or blog.  You can get business cards and software to make at home on your own printer if you just want a small print run.  Otherwise, you have plenty of options.  A local printer may give you a good deal.  There’s also Vistaprint.  That’s a popular choice among some I know.  For my business cards, I use FedEx Office.  Shop around, check samples, compare deals you get – but no matter what, invest in business cards.  These are a necessary piece in your toolbox.  Make no mistake, readers; the business card is one of the tools every cartoonist needs.  Without one, you will be a nobody.

9. Will – This is a tool that is overlooked but important.  You must have a strong will to make comics.  I talk from experience – making comics is NOT easy.  It will take you a long time to get your big break.  Even getting people to notice you or getting your skills up to par can be a challenge.  But you must keep working at it.  You have to have the will to do it and the will to succeed.  You must want it more than anything else.  Without will, all these other tools are useless.

Anyone else have tools that should be added to this list?  Feel free to comment; I’d like to know your opinion on the important tools every cartoonist needs.

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About Max West

I am a freelance artist and the creator of Sunnyville Stories, an independent slice-of-life comics series.
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