What does a Cartoon Designer do?

Sheri Cyprus

A cartoon designer may work for a newspaper, comic book publisher, advertising agency, animation studio, or other type of company. Freelance cartoon designers may provide drawings for various businesses on a project basis. Creating quality finished drawings while meeting deadlines is the main work responsibility of a cartoon designer.

A cartoon character.
A cartoon character.

Traditionally, most cartoon designers work with ink and paper, but increasingly, computer technology for drawings is being used by many artists who produce work for publishers and advertising media. A cartoon designer who wants to continue to be hired must submit his or her work according to the needs of employers. Cartoon designer jobs require not only creativity and artistic talent, but also the ability to follow directions in the form of publisher's guidelines.

A cartoon designer communicates through images.
A cartoon designer communicates through images.

Cartoon designers spend most of their workday at a desk. They must invent images that meet their employer's expectations. These expectations can vary widely depending on the employer and the cartoon designer job description. For instance, comic book cartoonists must tell a story with pages of drawings. A political cartoonist, on the other hand, must usually communicate a current event through a single image.

Freelance cartoon designers may also work for greeting card companies.
Freelance cartoon designers may also work for greeting card companies.

Most types of cartoon designers begin their assignments by sketching out their ideas. They may do this using a variety of inks, markers, or paints, or with a computer stylus tool and sketch pad software. Cartoonists then develop their best ideas into finished drawings. Some cartoon designers work directly with writers, while others send their drawings to a writer to complete the next step in the creative production process. A cartoon designer may also add his or her own captions, depending on the wishes of the employer.

A freelance cartoon designer may partner with an advertising copywriter to create finished marketing pieces for businesses such as ads, posters, brochures, newsletters, and trade show handouts. Freelance cartoon designers may also work for greeting card companies. Whereas cartoon designers employed full time for a specific publication usually work on the same types of projects each day, freelancers often have more of a variety. Freelance cartoon work is competitive, however; freelancers must typically spend a large amount of time looking for markets for their skills. Internet magazines are usually open to the work of freelance cartoonists, but the competition tends to be high for decent paying jobs.

Cartoon designer careers focus on the ability to communicate through images. Designers should be highly imaginative people who spend time each day drawing in their sketch books and engaging in creative thought. With a passion for their craft as well as perseverance, cartoon designers can often break into full-time design work.

A political cartoonist has just one image to communicate something meaningful.
A political cartoonist has just one image to communicate something meaningful.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


@pleonasm - It definitely helps with some of the bigger companies to have a degree, but I don't think it's the only path into cartoon design.

I know of plenty of people who just really enjoyed art and kept at it until they were good at it, then started earning themselves commissions, usually working in independent game design and then moving into other fields like cartoon design when they knew what they were doing and had some references.

And if you're talking about political cartoons, well, you can send them into a lot of places whenever you want. Most people won't have the skill to get published until they have done the practice that a degree would give them, but they can send their stuff in just as easily as the professionals can.

You might even end up with a syndicated cartoon that way, although that is really rare, especially these days.


@Mor - I agree that's a valuable tool for beginners, whether they are sketching or learning on graphic design software.

However, these days if you really want to be a cartoon designer, you need to have a degree in order to get work anywhere. In the job market, you'll be up against a lot of young people who have been through the top graphic design schools.

And, while in a lot of job industries a degree doesn't mean too much, for graphic design it really does. All of my friends who did graphic design at school had heavy workloads and worked crazy hours to finish them and the workplaces know it. They know if you got good marks you can work hard, that there is no way to cruise through that kind of degree.

It's also going to pay quite a lot once you get into the work force, so don't worry too much about the student loan either.


If you are hoping to get into cartoon design there are a lot of really good resources out there for you. I would check out some of the manga how to books, as a lot of modern Western cartoons are based on the Manga style (which, in turn, was originally based on the cartoons made by Disney in the 50's).

One of the best things you can do to start is to draw a lot of different faces. Think up a face, even just a simple one to start and then draw that same face with as many emotions as possible, trying to keep the face looking like it is the same character.

Remember you aren't going to be inventing static characters. They won't always be in the same pose. You need them to be able to smile, look sad, look horrified, be angry and so forth. Often I see people drawing up to 30 different kinds of emotion with a single face design.

Once you can do that with confidence, you'll be much closer to your goal.

Post your comments
Forgot password?