How to Draw Cartoons

I get quite a few emails from aspiring artists and cartoonists looking for direction on how to either improve their drawing style or how to get started in the craft of cartooning.  I generally have one cartoon drawing instruction resource that I send them to because it’s the one that has helped me out the most.  The resource is all the books Christopher Hart has published. This guy is great for people looking to improve or learn how to draw cartoons no matter what style you’re interested in learning. Here is an example of a recent email correspondence I had with an aspiring cartoonist.

Hey Brad,
I sketch cartoons and do personalized portraits, babies and stuff like that. When it comes to cartoons there’s not much I can’t draw but, my creativity is weak. My brother is a comedian and we have decided to start making a cartoon comic strip for the local paper and see how it does. The jokes are great but, i need some helping with creating some characters for the story line. If you can assist me in this please let me know.

Thank you,

Here is my response with links to the books I recommended to him…

Hey Andrew, thanks for the note. The best direction I can point you in is to a guy named Christopher Hart and his great instruction books, here are some links….

This is the book I would start you with: "Drawing on the Funny Side of the Brain"

And here are the rest of his books, all are really great and helpful. –

Hope this helps!

Christopher Hart also has a website –

How a Blaugh Comic Is Created – With Video!

How to Draw Cartoons For Blaugh

Brian over at Copyblogger says you guys don’t want to know *what* I can do, you want to know *how* I do it.. So let’s see if he knows what he’s talking about. I’m going to show you how Blaugh cartoons are brought to life… with super cool grainy videos and everything.

If you don’t know yet, Blaugh is a *ahem* daily cartoon produced by myself and Chris Pirillo – Chris writes, and I draw…usually. We’ve tried it the other way around but… it really didn’t work out. Blaugh is sponsored entirely by GoDaddy, and as long as you giys keep showing your support by using the coupon code “Blaugh” when you buy stuff over there, it’ll be a good long relationship.

Okay, on with the goods.

Just about all Blaugh cartoons start from crazy voices from deep inside Chris’ head. Once he escapes the straightjacket, which Ponzi says he’s getting really good at these days, he’ll shoot me off about a week’s worth of material in an email.

I always look forward to these emails from Chris because they remind me so much of Christmas. After I read the new gags a few dozen times (and then stop crying) I enter them into my Backpack account…. (I love Backpack and use it to organize all my ten-dollar ideas that I’ll never have time to get to.) I like being able to check off gags as I go and having them all stored in one spot is quite handy. It’s a pretty slick little app and a great way to work, you should give it a try.

Caveman Sketchbook Page for Blaugh Cartoon on Rock XPNow this image here is a good example of what a typical Blaugh sketchbook page looks like.. (click it to enlarge) I flesh out the visuals of a gag by starting with a tiny thumbnail concept sketch doodle. I then randomly focus on the characters, props, and background elements, not worrying too much at all about composition at this stage. For those of you keeping score at home I use Carmine Red Col-Erase colored pencils made by Sanford. These things have changed my life but I’ll save that geeky illustrator topic after all the new viewers go back home.

Caveman Blaugh Cartoon final sketchWhen I get to the point where I think I have everything I need to put it all together, I’ll either scan in the messy sketchbook page or redraw it entirely… I usually just scan in the unordered page like the one above and re-arrange the composition using photoshop, but I re-drew this one today because I’m trying to impress you… plus I wanted to make a cool video. (click here to see the video of me sketching it)

After scanning in the sketch, I import it into Flash on it’s own layer, and then I use my tablet pc to vectorize the final art on the layers above it. Not exactly the traditional vector artist technique, but it works just splendid for me. I have yet to find another vector program out there that can come close to matching the solid drawing tools in Flash. (click here to see video #2)

After the cartoon is colored nice and shiny, I export it as a .tiff file, upload it to the sever, think of a clever title, and voila… out it goes to hundreds of thousands of readers… well, thousands of readers… okay fine, hundreds.

Blaugh Rock XP Cartoon

So that’s about the jist of it, check out the videos and keep in mind that they’re sped up and edited to keep them short so you’ll finish them to the end where there’s a clickable Revver ad. Enjoy the show, turn up your volume, and leave me comments.

Blaugh Cartoon video 01 Blaugh Cartoon video 02

PS: There’s been some confusion on how “Blaugh” is properly pronounced… just to clear things up… it’s pronounced “BLAFF” not “Blah”,”Blouw”,”Blow,” “Blue”,”Blag”, or “Blog.” :)


[tags] blaugh, how to draw, copyblogger, Ponzi, Chris Pirillo, Pirillo, Brian Clark, Drawing, GoDaddy, drawing video [/tags]

Use A Felt Nib on your Wacom Tablet Pen for More Drawing Control

Wacom Tablets are great but no matter what anyone says, they are no substitute for real life paper and pencil… not even close. I hear the Cintiq bridges this gap considerably but until I can afford the $2500 price tag, I’ll have to keep going on the rumor.

The biggest factor that makes drawing on a Wacom Tablet so difficult is the lack of pen control, the surface is just too darn slippery and it doesn’t feel natural. I may as well be drawing on a ceramic tile with a greasy plastic spoon…. Okay it’s not that bad, but it does get frustrating when you have to “undo45 times in a row.

However there is a way to improve the feel of the drawing surface… did you know you can buy felt-tip replacement nibs for your pen?? Oh yes, these are awesome. They have a marker-like feel which creates friction and causes “drag” so you gain much more control than you have with the standard plastic nibs. Almost feels like real paper.

They come in 5-packs for only $4.95 on the Wacom Direct Site. It’s a bargain steal for the difference it makes.

You still here?
[phpbay] tablet pen nib, 3, “”, “”[/phpbay]

[tags]wacom, tablet, cintiq, drawing[/tags]

Mark Kistler’s Imagination Station – Online Video!

When I was a kid I loved watching Mark Kistler’s Imagination Station on PBS. I remember looking forward to the show because his style and personality really resonated with me. I particularly loved the last segment of the show where he had this huge cartoon mural that he’d work on for about 10 minutes each week with a sharpie. Always creating new sections of funky worlds of spiral staircases inhabited by wacky creatures..

I was in Borders the other day checking out some drawing books and I was surprised to see that he’s got a few nice and thick drawing books that rock! As I was thumbing through them I was overcome by a wave of nostalgia. When I got home I looked him up on the web and found he’s got a pretty cool website too. If that wasn’t enough, he’s got an actual streaming video of one of his shows for free viewing! Awesome. It doesn’t look like he’s changed much over the years … other than replacing his drawing/space suit covered with pen & marker holders with some red suspenders. Same great personality though.

Draw Draw Draw Draw Draw Draw!

mark kistler

mark kistler, video, how to draw, drawing lessons

How to Draw a Car..

I’ve been playing aroung a bit more with creating drawing demos… here’s another video showing how to draw a car in Flash. This one is in swf (Flash) format, if you experience any issues please let me know in the comments area below. Thanks!

[flashvideo filename=video/how-to-draw-a-car-002.swf image=video/how-to-draw-a-car-002-TH.jpg /]

[tags]cars, cartoon car, how to draw, flash, drawing[/tags]

Coyote Character – Before & After…

Here’s a little before and after of a cartoon coyote character from a recent Flash animation project. I like how sly the character’s expression turned out in the final… In the animation his eyebrows go up and down quickly so it really adds to his attitude… I should have his tongue licking his chops with a few chicken feathers floating around in the background. :)

cartoon coyote character, before and after drawing and full color picture.

One To Prove them Wrong…

“One To Prove them Wrong” was the theme of my latest illustration below. This was a magazine assignment I just finished up a few minutes ago. As you can see, this isn’t my normal vector style, but it was an emergency assignment from a semi-regular client that I gladly took on.

This is good timing because I just noticed a post over at the Illustration Mundo forums discussing the pros and cons of illustrating with multiple styles. It’s a good topic so head on over and see what some other illustrators have to say about it.

pen & ink line art illustration drawing

Graphic Artists and Repetitive Motion Injuries.

This past year I’ve been battling aches and pains as a result of working behind a computer for over 6 years. Yep, the years of abuse have finally caught up with me and it’s official… at 30 years old, I’m no longer a spring chicken.

In my research to figure out what my specific ailments were caused by, I didn’t find a whole lot of help out there when it comes to the graphics community. Most everything out there is geared for typists and carpel tunnel syndrome…. The Graphics Artist Guild had probably the best information on the subject with this article: “Repetetive Motion Injuries – Symptoms and the Proper Work Place Set-up.” Here’s an excerpt:

Tens of thousands of injuries each year are caused by repetitive motions. There are different ways injuries can happen, but they all result from stress or strain imposed on some part of the body from a tasks repetitive nature. This includes typing, computer mouse use and recurring motions such as twisting, turning and grasping.

Repetitive Motion Injuries can be quite painful and become progressively worse without treatment, possibly resulting in complete loss of function in the affected area. Tingling, numbness, or pain in the affected area, and loss of flexibility or strength are common symptoms. Hands, fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders and backs are the most common areas affected.

wacom intuos 3 graphics tablet for computer drawingThe majority of my problem was caused by working waaaaaay too many hours using a Wacom Intuos 2 Graphics Tablet on a desk that was about 6 inches too high with a non-adjustable chair. As a result my shoulder was in constant strain and tension along with the ongoing mental stress of self-employment and looming project deadlines. Not a good combination. I worked like this for well over a year and never really gave the discomfort much of a second thought, just par for the course with this line of work I figured. That is until it started to effect the muscles down the center of my body that are right next to my lungs and ribcage. That got my attention.

The pain was incredible and I was more than a little concerned because it didn’t feel like it was being caused by my tablet/computer use. They call it “Referred Pain” which is pain or discomfort in one area that’s caused by a chain reaction from another area. After a couple of doctors visits and a couple of x-rays to rule out lung cancer, the next logical step was physical therapy.

I was not at all looking forward to taking time out of my day a few times a week to play around with rubber band exercise equipment, but I’ve had great results from it. I’m on week 7 and I feel as though my shoulder is back to about 90%. Along with physical therapy however, comes a lifestyle change that I’m struggling to maintain and probably always will. New changes include the following:

  • Good Posture. No more slouching, sitting up straight is everything.
  • No more 16-18 hour days behind the desk.
  • Breaks. One at least every hour or so. This has been the toughest because you risk losing the “flow.”
  • Exercise. Even if its just a daily 15 minute walk.
  • Stretching. Specific stretches to my unique issues has helped tremendously.
  • Alternate between the mouse and tablet when possible.

So I guess with all that said, the best advice I can give to you is this: LISTEN TO YOUR BODY, and don’t ignore discomfort. Everyone needs to find the right ergonomics setup for their individual situation. Pain is there for a reason… to warn you that something is not right.

Anyone out there with a similar experience? I’d love to hear about it.