How Does a Cartoonist Spend a Workday?

Updated July 12, 2018

Starting the Workday

A cartoonist is one professional who gets paid for having fun. Many cartoonists work out of a comfortable office at home, not worrying about commuting in bad weather or being late to work because of delays in traffic. They may send their completed work to their company by email, regular mail or courier, using whatever means will enable them to meet their employer's deadline. Cartoonists generally start with a blank pad of paper and a pencil or pen on a work surface that's slanted comfortably for his height and chair, plus good lighting. He may have a clip file handy of pictures and photos of different subjects, so he doesn't have to research what a gorilla's eyebrows really look like, for example.

One Specialty

Editorial cartoonists watch the TV news avidly, check out blogs and radio programs and keep up with the latest trends in books and movies as well. Any of these items can become "grist for the mill" for an editorial cartoonist. Every large metropolitan newspaper has at least one editorial cartoonist on staff and on the payroll. Some editorial cartoonists have become known world-wide for their entertaining or insightful cartoons about the political scene.


Other cartoonists may be employed by large ad agencies or even big corporations, if the advertising or employee training is mostly created in-house. She may report daily to an office within the company headquarters, the animation department of a movie studio or a computer graphics or gaming company.


Every cartoonist strives to have a recognizable style. Some use a lot of background shading or many details; some use a felt-tip pen, some draw the cartoon first in pencil and then carefully re-draw the lines, a process called "inking it in." But he wants to have readers know who's drawn the cartoon within a few seconds of looking at it. Most cartoonists have a background in art, whether it's painting, drawing or graphics. A degree may not be required, but being able to draw well and draw a variety of subjects is an absolute. Cartoonists must be able to draw people, animals and other objects in a recognizable fashion, because no matter how creative and compelling the text that accompanies the cartoon, the reader must be able to figure out what the drawing is all about as well. Of course some cartoons have no text at all, so the cartoonist communicates with his audience only by showing, not telling.

Creativity on Call

The hardest thing for a cartoonist is continually thinking of new ideas, whether she draws a one-panel cartoon for a repeated ad that's seen nationally, or she's created a four-panel daily cartoon strip about her viewpoint of life, using the same characters over and over again. Cartoonists figure they've reached the top when their work is published in books, the movies they've helped create are seen world-wide, or the computer game they created is a major hit.

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