How I Draw Cartoons

I get quite a few emails about my process and technique for creating cartoon illustrations, so I thought I’d put a page up explaining things.

My Art Tools

First, let’s go over the tools I use. All my final artwork is created digitally, so let’s start there. Here’s my current setup:



My Process

99.9% of all my artwork starts off with a rough sketch, pencil on paper. I use a lead holder (clutch pencil) and laser printer paper from the local office supply superstore. I typically draw on an artist clipboard-style drawing board. Mine is a portable-sized version.

Sketches are then captured with my smartphone camera, and I use the fancy wifi transfer features to send it to the computer.

The photo of the sketch gets opened in Photoshop, and then I run a custom Photoshop action to prep the image for sketching.

All sketching and revisions are done in Photoshop, with multiple layers and layer groups as needed. I use a custom Photoshop brush that mimics a pencil line.

Once the final sketch is complete, I will open up a custom Adobe Illustrator file template, and place the .psd file as a template layer. From there, I create all the line art in the illustration as vector objects using the Pen tool (the Brush tool is only used for specific things, and rarely my main line art). You can take a look at some of my cartooning and illustration tutorial posts to see how I work.

At this stage, the vector art process is 99% production and 1% creative. Small tweaks are made, but the sketch is pretty close to how the final art will look.