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Cartooning & Illustration Advice

The Pope, A Ninja & A Cowboy Walk Into a Bar...

Anyone who reads the Sunday comics sees the most common type of cartoon strips, which employ speech balloons. The balloon appears above the head of the character speaking, and the dialogue is usually the focus of the gag, with the drawn cartoon reinforcing the humor. It's a fun challenge to create a comic that requires both the speech balloon and the illustration in order for the humor to work.

My concept is for someone to read the caption, look at the image, take a moment, and then get the joke! In this case, a speaker emphasizes the need for someone to say the punch line of the joke. It doesn't make sense until you look at the cast of characters and realize that the pope, a ninja, and a cowboy have walked up to a bar—and the joke mentioned is the one in which they all exist. 

pencil cartoon sketch

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Final Step: Using Color to Direct Focus

I scan my inked drawing and color the cartoon. I color the entire background, people and all, a light shade of blue. This helps direct the focus on the three main characters by separating the foreground from the background. I add a gradient to the background to light the bar more dimly and create ambience. To finish, I add highlights and shadows. I make sure to add highlights on the edges of the clothing that face the lamp. I also add a gradient effect to the bar, and then I'm finished! The gag has been set up: The Pope, a ninja, and a cowboy walk into a bar...but as the impatient cowboy points out, this joke isn't going anywhere without some doggone follow up! -Maury Aaseng

cartooning color focus

Images and text excerpted from The Art of Cartooning & Illustration, artwork and descriptions by Maury Aaseng

How else can you use color to enhance and alter the focus of a cartoon or illustration?

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