September 27, 2018


Hi Nikki! I’m a high school student who absolutely LOVES drawing, and I dream of becoming a cartoonist or an animator! But I have a problem: I don’t know where to start! Can you please give me some suggestions on how to be prepared? Thanks! 🙂

The Doodling Daydreamer

Hi Doodling Daydreamer,

Hey! Thanks for writing in! I think it’s SO awesome that you want to be a cartoonist or an animator!

If you love drawing, you’re on your way!

Like I tell the people who ask me how to become an author, it mostly takes practice! I mean, there’s a whole business side, but the first step is becoming an artist (or writer) with the skills to make a career of it.

So LOTS of drawing practice – take a sketchpad everywhere you go, learn from other artists’ styles, take classes where you can find them, and if you can’t, check out YouTube art tutorials!

But let’s say you’re already doing the work of becoming the best artist you can be. How do you become a cartoonist or an animator, specifically? Do you need to go to a fancy art school?

Well, they’re separate jobs. So to become a cartoonist, you definitely DON’T need to go to a fancy art school. You don’t even HAVE to go to college, though there’s lots you can learn in college. And I think the best cartoonists don’t only know how to draw, but they also understand what’s happening in the world around them, which is how they can create comics that people think are funny and relate to. And college is a great place to get that kind of broad understanding of the world. (At least that’s what my parents keep telling me. 🙂 )

I don’t know as much about being an animator, but I looked it up on Google. What I found said that a college degree is not required, but that most people hiring animators will be looking for candidates with a Bachelor’s degree in Animation, Computer Graphics or something related. And if you want to create animation for video games, you should earn a degree in video game design or interactive media.

So if you’re college-bound, you might want to consider looking for schools that have programs in those fields.

Another thing I think is important for people who want to be any kind of creative person—an artist, author, animator, filmmaker, etc—is to stay really current with what is successful in that field.

So for a budding cartoonist, spend a ton of time reading all the latest cartoons, comics and graphic novels. Animators? See all the animated movies you can—and not just the big cinema releases, but smaller stuff too. There are all kinds of amazing short animated films most people never see.

I think it’s important to read/watch/listen to what professional artists are making today because you’ll learn from them, and you’ll also learn more about what appeals to audiences. The movies getting produced and books getting published have film production companies and book publishers supporting them for a reason. So check them out for enjoyment, but also try to analyze what makes certain pieces of art successful.

And finally, remember that there’s no rush. The main thing right now is to keep building your skills as an artist. If you’re in high school, you might start thinking about what you want to study in college. But don’t get too far ahead of yourself. Develop your artistry so when it’s time for the business side of things, you’ll have the talent and skills to compete!

I hope that helps! And I hope you keep drawing!

What are your dreams? Are you taking any steps NOW to make them happen LATER? Tell us in the comments!