The Pocket Cartoon Course guide

Beginning in August 2011, the Junior Dispatch ran a series of articles that helped guide youngsters on the art of Cartooning.

Our instructional course was based on the “Pocket Cartoon Course,” a 1940s giveaway booklet from the Snack-Pack Co. from Indiana.

While it was written a long time ago, most of the lessons were useful for today’s up-and-coming artists.

Now the Junior Dispatch offers you this handy guide to the complete course on cartooning, complete with additional hints and great videos!



Junior Dispatch hopes that you explore your artistic side with the help with the Pocket Cartoon Course. When you do, you should send us some of your work to display to the whole world.

You can e-mail scans of your work to

You can send originals or copies of your art for us to scan at:
Junior Dispatch
c/o The York Dispatch
1891 Loucks Road
York, Pa. 17408

If you want your originals returned, include an self-addressed and stamped envelope that that’s big enough to fit your art inside.

Finally, tell us what you think of each lesson in the comments!

Read More

PCC 13: Toon into the Action

Here we are at the final two lessons of the Pocket Cartoon Course.

The first image is a refresher on drawing members of the Army and Navy. The key to these creating drawings like these is to learn to see the “body language” in your characters.


  • Straight shoulders: Suggests a stern figure.
  • Shoulders sloping out: Suggests a lazy person.
  • Shoulders sloping toward the neck: A person wearing shoulder pads or in a stiff and bulky gear, such as a firefighter or person with a backpack.
  • Inflated chest, thinning to a stomach: A strong person.
  • Straight-line chest: Someone young or sneaky.
  • Hands on hips: A defiant person.
  • Waving both arms: Someone who is frantic.
  • Waving just one arm: Saying hello or goodbye.
  • Pointing a finger up to the sky: Giving a speech.

Finally, the Pocket Cartoon Course takes a look at putting your figures into action. By this, the author of the course suggests that your characters should always be doing something.

This is because people don’t just stand around, stiff as a board and do nothing when they talk. They are usually doing something during a conversation — and really, they can be doing anything you want them to do. More importantly, they can do anything you can draw them doing.

(To keep them from looking stiff)

  • Hold a cup of coffee
  • Walking a dog
  • Carrying a bag of groceries
  • Holding a basketball
  • Opening their locker
  • Eating with a fork or spoon
  • Working on a computer
  • Drinking at a water fountain
  • Flying a kite
  • Going on a hike
  • Playing a video game
  • Combing their hair
  • Working a remote control
  • Writing something down
  • Brushing their teeth
  • Getting ready for bed
  • Waiting for the school bus

From that list alone, you can devise dozens of different scenes as your cartoon characters go about their lives.

Of course, this action isn’t anything too exciting compared to the things you could be drawing. Remember, for every time you draw your character shoveling snow, then you should also draw him or her fighting a troll with a big sword.

Your cartoons are only limited by your imagination, so get drawing!



Read More

PCC 12: Get it right

In this lesson, the creator of the Pocket Cartoon Course talks about the reader’s reaction to your cartoons and stories.

In particular, he points to the fact that readers love to point out the errors you make in your drawings.

Of course, the best way to avoid making errors is to draw things correctly. It’s simple “No-Duh” advice, but the real question is “How do I draw something I have never seen?”

That’s where Lesson-20 gives you the best advice: You need to develop a “clip file” of images you can look at to draw odd objects correctly.

Back when the Pocket Cartoon Course was first published, that meant an artist had to spend much of his time scouring magazines and newspapers to find pictures of buildings and devices he might be asked to draw.

In the internet age, all that work with scissors and filing cabinets isn’t needed. Just go to your favorite web search engine and type in the name of the thing you want to draw and look at all the pictures that come up.

As an artist, you will often find yourself in the precarious situation of having to draw strange and exotic scenes. The final tip is one you’ve heard more than once: Practice. Once you find the image you want to copy, try drawing it a few times before you make your final drawing of it.

Get a feel for the object. Try to translate it into ink a few times in a few different  ways and then pick out your best effort for your final product.

To see how a digital artist uses a photo reference, watch this video:

Read More

PCC 11: All about animals

Animals are a key aspect of any cartoonist’s skill set.

They need to be able to draw recognizable versions of everyday animals and “anthropomorphic” versions of them as well.  (Pronounced that big word “An-Throw-Poe-More-Fik”)

What does “anthropomorphic” mean? It’s simply an artist’s effort to humanize an animal. You can see just that in the Lesson-17 image, where the artist presents an elephant and a donkey wearing human-like clothes and standing in human-like postures.

The elephant and donkey are particularly useful since they represent the two main political parties in the United States. Politics aside, its fun “converting” animals into human-like beings for use in your cartoons.

Just look at any famous cartoon — Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Yogi Bear or any other modern cartoon — and you will see an anthropmorphed animal.

Drawing a “regular looking” animal is just as important. You’ll need them when you have your regular cartoon humans interact with them as part of a comic story.


The best animals to practice drawing are:

A little dog. These look a little different than your regular dog. Their legs are shorter. Their heads are bigger.

A regular dog. These dogs can vary in facial appearance but after that they have the same basic shape.

A basic cat. Once you get a housecat down, you can typically draw other types of felines as well, such as a lion or a tiger.

A basic  rodent. Just like the cat, if you’re able to draw a mouse, a rat or even woodchuck, you can pretty much draw any rodent as well as rodent-like creatures such as raccoons, ferrets or possums.

A basic bird. Except for penguins, most birds have the same body structure. Draw sitting birds and flying birds. Once you get the wings and feet down, the rest is easy.

A basic lizard. Lizards often have bullet-shaped heads and once you get that under your belt, you’ll have no trouble with snakes and alligators too.

A horse. These animals are among the toughest animals to draw because if you don’t get them exactly right, they end up not looking like a horse. It takes a long time to master drawing a horse.


Since you’re working at being a cartoonist, not a nature illustrator, you don’t need to make your drawings look 100 percent realistic. Instead, you just need to figure out the basics of what makes that animal recognizeable.

    • Cats have pointy ears and a tail that shows their emotion.
    • Pigs have round noses, fat bellies and a the curly tail.
    • Dogs have floppy ears and always seem to smile.
    • Cows have a blank look on their face, horns and a bell around their neck.
    • Lizards and snakes have a permanent “evil” look.

Understanding these “basics” help you speed through your drawings and help your readers know what you’ve drawn in a moments notice.


The other great thing about cartooning is that you get to play around with all these rules. A cow who plays like a dog would be funny.

Or how about a duck who has a flag on his tale?

In fact, just such an idea was explored in the video below. It was created by Chuck Jones, one of the great cartoon creators of the 20th century.

Read more about Chuck Jones here.



Read More

PCC 10: The Letter of the Toon

In Lesson-16, the Pocket Cartoon Course points out the importance of penmanship. Who would have guessed that good handwriting is important in cartoons?

Most comics and comic strips these days are “lettered” by using a computer. The artist simply scans in his drawing and uses programs like Photoshop, Illustrator or Inkscape to produce the dialogue balloons and the letters and words inside those balloons.

But for a kid, the old-fashioned way is the easiest because you don’t have to learn a complicated computer program.

Here are some tips on how to do hand lettering.

– CAPITAL LETTERS: Write all of your comic strip’s text in capital letters. They’re easier to read when you reproduce the strip on a photocopier and you don’t need to worry about leaving space for “descenders,” which are the letters such as “j” and “g” that have parts that dangle under the rest of your letters.

– USE A RULER: With a ruler, draw a set of very light lines an equal distance apart. Then write your letters in between them and so the bottoms of the letters always touch the line.

– USE A PENCIL: Always lightly write out your letters in pencil first and then go over them when you’re sure everything is spelled correctly and you didn’t drop a word.

– PROOFREAD: Get someone else to proofread your lettering. If you can’t get that help, then put it away for an hour and then read it over carefully. You’ll probably find some mistakes.

– ALL SET? When you’ve proof-read and corrected all your lettering, grab a pen or thin marker and go back over your letters so they will stand out when copied or scanned. You don’t need a fancy pen or anything. Modern photocopiers and scanners can pick up a ball-point pen’s markings.

Just in case you do know how to use Adobe Illustrator, here’s how comic-book professional uses the program to letter his comics.

Read More

PCC 9: Key figures in tooning

You’re in luck today. We’re wrapping up four lessons in one.

Why’s that? Because each of these lessons show how to draw key figures for editorial cartoons.

Editorial cartoons are used in newspapers magazines and websites to illustrate stories and to make commentary about politics, business, culture and life in general.

Unlike comic books or comic strips, editorial cartoons usually illustrate an idea instead of a story. Those ideas are often represented best by iconic characters such as:

John Q. Public – The average Joe or the typical resident of the country.

Politican – The blowhard who uses his status to make a laws that benefit him or the people he serves.

Uncle Sam – The iconic image of the United States in the form of a rough-and-tumble, no-nonsense brawler. Uncle Sam’s costume is vibrant and modeled after the American flag.

John Bull – This character isn’t seen much in America because he represents the United Kingdom in the same way Uncle Sam represents the U.S. (His lesson is below today’s video.)

Using these characters can help you sell your cartoons because they are so iconic.

Since the Pocket Cartoon Course was developed, more icons have emerged, such as a Soccer Mom, the Republican Elephant, the Democrat Donkey, Lady Justice and so on.

Keep scrolling down for the complete set of lessons and an informative video about the origin of Uncle Sam’s name.

Read More

PCC 8: Get your story straight

The Pocket Cartoon Course continues with a reminder of something that a lot of people forget about: That it should tell a story!

Lesson-10, at right, gives some ideas, but even beyond jokes about the government and holidays, just consider what strange things happen in your life and the life of your friends, family and pets.

In the “Belvedere” cartoon seen here on the Junior Dispatch, we learn a lot about that little dog even though he doesn’t speak.

What can you learn from your animals? What is their personality? What sort of adventures do they go on when you’re not watching them?

The same questions can be applied to any character you create for any story — whether or not it’s a cartoon.

Here’s a simple way to brainstorm your cartoons:

  1. Select a character.
  2. Select an odd situation.
  3. Ask yourself what that character does to change that situation. What is the resolution of the problem?

That sounds vague, but go ahead try it.

Here’s an example:

  • The character: A cat.
  • The situation: The cat has somehow got lost in the desert.
  • The resolution:  The cat looks around, sees a camel, climbs up on it and falls asleep.

Now it’s your turn! We’re sure you can make an even funnier scenario.


Read More

PCC 7: Draw a variety of people

In Lessons 8 and 9 of the Pocket Cartoon Course, you learn a little more on how to draw people. What it’s really telling you is that there are many different types  of people to draw, and how to make them all look unique.

Sure, stick figures are perfectly fine, but when you have three stick figures talking to one another, it’s hard to tell them apart.

So what do you do to make your characters look different from one another?

Hair – Change the color and style. Add bows and clips to female characters.

Clothes – The way you draw them can tell a lot about a character. Someone in a work uniform gives off a different vibe than someone with an untucked shirt.

Colors – A lot of cartoon shows on TV assign specific colors to specific characters. That’s why Shaggy, one of the characters on Scooby-Doo, always wears green — it helps people instantly recognize him.

Age – Draw the faces of young people with as few lines on their faces as possible. Older people get more lines.

Accessories – Beyond clothes, some people always carry specific things. A cook might have a spatula. A sports star is always carrying a football. An old man has a cane.

While hats aren’t as prevalent today as they were when the Pocket Cartoon Course was first published in the 1940s, they can still offer important clues about your character.

Even today, hats, caps and helmets assign “roles” to your character.

Baseball cap – Suggests youth.

Wool cap – Suggests winter or cold climates.

Cowboy hat – A person who loves country music.

Army helmet – A member of a military force.

Helmet with painted designs – A motorcycle rider or stuntman.

Woman’s hat with flowers – Suggests “proper” behavior.

Top hat – A person going to a formal party.

Military cap with black brim – A police officer, a ship’s captain or someone in military dress.

All these clues help make your characters recognizable, and let your cartoon’s readers instantly understand them.

In fact, way back in 1956, the Bugs Bunny cartoon “Bugs’ Bonnets” explored the idea of how clothing, hats and accessories made people behave differently. Check it out:


Read More

PCC 6: Do your duty and doodle

This edition of the Pocket Cartoon Course teaches something that many young artists forget: You need to practice drawing lots of things and you need to practice everyday.

But how do you find the time? You’ve got school, homework, sports and chores to do. And let’s not forget time on the computer, talking to friends or watching TV.

Where do you fit in time to draw besides art class?

MULTI-TASK – Try sketching while watching TV or talking on the phone. For one thing, you’ll see that a lot of TV doesn’t really require you to watch it the whole time. And while it’s difficult to text someone and draw at the same time, talking on the phone and doodling isn’t so tough.

WHILE YOU WAIT – Always keep a drawing pad and pencils in your backpack. When you’re stuck waiting somewhere — for practice to begin, for Mom to pick you up or for class to start — just open up your pad and begin sketching.

ON THE WAY THERE – Since you probably can’t drive yet, learn to doodle while you’re being shuttled around. Sure, a few bumps on the road might create some stray marks here or there, but you’ll learn excellent control.

ON THE COMPUTER – A lot of artists now draw exclusively with the computer. Instead of spending time on other sites, download one of the many free painting, drawing or photo manipulation programs, learn it and start doodling with your mouse.

Most of all remember, doodling anything is good practice for learning to draw. If you just use a page to make star shapes, that’s fine. If your doodles lead you to creating a martian zapping a tiger dressed as a butler, that’s great too.

With that in mind, check out this great video:

Read More

PCC 5: A matter of hands and feet

Without a doubt, hands and feet are the hardest part of a person to draw. For hands, it’s difficult to get the fingers looking just right, and not like a line of sausages. When drawing feet, it’s often a struggle to put them in the right position and to keep them from looking clownish.

One way to avoid them both is to simply not draw them. If you are creating a comic strip, then you can simply always frame your comic so feet and hands can’t be seen.

But you know what? That’s the easy way out, and after a while you’ll realize you really do need to draw them to tell your story or explain your joke.

So let’s just focus on making your comic better, rather than hiding things. Some tips:

The Palm – Draw your character’s palm at the end of his arm in the form of a square. This will help you “map out” where the fingers go. Four fingers come out one side and then the thumb comes out from the side “around the corner.” The first hand drawing in Lesson-5 shows the square.

Four Fingers – A lot of cartoonists draw only three fingers on their characters. This is an acceptable shortcut.
Knuckles – Sometimes it helps to draw fingers a “knucklebone” at a time. This helps you determine where the finger should bend.

Shoes – Believe it or not, it’s easier to draw a shoe than a foot. For modern characters, it’s even easier since new shoes have so many seams on them. Just draw a foot shape (a potato that’s flat on the bottom) and then sketch in some seams. It’s actually quite easy.

Placement – Getting feet in “just the right spot” takes some practice. Just remember that your character’s feet will point the way he’s going.

Near and far – Feet are also often “foreshortened” which means part of the foot looks bigger because it’s closer to you. If you draw foreshortened feet or hands, then the foot or arm needs to show foreshortening as well. This is a difficult skill to master.

Toes – Toes are the easiest of all! The big toe is, of course, the biggest, and they all get smaller after that. Just draw a set of circles right in front of the foot and “connector” lines to the foot.

Finger and toenails – Adding finger and toenails to your drawings is a nice added detail. They are just a simple “clamshell” shape added to the tips. For women with fancy nails, just draw ovals that extend past the fingertips.

Wrinkles – Another way to add a tiny bit of details to fingers and toes is to draw wrinkles on the knuckles. These wrinkles develop because your skin flexes over the knuckles, and that’s the key to drawing them. Anywhere a finger or toe bends, just add a line or two for a flexing wrinkle.

Finally, remember that the feet and hands are among the hardest things to draw. It will take you a long time to get it right, but don’t despair, just open up your local newspaper and look at the variety of ways different artists draw hands and feet. There’s lots of “right ways” to draw them.

Read More

PCC 4: It’s all in the details

Once you’ve got your character outlines and skeletons just right, it’s time to begin adding details to your characters. Here are some extra tips for you:

Male characters – Arms and legs should have a long taper to a thinner area for men at the wrists and ankles. This helps a man look beefy.  (Taper means wide at one end and thinning at another end.)

Female characters – Women tend to have a much more gentle taper to their arms and legs.

Necks – Make sure your character’s head isn’t too far away from his body or else he will have a giraffe look to him. Place the head about a “hand’s width”  from his shoulders.

Wrinkles – These are actually easy to simulate. Just draw a few lines wherever the body bends — elbows, knees, hips and crotch are the most apparent wrinkles in most clothes

Patterns – Drawing a pattern on shirt can be tricky because that means you may have to draw it again and again over several panels. Keep it simple, such as dots, as show in the illustration.

Clothes – Remember people wear all sorts of different clothes. Try using a variety of things, such as dresses, skirts, ties, jackets, vests, shorts, overalls, tank tops, gloves, hats, t-shirts, dress shirts, jeans, dress pants and so on.

To get an idea of what sort of clothes you can put on your characters, check out this video on fashion history. Pause the video and copy what’s interesting to you.

In this video, look at the Peanuts characters. They are all essentially drawn the same way and only have minor changes to their clothes and hairstyles. Just a few lines can make a different character.


Read More

PCC 3: Enter the eggman

Yesterday, we showed you the basics of making as face. Today, we look at the body structure of a human. The drawings at right might look a little silly — a man with an egg for a body — but creating these “action poses” are an important lesson to learn.

Essentially, these figures are a series of “cartoon skeletons” that you will “dress up” as you continue developing your cartooning skill.

But right now, getting the skeleton down right should be your No. 1 goal. Once you get the feel for how a cartoon skeleton is built — and how it moves — your drawings will improve immensely.

Some things to notice in these basic drawings:

Hands – Instead of drawing fingers, hands and thumbs, the artist just draws a mitten-type design on eggman. That’s more than enough to suggest fingers.

Knees and elbows – Notice that the eggman’s arms and legs bend just about halfway down the arm. That’s where yours should as well. This will help your eggman look more human and less like he broke a leg.

Posture – Notice that eggman’s egg body tilts this way and that, which helps show his emotion. Try to alter your eggman’s torso in tiny ways to show his mood. Can you make him proud, sad or jumping for joy?

Simple – You’re tempted to add lots of details to your eggman. Don’t! Just fill up a few pages with dozens of eggmans you want to practice showing “action” in your figures. We’ll get to detailing in a future lesson!

Here’s a video on drawing your character outline:

Read More

PCC 2: Face it, you wanna draw

Drawing a good face is absolutely vital to making your cartoon shine. Here, the Pocket Cartoon Course gives you the basics of drawing a variety of expressions on your first cartoon character.

Today, we’ll combine lessons 1 and 2 since they both focus on the face. The first on the straight-on view, the second on the side view.

These are great tips, and now we’ll offer you a few more.

SHAPES: An oval isn’t the only type of head you can draw. Try drawing all sorts of head shapes and then adding the typical eyes, nose, ears and mouth. What sort of shapes are we talking about? We say go crazy: circles, squares, triangles, rectangles, banana-shapes, pear-shapes, peanut shapes. They all work, especially for animals.

EYES: Cartoonists draw eyes in a ton of different ways. Some do “button eyes” like the ones at left. Others use big wide disks with pupils in the middle. Check out the different ways they are drawn in your local newspaper for some more ideas.

LINES: Drawing lines around a characters mouth, forehead and eyes tend to make them look older. The fewer lines there are, the younger they look.

EARS: A real ear is tough to draw. It has all sorts of swirls and folds. Cartoon ears are much easier. Just draw a circle and put a sideways “y” toward the top of it. Easy as can be!

HAIR: You never need to draw every strand of hair on a person’s head. Just draw a few for people to get the idea and then outline the general shape of their ‘do.

NOSES: You can draw noses in a bazillion different ways. They can look like a button, a “C” or even an upside-down “7″ on men. Remember, female characters and children usually get much smaller and less-detailed noses.

EMOTION: Happy, sad, angry, laughing, surprised, proud. Those are all the types of emotions you will need to convey in your drawings. Look at your newspaper’s comics and try to figure out what emotion each character is conveying without reading the words. Soon you will see the secrets of portraying those emotions in your own characters!

PRACTICE: You should work at drawing all the time you can. Just grab a piece of paper whenever you’re bored and start filling it with a crowd of people. Mastering the human face, even in cartoons, is truly important.

You’ll notice that none of the characters shown in the Pocket Cartoon Course are girls. That’s because girls have special rules to make sure they look feminine and beautiful.

With that in mind, we suggest you take a look at the video below and follow through with the entire series of videos about drawing girls.

By the time you’re done with it, you will have some wonderful female characters!



Read More

PCC 1: Time to get cartooning

Over at the amazing Barnacle Press website, the Junior Dispatch staff uncovered the Pocket Cartoon Course guide, a packet that was mailed to kids by the Snak-Pak Co. decades ago as a premium for buying whatever products Snack-Pack sold.
The tiny book offers tips to youngsters on how to draw cartoons for fun and, if you’re really, really lucky, profit as well.
First up, the Pocket Cartoon Course goes over what you need to draw cartoons.

  • Paper – It can be lined notebook paper, fresh paper out of a photocopier or a fancy artpad. Just get some paper and draw away! Here at Junior Dispatch HQ, we love drawing on old business cards. You can see some of those drawing samples below.
  • Pen/pencil/crayon or any other writing tool – If you’re just beginning to learn how to draw, a pencil with an eraser is the best thing to get. But even if you don’t have that, a pen, crayon or even a paintbrush will work just fine.

We’ll just add a few things to PCC’s suggestions:

  • Eraser – Yep, most pencils have an eraser attached, but we usually get a handheld eraser too. The best we’ve found isn’t the pink rubber eraser, but the one we like most are the “White vinyl” erasers available at most art stores.
  • Computer with a scanner – Computers have become invaluable to modern society. The same goes for cartoonists too. A computer with a scanner lets you scan your drawings, do all your erasing and touch-ups digitally, and then send them to your friends. If you don’t have a computer, that’s OK of course. You can still make plenty of awesome drawings without one.
  • Markers and pens – Professional artists will use markers and pens to trace over their pencil drawings and make them publishing worthy. If you’re just starting out you don’t need these. However if you understand that the pros use these after they’re done drawing, you will understand why yours look different from theirs.

That’s it for today’s Pocket Cartoon Course. Check in tomorrow for more and tomorrow will be a lot more informative — we promise!

And now, as promised, some of our business-card drawings:

Read More