Cartoonists convey humorous insights into people, events or incidents on behalf of newspapers, magazines or companies. They prepare satirical or humorous cartoons for publication in most visual media. Different media require different skills and most cartoonists create characters and prepare models and sketches of them.

Cartoonists may write their own scripts or illustrate the scripts of others. They need art experience and some knowledge of writing techniques. Most cartoonists also have to keep up-to-date with politics, economics and social conditions.

Political cartoonists need to keep up-to-date with current affairs, politics and economics. Television cartoonists should be very versatile and able to draw anything from comic flash cards to animated cartoons. Cartoonists specialising in advertising must be familiar with selling and advertising techniques and trends as well as with art techniques.

Cartoonists need to be diligent readers of the different media, and listen as much as possible to the radio. They often sketch on their own initiative, but are also often requested to sketch cartoons of certain public personalities and events. Such requests usually come from news, art and other editors of daily newspapers or magazines.

Areas of specialisation include:

  • advertising
  • television
  • comics
  • editorials or politics
  • book illustration
  • animation and caricatures

Work settings vary widely. Cartoonists may work in spacious, well-equipped studios or in small rooms at home. They may work alone or in a workspace with others. The work can be stressful due to deadlines that have to be met.

Most cartoonists start out as assistants to professional cartoonists. Some start as comic book illustrators. With talent, ability and experience, cartoonists may advance to having their own cartoons published, or having their own animated television specials. There is a great demand for cartoonists because of the ever-increasing use of cartoon techniques in industries, educational institutions and associations. This is a highly competitive vocation in which only the most talented, ambitious and experienced cartoonists succeed. This work is not seasonal nor is it limited to a particular location, but competition is strong.

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

  • National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course
  • National Senior Certificate meeting diploma requirements for a diploma course

Each institution has its own entry requirements.

What to Study

Degree: BA (Fine Arts) – most universities, RU, UJ, US, UFS, NMMU, Wits, UCT, UP, UFH, NWU, WSU.

Diploma: N.Dip. Fine Art or Graphic Design – DUT, VUT, UJ, CUT, TUT.

Certificate: at most TVET (Technical Vocational Education and Training) Colleges.

Ideally the diploma or degree course undertaken will have subjects such as: Design, Photography, Layout, Painting (Art), History of Art, Anatomy and Perspective. Additional education in writing, advertising and selling techniques and economics, historical and political sciences would be helpful to those interested in certain specialities. Cartoonists usually assemble a portfolio to display their work. A good portfolio is essential for obtaining employment and freelance assignments, as well as for job changes.


  • advertising agencies
  • public relations firms
  • newspapers and magazines
  • television and motion picture studios
  • publishers
  • motion picture studios
  • self-employment, freelance work

Further Information

National Arts Council
P O Box 500
Gauteng, 2113
Tel: (011) 838-1383 Fax: (011) 838-6363

Getting Started

  • take art courses and submit your cartoons to the school, the community or the local newspapers
  • try to obtain vacation or part-time work with a newspaper or a department store
  • start preparing a portfolio of your work