Effective Ways to Improve Your Cartoon Storytelling Skills
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 8 min read


  1. Study the Art of Storytelling
  2. Practice Drawing Skills
  3. Learn from Established Cartoonists
  4. Develop Your Unique Style
  5. Create Engaging Characters
  6. Plan Your Story
  7. Use Visual Elements to Enhance Your Story

Everyone loves a good cartoon! The vibrant colors, the exaggerated expressions, the whimsical worlds, they all come together to tell a captivating story. But have you ever wondered how to improve storytelling in a cartoon? You're in the right place! This guide will share some effective ways to enhance your cartoon storytelling skills, whether you're a seasoned cartoonist or just starting out.

Study the Art of Storytelling

First and foremost, to improve storytelling in cartoons, you need to understand the basics of storytelling itself. Just like a book or a movie, a cartoon tells a story, and the better you are at crafting that story, the more engaging your cartoon will be. So how do you go about studying storytelling? Here are some tips:

  • Read Widely: From classic novels to modern graphic novels, soak in as many stories as you can. Notice how the plot unfolds, how the characters evolve, and how the story keeps you hooked. This will give you a sense of what makes a story engaging and how to replicate it in your cartoons.
  • Watch Cartoons: This might sound like a no-brainer, but watching cartoons—especially with a critical eye—will help you appreciate the art of storytelling in a visual format. Pay attention to how the story is delivered through visual cues and how the pace of the story affects its impact.
  • Take a Course: There are many online platforms like Coursera, Udemy, and Khan Academy that offer courses in storytelling. These can provide a structured approach to learning the nuances of storytelling.
  • Analyze Stories: Break down the stories you read or watch. Identify the main elements: the characters, the setting, the plot, the conflict, and the resolution. This will give you a clear picture of how a story is structured, and you can use this as a blueprint for your own stories.
  • Write Stories: Practice makes perfect. Start by writing short stories and gradually move on to longer ones. This will not only help you understand storytelling better but also improve your ability to weave engaging stories.

Remember, the best storytellers are also the best students of storytelling. So, as you work on how to improve storytelling in cartoons, make studying the art of storytelling a priority.

Practice Drawing Skills

When it comes to cartoon storytelling, your drawing skills are your best friend. Even the most engaging story can fall flat if the visuals aren't up to par. So, how do you improve your drawing skills for better cartoon storytelling? Here are some tips:

  • Sketch Every Day: If you want to improve your drawing skills, sketching every day is a must. It doesn't have to be a detailed masterpiece, even a quick doodle on the corner of your notebook can help. The idea is to get your hands moving and get comfortable with your drawing tools.
  • Study Anatomy: Understanding the basics of human and animal anatomy can significantly improve your drawing skills. It will help you create more realistic and expressive characters, which will make your cartoons more engaging.
  • Experiment with Different Styles: Try your hand at different drawing styles. From simple stick figures to intricate anime-style drawings, experimenting with different styles can help you find your unique voice as a cartoonist.
  • Use References: Don't hesitate to use reference images when you're drawing. It can be anything from a photograph to another cartoon. Using references can help you understand how to draw different things, from complex poses to unique expressions.
  • Take Drawing Classes: Consider enrolling in a drawing class. It can be a traditional class at a local art school or an online course. A structured learning environment can provide you with valuable feedback and help you improve faster.

Remember, good drawing skills can take your cartoon storytelling to the next level. So roll up your sleeves, grab your sketchbook, and let's get drawing!

Learn from Established Cartoonists

As the old saying goes, "Learning by example is the best way to learn." This holds true even when you're trying to improve your cartoon storytelling skills. So, how can you learn from established cartoonists?

  • Read Lots of Cartoons: A simple yet effective way to learn is by immersing yourself in the world of cartoons. Read as many cartoons as you can, from newspaper strips to graphic novels. Pay close attention to how the story unfolds, how the characters are developed, and how the humor and drama are balanced.
  • Analyze Their Work: Don't just read cartoons, analyze them. Try to understand why a particular scene works or why a joke made you laugh. This will help you understand the mechanics of cartoon storytelling.
  • Learn About Their Journey: Many established cartoonists share their journey and experiences through interviews, podcasts, and books. These can provide valuable insights into the process and challenges of cartoon storytelling.
  • Try to Emulate: Once you've gained an understanding of how successful cartoonists work, try to emulate their style. This doesn't mean you should copy their work, but rather learn from their techniques and adapt them to your own style.

Remember, every cartoonist has their own unique style and storytelling technique. By learning from a variety of cartoonists, you can expand your own storytelling toolkit and find your unique voice.

Develop Your Unique Style

While learning from others is a great starting point, it's also important to develop a style that's uniquely yours. It's not just about how to improve storytelling in cartoons, but how to do it in a way that reflects you. So, how can you develop your unique style?

  • Experiment: Try out different drawing styles, storytelling techniques, and character designs. Some may work, some may not, but all will contribute to finding your unique style.
  • Go Beyond the Norm: Don't be afraid to go beyond the typical cartoon style. Maybe your cartoons are more realistic, or maybe they're more abstract. Maybe your stories are more dramatic, or maybe they're more comedic. The point is to be true to your vision and not feel confined by what's considered "normal" in the cartoon world.
  • Express Yourself: Your unique style is a reflection of you. So, let your personality, experiences, and views shine through in your work. This will not only make your cartoons more authentic but also more relatable to your audience.
  • Be Consistent: Consistency goes a long way in establishing a unique style. This doesn't mean you can't evolve or change, but having a consistent look and feel can make your work instantly recognizable.

Developing a unique style doesn't happen overnight. It takes time, practice, and a lot of trial and error. But once you find it, your unique style can become your signature, setting your cartoons apart from the rest.

Create Engaging Characters

One surefire way to improve storytelling in cartoons is to create engaging characters. But how do you go about doing that? Here are some helpful pointers:

  • Give Them a Personality: Your characters need to be more than just drawings. They should have a personality that makes them feel real and relatable. Are they shy or outgoing? Are they serious or funny? Do they have quirks or habits? These details can make your characters feel alive and engaging.
  • Give Them a Background: Every character has a story. Where do they come from? What experiences have shaped them? What are their dreams, hopes, and fears? This background information can help you understand your characters better and make them more complex and interesting.
  • Give Them a Purpose: What role does each character play in your story? Are they the hero, the villain, the sidekick, the wise old sage? By giving your characters a clear purpose, you can make them more meaningful and integral to your story.
  • Make Them Grow: Characters who stay the same throughout the story can become boring. By letting your characters change and grow, you can make your story more dynamic and engaging. This could be as simple as a character learning a lesson or as complex as a character undergoing a major transformation.

Remember, your characters are the heart of your story. By spending time to create engaging characters, you can draw your audience in and make them care about what happens in your story. And that's a key part of how to improve storytelling in cartoons!

Plan Your Story

Now that you've got your characters, let's focus on another significant aspect of how to improve storytelling in cartoons: planning your story. Unlike what most people think, a compelling cartoon story doesn't just happen — it's planned. Here's how you can do that:

  • Start with the Basics: Before you dive into the details, you need to figure out the basics. What's your story about? What's the beginning, middle, and end? Who are the main characters? Answering these questions can give you a solid foundation to build your story on.
  • Create a Storyboard: A storyboard is a visual representation of your story. It can help you visualize your story, plan out your scenes, and see how your story flows from beginning to end. Plus, it can be a helpful tool when you start drawing your cartoon.
  • Think about the Pacing: Pacing is how fast or slow your story moves. If your story moves too fast, your audience might get confused. If it moves too slow, they might get bored. By planning your pacing, you can make sure your story stays interesting and engaging throughout.
  • Plan for Conflict and Resolution: Conflict is what drives a story. It's what your characters have to overcome to achieve their goals. Planning for conflict and its resolution can make your story more exciting and satisfying to your audience.

Planning your story might seem like a lot of work, but it's worth it. A well-planned story can be more engaging, more coherent, and more enjoyable to your audience. And that's another powerful way to improve storytelling in cartoons!

Use Visual Elements to Enhance Your Story

Cartoons, unlike written stories, have a distinct advantage — they can use visual elements to enhance their storytelling. It's not just about what the characters are saying or doing, but also how the visuals can support and enrich the narrative. Let's look at how to do this effectively:

  • Play with Colors: Colors are not just for making your cartoons look good. They can also convey emotions, set the mood, and highlight important elements in your story. For instance, darker colors can create a sense of tension or danger, while bright colors can depict happiness or excitement.
  • Use Expressive Character Design: Your characters don't have to look realistic, but they should be expressive. Their facial expressions, body language, and even their outfits can reveal a lot about their personalities and emotions. This can make your characters more relatable and your story more engaging.
  • Experiment with Panel Layout: The way you arrange your panels can affect the pacing and tone of your story. For instance, smaller panels can convey quick actions or dialogues, while larger panels can slow down the pace and draw attention to significant moments.
  • Include Background Details: Backgrounds are not just for filling up empty spaces. They can provide context, create depth, and add visual interest. Including little details in the background can also make your cartoon world feel more alive and immersive.

Visual storytelling is a powerful tool in cartooning. By using visual elements effectively, you can enhance your narrative and create a rich, engaging experience for your audience. And that's another way to improve storytelling in cartoons!

If you're eager to further develop your cartoon storytelling skills, don't miss the workshop 'Storytelling In Illustration' by Mirelle Ortega. This workshop will provide you with in-depth techniques and insights on how to create captivating stories through your illustrations, enhancing your storytelling abilities in the world of cartoons.