Finding Cartoon Ideas and More

Finding cartoon ideas and more topics to integrate with your ideas can have you scratching around aimlessly unless you have a definite plan or method.

I have tried several ways to generate ‘new’ cartoon ideas and they all seem to work to varying degrees of success.  Here are my top methods which I use regularly to find new ideas or a twist on an existing idea:

Search Engine Images to view related cartoons

Possibly the laziest but the easiest way to find an idea.  If you know what the topic is and the angle you want to approach its easy to see what other cartoonists have done before.

As an example, you need to come up with an article on fishing – specifically the ‘one that got away’  and need some inspiration.  I fed ‘the one that got away cartoon’ into a google search and ticked the ‘images. Hundreds of cartoons appear giving you plenty of scope for ideas and twists on existing cartoons.  Here is the first selection of hundreds that came up with that search.  When I saw several that used an empty fish tank in their cartoons it gave me an avenue to explore that I hadn’t thought of and off I went to take a stroll down it!

Don’t think for one minute that you are copying.  Let’s be fair, nearly every cartoon you have ever drawn or seen has been done before in some other variation so don’t beat yourself up for thinking you are not being original!  Who cares if someone else thought of the original concept – it’s your skill and guile that makes a recycled idea into a really great new way of looking at something.

Using mind mapping to find cartoon ideas

Tony Buzan’s books on mind mapping were a great source of inspiration for me.  I adapted his method to suit my thirst for new and recycled ideas and found that mind mapping is a fabulous way to get ideas and to get your creative juices flowing.  If you haven’t heard of mind maps before they are diagrams in which the subject is represented visually, usually with the central theme placed in the middle and associated ideas arranged around it. 

As an example, you could be looking for ideas for an illustration for a cookery magazine article.  You place ‘Cooking’ in the middle (perhaps as a chefs hat) and then add images connected with cooking around this central theme.  The whole montage can help you remember the topic because the brain has greater recall of images than boring old text.

I use it in a slightly different way by placing a central theme in word format and then make a grid of random words. Here is one I used:

My mind map for cartoon creation

I pick out the central theme (Dog) than at random a word from a red box and a green circle.  You set your mind to work to find a cartoon with a situation involving all three words.  In this case, I imagined a music competition with the dog playing the trumpet.  Here is the result…


Hanging on to new cartoon ideas

You can get most of your ideas from real life.  People and places you visit will always throw up interesting and often amusing situations.  The skill is processing the idea into something new and then recording it.  Just about everyone has a mobile phone and you can either make a written note (such as with the App’ Evernote) or even use a voice recorder on the phone. 

journal to record cartoon ideas

You can even ring yourself and leave yourself a message.  I carry a journal with me everywhere plus a voice recorder.  I started doing this a long time ago after losing some great ideas in my terrible memory! I did an article on journals  that might give you for thought.

Lists of topics or situations for inspiration

This is another method I have used to great effect where I have sat down and blitzed as many random ideas as possible and listed them.  I look at the lists now and then over time and seem to get fresh ideas on every re-visit.  You can see a list I have created as an example here

Scrapbooking as an idea generator

I collect other cartoon artists original work, annuals and newspaper, and magazine clipping and file them away.  Every now and then I will drag them out and look through them.  It always gets a result or two and is a very enjoyable exercise. 

One of my favourite cartoonists is the legendary British cartoonist Carl Giles.  His annuals which started way back in 1945 are still published today even though he is sadly no longer with us.  I have most of the annuals – even a signed 1946 edition. 


His annuals contain a years worth of cartoons from the Daily and Sunday Express newspaper.  The cartoons are incredibly well drawn, highly detailed and topical and always provide inspiration both with ideas and the sheer joy of looking at his brilliant line work always cheers me up and sets me on a drawing frenzy. 

These are my main sources of inspiration when my brain refuses to come up with the goods – hope they help!