How to create cartoons/comics even if you can't draw

Example

Registration & Home Page

Not a Cartoonist? Think again

Do you have a slew of great punchlines welling up inside you but can't draw? Do you have statements you want to make but need a "sock puppet" to say them for you? Do you like messing around on the internet? Did you have fun playing with Mr. Potato head toy when you were a kid? Then Toonlet.com may be for you. Before we go any further I need to state for the record that I do not have any interest in toonlet.com, other than being slightly acquainted with the company's owner, and being a satisfied member. Zero drawing ability didn't stop XKCD.com or abstruse goose.com from publishing their own cartoons but their cartoons tend to be highly abstract. Besides, they still have to keep track of all their toons.  Toonlet does that for you. 

Toonlet is free to join

Step 1 is to go over to toonlet.com and join. All you need is an email address, a moniker, and a password. The join screen is pictured to the right. (My toonlet moniker is tixrus, in case you're interested. ) You might have to wait a few minutes for a confirmation email, then you can login. What you see is the home page, pictured right. At the top is the navigation/tools, with a selection below. Then you will default to the top strip of the day, with a selection of other top strips down below.




REPLY

Look around before you dive in

Toonlet.com is a social network of sorts where you can follow people and be followed by them. You can also make comments on their strips, but your comment must be in the form of a cartoon. Lets go over to my home page on toonlet, (that would be toonlet.com/creator/tixrus but I wouldn't want to be "overly promotional" and actually give you the clickable link to it!!) You can practice learning how to use toonlet by making a comment on one of my strips. I think t's easier to respond to someone else's idea than to create one of your own. You must be a logged in member to comment or create strips. Hope you took care of that on the last panel.

As you see, the latest strip is the first thing on the page, and under that are some buttons.  Before you start your reply, how about clicking the orange subscribe button?    It will put my toon feed into your reader so you will know when I make a new one.   Thanks.  Appreciate it.  OK now on with the reply.   Click the reply button and you will get a toonlet window as shown. You may link your reply back to your hub pages profile and title it if you wish. Choose a background color for the first frame, whatever you want. Let's say you want a character to say "Great strip tixrus!" Click the big question mark and it will open your toonlet character library. But wait, you say, I'm a brand noob. I don't have a character library. Where did those guys come from? Well, toonlet thoughtfully gives you a few new random characters each time you log in, because it is a little time consuming to make your own. To make things easy, choose one of your preset ones for now. Yours will be different than the ones I show because they are kind of random. Toonlet gives you a few different default moods for each character so you can be more expressive. Choose the mood that best expresses what you want to say. Poof, that character with that mood, now appears in the frame. Now type into the bubble whatever you want him/her to say. Repeat for each frame you want to make. No doubt you are noticing that Toonlet has a one character per frame limit and that everything is from the waist up. This sort of limits physical humor and visual interaction and steers the humor toward the verbal. If you need more frames you can click the add panels button and you will get more. When you are done, click make reply and you will see the finished reply as shown. You can delete it or edit it if you don't like it.

Sharing Toonlets

Making your own toonlet is exactly the same as making a reply. The difference is that it will be published on your toonlet profile instead of attached to someone else's strip. Oh, yeah, and you have to come up with material. I can't help you with that.

Once you've made a few toons, what can you do with them? If your toon is just so knee-slapping awesome that you have to wear it or use it, you can put it on a shirt, a mug, a poster, or a mousepad. Contrary to the initial illustration, they do render in full color (bad marketing mistake by toonlet.) You can email links to toons to your friends. You can also embed them, and there are several ways to do it. If you always want to display your latest strip choose the first option. If you want to display the current strip with toonlet's javascript you choose the second option. If you want toonlet to barf up a static image file for you, choose the third option. There is also a specialized MySpace option but MySpace is soooooo 2006. The difference between the javascript option and the static image option is that with the former, it will reflect edits you make to the strip later. The static image is just a snapshot.... but you can resize the toon to fit your blog or hub or whatever. If you really want to get fancy with it you can download the graphic and slice/dice it however you want.

Note:  You can only embed your own toons. 

Advanced: Custom Characters and Moods

You don't have to use the characters and moods that Toonlet gives you.  You can make your own.  It's a bit time consuming, but it's a must if you really want to establish a  signature style on Toonlet.    To use custom, start a new toon, but instead of choosing an existing character, click the new character button under it.  You will get the character editor window shown, and it will be pre-populated with a random new character.  Now it becomes clear that this application is a descendent of Mr. Potato Head.  A menu on the left has items such as eyes, head, torso, etc.  A number of options show for the selected item.  Let's assume you have torso selected. You see a raft of different torso options and the red circle with a slash that indicates none.  In addition to the selections you see on the screen there are other torso libraries by other artists.  If none of the ones you see please you, select a different pack.  You can mix and match items from different packs as much as you please.   When you see a torso you like click it and it will replace whatever one is currently on your canvas.  To make the various parts fit together nicely, Toonlet gives you tools to drag, scale, and rotate them.   Once you get a character you like, give him or her a name and save him/her as normal.  Now you can make minor changes (such as change to squinty eyes or add a hand gesture) and save under the same name but a different mood... for example CalendarGeek mad, CalendarGeek normal, CalendarGeek disgusted, CalendarGeek sad, etc.   The facial expressions is what really makes your toonlets sparkle. 

If you are good at drawing, talk to Toonlet about producing a pack for them--if I were a budding cartoonist who wanted to get my name out there I would certainly think seriously about it.   

Enjoy your new career as a cartoonist!  I think Toonlet is a very fun site to play with and they have worked very hard at it.  They haven't quite worked out the revenue model yet, as I doubt they make very much money selling custom swag on zazzle.  Right now it is utterly and completely free.  Please help keep sites like Toonlet going by using them and embedding your toons in other web apps.  

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Comments 15 comments

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

Hot Dorkage, thanks for bringing my attention to this site. I'll see if I can't get my daughter interested in it. She loves to play with the character creating features of our Wii.

You wouldn't happen to also have some tips on how to create cool animations? I have something called Anime Studio, but it's so hard to learn to use!


hot dorkage profile image

hot dorkage 7 years ago from Oregon, USA Author

Animations are just a genuine pain in the ass IMHO.  They're cool but to do anything anyone would want to look at requires an eye for detail and the patience of a saint.  Not my cuppa tea.

P.S. Aya Katz, some toonlets are pretty racy, kinky, or just plain weird. I'm not sure I'd want to give a 10 year old free run of it.  


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 7 years ago from St. Louis

Thanks Hot Dorkage! I had no idea this site existed. I can draw cartoons, but I've been playing with creating my own characters on the computer. Don't know if just the one character thing will work for me...well...maybe for some things and it sure does look like fun to play with! I will check it out! Thanks!


hot dorkage profile image

hot dorkage 7 years ago from Oregon, USA Author

Indeed. Craig (the owner) told me having multiple characters per frame is the #1 most requested feature. It is a bit limiting. I hope to see legs too eventually because a lot of my ideas require action and they really don't work in toonlet. But for verbal humor it's pretty nice, and if you browse the site it's fun to see the imaginitave ways people have pushed the existing limits.


pricelessway profile image

pricelessway 7 years ago from United Kingdom

Hot dorkage: this is very useful info. I have actually been looking for a site like this . in spite of the limitations, I think toonlet is a good starting point. Thanks for the hub.


hot dorkage profile image

hot dorkage 7 years ago from Oregon, USA Author

Glad you enjoyed it. Will you call yourself pricelessway on toonlet as well so I can see what you come up with? I'll be looking for that.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 7 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

This is great info, HD. I don't think it will work for me right now, but I'm going to keep my eye on the site to see what developments happen in the future.

Thanks for an extremely well written read about a very cool site.


KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 7 years ago from Central Texas

Great hub! My son would have loved this. Before he died he had created several characters and had plans to create several different comic strips. I remember his 5th grade teacher complaining about his cartoons. I asked her if he was doing them at inappropriate times (in class, being disruptive?) she said 'no'. I asked her what the problem was. She didn't like the characters he was creating! I told her she better not squelch his creativity! She retired that year, thank goodness!

I may have to play around with this myself!


hot dorkage profile image

hot dorkage 7 years ago from Oregon, USA Author

KCC I am so sorry to hear about your son dying. Whether your son was a child or not, all people are meant to outlive their parents and it's awful for the parents if this order is broken. Maybe you can fool around with toonlet and create something similar to the characters your son was working on in memory of him.


KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 7 years ago from Central Texas

It has crossed my mind to take his characters and bring them to life in his honor...and I may do that some day. Drawing 'runs in our family'....LOL My dad taught me and I taught both my children.

Toonlet looks fun.


gwendymom profile image

gwendymom 7 years ago from Oklahoma

I going to check this out right now, how fun!


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 7 years ago from Australia

hot dorkage, this sure looks like a fun thing to do and I am going to "play" with it for sure.


JPSO138 profile image

JPSO138 7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines, International

I am not really good at drawing. This would certainly be helpful.


hot dorkage profile image

hot dorkage 7 years ago from Oregon, USA Author

I had fun producing an ebook of cartoons and I am hard at work on the next edition. http://dorkage.net


Paul Peterson profile image

Paul Peterson 6 years ago

Thanks. I guess now I will be able to draw cartoons better!

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