Let’s say you want a freelance cartoonist for hire to professionally design characters or draw cartoon illustrations for a new venture or business, but you’re finding it difficult to shape out your ideas on paper because you’re not a professional sketch artist. Nor are you a writer who can put words together clearly enough to explain what you want for the artwork. So how would you communicate your imagination with the cartoon illustrator you need to hire? The answer is you will need to find cartoon image resources and references to help the artist better understand your ideas and what you want to achieve visually. As an example, if you want the illustrator to draw a cartoon character in a particular style, costume, or pose, it is always helpful to collect some references or cartoon image resources that will communicate what you see in your mind’s eye. In Part 2 of the series, how to find a freelance cartoonist for hire to draw and paint pictures with style and realism, I reviewed how you could communicate the type of style and realism you want before you commission a cartoon illustrator online to create an illustration for your project. In this chapter of the guide, I will show you where to look for cartoon image resources and references, how these materials will help you avoid mistakes with the creative professional you hire, and why they are your most valuable asset to getting the results you always hoped for.
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Research your Cartoon Image Resources and References
Before you commission an illustrator or a freelance cartoonist for hire, it is important that you do sufficient research for references and cartoon image resources that will communicate your expectations before you hire the cartoonist to draw anything for you. Often a client will message me with a general vision for what they are looking for in the full illustration and character design, and while a client might be of the mindset that a broad view of their concept will leave room for creativity for the artist, it is the wrong mindset. If you have a scattered vision for your ideas, you will get scattered results from the illustrator. When expectations for concept or direction are not met, then it is the fault of everyone involved in the project, because there was a disconnect somewhere in between the communication space of information and translation. I’ve found that when cartoon image resources and references (information) are gathered, it not only helped the artist and the client, but gave both a stronger sense of direction and creative translation.
Why find cartoon image resources and references are so critical to your success
Cartoon image resources from a client will give a cartoonist and illustrator a window into what the visual expectations will be for the artwork being created. The more references you can present, the better the cartoonist can get a sense of what your visual taste will be for the illustrations because cartoon art relies heavily on the psychology of design to be successful. The design and movements in cartoons lay the groundwork what type of reality and personality your characters and world will exist within. That groundwork must be consistent throughout each character and environment within the illustration if you want to maintain or build a brand for your IP, and that is why it is critical for the cartoonist to get as much information and reference from their client as possible, so they can design a style guide of the cartoon characters and environments that will follow those style guidelines. If a business/company is not keen on gathering cartoon image resources or reference materials, they are putting the cartoonist and the project in danger. Without quality references that promote the client’s vision or expectations, you run the risk of developing a design, quality, and content that will not appropriate to their end-state goals.
Types of cartoon image resources and references
Okay, so now you see the value of great cartoon image resources and references, but what types of cartoon resources or references are available? Here is a list of potential reference materials:
Visual Cartoon Illustration Resources
These are the main sources that cartoonists would like to see from you because it will help them gain a clear understanding of the visual direction and style you want for your project. Notice most of these sources have often include visual references which will be ideal for the artist to review.
Reference Images are the #1 resource an illustrator or cartoonist will request before starting your project. A few reference images that outline the style, quality, or aesthetic you’re looking for will give the artist most of the info needed to produce an original cartoon illustration.
2. Lookbook or mood board of photos
A lookbook or mood board is a collage of images and pictures that build a mood, a look, or a setting, which can be extremely helpful for the cartoonist and illustrator. The purpose of a lookbook/mood board is to submit a collection of imagery and photographs to the artist if you want to highlight different elements of your illustration specifically. For instance, when I’m doing cartoon character design for a client, they may send me a lookbook of each clothing item, weapon, or accessory they’d like to include in their character costumes.
3. Video & Movies
Videos and movies offer a vast library of cartoon resources. A video or film can present many visual elements of an experience that you couldn’t otherwise capture in a static image. Perhaps you want to translate the editing style of a sleek commercial into your comic book panels or use the lighting strategy or color palette from your favorite film in an illustration. Maybe you would like to use an amazing sequence from a film or anime production in your storyboard concept drawings or key art, or even take your favorite superhero pose you saw in a Marvel movie or Disney animation and use it in character concept art.
4. Books (with photos)
A book with visual references or photographs will also be a fantastic resource for the artist and cartoonist, in that it can not only provide imagery but also offer written words that can give context to the content. A book can be a picture book, a comic book or graphic novel, an art book, a children’s book, or anything that can give the cartoon illustrator a clear insight into your imagination.
A client with some drawing skills, photoshop experience, or 3D Software knowledge can create a mockup for the illustrator or cartoonist. Although it may be a crude or poorly executed piece of artwork by a client, a mock-up can still be a powerful resource to help demonstrate what they want the illustrator to achieve in a more professional and skillful manner.
6. PowerPoint presentation (PPT) / Pitch deck
A PowerPoint presentation (PPT) or Pitch deck can be a culmination of all the visual resources referenced above regarding images, look-books/mood boards, videos & films, books, mockups and everything else in an organized slide presentation. When a client has taken the time to put together a PPT slide file for the artist or designer, it is always helpful because essentially it is their visual business plan for the project.
Word & Audio Cartoon Illustration Resources
A cartoonist does not necessarily need any of these as reference materials, but they can provide more opportunity for the artist to get an idea of the perspective the client is interested in achieving.
1. Audio / Music
2. Book or Article (Magazine, Blog, or newspaper)
4. Script / Treatment
5. A written business plan
Places to find cartoon image resources and references
Here’s a list of a few places send my clients, so they can gather their collection of resources and materials.
- Google images
- Bing images
- Getty images
- MAiJiN Art Portfolio – Illustration of Drew Lewis
Suddenly I have dozens of cartoon ideas, funny ideas that stranger really do laugh out loud when I tell them. I want someone who can draw realistic but maybe also quirky looking people as well as anthropomorphized animals in realistic but again sometimes quirky looking places. My ideas are funnier than most New Yorker-style cartoons. Can you help me? Where can I see your work? I’m looking for a long-term partner.