An Artist’s Guide To Making Humorous Illustrations

Humor has always been a key part of being a successful cartoonist and illustrator. Finding ways to incorporate funny elements into your artwork is a great way to engage with an audience and entertain. So, how can you bring more humor into your illustrations? What techniques can you use to make your audience laugh? Here, we look at some of the best ways to get your readers giggling.

Make Funny the Focus

If you’re keen to hone your amusing art skills, you need to make humor the focus of the piece. Distractions will only take away from the funny elements in your cartoon. Have you come up with an idea that you think is hilarious? Narrow it down to its most humorous elements and then emphasize them. Steer clear of any extraneous images and make it all about the target of your joke.

Real World Issues

If you have a problem with something in the world, it stands to reason others do too. If you think of the best stand-up comedians a lot of their humor revolves around real life issues. You can harness that power in your illustrations. It’s a tricky line to tread as an artist. You want your audience to be surprised, but you also want them to think “oh yes, that’s happened to me!” The time spent thinking about the perfect joke will be worth it when your audience are rolling in the aisles.

Use Your Reactions

Observational skills are a key element in humor. Observing what’s happening around you and how you react to it is a great source of humor. If you find something side-splittingly funny, it’s likely others will too. Capture those moments in your art and see your audience react in the same way as you. It doesn’t matter if the idea that you think of isn’t immediately hilarious out of context. It’s your job as a visual storyteller to make your audience see the joke. For example, the idea of an air compressor powered air guitar may not make you instantly laugh out loud. Nevertheless, Andy’s Air Guitar is a cartoon from Air Compressor Scout that’s sure to make you giggle.

Create Characters

Illustrations that are based on characters are always popular, whether that character is someone within public life, or whether they’re created as a response to the world. People respond to humor that is within their frame of reference. If you use real-life people as your inspiration, your audience will respond positively. If you’re going to use characters as your source of humor, it’s important to stay true to the real thing. This is especially true if you’re basing your comedy on a famous figure. Consider their clothes, their expression, their stance – the closer you are to the truth, the funnier your illustration will be. Satirical art has been doing this for years to great effect. The caricatures of the UK Vanity Fair magazine from the 19th century show how well this works.

Pop Culture References

Pop culture has never been funnier. The rise of the internet and memes has led to popular culture references being widespread. Jokes that tip the hat to anything that’s hot right now are sure to be a hit. That could be anything relating to a movie, a musician or a TV show. Pop culture references catch your audience’s attention since everyone is able to relate to them. It’s important though to have a point or motive behind your art otherwise it’ll fall flat. You need to be saying something important through your reference.

When it comes down to illustration, illustrative humor comes in a wide variety of forms. While caricatures and cartoons are the most obvious forms of funny illustration, storytelling through art can be very humorous. Combine a funny visual style with a fantastic idea and a well thought-out composition and you’ll have an amusing illustration. Take inspiration from this article and you’re sure to succeed in your humorous endeavors.