Cartoon: Why This Bat Won't Drink Coffee

So why won’t bats drink coffee? Or rather why does this one bat avoid coffee? Here’s the answer.

bats, coffee, coffee cartoon, Psychotactics, Sean D'Souza

So how did I go about creating this cartoon?
It was a tricky one. I couldn’t work out what to do. And while most cartoons of this nature may take about an hour or so to draw and colour, this one took twice the time. First there was the problem of upside down characters. That’s easily solved by drawing them straight up and turning them upside down in Photoshop. But do bats keep their wings open or closed? They tend to close it, but in the interest of quickly identifying the bats, I kept them open. Well I did close the bat wing for the bat on the right. For one, it gave me a little space to get the bat closer. But it also gave me the chance to make the talkative bat a bit wider in comparison.

The key to getting attention is to have contrast.
Big shapes with smaller shapes. And though the dark background does form a bigger shape, the focus is totally on the bats. But I had to do more to get your attention to the talkative bat. So not only is he wider (yes, he’s a he) but also his eyes have a brighter shade of lemon yellow. The other bat has greyish-eyes. Well they started out yellow and then I toned it down a bit.

Then I had a bit of a head-scratcher with the speech bubble.
I played with the position a bit. Should I put the bubble below the bats? Or above? And should the text be right side up? Or upside down? And should the speech bubble be grey or stark white? The grey made the text hard to read and the upside down text was good only if you turned your monitor upside down. So there you have it.  A ton of playing around to get this effect. Oh and I loved the magenta/purple/lemon yellow combination for the bats. Really made it jump off the page.

Oh, and there was this final tweaking
At first the bats were front and centre. I moved them to the right, because front and centre is kinda boring. And there was also this bit of border that needed to be added, right next to the text that says “Coffee Conversations”. I did that in Photoshop with the stroke tool. Here are some of the images in progress, if you want to take a look (Click on the images to see a bigger image).

bats, coffee, coffee cartoon, Sean D'Souza, bats in center
This is the cartoon with the bats in the centre. And without the border at the bottom.

bats, coffee, Sean D'Souza
Still no border, but the bats have moved to the right.

The final cartoon with the border (looks better in the big version at the top)

Time for coffee now. I ain’t a bat :)

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  1. says

    Thanks for sharing your process Sean. It’s always so fascinating to learn how artist create. You did a great job of sharing your intuitive process in a way that was clear and enjoyable.

    What got my attention is you use Photoshop to draw your cartoons. They look hand-inked. Amazing what you can do with Photoshop!

    Do you use a tablet Sean? Which one?

    I have a simple little Wacom Bamboo and I rarely try using it to draw. Still I like knowing what’s possible.

    I do have a fun idea for some cartoon drawings. You’re inspiring me to go for it. Maybe I’ll do some doodling later today…


  2. says


    Thanks for going through the though process. The ideas about moving the main subject off center, color choices and border are not just for cartoons. They apply to any image on a printed page or on the Web.

    When most of us learned to take pictures, we were taught to center the subject. Which is okay for snapshots of Aunt Tilly, but if you plan to use the picture to communicate, off center can be much more powerful.

    This is especially true when the words that go with or on the same page as your picture are describing a problem. An unnerving or at least slightly disorienting photograph magnifies the uncomfortable feeling about the problem and complements your words.

    Thanks again.


  3. says

    Ginger and black papper in water, eh? Quantities? Ratios? Or just to taste?
    I have become hooked on grated ginger and a slice of lemon on boiling water – much nicer than the commercial bagged version.
    Great cartoon as well!

    • says

      No real ratios. More ginger=stronger kick :)
      I’d avoid the pepper if you’re also going to add tea. Because it tastes kinda weird. But if you just have ginger and pepper it’s fine. Or just ginger and tea.

  4. Kathy says

    Love the description of how you got the cartoon to look the way it ended up but I also really appreciate your comments on the thought process regarding content…. that’s where I think I’ll have trouble with cartooning – the “what to draw” question that is funny with a point. Drawing Sid these days is just a matter of copying a cartoon – but I don’t know how find my own ideas. Hopefully that will come

  5. says

    Yes, Sean, adding the explanation is the icing on the cake. As has been said, it helps to see the thought process at work. One question — how did you decide on the joke in the first place?

    • says

      Well, that’s a story in itself. I wasn’t sleeping last night (well, not my usual 3-second knockout) and so I started thinking up coffee-based cartoons. Now the way I do that is to link coffee with something bizarre. Or completely unrelated. So I did some cartoons in my head with bloodhounds (you’ll see that next week) and some with other situations.

      Eventually my mind got so busy that I wasn’t able to sleep until past midnight. And I was afraid I wouldn’t remember the gags, so I emailed myself. This bat one was the first of the emails I saw today, so I drew it first.

      But to answer your question: When something is disconnected, it’s funny. So we have a disconnect here of bats and coffee. And then we have a disconnect of coffee keeping you up at night inverted to ‘keeping you up by day’. These lack of connections cause us to laugh.

      I had to tweak the text a bit, but mostly it was ready to go.

  6. says

    I like the cartoon and also the behind-the-scenes explanation. When I first looked at the cartoon I must have noticed the details but wasn’t consciously aware of them all. For example, I didn’t realize at first that the eyes of the two bats were different colors, but yet I did see it in a way.

    I’m enjoying these cartoons more and more. I laughed out loud at last weeks as well.

  7. says

    You are not a cartoonist—for now. :) Cartooning can be learned, and learned well, just like any other skill.

    Thanks for your comment, though. It encourages me to do more of this stuff and not just draw the cartoon itself.

  8. RDK says

    Much beyond this “batty” cartoon (BTW: I love this cartoon and especially value the thought map you gave), you are modeling “reader training”. We (or at least I) anticipate your column with its Clueless Cartoons.
    Great work.
    I’m not a Cartoonist, so will have to come up with something else to help readers anticipate the next edition.
    Best regards,

  9. Fruit Loops says

    The bat movement makes sense. Could it be a fibonacci ratio placement. The world turned upside down, reversed, and inverted. Woah I gotta switch to decaf..LOL

  10. says

    Love that you explain your thought process. Most of us just look at a cartoon and chuckle – unaware of the thought that goes into it. I think this applies for any creative work. When you’re good at it, you make it look easy and people don’t appreciate the work you put into it. Thanks, Sean!

    • says

      Oh just ginger crushed and pepper (black pepper) in water. Boil it for 5-10 minutes. You can flavour it with tea but it’s sure powerful by itself. And kinda addictive. Not to mention, great for your health.

    • says

      My Japanese wife has gotten our family to drink ginger milk tea when it starts getting cold and kids are starting to get the sniffles. Warms up the throat and rest of the body very effectively…probably not as well as your ginger and pepper mix, however…. 😉

  11. says

    It was a LOL for me. As someone who sends a ridiculous amount of time with the “tweak” I also could identify the process you went through to getting it right. Well done!

  12. Teresa says

    I love how vivid the bats are, and yet it still looks like they’re in a dark cave.

    As a fledgling cartoonist, I greatly enjoyed the peek behind the curtain too.

  13. says

    Sean –
    I like your cartoon, and I LOVE your conversation about how you did it. If people are willing it would be a good thing to add to cartooning class discussions. This bat only drinks tea. And I think I would like a serene blue please, with pink gloves on my feet!

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