Some little secrets about the comic strip

Charles Schulz did not “ink in” as did many cartoonists. That is, he didn’t first draw the strip in pencil and then go over the pencil lines with pen and ink. He used light pencil lines to provide guidelines for spacing. He preferred the spontaneity of drawing with the pen. He said when he drew a smile or a frown he was actually feeling that emotion. Be sure to look at the “doodle” case to lean more about Schulz’s process.

  • The original date of the strip

Although Schulz drew his strips six to eight weeks in advance, he hand-lettered the month and day of each strip’s eventual publication inside one of its panels. For example, a strip published on April 14 is dates 4-14 or 4/14. The publication year is printed, with the copyright information, on a piece of paper glued to the strip.

  • Throw-away panels

The top third of a Sunday strip is called the “throw-away panel”. Depending upon the amount of space each newspaper has for its Sunday comics, they might print only the bottom two-thirds of a strip. Thus, the top third must relate to the rest of the strip but cannot be integral to the story.

  • Zip-a-Tone

Zip-a-Tone was a brand of the graphic tool screen tone that Schulz sometimes used to add shading and dimension to his strip. Find the original strip (duplicated below) in Case number 5 in the exhibition and you will see a transparent adhesive film covered with patterns of dots applied to the artwork – this is Zip-a-Tone and it was used to produce grey tones. Zip-a-Tone sheets came in several different patterns. The adhesive film was placed over the portion of the strip to be shaded and the remainder of the film was cut off with an artist’s knife. About 15 years ago the Zip-a-Tone and other screen tone sheets became difficult to find. Today cartoonists employ computer software to achieve the same effect.

1. Strip from July 9, 1954


2. Strip from March 30, 1957


3. Strip from April 18, 1961