"Where to begin? I wish to eventually submit b&w single panel gags about babies or parenting humour to appropriate publications. What equipment is essential for this? I.e. software? I have very little graphic design/sofware editing skills as all my pictures have always been gags or caricatures by freehand. Bear in mind if it absolutely a requirement to use software, pricing is an issue (tight budget). Any recommendations would be appreciated :)"
Cartooning is still very inexpensive. But you can get trapped into thinking you need to have $1000s to start. Not true.
I am not affiliated with a company, like Apple or HP. I am a regular person who has tried different things (drawing on paper, drawing with a Wacom tablet, using a PC, using a Mac) and here's what's worked for me.
The way that your communicate with your public, and your clients, is through the Web. So, obviously, having a computer is essential. I use a laptop, one that I can take with me if needed. You can find inexpensive, used laptops from a local computer repair shop. If they are reputable, they'll offer a warrantee.
This year alone, I will be away from my studio about a half dozen times teaching cartoon classes for a day or a week in New York, Maine and Iowa. By taking my laptop, I'm able to take my office with me. Ditto for my cell, which is also my studio number.
DRAWING MATERIALS: LEAST EXPENSIVE
Pen and paper. I use Micron Pigma pens and higher grade copy paper (28 lb (104 g/m2) laser printer paper, bright white). I have some other kinds of paper for other kinds of projects too, but the laser printer paper is the kind I use when drawing a black and white gag cartoon. I bought a scanner to scan the cartoons into my computer.
Scanners come with programs that duplicate aspects of Photoshop. So, you can scan a cartoon, save it, and then toggle its brightness, contrast, hue, etc.
By drawing on paper, you then have an original that you can then have for a gallery show and sell to a client who collects originals.
DRAWING MATERIALS: MORE EXPENSIVE
If you decide to buy a tablet -- one of those things with a stylus where you draw directly into the computer -- it can be pricey. A lot of pros love them. Here are two things to consider:
CON: the cost of the tablet and program -- and the temptation to endlessly tweak the drawing.
ANOTHER CON: the loss of ancillary income from selling originals (since an "original" no longer exists).