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Drawing process for Sketch Cards? Tips and advice wanted please!

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  • Drawing process for Sketch Cards? Tips and advice wanted please!

    Hey guys,

    I've stumbled across some good luck lately and got contracted to draw up a bunch of superhero cards for a big trading card company. I'm really excited for it but to be honest, I don't know much about the process for drawing trading cards/sketch cards.

    What I do know is that the average dimensions for trading cards are 2.5" by 3.5" and that typically artists buy big sheets of bristol board (any recommendations?), rule out the borders and then draw directly on them. Are there any cases where I'd have to leave some open spaces for borders and do artists typically rule out larger trading card dimensions to draw on (to fit in more detail) so the card company can scale it down?

    If anyone's had any experience at drawing sketch cards or trading cards, I would love any tips or advice at all! I will probably send over my questions to the guy who contracted me, but it would be great to have some knowledge beforehand so I don't sound TOO green

    Thanks!
    Last edited by OpticNerve; 10-17-2011, 10:01 PM.
    Originally posted by OpticNerve

  • #2
    I'm not a pro but I have done a lot of sketch cards. I normally buy them pre-cut. I prefer the Strathmore brand which you can pick up at most art supply store's. Blue Line also makes them but I haven't tried those in particular.

    I've stumbled across some good luck lately and got contracted to draw up a bunch of superhero cards for a big trading card company.
    If you got contracted by a company, I would imagine they provided you with cards. Most of them have a Logo printed on them (i.e. Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Bettie Page). You might want to check with them on this if you already haven't.

    When making a card, I normally come up with a concept in my head which i then scribble down on a piece of copy paper. After that, I take out my drafting pencil and lay out the rough lines. After I finalize the pencils, I have to decide whether I want to establish the outlines and such with solid black or if I want to use the different colors to establish the outlines. This is normally when I take out my markers and go to town.

    I'm by no means a great artist, but I hope this process helps you.

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    • #3
      There's a lot of details left out of your question that would really help to answer. Congrats on the gig. I know a lot of artists that are always trying to get in on sketch cards (my self included). Which is what it sounds like this opportunity is. With all the guys I've talked to - the contracting company wants you to do "sketch cards". Which is they will send you like 100 "blanks"(pre-cut cards with their logos on the back and even sometimes the front, but a clear area to draw on) like 20 at a time. They want you to put original art on the blanks. Art that is oppropriate for their company. Send back in the 20. An editor approves them. Then they send you the next 20 blanks and so-on until you complete all 100 contracted cards. They will either pay you a super low rate like $1.00 per card or nothing per card, but will then send you like 5 'special blanks' for you to keep or sell. The whole purpose of this endevor is the company is creating an art card set. They will print and package the art card set, but as an incentive to collectors the company adds 'chase cards' in the form of sketch cards into the card set. So when someone buys a package of the art card set they have a chance of getting a limited edition original art sketch card. These cards can be worth a lot of money to collectors. And to you the artist the 'special blanks' the company sends you when done can be valuable too. The artists I talked with will charge anywhere from $25.00 to $100.00 a peice for commisions of the 'special blanks'. That's how the companies get away with paying you little to nothing for all 100 blanks you did for them. You'll make your money off the 'special blanks' they send you when done.
      Note- a couple of resources to check out would be looking up some sketch cards on ebay to see what people are charging for their 'special blanks'. Also definately check out some people over at deviant art. There are a lot of guys over there who even post up their sketch cards after they've sent them to the editor. Good luck you lucky dawg...
      My Deviant Art Page
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      P.U.M.M.E.L. Middle Weight - Stats - Wins 19 - Lose 6 - KO's 16 - Tie 2

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      • #4
        Thanks a lot for all the information, tips and advice! They're really appreciated and I definitely know a lot more about the process now.

        You're both right in that it seems like they're going to send over a bunch of blank cards for me to draw on and then to ship back to them, so that'll help elevate the muddling around process for buying the right type of bristol board and measuring out the correct dimensions and everything.

        DDeal12: Yeah, normally I tend to do a lot of mini-sketches in my normal drawings before I dig into it so I'm glad that I'll be able to use the same process for the sketch cards. It'll definitely be interesting working on such small dimensions and I'll have to keep in mind not to overdo it and obsess with the details since I have less space to work with than I normally do (as well as a short deadline!).

        hydekomiksink: Are these "special blanks" you're talking about also called "artist's proofs"? From the instructions they've sent me, it seems like I can scan whatever I draw on these artist's proofs for them to approve of and then I get to keep them and sell them where ever (ebay, DA, etc.). That's a very interesting concept and it sure sheds a light on how the sketchcard business works as well as how artists make money from it. I'm definitely looking forward to it though since it seems right up my alley :]
        Originally posted by OpticNerve

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        • #5
          Yeah I've heard the 'special blanks' called different things and 'artist's proofs' is definately them. I've never heard of the company requiring approval for what you put on the artist proof cards though. That's a new one for me. Most of the time I've heard of artists taking commisions for the artist proof cards. That way the person paying the big bucks for the proof card gets to pick whatever they want on it. And I've heard some pretty inapproprate things comissionsed on proof cards before. Maybe that's why they now require approval? Again I highly recommend poking around on deviant art, and asking some of those guys who have done the sketch card thing any more questions you may have. And again good luck.
          My Deviant Art Page
          My Pummel Matches
          P.U.M.M.E.L. Middle Weight - Stats - Wins 19 - Lose 6 - KO's 16 - Tie 2

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          • #6
            I've done a lot of sketch card sets for some of the small and medium trading card companies (5finity, Cryptozoic, Monsterwax, Versicolor, Sadlittles) over the last 3 years. I can't speak to how the big boys operate (topps, upper deck), but here's how it works with the folks I've done cards for:

            1. You agree with them on how many cards you will do. I normally do small sets of less than 50 cards.
            2. They send you a contract and you sign it and send it back. the pay rate is from $2 to $3 per card, and you also get back either some small percentage of the cards you drew (1 or 2 per 10) to keep or sell (these are called Artist Returns), and/or you get back some additional blank card stock to do commissions on (these are often called Artist Proofs or Artist Blanks). Sometimes you have to get approval before you sell your commissions on the blanks and sometimes you don't depending on the company and the set (some licensors for the card sets are very picky).
            3. They send you the blank card stock and give you the deadline to send them back.
            4. Some companies and sets have additional restrictions, like so many have to be in color, so many have to be full body shots, only certain characters can be used. This stuff will be told to you by the company either in the contract or in some materials they send with the stock.
            5. You draw the cards and send them in. You have to return EVERY one of the blanks they send you.
            6. The set then comes out, and at some point you get paid your fee, and you get your artist returns and/or proofs back.
            7. You then can list your returns or proofs on ebay, or one one of the sketch card collector sites, to sell or do commissions on.
            8. there is a popular forum called Scoundrel where lots of collectors and artists go to connect. Google scoundrel art forum and you'll find it.

            hope this helps

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