Hey kids… today your Uncle Chris is going to talk about a new item you can put on your convention table that might draw eyes to your table and give you a nice priced item that might net you a nice little profit once it is sold.
What am I talking about, you might ask? I’m talking about SKETCH COVERS.
Now, as you know, your Uncle Chris already wrote a lengthy Webcomic Alliance article all about sketch cards but although sketch cards and sketch covers sound similar, they are really two completely different things.
What’s the difference between the two?
Well, for one, sketch covers are much bigger than sketch cards. Sketch cards are the size of a trading card. Sketch covers are special editions of printed comic books and are professionally printed by the major comic book companies such as Marvel, DC and Image to name just a few. Other companies also produce sketch covers as well.
They are regular comic books?
Yes. All sketch covers are real comic books that just have a “blank” cover on top of the regular comic book. In fact, if you open a sketch cover comic book, you will see it also has the actual cover of the comic book as well. The blank sketch cover is stapled on top of the regular comic book.
Is there anything different about a Sketch Cover than a regular comic book?
Absolutely. A regular comic book is usually printed on thin, glossy paper whereas a sketch cover is thicker – almost the same thickness as traditional card stock. It will also have the comic book’s logo and company information printed on it as well.
Below are some samples of what Sketch Covers look like from DC and Marvel Comics:
But not all sketch covers are the same.
For a long time, I avoiding doing sketch covers because they used to be printed using a glossy stock of paper. What that meant was the slickness of the paper was very hard to sketch on with a pencil and the only time of “ink” you could use was a Sharpie pen. And you had to be very careful using a Sharpie on the paper as it was real easy to smear and smudge your lines. Added to that, it was next to impossible to add any decent color to them unless you painted on them – as one of my artist friends used to do all the time.
And, whenever I got a request to draw on a glossy sketch cover for someone, I usually charged very little as there was not much you could really do with them.
But… in the last couple of years, sketch covers have gotten a LOT better and are a LOT easier to work with. As mentioned above, the modern day sketch cover is usually some kind of bristol board/card stock paper that makes it extremely easy to sketch on, ink on and accepts design markers very, very well which, in turn, allows you to do lots of color blending that was impossible to do with the glossy type paper.
So where can I find a Sketch Cover?
There are a few places where you can find sketch covers for yourself. The first place is to check your local comic book shop and ask them if they carry or have any sketch covers. At my local comic book store, they usually have a bunch of different ones on sale at the regular cover price of the comic the sketch cover is wrapped in.
The second place is comic book conventions. I have found that there is usually one or two long box dealers who will have several sketch covers on sale. Those sketch covers usually are $5 a book.
The third option would be fans who come to your table and request you draw something on a sketch cover they have brought with them.
A possible fourth option is to search for them online and see if you can find any available for sale that way. I haven’t done that yet. All of my sketch covers have come from a combination of the three examples above.
What should I draw on a Sketch Cover?
Usually, it’s always a good idea to draw a character featured in the book. For example, if you have a Superman sketch cover, you should draw Superman. If you have an Avengers sketch cover, you should draw one of the recognizable Avengers on the cover. But there are always exceptions.
For example, Deadpool is a very popular character at conventions but the one Deadpool sketch that I have was made of that glossy paper. So, I instead, drew Deadpool on an X-Factor sketch cover that had the card stock paper. And since Deadpool is still a mutant, he would “fit” on an X-Factor comic book.
Likewise, I wanted to do a Loki-Minion mash-up on a sketch cover but since there are no Loki comic books, I drew him on a cover of an Avengers comic book since Loki was in the Avengers movie.
But you really aren’t bound to any “rules” when it comes to sketch covers. You’re certainly ‘allowed” to draw a Superman on a Captain America sketch cover and vice versa – those are just my own personal guidelines for which characters get drawn on which sketch covers.
What kind of Sketch Cover sells the best?
For me, without a doubt, it’s my mash-up sketch covers. For those unfamiliar with the term “mash-up”, it basically means “mashing two entities together to form one illustration”… a Minion as Batman would be a mash-up. Drawing the My Little Ponies as the fantastic Four would be a mash-up. Drawing the Muppets as various super heroes would be mash-ups. So, for me, my “mash-up” sketch covers usually sell very well.
Here is a small collection of some of the sketch covers I have done:
Can I draw on the front and back of a Sketch Cover?
Absolutely. But if you do, I would charge more for a “full-cover” instead of just a “front” cover.
Do you have any tips & tricks for drawing Sketch Covers?
Yes I do. Below are seven tips I use whenever it comes to sketch covers and how I display them on my convention table. Some of the tips I discussed in more detail above.
- I didn’t do sketch covers for a long time because most sketch covers were produced using a slick glossy cover stock which was incredibly hard to draw and color on – you essentially had to use a Sharpie and hope that you didn’t smear any part of your illustration.
- Current sketch covers are produced using almost a vellum-type bristol board or card stock. MUCH easier to draw, ink and color on now.
- In my personal experience, my mash-ups seem to sell so much better than doing a “traditional style” hero on the cover. For example, when I did a regular Harley, that didn’t sell nearly as fast as when I did Harley as a Power Puff Girl.
- You can generally find sketch covers at a dealers table at a convention. Usually, the typically price is $5 a sketch cover but at your local comic book store, you can sometimes find them for cover price ($3 – $5).
- How do I plan out my front and back sketch covers? I usually sketch the individual pieces first. I’m not worried about size. When I have all the characters that are going to be on the cover sketched out, I scan them. I then take the actual sketch cover and scan that too. I bring the sketch cover into Photoshop and then I will layer all the sketches together to fit around the logo of the book. I will then print a copy of that layout on 11×17″ paper on my printer. I will then put it on my light table and carefully place the sketch cover on top of it. I work from side to side – meaning all the pages have to be on one side so I can work on the cover then I have to move all the pages so I can work on the back. Does that make sense?I intended to do that with the Fantastic Four cover but discovered something that screwed up my plans. There was printed advertising on the front and back covers – that meant I couldn’t light table the design I had planned. Instead, I had to do a home made pencil transfer.
- For shows, I also invested in getting a package of bag and boards – $10 each but they both come with 100 bags and 100 boards. I put the finished sketch cover in a bag and board and put it on display on my table. I think it looks nicer and slicker that way.
- For front and back sketch covers, I now print out a slightly smaller than full size, full color print of the entire cover and put it in the back of the board so I don’t have to constantly remove tape and pull out the entire sketch cover when I tell someone the sketch cover is front and back. I just have to flip the book around and show them the smaller full-color version.
I think that’s all the tips and tricks I have for sketch covers.
If you have done sketch covers before, what are some of your tips and tricks you have done? Feel free to share them in the comments section below.
Chris Flick just figured out how to put his photo and bio information at the end of these Webcomic Alliance articles. When he’s not wracking his brain on how to do that, he’s busy being a full time web and graphic designer working in the Washington DC area. When he’s not doing that, he’s working on his Capes & Babes webcomic which he created back in 2007. When he’s not doing ANY of those things, he’s usually at a convention on the east coast of the United States.
Chris has over 900 Capes & Babes strips. You can read them all by going to his website, Capes & Babes. You can also visit his woefully outdated portfolio web site at CSF Graphics. And if you’re interested in seeing some of the wild Minion Mash-ups Chris has become known for, you should visit his Pinterest Minion Mash-Up Board. You can also find Chris on Facebook and Twitter by doing a search for “Capesnbabes”.