I start off by sketching the character in pencil on a sketchcard blank that Topps provides me. It has the Star Wars logo already on it, along with the set name- “Galactic Files“. This is the 4th Star Wars card set I’ve worked on for Topps, and I recently did some for the 501st’s Star Wars Celebration VI set.
Once the pencil work is done then it’s time to break out the markers. This is my favorite part. I use a mix of Copics, Letraset ProMarkers, and Prismacolors. I like the Letrasets for backgrounds, and my Primas and Copics for fleshing out the characters. The Copics have got a great brush tip that really comes in handy. They also can be refilled when they run dry. The great thing about markers is that they blend and mix well. Each time I get a new set of blank cards the cardstock can act differently from the last set, so sometimes it may take a card or two to see how the markers are going to react to the new paper. Sometimes the paper can really soak up the markers, blend great, or slightly reject some colors. Sometimes it can cause headaches or cause neat effects. I never know until I’m done with that first couple cards. In this shot I’m filing in the black with the brush end of a Copic. Most art and hobby/craft stores carry these in a wide variety of colors, or you can find them on-line with a google search. Markers can run $3-8 or so a piece- Copics generally are $6-7 each and their refills run about the same or a dollar more. The Copic refills are a great investment!
Once I’ve got the figure colored with the markers it’s time to tighten up the drawing with some line work. For this stage I use disposable tech pens. I like Microns or Staedtler Pigma Liners and usually use a #3 or #5 depending on the detail work. They make finer and broader tip pens, as well as brush tip pens, but those are the two I like to use on sketchcards. I like doing a bit of crosshatching on the creatures, vehicles, or clothing. Less on shiny objects, and more on tattered or worn objects like a Tusken Raider or Jawa’s robes. You can find these pens in most office, art, or hobby supply stores. They usually run $2-4 each, or $10-15 for a set of 3-5 pens.
One all the inking is done I like to use Copic White to do my highlights. It can be thinned down with water to do a slight wash or thin fine lines, or left a bit thicker to produce brighter highlights. Sometimes I’ll let the card show through for some highlights, others I’ll use the Copic White and a small detail brush. I paid about $10 for the bottle of white and it’s lasted through 6 sketchcard gigs- plus some other illustration work. It goes a looooooong way!
Sometimes I sign the cards while I’m inking them, other times after the whole card is finished. It’s always on the front somewhere, and sometimes I work it in with the design.
Once the card is finished I’ll spray a clear finish over it to seal the white and protect the artwork. You can get several different kinds of spray-fix, but I usually use Krylon Matte Finish. It’s easy to find and not too expensive- just a few bucks a can. I’ve even found it at Walmart.
After I’ve spray-fixed the sketchcard and it’s dry I sign the back of the card. I used to sign it like I do the front, but collectors had a hard time reading my signature. Now I just use a more printed signature.
I usually average 106 per card set, but have done extra sketchagraph cards that have one of the actors from the Star Wars movies or authors of the expanded universe books autograph at the bottom, and my art above it. I did about 40 for each of the Galaxy 6 & 7 sets.
Nicki and I are working on some more animated gifs to show each step of the coloring process (click on the pic above to see Anakin come to life!) I’ll post those gifs and some of my new Transformers sketchcards soon!