Sketchbooks? How Does That Work?

Conventions, Geek Fun, SDCC Tips/Info

I’ve had a few people ask about sketchbooks lately. Normally it’s when I mention mine on Twitter. We already have one post about it here but you can never have too much information.

One of the reasons why I started a sketchbook was to save space. When I first started attending conventions I was buying art left and right but honestly didn’t have anywhere to display it. The nice thing about a book is it keeps everything in one place. You can keep it on your shelf or even sit it out on your coffee table as a sort of display. Your book can be whatever size you want but I recommend something on the smaller side. It’s easier to carry around and sketches won’t cost as much. I have a Moleskine Watercolor Notebook that I use and I’ve had a few artists tell me how nice it is! I bought the same book for Melinda and my BFF Manda as well. I honestly think it’s the perfect size.

Chibi Castiel By Kate Carleton
Chibi Castiel By Kate Carleton
Now that we got that out of the way, how do you start the process of filling your book! First, you need to decide if you want a theme or not. My book is all about Hawkeye. Manda went with the chibi theme and I believe Melinda has a “whatever” book. As you can see, you can do a character theme or even a style. It’s your book! The choice is up to you. Now that you know your theme, it’s time to get some sketches. In most cases, an artist will have a sign that features pricing. The cost can be anywhere from free to $80+. It all depends on the artist, size, and if it’s color or black/white. The first few sketches I had done were free. The last few sketches were between $10-$30 but they were color as well. The easiest way to try and get free sketches is to take your book with if you attend an artist signing at a booth, like Marvel or DC. That’s how I scored a free Skottie Young sketch. Granted, it was quick but if it’s an artist you really want you won’t mind. Please remember though that a sketch at a signing isn’t guaranteed.

Quick Sketch by Skottie Young
Quick Sketch by Skottie Young
You might want to do some research before your convention as well. Once the Artist Alley information is posted online, I’ll normally check it out to see if there’s someone I’m interested in. Maybe you like a certain style? Maybe you like the way someone draws Deadpool. You should try and check out their Facebook and Twitter accounts as well. You might find out they’ll be offering specials or you might find out their prices ahead of time. If you’re trying to stick to a budget, this will help a lot! Some artists will do your sketch while you wait, others might ask you to come back. That’s normal. Don’t panic or freak out about leaving your book behind but do make sure you remember which artist you left it with. It’s a good idea to put your contact info in it as well. The fact that sometimes you need to leave your book for a few hours is why some people recommend having a few different sketchbooks. At the moment I only have one but plan on starting another one soon.

Remember when asking for a sketch that this is their job. They are at the convention to earn income but that doesn’t mean they’re robots. If you see that someone is busy, you can always try again later. If you’re thrilled with what they’ve created for you, let them know! It’ll mean a lot to them. They’re people. You should treat them with respect and like you would want to be treated. If you’re able to wait for your sketch, make some small talk. Maybe check out the rest of their work. Don’t just stand there in silence. That’s a bit hawkward. Basically, just remember to have manners and be polite.

I want to mention too that it might be easier to get sketches at conventions that aren’t San Diego. I haven’t attempted any sketches at San Diego Comic-Con yet, I plan to try this year for at least one, but knowing how crowded and insane it is, you might be better off trying at your local event or other convention. The sketches I’ve had done thus far have been done at Baltimore Comic-Con, C2E2, and one at New York Comic-Con. When it comes to SDCC, you might be better off seeing if the artist you want is taking any pre-orders for sketches. It won’t be in your book but you’ll still have a piece of work from someone you enjoy.

So, it really isn’t that hard or complicated to start a sketchbook. It can be a ton of fun and a great conversation starter as well! I hope this post has helped some of you in your quest for sketches. If you already have a book, what’s your theme? Do you have a favorite sketch from your book?


  • After a couple years of trying, I finally had the pleasure of meeting Jim Balent at SDCC two years ago. I had just bought my sketchbook and was anxious to start filling it up, but at the time I was a bit shy about asking for sketches, especially from artists not at Artist Alley, so I went up to Mr Balent with the intent of just getting an autograph, and honestly being happy with just that. Yes, my sketchbook has just autographs in it as well, its a “whatever” book… don’t judge me. 🙂
    So I walk up to his booth, hand him my sketchbook, and politely ask for his autograph. He smiles, and says “You don’t want a sketch?” I said “I’m sure you get asked all the time, and you’re probably tired of it.” He laughs and says “It’s what I do.” So, not wanting something for nothing, I ask how much and he says “It’s free.” How do I pass that up?
    As he’s getting ready to draw, he asks me how I got into his art and I said I became a fan when he was drawing Catwoman, so he decides that’s who he’s going to sketch for me. As he’s drawing, we make small talk about movies, work, the weather, Comic-Con, “Tarot” (the project he was working on), etc. And five minutes later I was now the proud owner of my very first sketch, of one of my favorite characters, from one of my favorite artists, who turned out to be a really cool guy.

    If I can add one more thing: if you’re getting a free sketch, especially from an artist that has a booth, it would be a nice gesture to buy something from them, even something small, just as a way to say thank you.

    Anywho, that’s my story.

  • Thanks for posting this article — which has helped me feel informed enough to start questing for drawings this year!

    Question about what kind of sketchbook paper quality and weight to get — I’ve heard every now and then about acid-free and such, but don’t really know anything about it except that I should get it in order for the drawing to last longer? And/Or that I should place them in acid-free holders and avoid using tape, etc..? I naturally want the drawings to last as long as I do and perhaps longer. How much should I expect to pay for a good sketchbook that is 8.5×11 or so? What weight paper is good? There are so many varieties..

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