Comic Vine News


How to Get Original Art at Comic Conventions

Attending a convention is a way to meet artists and get original art from them. There is some etiquette you should be aware of.

Comic books wouldn't be what they are without the art. The art and story are important factors when it comes to enjoying a comic. Because it's such a visual medium, the art aspect of comics tends to stand out more than the stories at times.

Each week we spotlight sketches and commissions artists do on their free time or at comic conventions. We have had the Mystery Art Challenge videos where artists had a moments notice to draw such things as Wonder Woman and a Cake, Batman with a Broom, Captain America with a Pizza and Catwoman as a Green Lantern. Seeing the characters outside of comic book pages is a treat.

Many have asked how they can get original art for themselves? What are the rules or guidelines? What should be brought to the artist? Below are some guidelines along with some comments from a few artists that will be attending this year's New York Comic Con.

Artist Alley is the place you can meet and talk to artists. They are there so you can talk to them and sign your comics. They are also there to sell you prints and original art. When it comes to original art, that's where you'll see a lot of difference. Some artists will have original comic pages from comics they've worked on. Those pages can vary in price. For many, getting character commissions is the easier and more affordable way to go.

If you are attending a convention and know if an artist you like is attending, you could try to contact them ahead of time. Many artists have Tumblrs and blogs with their commission information. Other artists make themselves available via Twitter. Many artists are beginning to do pre-con sketches to give them a head start and to accomodate more fans.

To get some more clarification, I asked a few artists about their rates, preference in number of characters, if they provide paper, do they limit how many comics can be signed and if they do pre-con sketches.


I list my convention commission sketch rates for head shot and half figures, black and white and grayscale, on my site I don't do full figure commissions at cons. They take too long to do a conventions. Those are handled on my regular commission list. People can email me at for full figure commission info.
My initial prices are for single character. But I can add a second character for an extra charge if the sketch line isn't too long. I do have boards to draw convention commissions on but I can also draw in people's sketchbooks and on sketch cover comics for the same prices.
The only limit I put on signed items is Amazing Spider-Man #583 the Spidey/Obama Team-Up comic. I sign 5 for free then charge for any more than 5 of that comic. All my other comics, no limit. But I may sign a person's big collection in shifts so other people in line don't have to wait too long.
I very rarely take on pre-con commissions because of work deadlines. But people are free to email me ( just in case I have a free moment before the con. Pre-con commissions are a little more expensive than the convention sketches since I can put more uninterrupted time into the art.
If you have an obscure character request, bring a printed out reference sheet (or digital images on your smart phone) of a few really clear, head-to-toe shots of the character that show off good shots of the character's design, face, and costume. This will insure your character sketch looks as accurate as possible.
Groups of people can clump at a table. feel free to ask which way the "line" for sketches is going. This will help avoid confusion and time wasted in the "wrong" line. And keep tempers from flaring and forcing the artist to play mediator. We need to focus on the art!
Some artists (myself included) like to have conversations with the fans while drawing their commission. Feel free to ask questions and respond to our questions if you feel comfortable chatting. If not, that's okay, too. People are still welcome to hang out and just watch the art be created. I know for me, it's nice to get out of my "work bubble" of a studio and interact with other people who enjoy comics!
Some artists take a list or sketch requests. Some artists draw your request while you wait. I'm an artist that draws while you wait. Taking a list, for some weird reason, doesn't work for me and takes all the fun out of the convention for me. So hit my table (or similar artists' tables) early or pass by every now again to see if the line has shortened.


I don't list my rates online. I haven't actually decided on my rates this year. They generally change from year to year. What I'm trying to do is find a price and a type of sketch that I can do where almost everybody that wants one can get one. But...It's almost impossible.
I prefer to do single characters. I charge more for multiple, and rarely take them on because they take at least twice as long. Yes, I bring my own paper.
I haven't run into any problems with people having too much to sign yet. That'll be a nice problem to have. But as of right now, I just sign everything...Happily!
I had to stop taking pre-con sketches because my workload is too heavy to even entertain the thought of doing more. And I also don't take pre-orders anymore because that was becoming too difficult to keep track of. So right now I'm doing first come first serve at the show.

Chris Giarrusso (G-MAN, MINI-MARVELS)

I don't list rates on line. Best to say "variable depending on request."
I'll do ingle and/or multiple characters. I provide 8.5" x 11" cardstock paper. If larger paper is requested, it must be supplied by the the requester.
I haven't had to limit the number of items in the past. That being said, if somebody drops a giant pile on me while other people are waiting, I'll put the giant pile on hold.
It doesn't hurt to contact me for pre-con sketch requests, though I may not actually be able to do the sketch pre-con.

Things to Consider

Even though these artists are professionals, you have to keep in mind that providing an adequate reference is always a great idea. Bring some comics and images to make it easier on them, especially if you know it's a more obscure request.

Your reference should be ON PAPER. Often I've seen artists try using someone's phone as a reference. the screen constantly dims and it's going to be a small image. An iPad isn't too much better. The artist may not be able to draw the commission at that moment and you'll want to have something you can leave behind.

Please don't set food or beverages on the artist's table. One good spill could ruin thousands of dollars of original art!

Find out how the payment process will go. Some artist prefer to be paid up front while others will allow you to be paid upon completion. You might be hesitant to pay without seeing the final product. I have heard of artists having customers not show up to pick up their drawing when they don't pay up front. If you don't pay up front, the artist might bump you back in the list just in case this scenario happens. They want to make sure the paying customers get what they want, as they are pretty much guaranteed to return.

Be polite and courteous. These artists often spend the entire day drawing countless sketches. Some also have panels they need to run back and forth from. Some artists take the commissions first thing each day to be fair. The lists can fill up fast so you might need to plan accordingly.

Good luck. The only other thing you need to worry about is once you start getting original art, you'll get the bug and want to keep getting more.

Posted by minigunman123

@Loki2u: A bit inappropriate for these forums; just an FYI since you're kinda new here :P

I honestly looked at and read the first bit of this article but I'm so tired I couldn't read it all. I'll read it tomorrow, but chances are that it's good LOL.

Posted by longbowhunter

I've never been to a convention. The crowds are way too intimidating for me. However I'm planning on venturing out next spring to Chicago and sketches are the #1 reason why. Having this info on proper protocol will help alleviate some stress in the future.

Posted by Kovak

Oh, so next time I go to a comic con, take a few quid and...oh wait, we don't get comic cons in the UK.

Posted by LordXorn

@Kovak: Then I guess Glasgow ComicCon a few months ago was a collective hallucination, though considering Morrison attended that's a distinct possibility.

Posted by Kovak

@LordXorn: Glasgow's way too far for someone with no method of getting from here to there, barring walking.

Posted by KHyde215

There's also the London Film and ComicCon and the MCM expo and Kapow! and maybe some more

Edited by Kovak

@KHyde215: London's about as far away as Glasgow. One of the occupational hazards of living in the middle of nowhere.

The only places I might - MIGHT - be able to get to in case of comic cons would be:

  • Manchester
  • Birmingham
Posted by lifeboy

Alright gman!! make sure you eat alot of pretzels, and cookies and pickels and hotdogs and sodas while you are at the show!!

Posted by mightypug78

oh how i wish i had an income. cant wait to get out of college and get a good paying job lol.

Posted by Cap10nate

@mightypug78 said:

oh how i wish i had an income. cant wait to get out of college and get a good paying job lol.

It's not as cracked up as it sounds. Enjoy yourself in college.

Posted by Mandrewgora

please come back with tons of awesome art picks.

Posted by Dr_Evil_Porkchop

I met Ryan Stegman at Chicago's Wizard World earlier this and he did a Scarlet Spider head sketch for me for free great guy took time to talk to fans whenever they came up to him.

Posted by gmanfromheck

@Mandrewgora: Mystery Art Challenge!

Posted by sixdemonbag

I like doing research on the artists on DeviantArt to see what they normally do for a con sketch. If you're looking to hang up your art, pick up a book of Bristol paper. I ask politely if they could use my paper, so that way when I hang it on the wall, they are all nice and uniform. If you're looking to keep it cheap, artists usually charge less for small sketchbooks or sketch covers. Finally, don't neglect the unnamed/local artists. They tend to be cheaper than the pros, and they won't have as long of a list, so they will usually get more effort put into it. On top of that they are eager for your business, and trying to break even for the space that they paid for to be there. Some of my favorite con sketches I've gotten have been from people that are still trying to get into the business.

Posted by zombietag

cool article

Posted by KHyde215

Yeah the MCM has ones in Birmingham and Manchester and one in the Midlands somewhere

Posted by kartron

Now thats a damn valuable article there.... Im saving it to my bookmarks now!!

Posted by Dedpool

NICE!! Will be using this on Friday-Sunday at NYCC!!!

Posted by mzultan17

i really hope ryan stegman is still available to do sketches by the time i get to artist alley on friday i would love for a scarlet spider sketch and has anyone ever asked how much for the commision and its to high in price? what would be the best way to politely say you dont have enough for the commision and want to know if there is any cheaper type of sketch. not trying to sound cheap just dont want to insult the artist if i dont have enough.

Posted by Outside_85

@G-Man: Todd looks kinda frightened by you in that picture you put up, what did you say to him? :)

Posted by Mucklefluga

This is such a great article! Very much needed!!

Posted by Loki2u

@minigunman123 said:

@Loki2u: A bit inappropriate for these forums; just an FYI since you're kinda new here :P

I honestly looked at and read the first bit of this article but I'm so tired I couldn't read it all. I'll read it tomorrow, but chances are that it's good LOL.

Get over yourself. You didn't even read the article, yet found the need to play Captain Moderater at 1:30 in the morning.

Just because I don't feel the need to post my opinions every chance I get, doesn't mean I'm new. ;)

Posted by Kovak

@KHyde215: Cool man, thanks. I will look into those. I live in the West Midlands most of the time, so the one in the Midlands would probably be the most accessible one.

Posted by JairamGanpat

@Loki2u: this forum needs more tits anyway...

Edited by SolthesunGod

I actually encountered one of the problems you mentioned recently. I dealt with two artists who didn't know the two characters I wanted drawn and I had no refs. Both of the characters were pretty well known too. I think comic book fans have the expectation that artists or writers have the same encyclopedic knowledge of the characters that they may have. Luckily it was a con that was put on by a comic shop and the artist of one of them just ran into the store to get an issue the character had appearred in. The other one I'm just getting posted out to me.

Catwoman as a GL was random but a cool idea. Enjoyed the video.

Posted by minigunman123

@Loki2u said:

@minigunman123 said:

@Loki2u: A bit inappropriate for these forums; just an FYI since you're kinda new here :P

I honestly looked at and read the first bit of this article but I'm so tired I couldn't read it all. I'll read it tomorrow, but chances are that it's good LOL.

Get over yourself. You didn't even read the article, yet found the need to play Captain Moderater at 1:30 in the morning.

Just because I don't feel the need to post my opinions every chance I get, doesn't mean I'm new. ;)

How about you get over your own self? I'm being nice to you, newby >_> I looked at the article, vision started fading a bit after reading the article's first two paragraphs, decided to call it a night. Problem?

Posted by Mandrewgora

@G-Man said:

@Mandrewgora: Mystery Art Challenge!

Still one of my favorite features on the site!

Posted by Webjaker

Thanks, what a great idea for an article ;)

Posted by LiquidSwords
Scored on this sketch by Michael Choi during an artist panel :). Heard this was his second time drawing Batman!
Posted by cincyducksfan35

Do creators typically charge for autographs?

Posted by sillys

@Loise, you make $27h...good for you! I make up to $85h working from home. My story is that I quit working at shoprite to work online and with a little effort I easily bring in around $45h to $85h…heres a good example of what i'm doing,

Posted by RedheadedAtrocitus

This is actually fairly helpful. I will use this when I attend cons from now on :) One in November is a maybe, and Wonder Con next year for certain!

Posted by hushicho

As an artist and creator, I attend as many shows as I can, and I do best of all when people know these basics. I'm really glad this article is here, and I hope it will help con attendees to get the most out of their experience.

And as sixdemonbag said, don't neglect an artist even if you haven't heard of him or her. Look over the stuff they've got, check their prices, and you might just find yourself with a new favourite artist. Of course, as has been said, bigger-name artists may not even be doing convention sketches, or their prices may be prohibitively high, especially for someone who hasn't attended many conventions. There are also people who open up convention art bookings before the convention itself, so their list may be full even before the show, and many other artists will have their schedule fill up quickly. Out of courtesy it's usually good to go fairly early so that they will have adequate time to give you the best work possible.
Of course, if it's a multi-day convention, most artists will also be willing to take on as many works as they can, then take them back to the hotel room to finish and bring them back the next day to pick up. These are usually paid up front though.
Another thing to consider is that independent creators will often do a wider range of things than most of the Marvel and DC crowd, so there's also that to consider. Many artists these days contract with different companies regularly and do plenty of independent work as well, but when you're contracted with a certain company, sometimes there are restrictions on what you are and aren't able to do. If you want that art of Satana dressed as Sexy Santa Claus, spanking Wolverine bare-bottomed under the mistletoe, you may not be able to get it from some of the big-name companies' contracted employees.