Making Logo Sketch Cards

This and all logo images © DC and Marvel comics appropriately.

Recently I wrote here about my new idea for something to sell at the Baltimore Comic-Con on Oct. 18-20: Logo Sketch Cards. The popularity of “sketch covers,” comics with an alternate cover having only the logo and trade dress printed, leaving the rest blank for a unique artist sketch, gave me the idea of doing the same sort of thing, but with marker sketches of comics and character logos on Strathmore drawing paper cut to the size of a comic, as above. I’m not sure how well they will sell (my asking price at the Con is $30 each), but I’m having a lot of fun making them. I’m enjoying revisiting many old friends in logo form, and it’s giving me a good reason to spend a lot more time at my drawing board than I have in years. I like that, too. I thought I’d show how I’m making them here.

For markers, I researched ones that are waterproof, non-bleed, acid free, fade resistant and long lasting. I came up with a short list of brands, and went to my local Michaels art and craft supply store to see if they had any of them. They had two choices: Pigma Micron, above, the one I went with, was a little cheaper than Pitt. I bought a variety pack of sizes and also some extras of the ones I thought I would use most.

Here are the other drawing tools I’m using. Oval and circle templates, a small french curve, a small triangle, and a light box. I’ve had all these for decades. I used them when drawing logos by hand, and since then when drawing logo marker sketches for new logo assignments. The main differences between using pen and ink, as I did when drawing logos by hand, and using markers, is A) ink makes more precise lines and B) markers are easier to use, no struggling with ink flow and blobs. From normal reading distance, marker lines look fine, it’s only when you look very close that the uneven marker ink edges are visible. That’s not an issue with sketches, only with work that needs to be printed.

For paper, I’m using Strathmore Series 400 or 300 drawing paper, 9 by 12 inches, in pads. At right is a page torn from the pad and marked in pencil is the size of the sketch card. At first I used a printed comic to set the size, but then I got some new comics size backing boards and bags to put finished ones in, and since then I’ve been using a backing board as my size template. When I finish a sketch, I cut the paper on the pencilled lines. At left is a logo set up on my computer at the correct size and printed out on copy paper. I will use it as my guide for the sketch, taping it to the back of the drawing paper in the correct spot.

Here’s that process completed, on the light box with the light on. The drawing paper and copy paper are thin enough that I can see the printed logo well. Using my tools and markers, I will trace it.

This is my own Green Arrow logo from 1993, drawn by hand. More about that process is here. A logo like this is made up primarily of precise straight lines, ovals, and curved serif points. Sometimes when doing these sketches I start with the ovals or curves, but this time I chose to begin with the straight lines, using a size 03 marker. You can’t see what I’ve done with the light box on…

…but with it off, the lines drawn are visible. Incidentally, the drafting tape on the triangle, which I applied and cut to size with an exacto knife, gives a slight lift to the edges so they aren’t touching the paper. This is not a big issue with markers, though it can be annoying if your marker leaves ink on the triangle that then gets on your fingers. The lifted edge is more important with pen and ink because if the edge you’re drawing with is touching the paper, the ink tends to flow under it, making a blobby mess.

Here’s the sketch with most of the straight line work done. I always miss a few.

Next I worked on the ovals. It rarely happens that the oval shape you want is matched exactly on the oval template. Usually with a character like the O, the sides are drawn with part of one oval and the ends with another. Here I’ve lined up the template oval for one side of the O. This template has small bumps of plastic on the underside to lift the edges of the ovals off the paper a little, but the template itself is much thinner than the triangle, and it’s still tricky getting your marker (or ink pen) to follow the curve of an oval smoothly. If I get it wrong, I try to fix the uneven edge by hand or with another go of the template.

With the sides of the O drawn, I’m lining up another oval for the bottom edge here. Sometimes it’s safer not to try to connect the different parts with the template, but to do that by hand. Smaller curves, like the ones at the corners of the serifs on the W (the pointed ends of the strokes), are best done by hand.

Here’s the sketch with all the large ovals drawn using the oval template. For logos with perfectly round letters, I would use the circle template instead. I think I used that in a few spots here, like the curved part of the top R. From experience, I know what works best.

Here some of the smaller curves on REEN are inked in by hand using either the same size marker, or a smaller size 01, which makes a better pointed end.

The finished logo sketch, needing just my signature and ©DC. What happens if I make a mistake and put ink where I don’t want it? Well, I try really hard not to do that, but it does happen occasionally. This paper is thick enough that I can carefully scrape off excess ink with an exacto knife. The scraped area is a little roughened, but it’s not obvious. It might show up more if the area is colored with markers or watercolor, but that’s the trade off, and it’s my best solution. When drawing with pen and ink for a printed logo, I can use white paint to cover errors, but that would stand out too much on these sketches.

The french curve is used for very wide curves like the ones on this Ira Schnapp Superboy logo. Ira would have used a compass to set them up when he designed the logo. Since I only have to trace small segments of the larger arcs, the french curve works fine. On the Green Arrow logo, above, there was a narrow drop shadow that I filled in black as I went along. On this Superboy logo, I filled in the larger black areas with a larger marker, in this case a brush point Pigma.

Some logos, like this Hulk one designed by Sol Brodsky and Artie Simek, require no tools at all, I was able to freehand trace the entire thing. Those tend to go more quickly.

The idea, of course, is that if you buy one of these Logo Sketch Cards, you would take it to a favorite artist at the Con and have them do a character sketch appropriate to the logo on the rest of the paper. I hope to see a few of these by the end of the Con at Baltimore. Logo Sketch Cards I don’t sell there will eventually be offered on my website’s BUY STUFF page, so you will find them there by late October.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this look at my process, and if you’re coming to Baltimore, stop by for a look at the finished cards, as well as my prints and other things I’ll have for sale.

One thought on “Making Logo Sketch Cards

  1. Jamie Hickson

    Thanks for the peek inside your process, Todd.

    It’s always a treat to see how you work.

    Recreating logos like these would be an interesting way to spend Inktober.

    Now, where did I put all my oval templates..?
    ; )
    – Jamie

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