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What is a sketch card and Artist Proof Sketch Cards

What are Sketch Cards and Artist Proof Cards?

This page will explain basic information on Sketch Cards and Artist Proof Cards. Basically kids to adults would like to buy trading cards with their favorite super hero on it.

Sketch cards

Are “One-of-a-kind” card hand drawn and signed by artists licensed by the card companies such as UPPER DECK MARVEL, TOPPS, BREYGENT, CRYPTOZOIC and others.

There is a chance for a card collector to get one from the Trading Card series that comes out in limited editions. The trading cards comes out in seasons. One sketch card will be inserted in one of a pack randomly in a box of trading cards. Finding a specific artist you like in the collection is like finding needle in a haystack.

The sizes of these cards goes from around 2.5″x3.5″ for the regular size and 3.5″x5″ for the larger size.

These are a RARE and UNIQUE type collector’s item card because you are the sole owner of this card.


These are my basic knowledge about sketch cards. For a much more deeper explanation about the sketch cards and it’s history, you can check out Matt Stewart’s page. He explained a lot and in full details about sketch cards.

Marvel Beginnings
Sample of Sketch Cards

Working as a Sketch Card Artist

When I started working  on sketch cards, they are very small LOL and also challenging.

The challenge for me and probably other artist is how to draw the character is a small scale for 2.5″x3.5″ card and with less mistake. The card company will give you an exact number of of cards and you have to draw on each one, so it may be hard to make a major mistake in the drawings. I have some minor mistakes and they can be fixed as I further my drawings.

Another challenge is TIME. Once I received my set, there is a deadline to keep and have to take note the shipment time will add as well.


And one more challenge if the card company set some guidelines written in a document which are inserted when I receive the card set. For example UPPER DECK MARVEL has banned characters from Fantactic Four due to license issues. You can read more in my guidelines for Upper Deck MARVEL at this page.

Artist Proof Sketch Cards

We artist are not really compensated from working on a set of regular sketch cards so the card company gives ARTIST RETURNS or ARTIST PROOF cards and have the artist sell their own sketch card and these are actually exclusive. It is kind of a reward or incentive for the artist who made the artwork.

The artist can decide if he wish to keep the AP card as a collection or to sell it others.

The value of AP cards differs from regular sketch cards found in the box sets and can be higher. Price can base on artist decision, the character, and complexity of the artwork.

The license company need to approve the AP sketch cards. It takes weeks or up to months to get an APPROVAL. If you happen to commission an artist to draw on the Artist Proof from scratch with please allow weeks to months for approval and shipment delivery.

Artist Proof sketch cards (AP) are not in the set distribution.  They are owned by the Artist and it’s more RARE than regular sketch cards because they are not inserted in the trading cards.

The convenience of the AP cards from the regular sketch card is that you don’t need to buy an entire box set to find the artist. You just need to find the Artist.

You can buy directly to the artist and have the artist draw character you wanted for.

In my case I have a page where you can commission me an Artist Proof Card card in this page . You can ask me what character to draw and pose. Be sure to read the Guidelines to avoid rejection from MARVEL.

Artist Proof sketch cards made with freedom of time. Performing higher quality than of making the regular sketch card is a good practice for the artist.

Bucky Barnes
Artist Proof card labeled AP at the lower left.

How will we know if the sketch card is Artist Proof?

Artist Proof sketch card can determine by with an AP or Artist proof logo. Upper Deck usually has a labeled AP logo in a circle border in a silver color. Others might just have the literal logo font ARTIST PROOF.

Some others are not labeled. Some artist who were given Blank sketch cards writes an AP or ARTIST PROOF or ARTIST RETURNS included at their signatures.

How many Artist Proof does an Artist has?

It depends on the card company’s incentive. Every contract we sign has different cases.

An Example: An artist working on 50 sketch cards in a series, gets 5 Blank Artist Proof.

Blank Sketch Cards - Avengers Endgame

How much an AP card Priced at?

  • Price really depends between the Artist and the Client.
  • Depends on the card series.
  • Character/s to draw in the card.
  • How many cards (single or puzzle card).
  • It will base on art complexity.
  • A drawn in effort and freedom of time.
  • Shipment fees will add to the cost.

Can anybody buy Artist Proof cards?

YES! Anybody who likes trading cards and card collectors can buy Artist Proof cards. You will have to search for the Artist who has an available card.

It’s sometimes difficult to find the artist who has the AP card of if you do find the artist, he might he has limited amount of cards available.

When I draw my Artist Proof and Sketch Cards, I wanted to make difference. The regular sketch cards are done with deadlines my artwork is a bit simple but still good I think. The Artist Proof cards made with time quality. Appreciation is up to the beholder.