For the next few installments of Tips and Tricks, I’m going to walk you through making a traditional media badge. This tutorial series will also go in depth into the world of illustrating with traditional media, especially the use of Copic markers. Each blog post will cover a different section of making a badge, so you can easily go back and re-read an individual part later! While this series is geared specifically towards badges, the vast majority of the tips are applicable for any marker-based traditional illustration.
Today's blog will cover the basics of what a badge is, all the materials you will need to make one, and then just the sketch portion!
What Is a Badge?
For this tutorial series, you will need:
Step 1: Sketching Tools
Like most illustrations, you are going to start with a sketch. I personally like work on some generic cardstock when I do badges, but most thick papers will do. Smooth bristol paper is an even better choice for ink and marker work because it is designed to hold up to the wetness of markers as well as provide a nice, smooth surface for ink-work. It also holds up much better to heavy erasing than anything else. Cardstock is like the cheaper cousin to bristol paper: it’s decently smooth and holds up better than computer paper, but it will tear up much faster if you aren’t careful, especially when erasing. However, I still feel the cost of bristol paper outweighs the benefits when it comes to small art pieces such as badges. If you are going to be erasing your sketch a bunch, I suggest biting the bullet and getting the more expensive bristol. Anything larger than a badge will definitely benefit from using bristol as well! I have also used index cards, both regular sized and large, for badges, but they are even worse than cardstock, so I don’t recommend them unless you’re in a bind!
TIP: There are many, many, many different kinds of paper on the market. Try out a bunch until you find one you like! However, for badges, make sure anything you use has a smooth texture! When you go to laminate, any bumps won't seal properly and you will get these weird air pockets that look super ugly. Things like vellum brisol paper and watercolor paper are terrible for laminated badges!
Step 2: Expressions and your Character
Before you can even begin sketching, you should have an idea of what expression you’ll be doing. Because badges are supposed to showcase the character, and are generally only headshots, the expression you choose becomes paramount. I like to push most badge expressions to their extreme, but doing angry or goofy faces are my favorite. If you get stumped on what expression to choose, a simple smile is always a good fallback. While smiles do get old after a while, I can’t tell you how many clients have specifically asked for “just a smile”! Some other expressions to consider: shy, smirking, open-mouthed smile, smug (how many S expressions are there?!)
Step 3: Can I Sketch Yet?
Almost! Take a brief moment to decide how large you are going to want your final badge to be. Your drawing should probably be about an inch smaller than that size. It doesn’t really matter what size you decide on because it’s your badge, but keep in mind that these are meant to be worn. Now, I have seen jumbo badges that are a full sheet of paper, and tiny badges that are the size of a business card or smaller, but I like mine to be about the size of my hand, or a large index card. Make sure you leave enough room around your drawing to be able to put in the name though! Keep in mind that you will be cutting out your drawing as well, so make sure the character doesn’t run off the edge of the paper. It’s always good to have at least a half of a centimeter leeway between the sketch and the edge!
TIP: If you struggle with keeping your art to a reasonable size, try cutting down your paper to whatever size you want! If I’m going to a convention where I know I’ll be busy with custom badges, I’ll pre-cut my cardstock into fourths to make sure I don’t accidentally make my badges all sorts of random sizes!
Once you have decided on your expression, get to sketching your character! If you’re doing a bust, don’t worry too much over how to finish off the area beneath the shoulders because that’s where the name is going to go. The only thing you should worry about is putting the character down onto the paper.
TIP: Draw LIGHTLY. You are going to be erasing this sketch eventually, so make sure you draw as light as possible. Drawing too heavily can leave “ghost” lines after you erase, or even intentions! Unfortunately, there is no simple fix for drawing too heavily; you can only fix it by practicing!
Step 3: Names and Lettering!
Much like with the expression, how you decided to write the character’s name will affect the entire feel of the badge. For bust badges, I like to put names on either a banner of some sort, or make the letters big enough to touch each other because I use the name as an easy way to finish off the awkward edge made by the end of the shoulders/chest. If you’re doing just a headshot or a full body badge, try making the location and style of the name relate to the image (especially for full bodies!).
Another thing to consider is the “font” of the letters. While you can always just write the name in your regular handwriting, designing something unique can really pull together the entire piece. Try tying your choice of lettering into the character’s expression or interests. For example, an aggressive character will be better suited for an aggressive-looking, scratchy font than a bubbly, vintage font.
That's all for today! Next week I will be going over inking your sketch, taking you one leap forward in completing your badge!