Art Trade Etiquette

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Art Trade Etiquette

Post by Felony » Sun Jan 12, 2020 4:16 pm

Another SWAT Kats Secret Santa Exchange has come and gone. In light of unfortunate events that seem to occur every year, I feel the need to give some pointers when it comes to art trades and group exchanges. A sort of small guide to art trading etiquette.


1. Read All the Criteria

So much frustration and disappointment can be avoided by going trough all the stipulations given in an art trade/group exchange. Make certain you read and understand all the rules of participation. When trading with an individual, make sure you know what they are expecting from you and vice versa.

2. Learn About the Character

Whether trading with friends or someone you don’t know very well yet, you should strive to get everything right about their character. Gender, hair color, type of clothes they wear, if they’re a hero or villain... all these things and more should be made available to you and you should make available to the person drawing for you. Either by description in text format, reference sheet or a handful of images, make certain you know the character you are drawing. If you aren’t certain, ask! It’s OK to double check on a detail. It’s worse to get something completely wrong, such as color a cat character’s fur red when it’s actually blue.

3. Put In Full Effort

I shouldn’t have to state this. This is a gift! You want that person you’re drawing for to be happy with what you made, right? It is noticeable when people don’t put forth 100% in their work. Has nothing to do with an artist’s skill level either. When a person half asses their art, it can be disappointing as the quality could be better. It also makes it seem like the person just wanted to trade for free art. That’s not what trades/exchanges are about. Commission someone to draw for you if you don’t want to draw for them.

4. Know Your Limits

Be honest with yourself and others when accepting an art trade or joining in a group exchange. If the art trade is of an anthropomorphic bird character and you cannot draw birds well yet and/or feel uncomfortable in trying, then don’t agree to the trade/exchange. You want your work to be the best it can be for the person receiving it. Artwork you’re giving someone isn’t the time to test your abilities. Do not take on a trade you aren’t ready to create artistically yet.

5. Submit Your Own Work

When someone is wanting to trade with you, they want it to be from you. Seriously don’t trace someone else’s art or use bases for an art trade pic. I had this happen from an art trade years ago. I wasn’t sure until two people (one the original artist) contacted me confirming my suspicions that the person traced someone else’s art and just changed enough things to make it look like my character. I drew my half from scratch, putting in hours of work, only to get a traced pic that I couldn’t display or feel right in keeping. Basically I got nothing and they got a free pic from me. If you aren’t capable of drawing on your own, then don’t do art trades. Tracing is fine for learning, but not for finished images and certainly not for art given to others. Bases are also a cheat and take far less time and effort.

6. Give Yourself Time

Don’t wait until the last minute to start on your trade. If an exchange gives you six (6) weeks, you should take on your artwork at various points. Come up with an idea one day, draw a few drafts in a week or two, ink another couple days, - you get the idea. I understand life keeps us busy and sometimes things occur that weren’t planned which hinder creation. If you have a deadline, shoot for having your art completed a few days prior. Never know if something happens on the day or night before something is due. If it’s finished a few days prior, sending it will not be a problem should some crisis suddenly occur. Also, rushed artwork often isn’t an artist’s best work.

7. Communication

I briefly mentioned this earlier but it needs repeating. Is there something you’re not sure of about a character? Ask! If it’s a Secret Santa type of group exchange then ask the person hosting it. Are you having trouble? Inform the other person/host so they can assist. Want to show your work in progress for approval? I highly recommend it! Communicating concerns ensures you are doing things well and correctly and also the other person feels that you are putting in effort for their sake. If something comes up that will cause a delay, let the person/host know as soon as you can. If you are able, send your WIP image so they know how far along you are (and that you’ve actually been working on it). Things can be worked out and people appreciate being informed.


I hope this helps everyone. I’ll be honest, this SWAT Kats Secret Santa Exchange has gotten a bad reputation due to past grievances. It only takes one or two failed participants to discourage others from joining in on future events. May these points guide you for future art trades and group exchanges whether they are SWAT Kats related or not.
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