Illustration contests are contests in which entrants are invited to create artwork of requested Pokémon in effort to have it featured on a card in the Pokémon Trading Card Game. The majority of these contests have only been open to residents of Japan, with many earlier competitions held in Shogakukan publications, such as CoroCoro Comic. Wizards of the Coast and The Pokémon Company International have also held contests in North America and many other countries worldwide during their tenure. The following is a list of contests held in conjunction with the TCG.
Pokémon Card Game Illust Artist Contest
The first illustration contest was publicized in the November 1997 issue of CoroCoro Comic, released on October 15, 1997 and invited readers to draw and submit their favorite Pokémon. The winning entries were announced in the January 1998 issue of CoroCoro Comic, released in December 1997. Three entrants received the Best Award, each of them receiving 20 copies of a Pokémon trading card featuring their illustration and a special Pokémon Illustrator promotional card. These cards were subsequently printed as part of Extended Sheet 1, available in special vending machines from March 23, 1998. 20 entrants were also selected for the Excellence Award, all of them receiving the Pokémon Illustrator promotional card. 100 entrants received the Special Award, each of them receiving a 1998 Pokémon Original Calendar.
Mewtwo's Counterattack Commemoration Illust Artist Contest
Another illustration contest was publicized in the May 1998 issue of CoroCoro Comic, released in April 1998, in commemoration of the upcoming Pokémon movie in July of that year. The contest invited readers to create their own original Pokémon trading card, and was divided into two categories: illustration and attacks. The winning entries were announced in the July 1998 issue of CoroCoro Comic, released in June 1998. One entrant received the Best Award in terms of illustration and attacks, receiving 20 physical copies of their card and a Pokémon Illustrator promotional card. This card was later printed as part of Extended Sheet 3, available from November 24, 1998. Four entrants received the Excellence Award in the illustration category and three entrants received the Excellence Award in the attack category, each of them receiving a Pokémon Illustrator promotional card. 30 entrants received the Special Award, each of them receiving a Mewtwo's Counterattack and Pikachu's Summer Vacation teaser poster.
Pikachu's Summer Vacation Commemoration Illust Artist Contest
A third illustration contest through CoroCoro Comic was publicized in the June 1998 issue, released in May 1998, commemorating the upcoming Pikachu short attached to Mewtwo's Counterattack. This contest was similar to the previous one, with both an illustration category and an attack category. Winning entries were announced in the August 1998 issue of CoroCoro Comic, released in July 1998. Although there was no Best Award, the four entrants selected for the Excellence Award in both the illustration category and attack category each received a Pokémon Illustrator promotional card. 30 entrants received the Special Award, each of them receiving a Pokémon Pikachu.
CoroCoro Best Photo Contest
CoroCoro Comic held another contest in May 1999 and invited readers to take interesting pictures of Pokémon from the recently released Pokémon Snap and submit them in the Best Photo Contest. The top five winning entries had their artwork featured on reprints from Expansion Pack. The five winners each received 20 copies of their card.
Much like the CoroCoro Comic contest, the TV Tokyo variety show 64 Mario Stadium also held a Best Photo Contest in May 1999. The top five winning entries had their Pokémon Snap photographs featured on reprints from Expansion Pack. The exact number of these cards in existence is unknown.
In mid 2002, Wizards of the Coast also ran an illustration competition for the English version of Keita Takahashi's Pokémon Card Game Illust Artist Contest entry. The chosen image was created by Craig Turvey.
The Poké Card Creator Contest was a contest held by Kids' WB! in 2004. Applicants aged between five and fifteen were invited to create an image of one of five pre-selected Pokémon and submit it to Kids' WB! between February 16 and April 10, 2004. Pokémon USA designed five new cards using the winning illustrations. A total of 5250 Poké Card Creator Packs were distributed in July 2004; 50 packs to each of the five grand prize winners, and one pack to 5000 first prize winners. The grand prize winners also won a $500 Target gift card.
In 2009, Shogakukan held the Pokémon Card Design Contest through many of their publications. Entrants were invited to design the artwork for Spiky-eared Pichu and Arceus. Aside from two magazines that held contests for original drawings, each one provided an outline of the requested Pokémon drawn by professional illustrators (whose artwork were also featured on the cards in the Movie Commemoration Random Pack). This contest was restricted to residents of Japan and had varying application periods across participating publications:
Kindergarten; Televi-Kun; Elementary School 1st Grade: February 28 - March 31, 2009
Elementary School 2nd Grade - Elementary School 6th Grade: March 3 - April 2, 2009
CoroCoro Comic; Pucchigumi: March 14 - April 14, 2009
It is unknown if there were 100 copies of the selected entries distributed to each of the winners due to the low numbers of complete sets that have surfaced within the collector community. It is speculated that there may only be twelve sets - one for each of the winners.
In 2010, Shogakukan held another Pokémon Card Design Contest through many of their publications. Entrants were invited to design the artwork for Illusion's Zorua and Illusion's Zoroark, again using a pre-drawn template. This contest, much like the one held in 2009, was restricted to residents of Japan. The application period across all publications ran from February 20 to April 2, 2010. Winners were announced on July 27, 2010.
A total of 660 winning entries were chosen across the ten publications, broken down into four bands:
All selected entrants also received the regular prints of Illusion's Zorua and Illusion's Zoroark (660 total).
It is also unknown if there were 100 copies of the selected entries distributed to each of the winners. It is speculated that there may only be ten sets - one for each of the winners.
Unlike the contest ran in 2009, all 660 chosen entrants were showcased on the Japanese Pokémon movie website. Below are the top six entries for each publication, including some additional entries from Pokémon Fan magazine.
The first international illustration contest invited players of Pokémon Art Academy to create original Pokémon illustrations with the opportunity to have their artwork featured on specially created Pokémon TCG cards. Overall, there were three separate instances of the competition:
Japan (where the competition was named Pokémon Art Academy × Pokémon Card Game) – open to residents of Japan.
North America – open to residents of the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
Europe and Oceania – open to residents of Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, and Russia (Italy was specifically excluded).
The Japanese competition began first, with the submission period open from December 13, 2014 to February 1, 2015. The North American competition and European and Oceanian competition began simultaneously on February 18 and ran until March 29, 2015. Each competition comprised two categories: Dress-Up Pikachu and Your Favorite Pokémon. Dress-Up Pikachu required players to portray Pikachu in a costume of their design, inspired by Cosplay Pikachu as featured in Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. Your Favorite Pokémon invited players to create an image featuring any Pokémon. Once entrants had completed their chosen image in Free Paint mode, they were required to upload it to Miiverse and submit it as part of the competition.
The 5 winning entries from each category in the Japanese competition were announced in March 2015. The 3 winning entries from each category in the North American competition and European and Oceanian competition were announced on June 8 of the same year. The top entrants in each competition were selected from a panel of judges including Pokémon Trading Card Game illustrators. Each of the winners received 100 copies of the card featuring their illustration.
Another illustration contest began in late 2018 and invited people to create artwork with theme "Scenery with Pokémon". Images were required to feature 1 of 10 pre-selected Pokémon complete with an accompanying background—forests or cities were cited as examples. These Pokémon included: Charizard, Pikachu, Slowpoke, Eevee, Mewtwo, Ho-Oh, Gardevoir, Metagross, Darkrai, and Solgaleo. The competition website included Pokédex entries, official Ken Sugimori artwork and 3D models of each Pokémon by Creatures, Inc.'s in-house art team 5ban Graphics for reference. Only residents of Japan were eligible to enter the competition. The application period was open from December 17, 2018 until March 31, 2019. Entrants could apply up to 3 times and were required to submit their artwork via the competition website. All entries were reviewed by a panel of judges, which consisted of The Pokémon Company President Tsunekazu Ishihara, Creatures, Inc. President Hirokazu Tanaka, Creatures, Inc. Executive Producer Yuji Kitano, Creatures, Inc. Art Director Kenichi Koga, and TCG illustrators Mitsuhiro Arita, Kouki Saitou, and Kagemaru Himeno.
Interviews with Mitsuhiro Arita and Kouki Saitou were published on the competition website on February 12, 2019 and March 5, 2019, respectively, which explore their methodology of creating an image as well as insights into the interactions between the illustrator and client.
In total, 5,343 entries were submitted. Fifty illustrations that passed the primary screening were published on the competition website on April 26, 2019; those making the top 8 were announced on May 30, 2019. The final positions were announced during the 2019 Pokémon Japan Championships on June 8, 2019: 1 overall winner received ¥300,000, a trophy featuring their name and winning illustration, and had their artwork featured on an oversized TCG card; 1 runner-up received ¥100,000 and a trophy featuring their name and illustration; and 4 entries as selected by the panel received ¥50,000. Despite the website stating that 4 entries would receive a prize, 5 were ultimately included as part of the jury award, as well as an additional Slowpoke award, chosen due to its popularity amongst the panel. It is unknown if the additional jury and Slowpoke award-winning entries were also given a prize. Entrants with artwork deemed excellent by the panel were also approached by Creatures, Inc. to produce official artwork for the TCG.
A second Grand Prix illustration contest began in Japan in late 2019, this time inviting people to create artwork with theme "Pokémon's Cool Moments". Like the first Grand Prix, submitted artworks were required to focus on 1 of a number of pre-selected Pokémon. Entrants could select to portray either Charizard, Pikachu, Tyranitar, Milotic, Lucario, Genesect, Wishiwashi, or Zacian. The contest was only open to residents of Japan and entrants could submit up to 3 illustrations to competition website from the period December 9, 2019 to March 31, 2020. All entries were reviewed by a panel of judges, which consisted of The Pokémon Company President Tsunekazu Ishihara, Creatures, Inc. President Hirokazu Tanaka, Creatures, Inc. Executive Producer Yuji Kitano, Creatures, Inc. Pokémon CG Studio Art Director Ujiie Junko, Creatures, Inc. Art Director Kenichi Koga, and TCG illustrators Hitoshi Ariga, Ryota Murayama, and Yuta Otani.
The competition website included articles that provided information and insight from individuals at Creatures, Inc. and official illustrators. The first article featured an interview with Kenichi Koga in which he discusses a general overview of the Pokémon Trading Card Game, the varying illustration styles that have been an enduring attribute of the TCG, and tips for creating an effective illustration. The second and third articles featured interviews respectively exploring Mitsuhiro Arita's and Kouki Saitou's approach for creating illustrations. These three articles were originally published for the first Grand Prix. The fourth article features an interview with two members of Creatures, Inc.'s Pokémon Card Development Division: Art Design Team Manager Satoru Nagaya and Illustration Team Sub-manager Natsume Suwabe. The pair discuss the response to the first Grand Prix, the impetus for the second, and exploring the "Pokémon's Cool Moments" theme. The fifth article, published on January 31, 2020, features an interview with illustrator Hitoshi Ariga. The sixth article, published on February 28, 2020 features an interview with the winner of the first Grand Prix, Yuu Nishida.
In total, 4,050 entries were submitted. Fifty illustrations that passed the primary screening were published on the competition website on May 1, 2020. 1 overall winner is set to receive ¥300,000 and have their artwork featured on a TCG card; 1 2D Excellence Award winner and 1 3D Excellence Award winner are each to receive ¥100,000; and 5 entries as selected by the panel are each to receive ¥50,000. Entrants with artwork deemed excellent by the panel were also approached by Creatures, Inc. to produce official artwork for the TCG.