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.
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 Expansion Sheet 1, available in special vending machines from March 23, 1998. Twenty entrants were also selected for the Excellence Award, all of them receiving a Pokémon Illustrator promotional card. One hundred 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 Expansion 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. Thirty 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. Thirty 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 5,250 Poké Card Creator Packs were distributed in July 2004: 50 packs to each of the five grand prize winners, and one pack to 5,000 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 believed that this was not how the cards were distributed when the contest ended, however. A previously unmentioned publication, Shōnen Sunday, also ran a contest. None of the jumbo cards which were intended to be awarded to the 60 originally-mentioned runner-up contestants are known to have surfaced. Significantly fewer of these cards have appeared than that of the 2010 Pokémon Design Contest and it's speculated that each winner may have received between one and thirteen full sets of the winning designs instead of 100 of their own design.
At the same time these cards were released, another Shogakukan publication, Weekly Shōnen Sunday, organised a commissioned Pichu design by Gosho Aoyama, the award winning illustrator of the Detective Conan series first published by the same magazine. This card was released as an insert in the magazine and formed part of Japan's DPt-P promotional set.
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:
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 one of ten 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 three 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. The top 8 entries were announced on May 30 and the final positions were announced during the 2019 Pokémon Japan Championships on June 8. One overall winner received ¥300,000, a trophy featuring their name and winning illustration, and had their artwork featured on an oversized TCG card; one runner-up received ¥100,000 and a trophy featuring their name and illustration. The website stated four entries as selected by the panel were to receive ¥50,000, yet five were ultimately included as part of the Judge Award, as well as an additional Slowpoke Award, chosen due to its popularity amongst the panel. It is unknown if the additional Judge and Slowpoke Award-winning entries were also given a prize. Entries 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 one 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 three 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 and the final positions were published on July 17. One overall winner received ¥300,000, a trophy featuring their artwork, and an official TCG card using their artwork; one 2D Excellence Award winner and one 3D Excellence Award winner each received ¥100,000 and a trophy featuring their artwork; five entries as selected by the panel each received ¥50,000. Entries deemed excellent by the panel were also approached by Creatures, Inc. to produce official artwork for the TCG.
Pokémon the Movie: Koko × Pokémon Card Game Illust Contest
An illustration contest was held in the months leading up to the Japanese theatrical release of Secrets of the Jungle. Those wishing to participate were required to follow the Pokémon the Movie: Koko official Twitter account. A digital copy of the application form could be downloaded from there or the official Pokémon the Movie website; physical copies could also be obtained from participating Pokémon Centers and Pokémon Stores. Entrants were invited to color in a line drawing of Koko and DadaZarude based on the Tetsuo Yajima illustration used on a promotional Koko card. The application period ran from October 15 until November 15, 2020 and while the contest was not limited to residents of Japan, prizes would only be shipped to a Japanese address. Entrants could apply once per account and were required to post their artwork on Twitter with the hashtag #ポケモン映画カードイラコン, Pokémon Movie Card Illu Con. Teams of parents and their children could submit their artwork for consideration using the additional hashtag #親子賞, Parent-child Award. Children were required to color the line art of Koko and Zarude; parents could color in the background and add more illustrations if they so wished.
Of all the entries submitted, 55 were nominated by a Pikachu Project judging panel to receive a 2-player TCG Movie Original Design Paper Playmat (Japanese: 映画オリジナルデザイン紙製プレイマット) featuring Koko and Dada Zarude. Nominees were notified via Twitter in late November 2020 and their artwork was showcased on the official website on December 23. Of these nominations, four overall winners were selected across four categories: the Director's Award, the Creatures Award, the Parent-child Award, and the Twitter Special Award. The Twitter Special Award was revealed as a surprise category upon the announcement of the results on December 25, and was determined by the artwork that received the most likes up to December 1. Each of the winning entries received a Jumbo card featuring their artwork plus other Pokémon goods, which began to shipped in late March 2021.