Commissioning Commissions

As a designer and illustrator I’ve worked with all kinds of clients and requesters of high quality fine art, and there are a few things you should know to get the best out of the artist for that commission you’ve requested. Not sure how many other guides are out there but I think it’s fair to say many artists and designers will agree with this list. Follow these guidelines to make it easy on your artist and in turn they will churn out amazing work which will feel more than worth it. When it comes to commissioning art work or design work here’s a quick rundown of things you should do and not do:


DO: Pay attention and see if your artist is accepting commissions or not. A lot of times artists put it in their bios or websites Accepting Commissions or Commissions Open. If it’s not explicitly stated anywhere on their profile or website (seriously take a minute and try and locate this info, if it exists it’s meant for you to find) politely shoot them an email asking if they’re accepting commissions (once again they do have their email posted somewhere, find it, do a little bit of work, it won’t kill ya). If no email is found politely shoot them a DM and ask if they’re accepting commissions and that’s it. This brings us to-

DON’T: Blow up their DMs outlining and detailing the full idea of the project without them asking for it. Do not send them the concept video, do not send them links to past works or projects, do not send them links to whatever this art will be tied to unless they ask for it. This has happened a few times to me. And you know what I tell them? Two words: cool story. And that’s it. Or I’ll direct somebody to email me the details, story, ideas, links etc. and drop my email address to send it to so we can talk about how we can go about doing this commission. And what do they do? Proceed to send me everything in my DMs completely ignoring my request to email it to me. If you can’t follow my directions are you even serious about this project? I’ll just leave you on read.

DO: Have a budget. Figure out what you’re willing to pay for what you are requesting and communicate it. If you feel your funds are a bit tight but this request is very important let the artist know. Seriously, just talk and don’t be afraid to ask. We’ve been broke before and know how it feels. Be upfront so we know what to expect as far as payment and we can deliver a product that is fair to both of us. This brings us to-

DON’T: Be surprised when asked to pay at least half up front. It’s standard practice to ask for half down so we know you’re serious. And don’t be surprised if we don’t take your job/request seriously if there’s no money to back it up. So have half ready to go. Some artists may only take the whole fee up front so be ready for that as well. Tip: If you volunteer the whole fee up front with no delay you just may get special priority.

DO: Have a deadline. Okay, so you’re pretty chill and don’t have an exact deadline for what you want. You tell the artist “It’s no rush, just whenever you get a chance.” Unless your artist is extremely regimented (and you paid in full up front) don’t expect anything to be done anytime soon. You’ve just given your artist an imaginary chore and it’s down at the bottom of the list, because when will they have a chance? They have deadlines to meet! Even if there is no rush pick a date out of the air; two weeks, one month, a day before the day it’s needed. Anything. Have a due date and we’ll take it seriously. Need something rather hasty? Be ready to pay a rush fee.

DO: Know what you need. This one is a bit tricky depending on the situation. Many a client have stressed me out/pissed me off because they give me instructions for their request, I bust my ass and finish it, and they turn around with a list of changes because they weren’t specific enough or they decided they don’t like how this looks after all. This wishy-washiness makes more work for the artist and begins to supersede the initial agreed upon price. This makes for a disgruntled artist who may or may not rush the job just to get you out the door and out of their life. Know what you want. Be very specific if specifics are important. Pay attention to the details and requests you are giving your artist. Do not provide certain examples and then not like the work because the artist stuck close to the examples. If you’re not sure how the request may turn out, do communicate that you would like a concept open to changes because you may or may not be sure of the final product, that way we can work it into the pay system. See number three. Also this one goes hand in hand with the last one.

DO: Know who you’re talking to. The adverse of this sometimes makes for the wishy-washiness of the above step. This one is pretty straight forward; understand what the artist you’re contacting does and does not do. A comic artist will churn out some fantastic full figured black and white ink illustrations. A vector artist will turn out your new logo design sized and ready to go. An animal painter will excel at that dog portrait you’d like to get your cousin. Do not ask a landscape painter to design your business card. Do not ask the erotic illustrator to draw your next children’s book. Do not ask a comic artist to build your next website. And while those artists may dabble with those requests (indeed they may accept them cuz they need the money), the results may not turn out as top notch as you expect them to.

DO: Trust the Artist. You’re dealing with a professional, and the pros just don’t dole out crap to their audiences (at least intentionally). So please relax, sit back and let us do our job. You paid up front and gave us a deadline, prepare to see the work on that deadline. If any issue should arise you will hear from us. We wouldn’t hand it back to you if we didn’t feel it was worthy of you and your fee. 

I think that does it for me. Fellow artists, if you have any other tips I forgot to mention let me know in the comments!

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