How to Commission Your Own Illustrations and Artwork

On a beautiful day, you wake up and decide you want an artwork – not just any art piece, but something one of a kind and made just for you. Or perhaps you want to get a artsy gift for someone, but you don’t want to get ready-made cards from the store. What you are searching for, is a commissioned artwork. Here are some things for you to think about when deciding if you want to create this gem, and how to then go about it. Most people get stressed out by this because they feel that since they are going to spending quite a substantial amount of money on it and they know they want to have a say in a number of things, but they also don’t know where to start.

Most of the information I’m sharing is based on my experience with customers, and also on my part as a customer. It’s a guide and some steps may not be applicable for you, but I’ve found that these have helped the people who have come to me for to commission an artwork. In fact sometimes, by going through these steps, it made them realise that maybe they aren’t ready to proceed, and that’s fine – you want to like what you are going to be paying someone to create.

Before you commission an artwork

What is the purpose of this artwork?

Is this for your wedding – a wedding invitation? Is it for a gift? Is it for yourself to put up on the wall in your living room? Knowing this will help u determine things like the size of the artwork you require and what you want to be in the artwork.

What is the style of artwork you are interested in? Does the artist I’m asking have a similar style?

A lot of times I have people coming to me and they don’t know what style they like. That’s okay, except when I complete a piece of work, and they realise they would like something that looks different.

Artists have their own unique style so find one that matches what you want.

What you can do is to look at the existing work of the artist you are interested to commission and pick a few pieces that you like and would like your own artwork to model after. You can also trawl the Internet and find references that you like. Pinterest is a great place to search and put together bits and pieces of what you like.

When do I need this completed and delivered to me by? Do I have the necessary information ready?

Creating art takes time and a decent piece of original artwork made from scratch will not be ready as soon as you think. If you need your artwork printed, put in even more lead time so things are not rushed!

A safe rule of thumb is to give yourself 3-4 weeks of lead time.

If you want to help speed things up, be sure to have some of the following information confirmed for your artist:

  • size of artwork: general paper sizes usually work (e.g A4, A3 etc), but if you have a specific size, perhaps for a frame you already bought, it’s good to confirm early on especially if you want an original watercolour piece.
  • medium of artwork – canvas? digital soft copy? watercolour paper? to be sent for print?
  • Some idea of what you want to be illustrated – even a vague idea is a good start.
  • If you need text for say, a wedding illustration, it’s good to bring it up because this will affect the composition of the piece and the placement of the text.
  • References/Photos: if you want an illustration of a person, be sure to have some photos of said person on hand.

What is my budget?

Commissioning a unique illustration requires time, effort and art materials, and it is definitely going to cost more than the ready-to-buy prints in shops. The great thing is you are paying for something one of a kind, and it reflects the ideas, emotions, thoughts, well-wishes (if it’s a gift) and a bit of yourself.

Illustration - Custom Birthday Card - Final Print - digital art
Personalised card printed on A6 linen paper and filled with illustrations thought of by the sender that are unique to the birthday girl. Definitely one of its kind, but it also means you’re paying for someone to create it just for you.

Prices of commissioned artwork will depend on the complexity of the artwork, how soon you need it (most artists will charge a bit more for a rush job), and sometimes the size of the artwork.

A good way to gauge how much is a good amount is to do some research. Check out how much different artists are charging for something similar to what you are looking for. A good place to check would be on the artists’ websites (you can write to them to ask), at their shops (online marketplaces like Etsy is a good place to look around).

Most artists may also ask for a non-refundable deposit before they start work, so do bear this in mind. The reason is really because the moment they start work, they put in time, resources (paint, paper, electricity, blood, sweat, tears haha), and all to making something special for you. If you decide halfway that you don’t want to go on with it for some reason, they would already have gotten that bit of work done, and it would be for nothing.

You should also check on how much printing will cost if you are looking at getting a digital piece printed. The cost of printing is usually separate from the design and illustration cost. Printing cost will depend on the size and type of paper, any fancy add-ons that you want, like gold foil or letterpress, and the quantity of the prints you need.

Here’s a rough cost breakdown of getting a commissioned art piece, and some of these can be paid to your artist or a vendor to handle, or you can ‘save’ on the cost and do it by yourself. I say ‘save’, because you still need to pay for say, printing, but you might find a less expensive printer.

  • Design/illustration cost
  • Printing cost
  • Delivery/Shipping cost
  • Rushed work additional cost (if you urgently need something by tomorrow, for example)
  • Cost of frame

Ask the artist how the process will be like.

Most artists lay down their policies from the start, but if they don’t, you can ask them what will happen after you decide to commission them. This is to manage your own expectations, and also let the artist know what you are comfortable with. Some things to check would be:

  • How many rounds of revision will we have?
  • Will I be updated at various stages of the artwork completion progress?

This is a guide and it depends on you – perhaps you want to leave it entirely to the artist and don’t require any updates until the artwork is done, or perhaps it is crucial that you are notified of all creative decisions. You need to be in agreement with the artist so there aren’t any rude shocks for either of you.

As the artwork is being created

The magic starts with rough pencil sketches of the concept.

Be patient! Like I said earlier, original and beautiful art takes time!

For me, this is usually how I update my customers:

  1. Have a chat to understand more about this artwork that the customer wants to commission. Sometimes we also chat about the recipient so I have an idea of what this person is like.

    I then create concepts and let the customer take a look to decide what he/she likes.
  2. From there, I then work on a draft and let the customer comment on.
  3. 1st round of revision where I make changes based on the comments from earlier.
  4. 2nd round of revision – usually we try to firm things up here.
  5. Colour draft – sometimes I do a quick colour draft so the customer can see how the colour composition is like.
  6. Final artwork

Your artwork is ready!

The most satisfying moment is to see the finished piece of art, and knowing that you made it happen.

So here you go, a guide on how to go about commissioning an artwork. Remember that these steps vary from customer to customer and from artist to artist, but I hope that it helps those of you who are unsure how to go about it.

You can commission artwork for anything!

Weddings, birthdays, gifts for a special occasion, something to put up on the desk in the office or on the walls at home, custom Whatsapp stickers to spam your friends, cake toppers, an illustrated storybook – the list is endless. If you can think it, and I can draw it, let’s do it. Drop me an email if you like my work and want to create something together with me!

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Pammy

    Such an informative and interesting read, ame dear!! ❤️❤️

    1. Ong Lai Art

      Thanks Pammy!!! Glad it’s informative and interesting! haha was worried that it might be too much info at one go!

  2. sikis izle

    Having read this I thought it was extremely informative. I appreciate you finding the time and energy to put this information together. Dael Orland Hulbard

    1. Ong Lai Art

      Glad you found it informative! Thanks for stopping by to read it! 🙂

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