How much do the illustrations usually cost?

As an artist-illustrator with several years of experience, I’ve come to realize that many clients struggle with understanding the true value of an illustration. While there is plenty of advice available for illustrators, there seems to be a lack of information for those who commission art. In this article, I aim to shed light on what goes into creating an illustration and why it costs as much as it does.

Enviroment concept art for my client
Fantasy concept art of Elven Village by Daria Elvy Fox

Artist or Illustrator?

Firstly, let’s clarify the difference between an artist and an illustrator. Although they may seem interchangeable, there is a distinct contrast. While an artist creates work according to their vision, an illustrator is commissioned by clients to bring their ideas to life. Clear instructions are essential for illustrators because they must accurately transfer what is in the client’s head onto paper (or digital canvas).

Process

The process of creating an illustration usually involves several stages – discussion, idea development, rough sketch, and drawing. Each step takes time, and time equals money. When working without a predetermined wage, as is common in many industries, hourly rates are used to calculate the final price. The rate can vary based on experience, but this does not necessarily mean that a more experienced illustrator will produce work faster or at a lower cost. It’s quite the opposite – an experienced illustrator understands the true value of their work and sets their prices accordingly.

The discussion stage is often underestimated by clients, as correspondence can take up valuable time. However, I include this in my pricing because communication is an integral part of the process, and not all exchanges result in commissions. I try to limit these conversations with writers who are not yet serious about working with me as an illustrator.

Idea development is one of the most challenging and analytical stages of the process. It’s impossible to explain in just a few sentences how to present a text visually, but essentially, it involves figuring out how to immerse readers in what’s happening or evoke certain associations. This stage lasts throughout the entire project, as constant feedback between the illustrator and client is necessary for success.

As an artist-illustrator who specializes in pet portraits, I can accurately answer the question “How much does a pet portrait usually cost” and provide a fixed price for this type of work because I have a lot of experience with it. However, discussion and idea development still apply to each portrait.

Pet drawings of yorkshire terrier
Commissioned dog portrait by Daria Elvy Fox

In conclusion, clients must understand that the value of an illustration goes beyond just the finished product. The time and effort put into every stage of the process contributes greatly to the outcome and therefore deserves proper compensation. By working together with a client throughout the entire project, from discussion to delivery, an illustrator can create truly exceptional work that accurately represents their client’s vision.

Stages

  • Discussion: While communication is necessary to ensure that the illustration meets the client’s needs, excess discussion can be costly. I include correspondence time in the price of my work. Some discussion during the project is unavoidable as well.
  • Idea Development: This stage involves analyzing how to present the client’s text in a way that engages readers or evokes emotion (for example). It’s a challenging and crucial step, as it affects the illustration’s demand on the market. I don’t expect clients to understand this process fully, but they emphasize its significance.
  • Preparing a Rough Sketch: This stage involves creating a black-and-white version of the illustration without color. It involves building the composition, working out backgrounds, and developing the main characters. The amount of time spent here depends on the required detail level and format.
  • Rendering: This stage involves coloring the illustration and adding details. The time spent here depends on the artist’s experience and style.
  • Copyright: Please keep in mind that if the client demands a full copyright assignment, it could potentially lead to a significant increase in cost.

I understand clients’ concerns about pricing but emphasize that illustrating is a job that requires time. I strongly recommend against compromising on quality in favor of a lower price. Illustrations should be good enough to make the client want to buy the final product themselves.

In summary, I want to underline that both painting and illustration are highly skilled professions that demand extensive practice over many years. These activities should not be viewed as mere hobbies, as artists and illustrators earn their living through their craft. Let us show respect for each other’s hard work. It is essential to mention that an overwhelming majority of my clients are kind and considerate individuals, and this article is written purely to satisfy curiosity and provide insight. May all clients have talented performers, and may artists and illustrators receive fair compensation.

Book illustration of daisy for my client
Illustration by Daria Elvy Fox for the “Keep Reaching” children’s book by R.B. Moller and Heather H. Moller Authors

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