Commissioning Dos and Donts

I have commissioned a lot of art. Like, a lot of art. Like, a LOT of art.

Like, a LOT a lot of art

And I’ve been commissioned a couple of times myself. I’ve been on both sides of the equation, as both commissioner and commissioned, and while my experiences have mostly been great, there have been times – on both sides of the coin – where things went…less than smoothly. So I figured I’d make some points that will make commissioning easier for everyone. Here’s my not-so-definitive guide on commissioning.

Commissioner

So you’ve decided to ask someone for some art! Great! This is gonna be fun. Or at least, it will be, as long as you follow these steps:

  1. Be clear in what you want. Artists will have a commission sheet of what they have available for their art at the time. Read this carefully. If they don’t do mecha, don’t ask for Gundam art.
  2. Going off of 1, have references ready! If it’s not something you already have art of, pull samples of clothing or facial types, and use those as examples instead. If you don’t have that, at the very least give a thorough written description of what you’re looking for – though some artists might not take written references, so keep that in mind!
  3. After a commission has been accepted, don’t message them every single day asking where your art is. I’ve had this happen to me. It sucks. Wait at least a week before you start questioning where your art is. Life happens, and there might be a bit of a delay.
  4. Related to 3, if there’s a deadline for the piece, make that clear! The sooner you make that clear, the better. If you wait too long, you might get charged extra – I know I would.
  5. If you feel like the art you’re paying for is too cheap for the quality you’re getting, then add a tip! Paypal makes this extremely easy to do. Art is difficult to make a living off of, and artists are forced to price themselves low because capitalism sucks. Do your part to make things easier on them!
  6. Don’t complain if an artist has a high price attached to their art. If the quote you get is too high, politely tell them it’s outside of your budget range and move on. Do not try and haggle. Seriously, just don’t do this.
  7. If there’s something in the rough sketch of your art that you don’t like, let it be known! You’re getting the draft so that changes can be caught and fixed early. I once had someone with resentment for a logo I made for them 2 years earlier email me their dissatisfaction on a random Tuesday. All it did was tick me off.
  8. If you post your commission somewhere, please still source the artist. Yes, it’s your art you bought, but it’s courteous to tell people where you got that cute icon from!
  9. Don’t steal art. Can’t believe I have to say that, but yeah, don’t steal art.

Commissioned

Holy crap! Someone likes your art enough to want to pay for it. Go you! Let’s try and make this as painless as possible.

  1. Make a clear list of what you will and won’t do for commissions. This will be extremely helpful unless you like explaining yourself over and over again.
  2. Make a solid payment system. If you ask for payment upfront, make sure to be on the ball with communication and work. If you don’t ask for payment until after you give a rough sketch, you have a bit more leeway, but don’t send anything too high quality either – you don’t want your art to get stolen!
  3. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. I only ever take two commisions at a time, because more than that leaves me overwhelmed. A long list and no progress can feel insurmountable, so make sure to stay balanced!
  4. I want to reiterate. Communicate!!! You have an obligation to give a product to your customer. If you’re overwhelmed, say so. If you’re going to be delayed, say so! Cry-typing about being stressed on Twitter just makes you look bad, and I promise that if you’re upfront, your customer won’t scold you – and if they did, they weren’t worth making art for anyways, to be honest. But! You still owe them a product, and if you can’t supply it, it’s up to you to come up with some kind of compromise.
  5. Stay organized. I use Trello to keep track of projects. There are a whole bunch of ways to organize your boards, but I personally have “Paid -> WIP -> WIP Confirmed -> Finished” as my workflow.

That’s every tip I can think of at the moment, but let me know if you have more. In the end, it really does just come down to communication, on both the artist and the customer’s part. But when it all works out, it leads to a thing of beauty, in my opinion: an original piece of art made specifically for a customer that they’ll always love – and money for me. I love money.

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