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How to commission an illustrator - my process

If you're considering hiring an illustrator for the first time, it can seem daunting. But, it can also be a fun creative and collaborative experience!

You’ve got a great idea for a kids book, a new range of pasta sauces, craft beers ... it could be anything but you need artwork for the product and potentially your website, social media or marketing material. You've found an artist that fits perfectly with your style. So, how do you go about asking them to create images specifically for you and what can you expect to happen along the way?

Recently, for the Sicilian Deli I created the illustrations for their Christmas flyer. I thought it would be good to use these examples to talk you through my process.

Step 1 - Introduce yourself to the artist to see if they are taking commissions and will accept the type of work you would like done.

Many artists can be contacted via social media direct or the Association of Illustrators can help you. Most of my contacts come via instagram, my website or personal referrals.

Let the artist know why specifically you chose them. What is it about their work that intrigued you? Point out a couple of their pieces that you particularly like so they can understand the look and feel you want.

The Sicilian Deli had hired me before so I already knew that they liked light, bright, hand drawn illustrations that are full of energy, movement and fun. They feel my hand painted watercolour designs matched with their artisan deli which serves natural, authentic, fresh Sicilian food. They grow and produce their own sauce, olive oil and coffee ranges so hand drawn art and handmade produce are a perfect fit.

Step 2 - Meet the artist

From my perspective I like to meet my clients at this point to get a really good understanding of what they are looking for. I have a studio in North London where (when Covid allows) you can meet me and see my work first hand. For those a bit further away (or in an entirely different continent as is sometimes the case) we meet regularly over zoom.

This is where we discuss important details. How will the illustrations be used? What size do they need to be, for print or online or both? What do you want the illustrations to communicate? What message are you trying to get across? Do you have any branding, colours etc that are important to reflect in the design? If you have any images of your product this is the time to share.

The Sicilian Deli needed to get the message out about their special festive foods and hampers. I was asked to create the illustrations and pull a leaflet together for print.

Be as clear as you can be about what you want so that the artist can give you an accurate quote and timeline.

Step 3 - Contracts

You should have a contract in place between you and the artist before work begins. I have a simple one page contract that lists exactly what will be delivered, by when and the price.

Step 4 - Sketching out ideas

Don't wait until the work is close to being finished before you check in. If the artist is on the wrong track, it's much easier to correct at the design stage.

Communication is important to me as I want you to be happy and to be involved in the creative process as much or as little as you like. The Sicilian Deli and I are in contact regularly. I like to create some rough sketches first so that we both have a clear understanding of the design/colours etc. This is an excellent point for you to request changes, clarify or suggest additional details before the painting begins.

For the leaflet I came up with a few Christmas themed ideas, including a Fiat, robins, holly and Christmas flowers for the Sicilian to choose from and the Fiat won. Originally I sketched this out in Christmas colours of green and red but the Sicilian suggested a blue car to reflect their brand colours and it worked really well.

Step 5 - The Completed Illustrations

I completed the images, scanned them into Photoshop, where I created the leaflet ready for print and here is the final result.

Follow these steps and you too can walk away happy with your custom illustrations and support an independent artist you appreciate. Like my style - say hello


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