This guide is from the AOI website, reading through is very helpful for the client and the illustrator – great article!

Guide to Commissioning

In response to the many requests from the Association of Illustrators member artists and the clients who commission them, this document has been drawn up to act as an aid/checklist to the commissioning process. Although it is understood that the art-buying practice may vary from business to business it is hoped that the outlining of the major issues will be of benefit to both commissioner and illustrator.

Good communication between the illustrator and client is encouraged at all times.

Contacting the Illustrator

  • Availability. How busy is the illustrator – are they free to take on a new commission? Even if busy, illustrators can sometimes re-arrange their schedule to accommodate your job if sufficiently interested.
  • Outline your timescale together with a few details of the job. Depending on the nature of the commission the illustrator will probably want to discuss uses and fees before making a commitment.
  • Is there a particular reason for contacting this illustrator? If your call is based on seeing a particular promotion let the illustrator know what you’ve seen as it will give them a better understanding of exactly what it is you’re looking for.

Describing the illustration required

  • Mechanical information such as the likely printed size, whether in colour/mono, space for typography etc. will all be required by the illustrator.
  • If relevant, be specific about the means of execution if an illustrator works in a variety of styles.
  • In terms of content, is a specific visual image required? If so this should be communicated as accurately as possible to the illustrator so there can little or no room for mis-interpretation. Any visual material you can supply to this end will also help.
  • Is the brief open to the illustrator’s interpretation? Many illustrators prefer an open brief as it enables them to work more creatively; however frustration can set in if proposed sketches are repeatedly rejected. Be sure to outline any and all restrictions at the outset. If a sketch is rejected ensure you communicate to the illustrator the reasons for the rejection together with any suggestions for a remedy. The illustrator may reasonably expect additional payment if extra rounds of sketches are requested above and beyond what was originally briefed.
  • State the deadline for finished artwork and delivery of roughs. Also provide an indication of the time needed for sketch approval. Days spent waiting for approval on a drawing can seriously eat into the time set aside for execution of finished artwork.

Requesting a Portfolio

  • Consider how necessary a physical portfolio request is to your particular job. Generally speaking a greater selection of an illustrators work can be viewed online, with samples available via email than can be seen in the traditional portfolio. Equally many artists are happy to send hi-res files for print outs and presentation purposes. Re-arranging portfolios and getting them delivered can often be a time consuming and expensive procedure. Although illustrators will usually be happy to oblige, it helps considerably to understand how important this may be to any particular job.
  • Give an outline of the job which has generated the portfolio request. The illustrator may well want to ‘slant’ their portfolio contents to suit the job concerned.
  • Let the illustrator know if their portfolio is being called in as part of a pitch or as an individual request. Again, this may affect the structure of their portfolio.
  • Be prepared to return the portfolio. It is reasonable to expect that the client bears the cost and responsibility of returning the portfolio to the artist.

Requesting a Meeting

  • Consider the purpose of any proposed meeting with an illustrator and bear in mind that it could easily take a day out of the artist’s working week. Briefs, portfolio samples and visual material can usually be more efficiently communicated via electronic transmission.
  • In arranging a meeting between artist and client ensure the illustrator is briefed as to what will be expected of their presence i.e. presenting portfolio, talking about ideas etc.
  • A client should inform the illustrator of a cancelled meeting in good time.
  • If more than one meeting is a requirement of the job then these times may reasonably be charged by the illustrator as added expenses.

Asking for a Quote

  • As illustration is costed out according to it’s usage the illustrator will need details of how and where the finished piece is to be used, and over what period of time that work is to be used, in order to arrive at a price. These uses can vary considerably depending on which area of the market the work is commissioned for. This can be quite straightforward for, say, an editorial job where a typical use could be described as ‘a quarter page magazine illustration, one-time editorial use, UK only.’
    Things may well be more involved in other areas, particularly in advertising and design group work where multiple uses are envisioned, and perhaps spanning different territories. In these cases the illustrator will need to know the following:
    a list of anticipated uses – i.e. mailer, press ad., point-of-sale etc.
    area of use – i.e. Asia, USA, world or list of single countries.
    period of use – typically 1-2 years for ad/design work.
  • If you have a specified budget it saves a lot of time and energy if this communicated upfront. For editorial and publishing jobs this is usually a given. The illustrator can then respond as to whether or not they can work for the specified fee. Please do not offer the illustrator less than your budget allows. The very real deterioration in fees is making illustration an increasingly difficult profession to sustain. (An indication of how far fees have fallen can be seen in the editorial market. When you consider that £200 was a common fee for a quarter page magazine illustration in the late ‘80’s, and taking into account the rate of inflation, the same illustration today should be priced at £420 – all too often this is far from the case).
  • Do not expect an immediate quote from an illustrator for a proposed job. Commissions can often be quite complex and the artist needs some time to consider the various aspects. The AOI advises it’s members to avoid giving ‘ballpark’ figures over the telephone.
    Expenses. It is reasonable to expect the illustrator to quote extra for any necessary expenses above and beyond the norm i.e. travel to a specified location. Similarly a ‘premium’ or ‘rush fee’ may be quoted for work which is required in an unusually short time frame e.g. a job which requires working through the night.
  • Everything is negotiable. If a quote exceeds your budget get back in touch with the chosen illustrator and see what flexibility exists in the licencing arrangements. For example, if a quote for blanket all-rights has been requested, a more specific licence, tailored to the exact usage requirements of the client, may actually be far more cost effective.


  • It is in the interests of both client and illustrator that proper documentation exists for commissioned works. The AOI advises its members to use an Acceptance of Commission form (or licence) which is sent to the client outlining all the agreed terms. Equally you may have your own contract to send to the illustrator.
  • Copyright is a very valuable commodity. It affords the owner the exclusive right to reproduce an image (or allow others to reproduce it) in any way throughout the world for the period of copyright i.e. 70 years. Clearly a client commissioning, say, a brochure cover does not require such wide-ranging rights and would almost certainly not want to pay the appropriate usage fee.
  • Please avoid asking illustrators to sign a contract which assigns copyright or ‘all rights’ to the client without first agreeing a price for such uses.
  • In the great majority of cases a licence is the most appropriate way for the illustrator to give the client the rights it needs. The illustrator keeps the copyright and grants the client a licence appropriate to the commission. The licence would state the use, territory and time period and be exclusive to the client for the specified time.
  • The AOI publishes an Acceptance of Commission form with standard Terms and Conditions, a copy of which can be seen here.

The Job is Rejected/Cancelled

  • Any envisaged problems over the style or content of artwork should be aired as soon as possible.
  • If you are unhappy with the quality of artwork (i.e. it falls far short of the quality seen in samples by the artists) and have to reject it, the following rejection fees are broadly accepted as industry standard.
    25% of the agreed fee if the work is rejected at rough stage.
    50% of the agreed fee if the artwork is rejected on delivery.
  • If a commission is cancelled through no fault of the illustrator, the following cancellation fees are broadly accepted as industry standard.
    25% of the agreed fee if the commission is cancelled before delivery of roughs.
    33% of the agreed fee if the commission is cancelled at rough stage. In the case of more detailed preparatory work such as coloured presentation visuals, a cancellation fee of 50% may be more appropriate. This should be negotiated with the artist.
    100% of the agreed fee if the commission is cancelled on the delivery of artwork.

The Finished Artwork

  • These days finished artwork can de delivered in a myriad of ways. Be sure to pass on your preferred method of delivery to the illustrator and confirm receipt with a simple email/phone call.
  • If alterations are required the illustrator may charge a reasonable fee for significant changes which were not in the original brief, however, the illustrator may not charge extra fees for alterations which are the fault of the artist, nor for trivial alterations.
  • Unless otherwise agreed the original artwork belongs to the artist. Not relevant for digital piecess, but if this is a traditional painted artwork, please ensure you return it safely.