Eight Tips On How To Hire An Illustrator

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Illustration can be a brilliant way to promote, inspire and communicate. And luckily, there’s no sacred art involved in commissioning an illustration. Whether you’re an art director, or a shop owner retailing your own products, here are some pointers when hiring a professional illustrator.


1. Begin by considering what subject is to be depicted. This will help you assess if an illustrator is suitable. Perhaps it’s a food illustration, fashion sketches, fantasy art, or a celebrity portrait. Whatever it is, know what image you want to show, and seek out an artist with relevant examples in their portfolio. 2. With a subject in mind, decide how you’d wish for that image to be shown. What comes into play here are both the medium and the artist’s personal style. For example, if the subject were a ship at sea, it could be a relaxed journey shown with a loose water colour style, or a detailed ink rendering suggesting a dangerous voyage. When considering this point it is important to keep in mind what the desired audience will respond to.

Bird Skeleton by Nick Sheehy (aka Showchicken). Graphite and watercolour on paper.

Bird Skeleton by Nick Sheehy (aka Showchicken). Graphite and watercolour on paper.

3. Prepare a respectful budget. This should go without saying, but let’s sharpen the focus a few dials. The times we now live in mean illustrators are mostly freelancers, which doesn’t offer the same financial security as a salary. Whether its artwork for an unsigned band, or an agency prepping a pitch, the fact still remains that an illustrator’s skills are required. Their specialist work should be properly compensated, and the assumption that someone will offer their time to work at a lowered rate leaves little reason to produce work of portfolio standard.

4. Reasonable time should be set aside. Sometimes it is the case that artwork needs to be turned around quickly, but this should not be considered the norm. When time is a factor, quality control is usually the first thing to suffer. Time needed to properly research and develop ideas are not far behind. To simplify the creation process and ensure best results, strive to ensure the time needed for the artwork to be made to the highest possible standard.

5. Describe clearly how the artwork will be used. Think about where will appear, and for how long, so appropriate fees can be discussed. Avoiding legal disputes is in everyone’s best interest, so it’s best to communicate openly on this point from the outset.

Cover artwork for Rebels comic by Tula Lotay. Published by Dark Horse Comics.

Cover artwork for Rebels comic by Tula Lotay. Published by Dark Horse Comics.

6. There is no way to micro manage. This one should be obvious, but it’s amazing how people don’t know when being ‘hands on’ goes too far. Work with good people who you trust to do great work. When a commission has begun, allow the illustrator to do their job, and when your feedback is needed try to do so in a timely manner. Helping is one thing, telling someone how to do their job is unwelcome in any occupation.

7. Complement good illustration with good graphic design. If the illustrator does not offer graphic design, you may need to hire someone to further prep the layout, add text, graphic marks and make it ready for use in print and on screen. I would urge anyone not to undo good illustration work with substandard graphic design. It’s a disservice to the efforts made and the money that’s already been invested. Column Arts Agency can recommend illustrators with graphic design skills, or graphic designers if required – just ask.

8. Assuming the project goes well, the best way to say thanks is with referrals, testimonials and offering a push on social media. As mentioned earlier, illustrators are almost all freelancers so bringing attention to their work is greatly welcomed.

An elegant poster composition by Bobby Evans. Artwork for Percival Menswear.

An elegant poster composition by Bobby Evans. Artwork for Percival Menswear.

A good illustration agency can take much of the guesswork out of commissioning artwork. They can suggest a good fit for a job, and save time for everyone involved. If you’d like to talk over a possible commission, feel free to email us. MrHass is a Manchester based illustrator represented by Column Arts Agency. He specialises in hand drawn artwork made with dip pen and ink.

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Column Arts Agency are an illustration agency that represents commercial artists. We specialise in working with the advertising, publishing and editorial industries. Column Arts Agency have links in Birmingham, London, and Manchester. We were established in 2011.

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"Work with good people who you trust to do great work." MrHass

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