What makes the price of an illustration?

What make the price of the illustration?

Have you ever wondered how to set a fair price for an illustration? Is it a book cover, a poster, a game character concept, a whole series of illustrations for a children’s book, or something else? But is that all? Find out what also affect the commission price.

The Painting Time

Let’s assume that the artist is a professional, who, at the time, focus on your project only, and that all the information about the commission was given beforehand. Illustrator can finish simple sketch portrait in only few hours. However, a complex, multi-figure illustration, with a complicated background, meant for high quality printing can take more than two weeks of everyday painting.

That’s longer than you thought, isn’t it?

It’s worth to keep in mind that creating an illustration is a multi-stage process. It is possible to stop at the very beginning the sketch phase, but it’s also possible to spend few additional hours to make the smallest details flawless. There is always a room for some extra sparkles!

The Living Cost

When considering an illustration price, I think it’s necessary to answer the question: What is the fair hourly wage for a work of a skilled worker?

What is the fair hourly wage for a work of a skilled worker?

Freelance artists, contrary to popular opinion, aren’t careless dreamers, who work for the sake of brilliant ideas. Most often, artists are hard working people, who have decided to transform their passion into a source of income. Just like everyone else, artists have expenses related to private life, such as payments for accommodation, food, transportation or doctors. I think it’s worth remembering.

On top of that, in order to create art legally, most illustrators must start their own business. In Poland this means mandatory health insurance fee (unfortunately it doesn’t mean a totally free healthcare), taxes, bank and accountant fee, etc.

The minimum wage in Poland in 2019 was ~520EUR gross. This, assuming an artist spend 160h/week working, gives less than 3,25EUR per hour of work. However, it’s an extremely tight amount of money to pay for the most basic living costs. Renting even a very tiny apartment is almost impossible.

The average monthly salary in Poland in 2019 was ~1060EUR gross, which is about 6,60EUR per hour of work. This amount allow you live comfortably (not in luxury) with occasional, more expensive whims, like backing a boardgame crowdfunding project ♥ If you think that it’s too much, please note, that this amount is a payment for a professional work and it’s still lower than a minimum wage in many European countries.

Based on the information above, if you plan to commission an artist, you will most probably pay around 25EUR for a very simple sketch portrait, but for a very complicated illustration you may have to pay more than 350EUR.

portrait step by step

The Professionalism of the Service

It’s not a secret that a professional artist will charge you more than a very young hobbyist. The reasons for that have already been partly mentioned earlier, but there is a whole list that makes the difference:

  • experience – thanks to the years of practice the professional artist is able create a eye catching illustration in shorter time,
  • knowledge – educated graphic designer will correctly pick best resolution, colour mode and profile for the illustration you need,
  • flexibility – making changes is way easier for experienced artists,
  • service – the quality of service, response rate, updates and communication is higher with professionals,
  • reliability – professional artists care for repute, so they’re less likely to fail the order or to disappear mid work without a saying word.

Remember, they are professionals for a reason.

How Much Is It Worth to YOU?

At the end, I think, you should also ask yourself:

Are you interested only in the cheapest option or are you willing to pay more to the illustrator to really devote his/her time to your project? And most importantly: How much of your success depends on the right design or eye-catching illustration? How much this success is worth to you?


Please note, that this article was written in 2019 and the amounts indicated in the text may change in time due to inflation, law regulations etc.