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How Much to Pay an Artist

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In a world of royalty-free graphics and instant image downloads, it’s a challenge for artists to know how to value their work and for employers to know how much to pay an artist. The key factors here are individualized commissions, ownership rights, and skill.

Yes, you can choose from a million stock photos online. BUT say you need a bespoke design for a business or an ad that will elevate your brand; an exceptional piece of art goes way beyond the impact you’ll get from a generic graphic.

We’ll share some rough pricing guidelines later for a few popular types of custom artwork, but first, let’s lay the foundation for an artist’s pay rates.

Why Do Artists Charge Such Different Rates?

Before you even think about budgets, contracts, design briefs, or anything else, it’s essential to put down on paper a list of what you want to achieve from your artwork commission.

Here are a few example ideas:

  • What is your artwork project for – and does it need a specific skill or level of experience?
  • How quickly does your freelance artist need to finish the job (always offer a higher price when looking for a rush job!)?
  • Do you want to find someone local you can meet and chat with in person? If so, your next puzzle is working out,  “How do I find local artists?
  • Are you confident you’re ready to create a detailed spec? That includes the number of pieces of art, along with their required size, style, delivery deadline, etc.

Once you’ve got your project outline, it becomes a lot easier to narrow down the sort of freelance artists you’re looking for and begin finessing that spec!

Factors Impacting the Cost of a Freelance Art Project

Artists will factor in all of the job requirements when pricing your project, and the exact costs relies on things like:

  • How much time they have to complete the work.
  • Whether you need a certain level of experience.
  • The costs of raw materials – again, depending on the style.
  • Your volume requirements – costs per piece for several small designs might be similar to one larger piece.
  • The design process – whether they’ll need to meet up a few times to fine-tune the concept before the work begins and associated travel costs.

If you’ve got no rush, aren’t fussed about styles, and are happy to chance it with a less experienced artist, you’re going to halve your budget. However, we’d advise being cautious – art is personal, so you must nail down the style of artwork you’re expecting to receive, as a way to avoid any disasters.

Average Project Costs for Freelance Art Commissions

Now to the pricing. If you’re trying to work out how much does it cost to commission an artist , again, it’s all dependent on that outline we’ve discussed!

Here we’ve put together some averages for US freelance artwork commissions, per piece, as a rough idea:

Artwork Project Beginner Artist Rates Intermediate Artist Rates Advanced Artist Rates
Concept art for a video game $35 $70 $110+
Book cover $1,500 $3,000 $4,500+
Online content $250 $500 $800+
Comic book lettering (each page) $20 $35 $50+
Video game cover art $500 $850 $1,800+

As you can see, there’s a pretty significant difference between projects and levels of expertise. However, the lowest cost isn’t always best.

Advanced freelance artists with a serious skill in their niche area usually work faster, grasp concepts quickly, and can be invaluable in sharing inspiration to develop your idea into something tangible. Hence the considerable uplift in costs – experience can add far more value to your artwork project than you’re expecting!

Hiring a Freelance Artist: Other Budget Considerations

Now, the last point we’d make is that you don’t just need to know how much your artwork will cost – but what’s included in that price. When drawing up a working agreement, you can hash out all these points. Don’t leave it to chance.

Copyright Ownership

Copyright in the art world can be a bit contentious.

Typically, an artist automatically owns the rights to their work – but if they’re creating a piece based on a contract, the ownership should pass to you, the client, when you’ve paid the final balance.

If, say, you’ve commissioned art that includes elements of pre-existing designs, it’s essential to have a conversation around the topic of copyright and ensure the rights are signed over to you on completion of the project.

Non-Disclosure Agreements

Finally, you might have commercial sensitivities at play.

Gaming is a great example – designs and visuals are an important part of branding and marketing, so a business isn’t going to be happy if they see their secret new characters splashed all over the net.

Make sure you have a non-disclosure agreement in place, to ensure your artist won’t share any images or snippets of your artwork (or tell anyone you’re working on something new!).

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