Top Dollar: Setting Budgets for Illustration Work

High quality illustrations are a fantastic asset, whether they’re for your book or your branding. But you can’t expect them to come cheap. What’s more, illustration budgets can be a tricky business as there’s lots to take into account. It’s not just the size, number and style (although these are important). You’ve also got to take into account things like usage and rights. But don’t fret! We’ll break it down for you.

When you’re setting illustration budgets, you need to ask yourself a few questions.*

*One small caveat: this isn’t a catch-all guide. These things will vary depending on your specific situation and the illustrator you’re looking to hire.

What are the illustrations?

Illustrations come in lots of sizes and types, depending on what their purpose is. Generally, the bigger the illustration, the more it will cost. Here are some of the types of illustration you might want to commission:

Spot illustration

These are (normally, but not always) small illustrations, without a background or border. They’re most commonly used in magazines and newspapers, where they’ll be added within the body of the text for a bit of extra character. That said, they can be used similarly in business brochures or blog posts. They’re a good way to add personality to an otherwise bland page, and break up unsightly blocks of text.

Standard illustration budgets are between £200-£400 ($250-$500) for this sort of work.

Spot illustrations by Richard McGuire for The New Yorker.

Quarter page and half page illustrations

These are what they say on the tin. An illustration that takes up that much space on the page. Again, magazines and newspapers use these for editorial purposes, and authors will hire illustrators to create them for books. Businesses can use them for web pages, blogs and collateral materials like brochures. The rest of the page can then be used for copy.

Quarter page illustrations cost around £250-£400 ($300-$500) and half pages about £400-£600 ($500-$750).

Full page

Like the above, but bigger. Set your illustration budget at about £800-£1200 ($1000-$1500.)

Full spread

These are expansive illustrations that take up two pages. You’re probably most familiar with them in graphic novels, comics and picture books, but that’s by no means the only place you can use them. It takes skill to get these right, and they’re normally incredible pieces of art. The beautiful spread below was created through Twine by illustrator Maja Bertole Jeras for author Tate McGhee’s children book.

A good illustration budget for a spread is £1600-£2400 ($2000-$3000).

Spread illustration by Maja Bertole Jeras for author Tate McGhee.

Cover

Despite being told otherwise, we definitely judge books by their cover. They’re worth investing in. Expect to pay between £1200-£2800 for a cover. Generally, front covers are more expensive than back covers.

Colour vs black and white

Colour is more expensive than black and white. If you want to bring down the costs, consider getting the illustration done in black and white.

Tight vs loose art

Decide if you want ‘tight’ or ‘loose’ art. ‘Loose’ illustrations are a bit sketchier and less polished, which can work really well for some picture books or graphic novels. They tend to be cheaper. ‘Tight’ illustrations are more detailed and take longer, so cost more. You don’t have to stick to one either. For a graphic novel, it can be really stylistically interesting to have minor panels done loosely but then have tight artwork for climactic moments.

 

Remember: These are baseline figures. Some seemingly simple illustrations, like character design, can be more expensive. This is because they’re more difficult than a standard spot illustration – more work needs to be put in to develop personality.

Also bear in mind that these will often just be the base costs. Depending on the rights and usage, you can expect these costs to go up. But we’ll come on to that…

How many illustrations?

It’s a pretty simple equation. More illustrations = more $$$$. That said, some illustrators will do packages for bigger projects, rather than charging their standard rates for every individual drawing.

The Graphic Artists Guild has a Handbook that’s regularly updated to reflect current market prices. It’s the “industry Bible” so it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re serious about finding an illustrator. In 2013, they estimated that a 32 page picture book would be anywhere between $3000-$60,000 USD. But again, this doesn’t take into account royalties and rights.

 

Usage and rights

Your illustration budget has to accommodate your usage. Illustrations automatically belong to the artist – if you want something different, that needs to be stated in the contract. This is particularly important for businesses. If you’ve got illustrations done for a poster that’s going to go up all over the country, across print and digital channels, it’s always going to cost you more than something that’s just making the rounds in the office. You have to negotiate these rights with an illustrator. These things will affect it:

Who are you?

Two scenarios:

  1. A huge, multinational business wants an illustrator to create art for a marketing campaign that will be seen worldwide.
  2. A local business owner who wants illustrations for an ad that’s going up in the local chippy.

Who would you charge more for usage?

You probably already know the answer. Usage rights for illustrations are always going to cost more for bigger businesses.

Where and what channels?

The greater the number of locations and channels, the greater the cost. So if it’s just going to be out in print in your country, you can budget less. If it’s going to be used worldwide across print, digital and broadcast channels, your illustration budget should be higher.

How long do you want the rights for?

If a campaign is going to last for three months, you can save money by agreeing to only use the illustrations for that period. After that, the rights to the art will go back to the illustrator. If you want the rights forever, expect to pay a premium! Of course, for things like a logo this is essential and part and parcel of commissioning one.

The most expensive scenario is therefore if you’re a big company who wants full ownership of the work in perpetuity.

Royalties

If you’re having a book illustrated, the illustrator will also get royalties if the book is published. This is their percentage of the money made from the sales of the book. However, it’s normally the publisher who sorts this out, so as a writer it’s not something you need to worry about! After all, you’ll be getting royalties too.

If this is all sounding pretty confusing, Jessica Hische does a great job of outlining some different usage scenarios in this blog post.


We hope this blog helps you figure out your illustration budgets. But if you’re still confused, remember you can now receive offers on your Twine brief. This means illustrators will pitch in with different budgets and you can choose the best price for you.

 

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Becca

Becca

Becca is the Marketing Executive at Twine. She loves literature, music, film and make-up. She spends a lot of time complaining about the mismatched angles of her winged eyeliner and stalking drag queens on Instagram. Otherwise, she’s helping Joe by writing blog posts and keeping Twine’s social media running.

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Becca

Becca

Becca is the Marketing Executive at Twine. She loves literature, music, film and make-up. She spends a lot of time complaining about the mismatched angles of her winged eyeliner and stalking drag queens on Instagram. Otherwise, she’s helping Joe by writing blog posts and keeping Twine’s social media running.