Why do artists give ballpark estimates?

“Hi! What does X cost?”

Oof, I wish I knew. It would make my life so much easier. Unfortunately, when I get a question like that, I often need more information. To give you an idea why, here are some elements that make up the price of an illustration:

  • Different illustrations take different amounts of time

A portrait may take two hours, or thirteen hours depending on the clients’ wishes. Is there a need for an intricate background, lots of props and jewelry? Are they looking for a loose sketch or a hyper-realistic render?

  • Are you still searching for the perfect design or do you just need an illustration? 

I charge a fairly set rate for illustrations, but I charge by the hour/per day for concept art. For illustrations, I know from the briefing approximately how much time I’ll need to spend, and I communicate the number of sketches and feedback rounds allowed beforehand.

Concept art is (as the name states) about searching for concepts. That means that I don’t know how long it’s going to take for me to define your perfect idea in art. I have sometimes spent weeks on one concept where I had to keep looking for the perfect combination of elements – we didn’t know when the perfect result would have been reached. Because of its conceptual nature, I can’t put a fixed timeframe on that (though I have, on occasion, agreed with a client on just taking a week and seeing what I can come up with within that time frame).

  • What is the illustration going to be used for?

Would you charge $100 to design a logo for Coca-Cola? No, you’d charge a lot more than that. 

Illustration pricing often has a license fee included. For personal use, that fee is usually 0%. For commercial use, a license for commercial use can run anywhere from 30-300%, depending on the client and how they want to use an illustration.