If you've never had the opportunity to hire an illustrator, here are a handful of tips than can help you with the process. Aside from the style and quality of an artist's work, the most important factors when looking for an illustrator are professionalism, dependability and getting the job done right within the time given. Contrary to popular belief, most of us are a pleasure to work with and don't bite. With that in mind, here's a simple step-by-step guideline:
- Research. Before contacting an illustrator, take some time to study the portfolio of the artist you have in mind. Make sure the style, technique and creative vision you are looking for is represented in their work. Look beyond the subject matter of the images. For instance, if you are looking for an artist who paints fun animals but you don't see examples in their book, ask the artist if there are any examples they can send you. Another thing to consider is the digital format of the final artwork, vector or bit-map, which can be crucial in determining the usage of the image (more on that later). If the illustrator has more than one style, make a note of specific images from their portfolio as style samples to refer to.
- Contact. Once you have contacted the illustrator of your choice, exchange information such as your name, company name, contact info, client info and project description. The more information you can provide the better, especially if it involves winning lottery numbers.
- Describe Project. A detailed description should include: specific art direction, usage, deadlines and last but not least...money. These items are explained in detail as follows:
- Art Direction. Describe in detail, what type of imagery you are looking for, how many illustrations you will need created and what the size dimensions for each will be. It would be great to supply any layouts, comps and reference materials at this time. Also, as mentioned earlier, if the illustrator has more than one style, specify which particular image or images from their portfolio you have in mind as examples. Giving as much information as you can up front will paint a more clear picture of what you need done for your project...pardon the pun, I couldn't help myself.
- Usage. The ways an image will be used are a big part in calculating how much a project can cost. Disclosing how frequently the images will be used, how long they will be used for, where they will be displayed, whether on the web, in print, or some other medium and the geographical range of the usage will help determine a price for the project. Another factor in usage is copyright ownership. Who will own copyright of the final image? Asking for exclusive rights for an image will result in a higher fee than rights for a limited time. Any rights not transferred in writing are retained by the artist.
- Deadlines. A time line should clearly be spelled out from the beginning with milestones set for each phase of the project from when the first round of sketches are due to when the final art has to be completed and delivered. It is a good idea to work out how much time will be needed for everyone involved, to review each stage of the process and get back to the illustrator with comments in a reasonable time. Give ample time for revisions to meet the project's needs before giving approval to proceed to final art. Keep in mind most illustrators will include minor changes and or color tweaks to the final art, but any alterations to the final art, that are different to what was approved in the pencil stage, will usually result in a separate fee which will be determined by the extent of the change. There's nothing more frustrating (unless you are a Washington Redskin fan) than having a revision request coming out of left field after the art is complete...that is good stuff for primal scream therapy...seriously.
- Money. When setting a budget for an illustration project, consider all the factors involved. The complexity of the work, time given to complete the assignment in a skilled and professional manner and usage of the final art. Payment terms should be worked out at this point whether they are scheduled throughout the project or paid in one lump sum when the final art is delivered. Getting a payment schedule worked out beforehand will eliminate any confusion or have you running in the streets screaming into the night once the project has started.
- Format. As mentioned briefly earlier, file format can be crucial depending on how you plan to use the image. In today's world, most illustrations created are done digitally and those done traditionally are digitally scanned. Digital file formats and file resolution requirements should be stated in the beginning to avoid any confusion. Images that will be used in various sizes and media applications may work better created in a resolution free, vector format such as Adobe Illustrator. Images created in a resolution dependent, bit-map format can still be used in various sizes and media applications as long as the resolution and size is worked out beforehand. In my professional opinion, bit-map programs such as Adobe Photoshop and Corel Draw using a digital drawing tablet, can offer a wider range of styles and techniques in digital artwork than a vector program. Finally, how you want the final file delivered should be specified whether it be via email, disk, ftp site or other types of file transfer.
There you go. A painless step-by-step process in hiring an illustrator and living to tell about it. There are more factors that I could go into more detail about but that will have to wait until next time. Until then, pick up the phone and call an illustrator...we don't bite...really!