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Tips for Hiring an Outstanding Illustrator for your Next Project

Finding the right illustrator can be a challenge. Whether you decide to use Bob Ostrom Studio or someone else, it pays to know what you’re looking for. If you’ve never had the opportunity to hire a professional before, here are a few tips to help you find the best possible artist for your project.

Know what you are looking for.
Every artist has his or her own style. Many artists are versatile but no artist or designer works in every style. Look for the artist or designer who specializes in the type of art you are looking for. There are many artists and many, many styles to choose from so be patient and make sure you leave yourself enough time to find the right one for your job.

Try starting with a simple Google search. Check out a few artist's websites. Notice that no two are alike. Some are very professional with a highly focused direction, while others may choose to show a broader spectrum. Regardless as you begin to move away from the top ranking sites you may also begin to see a drop in quality. Being a professional artist is an extremely competitive field. Artists work hard to make sure they are seen. There is a reason those sites are at the top of the search.

Some artists work with representatives and some are independent. Generally the better the quality the higher the price you will pay whether you are dealing with an art rep or an independent. Remember though that with higher quality artists you are not only paying for a more appealing image you are also paying for experience, but more on that later.

Determining a Style

Before you contact an illustrator, take a few minutes to determine what you are looking for.

Who is your target audience, and what is your demographic?
Determining who your potential audience is and what appeals to them is a great first step for helping you choose the proper illustrator. Here are a few tips to help narrow things down:

Describe your customer.

  • Are they male, female, non-binary, all of the above, none of the above?

  • How old are they?

  • What kind of things do they like or pay attention to,

  • What kind of things do their peers like or pay attention to?

  • Where can you find them?

  • How do they find you?

  • Do they fall within a certain income bracket?

Creating a detailed profile of your potential customer will help give you a better idea of where to begin. Once you’ve determined who your market is, take a look around and see what else is out there.


What is your competition doing?

This is your chance to really stand out and get noticed. Instead of putting something out there that looks like everyone else, consider trying something a little different that’ll get you noticed. Finding the right artist will help.


Shop around

Visit an artist’s website. Look at their style and level of presentation. You can tell a lot about an artist by how they present their work. Take a look around and see what type of art they are displaying. How long have they been an artist? How successful are they? Do they have recommendations or a recognizable client list? Have they received any awards?

Experience is the name of the game.

Most artists would love to illustrate a picture book or work on a big branding project but that doesn’t mean you should hire them. Do a little homework first to make sure you are choosing the right artist.

  • Can they draw or create the style you are looking for consistently?

  • Does their portfolio contain the right art for your demographic or is it scattered and lacking direction?

  • Has your artist been published or worked professionally, if so where?

  • Try searching their name on Google, LinkedIn or Amazon to find out more about them and their level of expertise.

Hiring the wrong artist for the wrong job can be time consuming and expensive.
Your project is not a place for on-the-job training, so be sure to hire someone with the highest level of expertise you can afford. Always check out who your artist has worked for and examples of jobs they have done. A good artist will be proud to display their work and answer any questions you might have about past experience.

You get what you pay for.

Why do some artists charge so much more than others? Experience is definitely worth paying for. The art you display will directly affect the perception of your company or business. This is no time for bargain shopping. Always hire the best artist you can afford. It is better to spend a little more upfront to get the best quality than trying to save a few dollars and ending up with something you can’t use.


Successful artists are not just good at making pretty pictures. They also know their market and understand production. They know the difference between file formats and what will work best for your project. They can talk to your printer and help give you exactly what you need, saving you time, money, and aggravation.


If you’re not sure about the difference between vector or bitmap art and which one you need, ask your artist. He or she should be able to explain the pros and cons of each in simple terms. Do you need a jpeg, tiff, or png? RGB or CMYK format? An experienced artist will know the one to use for your project and why. Even if your artist works in traditional media, the art will still need to be scanned and translated into a digital format at some point. If your artist doesn’t understand these simple requirements, you might want to shop for someone else who does. The proper format is crucial and could mean the difference between your project looking great and becoming a costly disaster.

Questions your artist may ask

Here are a few questions your artist might ask. Feel free to copy this section so you are prepared when you speak with your artist. It’s best to be descriptive and include as much information upfront as possible. The clearer you are with your artist the better chance you have of getting back exactly what you’re looking for.

Always start by describing your project in detail.

The more information you can provide the more accurate your illustrator can be. Don’t be afraid to include your illustrator in your creative process or as a part of your creative team as well. An experienced illustrator will often be able to help you with creative suggestions or finding great new approaches to your project that you may not have even considered.


Here are a few questions (in no particular order) you will want to think about before you begin.

  • What is the artwork being used for?

    • Who is your target audience?

    • What is your goal?

    • What style you are looking for?

    • Are there certain color preferences or other considerations?

  • Production

    • What is your deadline?

    • What is your budget?

    • How many pieces of art will you need?

    • What is the size(s) and or format?

    • Where will you be using the art? Online, print, other.

    • Who is your printer do they have a person you can talk to if you need help?

  • Contact information

    • Who is the main person in charge of the project?

    • What is the best way to reach that person or people?

      • Email?

      • Phone

      • Other

What is the artwork being used for?
Different uses mean different file requirements. Knowing who your audience is and where your piece will be used makes a big difference in style and approach. What might work well for one audience might not work well for another.

Do you have a goal?

A piece of art that needs to be many different sizes will require a different solution then one that will be printed at a specific size. The demands for the web are completely different from print. Knowing the different places your art will be used will help me determine the best format(s).

What are your deadlines?It is very important to spell out your needs and plan a schedule at the beginning of the project. Most artists work in stages and will submit artwork to you within a certain time frame. A typical schedule will start with sketches and proceed from there. It is important to be realistic about your needs. Be sure to provide enough time for the best job possible. Some artists may ask for an additional rush fee if your project’s deadlines are unrealistic. Different artists work at different rates. If you’re uncertain how long it takes, just ask. I am very efficient with my deadlines but too little time will probably mean having to make a few compromises.

What is your budget?Most illustrators charge by the project, not on an hourly basis. One size does not fit all. Many artists will charge you different rates for different types of usage. They may charge less for limited usage than they will for a total buyout because once the copyright is sold the artist no longer has the potential to make money from that image. Determine which usage works best for you, and be sure to negotiate the rights with your artist upfront at the beginning of each project so there are no surprises later on. I prefer to charge by the project and am happy to give you a quote before we begin. If you have a limited budget, that’s okay, chances are we can find a creative solution to fit your needs.

Can I talk to your Printer/ web designer?

Why on earth would an illustrator want to talk to a printer? Simple: Every printer has certain requirements regarding artwork, depending on the type of equipment he is using. He can tell the artist what type of file will work best for his machinery. Similarly, a web designer may also have certain requirements regarding artwork and file format. I’ve worked with many printers over the years and I speak their language. If you have any questions about the process, just let me know, and I will be happy to explain.

Art takes time.

Always think ahead and leave plenty of time for your project. Leaving extra time will ensure that you always receive the best quality.

How would you like the art delivered?An experienced artist will make arrangements for delivery at the beginning of each project. Digital artwork is great because it is so easy to work with. Some programs can produce rather large file sizes, though. If you have a file transfer site or another preferred method of delivery, let your artist know. If you don’t, chances are your artist will have a quick, efficient way to deliver files that are too large for email. Most artists have experience in this area and have worked out a delivery method that should be easy to use and eliminate headaches. Make sure to resolve this issue as early as possible so you don’t run into any problems on your due date. I have several methods of delivery based on customer preference. 

Who and how many people are involved in the decision-making process?
The more people involved in the approval process, the higher the potential for miscommunication. Pick a leader or point person for your project, and be sure to have all direction go through that one project leader. If it absolutely must be a committee decision, make sure everyone involved in the decision-making process signs off on direction before you involve the artist.

Conference calls are fine as long as it doesn’t waste everyone’s time.Be clear and decisive, and do not leave big decisions unresolved. Ambiguous direction can be costly. 



If you do not have a contract or written agreement, ask the artist to provide one for you. Do not hire an artist without something in writing. Be sure to spell out all the details of your project, including delivery schedule, usage, copyrights, payment schedule, and any other important information that might affect the outcome of your project.

You may also want to include a kill fee in your contract, spelling out what happens if the project is canceled for any reason before completion. This will protect both you and the artist by allowing you to understand ahead of time what happens if, for any reason, the project needs to be terminated. Most artists or representatives will be happy to provide an agreement if you need one.

Enjoy the process

Working with an illustrator should be a fun and rewarding experience. Hiring the right illustrator will make you look great and add value and marketability to your project. If you have not worked with an illustrator in the past or need a little help organizing your project please feel free to contact me. Whether you plan to hire me for your next project or someone else, I am always happy to answer any questions you might have about how to improve your project, hiring an artist, or any other art-related questions.

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