The national average cost to hire an illustrator is $200, but pricing can vary depending on the medium, complexity, and usage rights of the project.
You can hire an illustrator for a personal or commercial project. A professional illustration adds personality and style to your website, published works, or branding. Pro illustrators can take your concept and bring it to life using pencil and ink, watercolor, oil or acrylic paint, or digital design. Here’s a deeper dive into the costs associated with hiring a pro illustrator.
What’s in This Cost Guide?
Cost to Hire an Illustrator
Hourly rates for illustrators range from $25 to $100, and can be higher depending on the area of specialty and artist reputation. Nationwide, the average costs for an illustration project can range from $90 to $465, but larger projects will command higher rates, and every project is different. As cited above, the average project cost when hiring an illustrator on Thumbtack is $200.
Professional illustrators offer traditional (such as pen to paper) or digital illustration services. Many digital illustrators also offer graphic design services for individuals, companies, and nonprofit organizations that seek logo design or visual branding services. Some illustrators charge by the hour, but most estimate flat fees, which are based on how long it takes to complete a particular job. Other variables that go into project fees include the level of difficulty of the illustration, the number of anticipated revisions, and the usage rights a client requires.
How Usage Rights Affect Cost
Usage rights govern the artist’s and client’s ability to use the finished work in creative collateral beyond what is specified in the initial scope of work. Some illustrators typically specify a few common types of usage rights, and others give clients a choice that is reflected in the total project cost. Here are some examples:
- Rights managed: The illustrator gives the client permission to use the illustrations in a specific way. Typically this choice restricts the length of time, the medium, the size, the format, and the location of use. This usage option is typically less expensive because the client does not have exclusive use of the illustrations.
- Royalty-free: The illustrator charges the client a single standard fee for repeated reuse of the illustration (usually by that client only). The artist typically retains the rights to the images. Exclusive use typically costs 20 percent to 50 percent more than rights-managed use.
- Work for hire: The illustrator creates a work and, under the contract signed, gives the purchaser sole ownership and rights to that work.
How Revisions Affect Cost
In marketing and advertising, most illustrators specify two revision cycles in a creative project scope of work. Costs increase when clients think they may require more than two revision cycles.
Traditional vs. Digital Illustration Costs
In general, traditional hand illustration using art media is not necessarily more expensive than digital illustration work. Digital projects can cost more because the medium makes revisions easier, and more revisions increase the illustrator’s time commitment. Overall costs of drawings, murals, and paintings depend on the size and medium of the finished piece. For example, muralist and illustrator Vincent Witcher’s rates for murals depend on the mural’s diameter and visual complexity:
|Mural size||Mural cost||Mural cost with intricate detail|
|Up to 6 feet in diameter||$850+||$1,200|
|7-10 feet in diameter||$3,000||$3,000-$5,000|
|10 feet + in diameter||$5,000||$6,500|
Cost of Illustration by Project Type
Illustrators with a range of experience creating commercial graphics can often provide a ballpark estimate for certain types of common projects. Here are some sample ranges:
- Logo design: $200 – $1,000
- Corporate identity package (letterhead, business cards, etc.): $250 and up
- Newsletter design: $1,000 and up
- Promotional collateral (brochures, etc.): $1,500 and up
How to Hire an Illustrator
The first step when hiring an illustrator is to find one with an aesthetic you love. An illustrator creates a visual representation of your idea, whether that be images in a children’s book, editorial illustrations for your print magazine, a cover illustration for your book cover, your new business logo, or original art for personal use. Review online portfolios of the artist’s work. If their portfolio only showcases black and white work and you know you need lots of color, ask to see samples in the art styles you like. Most illustrators are eager to share with prospective clients. Sign a contract that clearly outlines usage rights, protects you from copyright infringement, and lays out what services will be provided for the cost.
How to Save Money on an Illustrator
There are several ways to save money when hiring an illustrator. It’s important to pay freelancer fees that meet industry standards so as to support the arts, but by bundling services, cutting back on revisions, and clearly defining your scope of work before the project starts, you can save money.
- Bundle services: If you have several illustration projects you need done over time, negotiate a retainer for the illustrator’s services instead of paying per piece. When you hire an artist for multiple projects in one, you may receive a lower price per item.
- Reduce revisions: Running an illustration through multiple revisions means more time and work for the illustrator. Keeping revisions low will mean your costs remain lower. If you are working with a team, make sure everyone has signed off on the design before sending it to the illustrator to prevent unnecessary revisions later on.
- Set a clear scope of work: Hiring an illustrator when you know exactly what you want will mean a quicker job for all. When you need to sit down with them on multiple occasions to walk through color ideas and design collaborations, your prices will rise.
- Hire someone newer to the field: Hire a professional illustrator if you want professionally rendered illustrations, but seeking out one earlier in their career can mean lower rates than hiring someone famous in their field.
Benefits of Hiring an Illustrator
Hiring a professional illustrator provides multiple benefits. You’ll have illustration work that’s up to your professional standards. Your brand or company will be protected in regards to copyright laws with a clearly outlined contract that spells out your usage rights to the images and whether it’s work for hire, rights managed, or royalty-free. Most important, you’ll have unique illustrations that give your brand an added edge.