Pet Portraits and Other Commissions

  • Hey, y'all! I've been approached in the past to do commissions for friends for free, but this is the first time someone has offered up-front to pay for one. Now I'm at a loss as to what sort of fee to charge. Any suggestions/opinions would be greatly appreciated.

  • Congratulations!

    In the past, I've approached pricing commissions based on the size of the work, charging $1 per square inch (this was a few years ago so the going rate might now be higher, also depending on where you're located). It makes it super simple to calculate a price: say the work was 11 x 14 inches, I charged $154 plus supplies. (Multiply 11 x 14 to get the total square inches, then multiply that by the price per square inch.)

    Another way to price is based on timing -- how long you think that it'll take you to complete the work, then multiply that by your hourly rate.

    There are other approaches to pricing -- probably as many approaches as there are illustrators! Hope this is somewhat helpful. 😊❤

  • @Melissa-Bailey-0 ~ Thank you so much!!

  • SVS OG

    Hi Pinky! Do you mean pet portraits or also those of people? Are they illustrations based on the person/pet or are they realistic, traditional oil/pastel images? Will you do your own photos for reference, sittings for adults? There are people who do nothing but portraits. I used to be one of them (people, not pets). You can find out more (possibly including prices) starting from the links below:

    Prices range, but a professional portraitist can earn a similar amount to what one would receive as a picture book advance. Then again, the work can take months, similar to a picture book.

    I do see now that some people do stylized illustrations based on the subjects, and post their work on Instagram. I suspect those cost in the hundreds instead of thousands.

    Good luck!

  • That's wonderful!. I used to do watercolor pet portraits before the pandemic, and I'd usually charge between $200 to $300 (depending on the number of pets in the painting or whether they wanted a specific detailed background) plus mailing cost.

    I only offered 11" x 14" portraits, in a cream colored double mat (16" x 20"). I bought the mats in bulk. I made it clear that I wouldn't be handling the framing for them (in part to avoid the unhappy sticker shock people undergo when they see how expensive a well-made frame costs...I let the frame shop handle that!).

    Also: make sure that they give you multiple, good photographs with the animal's head at different angles/positions. Because the camera flattens objects, a shadowed area might be hard to read and the extra photos can help a lot.

    Have fun!

  • @LauraA, @RachelArmington ~ This all stems from a quick colored pencil drawing I did for a friend when her dog died unexpectedly. She has also seen a couple of dog portrait paintings I did for my nieces. The friend's daughter now wants to pay me to do something similar for her friend. Given all the questions you've raised and information you have given me, it looks like I need to clarify what she actually wants. Thanks so much -- it is so helpful to have access to people who actually know what they're doing. 🙂

  • @Pinky That's so great. It's very encouraging when people want to pay you for something. Know your worth. Don't do things for free. Rememebr they're asking you to do something because you have a talent and they can't do it themselves. That's worth a lot. Remind people how long something takes to do. It's always interesting that people seem to want to get great art and pay less than minimum wage for it. Don't get taken advantage of.

    I recently did this in coloured pencil on an 8x10 sheet. I charged $250. I should have maybe charged more for the time it took, but it's not like I do these full time.


  • @Janette This is really good. What type of paper do you use for your colored pencils?

  • SVS OG

    @Janette I would charge more, actually. It's the same principle as what we hear said about illustrators: When you ask what something is worth, you help other artists as well. Otherwise, there is always a group of people who will think they can get work for little or nothing and it feeds the starving artist narrative.

    Also, here's something odd that I noticed: I found that the more I charged, the more people let me do my own work and didn't try to treat the portrait was a do-it-yourself project that required them to babysit it. It probably took those first, cheap projects in which I got no respect to get me started, and yes, I did get better with time, but it's not like I was ten times better as an artist once I charged what other professionals charged. I just got more respect!

  • @Kim-Rosenlof Thank you. It's just Bristol board.

  • @LauraA Yes! I can totally see that. There are people out there that are willing to pay what its worth and feel that if they are paying a higher price, its becasue you are professional and know what you're doing, so they dont need to interfere. Very cheap work gives this impression you arent confident in what you are doing and need some guidance.

  • @Janette ~ This is just beautiful! The colored pencil piece that I did, which the request was based on, was nowhere near this caliber. Just a quick drawing. Thanks for posting this -- gives me something to aspire to. 🙂

  • @Pinky Oh, well, I tend to get a bit carried away with tiny details lol. Not when I'm cleaning the house though

  • @Janette I had a request a few years ago to do a dog portrait after someone saw the children's picture book I illustrated which happened to feature dogs. I also did the portrait in colored pencils and charged $250 just like you did. I see you used Faber-Castel Polychromos (oil-based) colored pencils which is better than what I knew - I used only Prismacolor Premier (wax-based) and didn't know about wax bloom, for a portrait of a mostly black dog which I did not spray with fixative, oh yikes! Haha. But the client was very happy. Sharing in case this saves someone my past mistake (@Pinky). I no longer do portraits because I'm focused on my greeting card business for mostly retailers (wholesale), and licensing. I hope everything worked out the way you wanted it to Pinky!

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