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I've been commissioning artists for a little over two years now, starting with site money on GaiaOnline and moving to dA from there.  One thing that's hard for me to ignore is the number of artists who are concerned about being scammed, either because they've gone through that experience before or because the stories and warnings of it happening all the time proliferate.  Commissioners have their own concerns about being scammed by artists.  The simple fact of the matter is that it happens.

However, I think a good portion of the problem is that many people who want to commission an artist have no experience doing so, and it's not as easy to find instructions on it as, say, how to draw anime eyes.  That's why I'm making this guide.

It should be noted that while I mention commissioning through other websites now and then, this is meant as to general guide, and all of the examples are from deviantart.com.  Also, this does not contain information on how to host a contest, which is a much more different proposition than one might presume.  For the sake of having real-life examples, various artists on dA are mentioned by name.





Step One:  Picking the Artist

This could be the most important step for you.  If you pick the wrong artist, your experience commissioning them could be downright horrible and the final art unsatisfying.  These are the questions you need to ask yourself:

1.  Do I like the art that they're offering to do?

Say you love painted realism and you love anime CG, but the artist is only offering pencil sketches in a cartoony style.  Do you really want to commission this artist?  Some artists will do more if you contact them directly, especially if you offer them more money, but most won't.  Even if you do convince them to do work they aren't offering, the end result may not be all you were hoping for--most artists who do commissions regularly know to only offer what they want to do, and it's not reasonable to expect something else to come out as well.  Always remember:  art is a creative work, not a systematic one.  You're relying on not just the artist's skills, but on their inspiration, and inspiration is not as simple and regular as tax season.

Remember, too:  Even if the artist is not offering what you want right now, they'll probably offer it in the future.  Stick around, wait, and don't try to pressure them into doing something they aren't prepared for.  Some artists will deliberately vary what they offer so they can get practice with different techniques, take a break from the usual ones, and simply not let their work get stagnant.  This is a good thing the same way crop rotation on farms is a good thing, and you shouldn't protest--what you want will be back in the future.  As an example, I've commissioned anikakinka for two CG works in the past, but recently she offered only flat sketches in the style she uses for her clothing designs.  I'm not interested in what she was offering, but I know I may want to commission her for CGs again in the future, so I keep an eye out for her offer to change back.



2.  Do I have something I want done in this style?
Just because you love an artist doesn't mean you have something to commission them for.  I personally like Christmas-chan's work, but I have never come up with something to have her draw; I simply don't have characters like that.  Just because you see an artist you like, don't jump the gun and contact them about it if you don't have anything in mind.  Don't force yourself to come up with anything, either--it's worth bookmarking them, subscribing to their blog/shop thread, or putting them on your watch list until you do have something.

If you're dead set on commissioning an artist, period, and you don't care who it is as long as you're setting up a commission ((don't laugh, this is my personal stress-reliever and sometimes that's just how it is)), go back to Step One and pick a different artist.



3. Is the artist able (and WILLING) to do what I want?
This is a big one as well.  You have to put your enthusiasm on the shelf and look at the artist critically.  Is their skill high enough to draw what you want?  Do you think it is, but they explicitly say they're not willing to do it?  If you want gore, and the undead are on their "Don't/Won't/Can't Do" list, don't even ask, even if the character seems right up their alley.  The only character I have that would look good in Saimain's style is a god of flora in a fantasy world, and even she admits that it would be fun to do, but pagan gods are on her "won't" list, so it will never happen.

The hardest part is figuring out if an artist has the skill to do what you want.  I have one character with a complicated set of tattoos, and I'm very particular about those tattoos being accurate whenever she's drawn.  I wanted her in anime style, so I went to Blizz-Mii.  Well, Blizz thought that was out of her league and refused.  I would still love to see Blizz draw her, but I have to trust that she knows her skill a whole lot better than I do and let that go.  Next I went to hizuki24, who said yes... but that there was no way she could pull off the tattoos.  At the time, I was more concerned with having decent art of the basic design, and clothing and hair were more important than the tattoos, so we went ahead with the commission.  I was able to specify a few that would stay the same, but the rest was up to her own discretion and look nothing like my design.  Armed with this art and my original drawings, I then went to sakimichan.  Sakimichan says outright in her commission journal that she must have artistic license.  If you aren't okay with that, and an artist requires it, don't argue--it usually means they've had bad experiences with commissioners who expect too much or want a lot of very specific detail but don't provide any references.  I told her that was fine, but that I wanted her to do her best to follow my design.  The tattoos, hair, and face came out perfect; the clothing, not so much.  

However, Hizuki's art is a clothing reference, Sakimi's art is a body reference, and that's enough for now.  Sometimes what you want is so difficult that the only way to get good art is to go step by step this way, collecting works that aren't perfect but have one or two aspects correct.  Eventually, you will find an artist who can do what you want, and you'll already have the references.



4. Does the artist speak my language?
Most of the time, this will not be an issue.  Most deviants speak English, and most of the sites you visit will be in a language you know well--and that everyone there knows pretty well.  Sometimes, though, you get an artist you like who doesn't speak the same language and has a friend translate everything for them.  And maybe the friend isn't so great at it, either.  Or the artist may know the language enough to get by, but their grammar sucks, their vocabulary is straight out of Babelfish, and they don't seem to get the point when you're talking to them.  This includes chatspeakers... or if YOU are a chatspeaker, people who refuse to try and figure out what you're saying.

If this really bothers you, sigh and move on.  You cannot count on their linguistic skills to improve, and you cannot teach them your language if they don't know it already.  Commissioning Teruchan is not going to be fun and easy unless you speak Japanese.

If you REALLY want to commission this artist, and you're willing to do whatever it takes to communicate, more power to you.  If you've never worked with foreigners before, here are a few tips:

a) K.I.S.S.
Keep It Simple, Stupid!

Dumb down your grammar and vocabulary to whatever the artist him/herself is using.  You're not trying to give them language practice, you're trying to commission them--it's more important that you understand each other than that you use proper English (or whatever language you're using).  If this situation is the reverse, and YOU are the one with the language problem, still keep things as simple as possible--and don't feel bad if you have to ask them to do the same.

b) Give picture references as much as possible.
Folks, pictures are universal.  A picture is worth a thousand words in any language, not just yours, and it's going to be a lot easier on you both if the artist from Vietnam doesn't have to do research on what in the world a "spiked mace" is, or which color is mauve.

c) Be patient.
No, really.  Any time there's a language barrier, there are going to be problems and difficulties you didn't expect--and shouldn't expect--from an artist who doesn't need a translator.  You want the art, you want it from this artist, so you have to be willing to slow down and deal with all the little extras along the way.



Would I get along with this artist?
If there's one good way to make everyone miserable, it's by commissioning an artist you know you won't get along with.  Are you hardcore about your commissions and want every little detail exacting and correct before you pay?  If so, don't commission someone you want to stay friends with.  Do you want your commission done by a certain date, and the artist has a habit of saying "So sorry this was late!" in their comments?  Don't do it.  Do you flame and troll this artist all the time, and for some strange reason want to commission them anyway?  Seriously.  Don't do it.  There's a certain point where common sense comes into play, and this is it.  Do NOT commission someone when you can stand back, think about it objectively, and realize that it's going to be a miserable experience.  The art isn't worth it.

And for heaven's sake--if you're about to commission reiq and either don't want it on his website or don't want hentai, period, DON'T commission him just to get some art!  If you won't enjoy looking at it, or you will but knowing others are too will spoil it, don't do that to yourself.  Again, the art isn't worth the grief it will cause you.  Make sure you understand what you're getting into before you put the money down.







Step Two:  Your Budget

If you can't afford the artist's prices, don't commission.  Write up a budget of what money you have, what income you have coming in, what bills you have going out, the range of your variable expenses--the works.  If you can't afford it, don't commission.

What happens when you can't afford it:


1. You get stuck paying for art and realize you'd much rather have had the money to go to a concert, go out to eat, take someone out on a date, buy a decent Christmas/birthday gift for someone, or replace the spark plugs in your car.  Sucks, but you should have thought of that ahead of time.

2. You come up short and don't pay the artist.  Either you don't get the art and get a bad reputation for ditching out on commissions, or you get the art but have to deal with the fact that you just scammed someone.  It may not have been intentional, but you have a legal contract to pay for services rendered.  Depending on the artist and amount of money, lawyers may be sent after you.  On a website where the payment is not real money, that contract is enforced by the site mods or admin... and if they can't make you pay for it, you get banned.  Even if you don't, that stigma is still attached to your name.  It's this scenario that makes artists paranoid about being paid upfront.

3. You waffle and pay the artist late, or start paying in installments when that wasn't the deal.  Remember that if you're using PayPal, there's a fee charged for every transaction, not every penny, and the fee is taken out on the artist's end.  If you owe someone $100 and are paying in chunks of $20, and they lose $2 every time you send $20, they only get $90 at the end of that, and it's over time when maybe they needed it all right away to pay a bill.  It's better to pay late than not pay at all, but this is still not okay.

4. Depending just how badly you can't afford it, you could end up on the street.  If it's ebas or alexiuss you want to commission, I STRONGLY suggest saving up.  STRONGLY.







Step Three:  Contacting the Artist

Generally, this is the easy part.  Courtesy is key.

1. The title

Don't title your Note/PM/e-mail "You WANT to work for me!"  It's obnoxious, it's rude, and there's a good chance the artist won't even open it.  Even if you're friends with the artist, don't do anything like this.  Don't make them guess what's in it, either, or wonder if the links lead to viruses.  If you have a question about commissions (such as whether they would be willing to do a certain type of art, what their prices are, or whether they take commissions at all if there's nothing in their journal), title it something very simple, like "Question," "Curious," "Wondering about your commissions," or "Do you do commissions?"  Some artists get a lot of mail, and simple titles that state exactly what you want help them sort their inbox at a glance.  These are all titles I've used, and they work.  "Question" has been especially good, because one-word titles are generally not used in spam or virused mail.

If the artist states that notes about commissions should be titled a certain way, follow their instructions.  Anything the artist says trumps everything I say, because this article contains only general guidelines--every artist handles commissions a little differently.



2. Courtesy
Read over your message several times.  Have a friend read it over, if you're not sure.  Remember while you're writing it that you're requesting something, not expecting something.  You're asking nicely.  This may seem backwards, because the artist is the one who wants the money, but that doesn't mean they have to take your commission.  They're offering to give art, you're offering to give them something for it, but the artist can refuse you for any reason.  Just as you shouldn't commission if you can't afford it or don't want to deal with the artist, the artist shouldn't take a commission if they can't do it or don't want to deal with the commissioner.  The less courteous you are, the more likely they are to decide that your money isn't worth having to deal with you.

And always remember:  Nothing comes across as well in text as it does in real life.  Kill your sense of humor, especially if the artist isn't friends with you.  Get rid of "like" and "um"--make it as short and easy to understand as possible without treating the artist like an imbecile.



3. Cheerfulness
No artist will take offense if you are enthusiastic about their work.  They may be taken aback and deflect it, perhaps saying it isn't THAT great, or that they appreciate that you want to commission them but might be over-estimating their skills (though if they say that, you might want to double-check that their art IS as good as you think it is), but they aren't going to decline your commission for being cheerful.  Therefore, it doesn't hurt.

In one case, I was actually told that the artist had been having a terrible day full of depressing drama, and my note had cheered them up.  Don't be wacky, but remember that artists are people, too, and everyone's happier to read a happy note than an unhappy one--or even a neutral one.

:roll: And if you want to be cynical and manipulative about it, people who associate you with sincere interest and happiness tend to like working for/with you and will put more work into your commission.  But if you're manipulative enough to do it for that reason, skip it--chances are that people will see right through you and your fake@$$ "cheer" and just get annoyed.

I don't think I can iterate enough the fact that the artist does not have to accept your commission.



4. Do you provide details and refs, or not?
Unless the artist has posted publicly that you should have all refs and details and have their form filled out in the first note your send them, so they can decide immediately whether to take it or not and give you a slot (or not) right away... don't.  Don't expect them to take your commission.  Politely ask if they would be interested in your commission, and provide basics such as fullbody/halfbody/headshot, the medium (CG, paint, sketch), whether you want it mailed to you or have a print available (if that even applies to your artist), and the type of character or scene you're looking for.

If they want the form filled out right away, give them everything.  If they don't, or you're not sure if they have commissions open at all, be basic and general.



5. Don't pester the artist
Do not expect a response right away, even if the artist is online when you message them.  Sometimes you'll get a reply in minutes, sometimes hours or days, sometimes weeks, and sometimes never.  If you're on deviantart (or any site that lets you see this), make sure that the artist has actually READ your message before you get annoyed at the wait.  Keep an eye on their recent journals and art--If they mention that they have a glitch that won't let them read mail, send mail, or that completely deleted all their mail and they'd like people to re-send whatever it was, there's your answer.  Sometimes your message will just be ignored, of course...

More often than not, a slow response just means the artist is thinking it over, and you have to be patient.  Sending more messages about it, whether asking the same thing or pestering them to read your messages and reply, is not a good idea.  Either they'll take your commission or they won't, and sending repeat messages will only sour the artist towards you and make them more likely to refuse you and possibly block you from contacting them.

If you never get a response, and there appears to be no reason, ask in their journal, on their page, or in their shop thread (if there is one).  Once.  If you still get no response, move on.  Just like girlfriends, there are more fish in the sea.



6. What's different when it's a professional?
For the most part, commissioning a professional artist is no different from commissioning an amateur artist.  What's the difference?  Well, a professional works for companies, producing regular work.  liiga does art for a trading card company, ToolKitten is a colorist in the comic book industry, and alohalilo is one of the guys who did Lilo and Stitch.  An amateur is any artist who does not and has never made their living off art alone.  That includes art students.

Sometimes, commissioning a professional has exactly the same feel as commissioning everyone else.  Other times, it has the detached feel of a business transaction--and in the latter case, you want to match that.  If the artist replies to you very professionally, you should tone down the enthusiasm and talk to the artist the same way they're talking to you.  It's good because it puts everyone on the same level and helps the artist feel more comfortable working with you.  If you can't be as professional as they are, they may take that as a signal that you're too immature to trust when it comes to payment.  Make no mistake, even corporations have fallen into the pit of not paying artists and have been taken to court on that, but it's more likely for immature individuals to do it, because they don't have the experience to know what they can really afford and presence of mind to pay everything on time.

This is the same principle as commissioning an artist who doesn't speak your language.  In the foreign language case, dumb it down without being insulting.  In the case of professionalism, raise your level to be just as professional, or at least as professional as you can be (don't feel dumb asking for someone to read it over, either).  Whatever the artist does, the best way to communicate is to match it.

...Unless what the artist is doing is cussing you out or saying something else that makes you particularly uncomfortable.  Remember, you don't have to work with this artist if you don't want to.  There are always more fish in the sea.







Step Four: Payment

What's simple, what's safe, what's practical... and what's none of the above.

1. What's simple?

The simplest way to pay is all at once.  All upfront, all after the sketch and before the finished piece, all right before the coloring, all when it's finished and in your hands... It doesn't matter.  The simplest way to pay is to do it all at once.


2. What's safe?
This depends what side of the commission you're on.  Safe for the commissioner means paying only once you have the art finished to your satisfaction and are in possession of the file.  When it comes to custom commissions (something the artist couldn't use anywhere else), this could also be when the art is completely finished but has a watermark on it--such as a deviantart watermark, with distorts the image but can still be seen through enough to tell if you're getting what you want.  As long as there's nothing else it can be used for, there's no reason for the artist NOT to take the watermark off and hand you the final piece as soon as you pay them.

For the artist, though, the safest thing is to be paid upfront.  This way all the time they spend on your piece isn't wasted, even if you fall off the face of the earth and never receive it.

This is the dilemma.



3. What's practical?
Typically, the best compromise between safe and simple, and the one that brings equal safety to the artist and commissioner, is half and half.  This could be paying the artist half up front and half upon completion, half up front and half at one of the WIPs (Works In Progress) in the middle, or half in the middle and half upon completion.  Often the artist will have a preference on which kind of half and half to use.  This is considered safest because if the artist ditches, you haven't lost all your money--and if the commissioner ditches, the artist hasn't done all that work for nothing.

The half and half style of payment is currently to most practical way not to get scammed.  The idea actually comes from the turn of the century, where "half now, half later" literally meant taking a dollar bill ($1, $2, $5, $100, whatever the amount was) and ripping it in half.  The bill was useless to anyone when ripped in half, but it was a promise that the person being paid wouldn't take the money and run, and it was understood that the commissioner wouldn't just throw their money away.  Whoever had both pieces of the bill at the end could take it to the bank and have it exchanged for an unripped bill.  It's not so easy, these days, when cash is not the main form of payment anymore.

If the artist doesn't have a preference listed, chances are that you'll have to negotiate.  It's simpler than you think!  You shouldn't be negotiating prices (or if you are, I have no advice for you).  This is about when you pay how much.  This is how it should go:

Artist:  How do you want to pay?
Commissioner:  Half when the sketch is done, half when it's all done.
Artist: Okay
OR
Artist:  How about half upfront, then half at the first sketch?  I don't think you're going to scam me, but I want to make sure I get paid for my work.


This is where you decide how much you trust this artist.  If you don't know them very well, ask people who've commissioned them before.  If they haven't been commissioned before, it's a judgment call.

Commissioner:  Okay
OR
Commissioner:  I'm not really comfortable with that.  How about half upfront, then half when it's all done?
OR
Commissioner:  I'm really not comfortable with that.  I don't think you're going to scam me, either, but I've never commissioned you before and want to be sure.


This would be in your own words, of course, but the simpler, probably the better.  Be polite about it, but don't get into a deal you're not comfortable with.  If the artist takes the opportunity to go off on a tirade about how they don't want to deal with you--ditch them.  You don't want to work with someone who's already ticked at you.  If they go off on a tirade, but it's about how they've been screwed in the past, it's up to you how to deal with it.  If you still want to commission them, do what you can to sooth their feelings and take whatever payment deal makes them happy.  Up to you.



4. Not simple, safe, or practical!
There are a few common scenarios where you won't be paying half and half.  Here are a few:

a) Not simple: You're commissioning a large number of pieces and the total is more than you can pay at once.  I recommend NOT doing this with an artist you've never commissioned before.  I did this recently with saintpepsi, and the easiest solution for me worked fine for him--every paycheck, I sent him a significant percentage of the total price, until it was completely paid.  Throughout, he worked on the various pieces at his normal pace, which happened to fit with the timing of the payments.  Worked out just fine, and I'm happy with the commission.  Again, though, I do NOT recommend commissioning multiple pieces from an artist you've never worked with before, for more reasons than I care to list here.

b) Not safe: The artist needs cash in a hurry, to pay bills or buy Christmas presents or something.  They just moved and don't have the down payment for an apartment (Nadiaenis), they're about to lose their internet AND be evicted (TerrorEffect), they have unexpected vet bills (pixelinkdust), they have this tendency to break their tablet pen and have other crisis (DarkVanessaLusT)...  No matter what the reason, the artist is offering commissions in a hurry, and they want everyone's money up front.  It's up to you if you want to go for these artists--even when the artist has a history of good commissions and being a good person in general, their situation may mean that they can't do the commission when they say they can, or can't do it at all.  This can work out, but there's a high risk that it won't.

Also not safe: Putting a check in the mail.  Yeah...

c) Not practical:  The artist wants to do something that's way, way too complicated.  Even if they're telling you it's really simple and easy, YOU are the one paying.  If it doesn't make sense to you, you won't be able to follow it, so just say no to this.  Do what YOU understand.







Step Five: WIPs

What is a WIP, and do you want them?

1. Definition of the term

What is a WIP?  The acronym stands for Work In Progress, and it's the same thing as a draft in writing; it's a sketch, lineart, flat (flat colors without highlights or shading), or partially-colored work that isn't finished yet but is often provided before the piece is done.


2. Why do you want to see the WIPs?
WIPs are optional--some artists provide them, some don't, and some provide them some of the time but not all of the time.  In my own experience, most artists do, or at least have no problem providing them if you ask.

a) Proof of progress
There are two big reasons to receive WIPs, and this is the first:  Proof that the artist is not sitting on their hands while your commissioned art collects dust.  Actually, it's also proof that the artist has even started on your commission, which can be a big concern if your name is at the top of their list and nothing's happening.  Especially if you commissioned in one of those "unsafe" scenarios [see above], it's important to have WIPs so you know where the artist stands.  If they lead a busy life and have very sporadic free time to work on your art, a WIP now and then tell you that they haven't forgotten about you completely... though you should keep in mind that your commission is probably not their biggest priority in life unless they say it is, so bugging someone for WIPs when you know they haven't had a chance to work on it is not that nice [see Don't Pester The Artist, above].

b) Feedback
This is the second big reason.  Many artists provide WIPs specifically so they can ask you if they're doing it right or if you want something changed.  Some artists, like DarkVanessaLusT, will provide a WIP at every possible stage, mainly to check and make sure that everything is to your satisfaction.  Others may provide only the initial sketch or lineart and nothing more until the finished piece.  In the case of saintpepsi, I usually receive a lineart or sketch to show that he's started and to ask if I like the pose.  He doesn't send me one every time, but if I see it and note that I'd like something changed, he then sends me a new WIP with the changes to make sure that's what I meant.  In the case of Ninjatic, however, I received one sketch, noted a few corrections, and then saw nothing more until the finished piece.  None of these methods are a bad thing, but each commissioner has different preferences; you may prefer tons of WIPs, especially if you want precision, you may like to check the initial sketch or colors and then let the artist do their work without you, or you may even prefer to see no WIPs at all and just let the artist run with it.  If you have a preference or would like to know what an artist normally does with WIPs, don't feel bad asking them--the worst they can do is tell you that they have some reason not to send you any.

c) Because it's fun to watch them work!
I don't know about you, but I enjoy looking over people's shoulders.  The advantage of the internet, of course, is that you can do this without irritating the artist!  Instead of literally standing near someone and peering at their paper or canvas, blocking their light, interrupting with remarks, and/or giving them the creeps and making them feel that much more self-conscious, we get to see clips from their progress and watch the art evolve on our computer screens.  For this, the only thing better than WIPs is livestream.  Actually, ToolKitten has gotten into livestreaming her coloring and announcing times in her journal, so I highly recommend her if you like to watch artists at work.



3. When you WON'T see WIPs:
There are some artists that don't provide WIPs.  You can ask to see some, certainly, and many artists will reply with one, but sometimes your request will be denied.  This does NOT necessarily mean that the artist is ignoring you or you're being scammed:

a) If the art is in a sketchy style
If the WIP looks like unintelligible scribbles, chances are that the artist is not going to show it to you.  It really is that simple.

b) If the artist is self-conscious
Remember what I said about making someone uncomfortable when you look over their shoulder?  Yes, the internet is a great thing, allowing us to do that without blocking light, interrupting a brush strokes, or giving off that creepy stalker vibe.  However, many artists are still self-conscious and uncomfortable with being watched, which is one reason more artists do not livestream even if their computer is capable of it and they would have an audience.  Not much you can do about this, and arguing about it or suggesting they "get over it" by sending you WIPs anyway... even if you really are just trying to help... usually just makes it worse.  You can always cancel the commission if not having WIPs bothers you (I wouldn't recommend that unless you already don't trust the artist, but it's your choice), but you can't force the artist to send you some if they really don't want to.  If being self-conscious is the issue, either they'll eventually choose to "get over it" on their own, or they won't, and that's just something you'll have to accept.

c) The artist does not want your feedback
There are some artists out there who are easily stung.  They REQUIRE artistic license, explicitly or implicitly, and they expect that if you like their work enough to commission them, you will trust their inspiration and their skill enough to not "teach your grandmother to suck eggs."  They may or may not provide WIPs anyway, just to show you that they're working on it or to provide you the pleasure of watching it evolve (IF they know commissioners like that, and they see that you'll be one of them), but they won't give you the opportunity to ask for changes and they will ignore you or be ticked off if you hand them some anyway.  As a general rule, read their Note or PM carefully if you are sent a WIP, and make sure the artist wants your feedback before you reply--and if they do want your feedback, make sure it's corrections they want (not just enthusiasm) before you tell them that that's a little too dark a shade of mauve.

d) The art will all be done in one sitting
There may not BE any WIPs.  If the artist sketches, inks, flats, and does the shading and polishing all in one sitting (or whatever they're doing to get your commission done, whether it be sewing a plushie or welding jewelry), there ARE no WIPs.  There may not even be a concept sketch, and you're unlikely to see it first even if there is.  Many artists work this way, so don't be too surprised if "all of sudden" your art is done and in your mailbox.

e) You're on the waiting list
...Folks, if you're on the waiting list, whether that be because you haven't paid yet or because the artist is busy with the people ahead of you and likes to draw commissions relatively in order, don't expect any WIPs.  He or she hasn't even started on your art yet, and asking for WIPs at this point is genuinely stupid.  Don't do it.



4. What's the difference between a WIP and a concept sketch?
Sometimes an artist will provide several concept sketches before beginning the piece.  These are not WIPs.  A concept sketch is an idea only, and sending these to you could be one of two things:  Either the artist wants you to know that they're thinking about your commission and planning, even though they haven't started it yet, or they're looking for feedback from you on which idea to go with.  In the case of Nadiaenis [in one of the "unsafe" commission types mentioned above], I was provided one concept sketch shortly after sending her the payment and another, completely different concept sketch several months later, when her life calmed down a little and she had the free time to work on it again.  It was the second one that she turned into the finished art, but she could easily have gone through several more ideas before finding one she was inspired to work with.  In the case of liiga [one of the professionals listed above, who treats commissions the same way she treats pro work], I was provided three concept sketches and asked to choose which one I preferred, and the one I chose was the one she turned into finished work.

A concept sketch does NOT mean that your finished commission will look anything like that.  All it means is that the artist is brainstorming on what they might do.






Step Six: Legal Rights

This is a fun one.  Some artists are very touchy and concerned about who has what legal rights, and they have a right to be concerned.  Other artists are not concerned and honestly couldn't care less.

1. What's the big deal?

Heh heh... Lordy, is the answer to this a long one.  Google it, check dA News and the journals of pro and/or big-name artists, wiki "copyright," ask a lawyer.  The short answer is that artists make money off their work and want to continue making money off their work, and they don't want you destroying it by cropping, warping, color-shifting, or otherwise altering the art they've made for you--or the art they've made for someone else.  There are many long, heated, and very legitimate and factual articles on this all over the internet, but I can't find one that deals with it directly from a private commissioner's point of view, so I'm afraid you'll have to look on your own if you're interested.  Because of the mass ton of information on this subject, Step Six here is going to be the sketchiest part of the whole guide, even though it is still quite long.  Sorry about that.

2. Do you need a contract?
If you're commissioning privately, meaning you have absolutely no intention of using the art for commercial purposes, you do not need a special contract and shouldn't expect the artist to want one.  Your Notes, PMs, or e-mails are not confidential according to the law, and whatever arrangement you make is legally binding.  If the art is for your personal use only, and you only ever use it that way, it's rare for an artist to try and sue you for it.  IF, however, the art is intended for commercial use (trading cards, tarot cards, book covers, advertisements, even website logos--anything that helps you make money), or if you originally commissioned it for personal use and decide to use it commercially later on, then you need a contract.  Your e-mail may be legally binding, and it will hold up in court, but those are usually ambiguous and contracts more clearly state everyone's legal rights.  If you're doing anything commercially, trust me, you want those rights.  My dad is an attorney specializing in this stuff.  TRUST ME. @_@

:shrug: On the other hand, I'm not a lawyer myself and I haven't yet commissioned work for commercial use.  I have no idea how to set up a contract and cannot give you advice if you need one.



3. The usual deal:
First of all, there is no usual.  Most artists, amateur and pro alike, will not outline who has what legal rights when you commission them.  Each artist has a different idea if what you are and are not allowed to do with their work; it's normal to assume that you can do whatever you jolly well please, since you paid for it and therefore it's yours--except it's not.  That's the fun part.  Yes, you paid for them to create art, and you more specifically paid for them to create your art.  However, it is their art.  They made money off the creation of it, and they give you certain legal rights to use it, but most of those rights actually belong to the artist, because creative work is funky like that.  The law doesn't make a whole lot of sense if you're just looking at it as a commissioner, but that's how it is.

From the artist's point of view, the law makes a lot more sense.  An artist, first off, is not a construction worker.  A construction worker makes money by doing the same basics tasks over and over again, and doing them well.  A construction worker does not require inspiration, and his job does not depend on reputation--if you walk on the job site and can hammer a nail straight, the boss probably doesn't give a care if you've been doing it one year or twenty years, nor does he care which houses you've worked on.  An artist, however, does require inspiration to produce better work, and they do depend on their reputation to get a job in the first place.  They are more likely to have a "dry spell" where their work is simply not as good because their homelife sucks, they have a thesis to write or an exam to study for, they're going through a divorce, etc.  They rely not just on original commissions but on royalties, whether that be print sales or contract-specified royalties that come from book or trading card sales.  If you spread their art around and make money off it without giving a reasonable percentage to the artist, you're denying some of their legal right to income.  If you alter their work by removing their mark (usually their name or username), you're denying them potential customers who might otherwise see the work and go looking for the artist who made it.  If you alter their work by cropping, warping, covering with text, etc., you are damaging their reputation by displaying art that isn't actually what they made for you, and again are causing them to lose potential customers.

As a commissioner, this sucks.  It sucks even more that you almost always have to ask special just to find out what the artist is really giving you.  In the case of thegryph (another professional), she specified upfront and explicitly that the art was to be credited to her and that we would need to have a contract if I wanted to use it commercially later, but that I could use it privately as a character reference any time I wanted.  With her permission, I have her art posted on a separate dA account designed to organize written rough drafts and character references for a novel-in-progress: Baroness-byArynChris.  In the case of vaniamarita, I found out some time after the art was finished and paid for that she honestly didn't care what I did with it; as far as she was concerned, it was totally mine the moment she had the money.  Generally, it's thegryph's approach that an artist will take, if they even think about it in the first place, but that doesn't mean they'll tell you if you don't ask.



4. So how can I use the art?
As a general rule of thumb, it's always a good idea to credit the artist and link to either their webpage, dA main page, or shop thread if at all possible.  Not every artist requires that, and it's sometimes unfeasible to do so, but it's unlikely to bother them if you do; again, artists make money off their reputation.

If you want to turn their art into a banner or post it on webpage, especially if it's possible for a viewer to get confused about who did the art or whether the art originally included words (or if they may think that the art sucks because the font doesn't suit it), contact the artist first.  In some cases, I have been told that sure, I can use the art for a banner, but the artist would prefer to make it for me his- or herself, to prevent distortion of the original work.  Sometimes I have been told outright that it is no problem, do whatever (vaniamarita)... and sometimes I have been told that I absolutely do not have that right.  You will never know unless you contact the artist, and they can get you in a lot of hot water with the law or site admins if you do what you want without talking to them first.

If you only use the commissioned art for rp character references or your desktop background, and never try to give someone else permission to use it, you will never have a problem.  Likewise, posting it as a character reference for a contest or giving it out as a reference for yet another commission will never get you into trouble.  Everything else gets tricky and weird, though, and depends on the artist.



5. How can the artist use the art?
Any way they darn well please, unless they tell you that YOU have a certain right--in which case, they no longer have that right themselves.  You should expect that any original characters will be credited back to you, and that the artist will display your commission as a sample of their work (unless you have a commercial contract that states that they can't until it is first published commercially).  Other than that, the artist can sell posters, calenders, the original hardcopy (if there is one), art books, and even submit it as a contest entry for someone you've never met.  That last is in seriously bad taste and usually goes hand-in-hand with fraud, but it's not always illegal.  If you see the artist doing this later and didn't bother to make everyone's rights clear before, don't be too surprised.  Feel free to demand that they stop making prints available, take it out of their calender, etc., but realize that the artist has no idea how you feel about any of it until and unless you say something.

If you believe that the artist is overstepping their rights, ask around and show your correspondence to someone whose judgment you trust.  If they agree, or you decide on your own that there really is a problem, the first thing to do is send a calm, polite e-mail/note/PM to the person requesting that they stop.  If you get no response and/or the artist continues to use the art illegally, the next step depends on what precisely they're doing... contact a mod or admin, contact the contest host with an explanation of this situation so they can decide whether or not to disqualify the artist, or call a lawyer.  If the artist is making a profit off something in a way you both agreed they would not, or is claiming your character(s)/idea to be their own (that's stealing YOUR copyright!), you have every right to take them to court on it.  Whether you do or not is up to you--but you do have the right.




In Summary:

1. Pick the artist you actually want to work with.
2. Make sure you can actually afford it first.
3. Be nice, courteous, and respectful.
3 1/2. Match the artist's level of communication.
4. Don't get scammed.
5. Figure out if you care about WIPs.
6. Know your rights.
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:iconspongething:
SpongeThing Featured By Owner 12 hours ago  New Deviant

That's a great article, although, I need some input about a complicated situation, maybe you'll be able to help, or maybe other people will identify themselves with my situation. I have a friend artist that I've been commissioning for a while. I was very satisfied at first with her commissions, but then she started, well... doing things a way that had me feel uncomfortable and not  satisfied with the result. She's sometimes in need of money for various reasons, and I have the feeling that, when she's not in need, she shows herself picky and has attitudes, even giving unpleasant comments in a caption when she publishes the final result (something like "if it were for me I would not draw that", "not my thing") and having me understand that she's doing an immense favour and that it's demanding her a lot of efforts (why didn't she refuse my request in the first place, instead of having me feel belittled that way?). And, when she's in need of money, she offers me to commission her as many slots as possible, and pretends that she loves working for me, that she loves my ideas and such. Of course, I accept because I want to help and because I'm somewhat manipulated to accept - because I'm a friend, and because I'm too obliging and afraid to hurt. At some point I was feeling that I couldn't be her friend and her commissioner at the same time, that I had to be only one of both. But I cannot be her friend if I don't commission her. The subject will always come up because she's in need of money, and she'll always push me to commission her through various ways.

Anyway, each time I send an email with details, references and all. We set a price... and I receive a rough posture sketch. The postures mostly don't even remotely look like what I ask. When I receive the lines, which is a moment when I am supposed to say if I want to make changes, I cannot because she's pressuring me to tell her immediately if I'm satisfied or not while I need to ponder about it a bit more. So I tell her it's beautiful, and if I even dare to suggest that I'd prefer a detail done another way (without demanding it, I'm only suggesting, and it doesn't change the fact that it's beautiful), she throws a fit, says that it's going to change everything about the sketch and that she doesn't want to change everything (my request was only about a detail, remember), and that she wants to cry, that someone else said to her earlier that one of her commissions was ugly, and so on... To sum up, I'm accused of every evil on earth and compared to a very bad commissioner while I'm trying to be polite, and respectful. So I've learnt to keep silent when she sends a sketch or a WIP. I say that I'm fine with everything, even if I'm not satisfied with a detail or even if I feel that her representation of a character isn't completely right. She's as well re-using (copy-pasting), for commissions about the same character, the very same face without asking me if I bother (and yes, I do, I don't want 4 different commissions with the very same face on it, I want change, even if it's only to change slight details... sometimes I feel that she believes I'm an idiot who don't even realise she's copy-pasting the same face for different commissions). So again I've learnt to shut my mouth about that. I realise as well that she has absolutely no regard for what I ask in the first place (colours, clothes, background, details, posture...) she does whatever she wants, takes what she wants and throws away the rest; and when I ask why, she says that it's more realistic or tells me that she prefers it that way. She always has a reason, and makes me feel that my own opinion is bad taste, or irrelevant. So I say nothing even if, when I see the final result, I'm not entirely satisfied. Of course I agree wholeheartedly with everything she does because, if I don't, she either says that she won't change a thing, takes it as a personal offence or shows how depressed and desperate she is that I dared to suggest a change. Sometimes all of the above.

The commission price has as well increased. At first it was roughly 90$ for two full-colour characters. Now I pay 160$ for one single full-colour character - and she says that she's giving me a discount because I'm a faithful customer. She justifies the high price because of the details I ask, but she endeavours not to add those details in the final result because she pretends it's going to overload the drawing. So I find myself paying a lot of money for a detailed commission and don't have even half of the details I asked in the final result. Of course, I don't get a refund because she's removed half of those details.

I just feel that I'm trapped because we're supposed to be friends, but I don't know if I'm right to find the situation weird, and if I'm right to be unhappy as a customer. The truth is that I am unhappy, even if sometimes I'm pleased when I see the result, I'm never fully satisfied and even get the impression that I'm being ripped off and disrespected. Maybe I should have stopped commissioning her long ago, but I've never found the heart to do so. Maybe I should have been more honest, but I didn't want to ruin our friendship, and I am afraid that it's how things are going to be if I stop commissioning her or if I tell her to change anything in her commission.

There are a lot of articles on internet about respecting artists... but there's nothing about customers. The fact that we're not artist ourselves doesn't make us less human beings, and I think that a commission should be a respectful and adult understanding, not... what I've just described.

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:iconarynchris:
ArynChris Featured By Owner 5 hours ago
She's using you.  This is not a friend OR an artist worth more than $5, no matter how high the quality of her art as a whole.  You are throwing your money at an asshole.

Show me an example of what she's drawn for you, and I'll show you an artist who does equal or better, for equal price or lower, and treats clients as clients.  As for friends... she isn't.  She just knows that it's easier to get money out of people if they feel a personal connection and a sense of obligation.  To be perfectly frank, real friends don't ask for you to commission them-- they ask for your help finding someone to commission them, and never ask or expect you to hand them money.  Whether or not you offer to commission them, you should never feel a pressure to do so, for any reason.

See if you can find some genuine friends.  It's much easier to say no or stop hanging out with someone when you have other people to hang out with.
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:iconbookworm-fangirl:
Bookworm-Fangirl Featured By Owner Edited 2 days ago  Hobbyist General Artist
This was quite helpful, even if my situation is a little different. There was an art contest for my school's art club, and I won (only two people entere and so we both won) and the prize was a commission so the art teacher offered to do it. I honestly don't know what his style is like, or what I should ask for, or how specific I should be with details and refs and such. This is also my first commission. Do you have any advice?
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:iconarynchris:
ArynChris Featured By Owner Edited 2 days ago
Sounds like fun!  I'd say that you should first ask to see examples of his work and ask what he enjoys drawing (or if he says he takes commissions all the time, ask what people normally commission him for).  That will give you both an idea what to expect and a starting point with what to ask for... For example, if his usual thing is drawing portraits or real people, asking him for a portrait of yourself or a family member (from photos) is a typical commission.

If he doesn't take commissions often and draws everything from Humvees to space aliens, though, you can probably ask for anything you've ever wanted and should choose based on his style.  :)  My advice then is to look at his examples and pick out something that is just cool.  Tell him that that one is your favorite (so he knows what caught your interest and what you like about it), and try to think of something similar that you'd like to have on your bedroom wall.  If it's a character and you have an OC you'd like drawn, draw some colored sketches showing the front and back of the person wearing a favorite outfit, which is all the reference you should need (or for a headshot, draw a waist-up with emphasis on the head, face, and hairstyle).  If you like a landscape, try picking your favorite time of day in a location around your school, or a time of day and less specific scenery like "a forest" or "mountains."  If it's wacky cartoons, you might ask for you and a classmate re-enacting some joke or funny event.  If the man draws awesome vehicles, maybe ask him to draw your dream car, or something that you would never drive but think looks cool (like a monster truck, an Abrams tank, or the DeLorean from Back to the Future).  Don't provide refs unless it's a real person, something you made up yourself, or he says he's not sure what it looks like.  If you need to give him refs, clear photographs or concept drawings are your best friend.

Make sure to tell him that you've never commissioned anyone before or earned this kind of prize, so you're not sure what to do or how to decide what you'd like, or how to explain once you've decided.  It is absolutely normal for a first-time commissioner to be hesitant and a bit clueless.  If he's worked with first-timers before, he might lead you around by the hand a little and push you to decide, so that it gets done in a timely manner; this is also normal, but it might feel a little overwhelming!  Most importantly, stay calm and excited about the opportunity, and try to look forward to the final art as a mystery and a happy surprise-- after all, you're getting free art!
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:iconbookworm-fangirl:
Bookworm-Fangirl Featured By Owner 1 day ago  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you so much! that was very helpful :)
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:iconarynchris:
ArynChris Featured By Owner 1 day ago
Np, hope it helps you. :)
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:iconbookworm-fangirl:
Bookworm-Fangirl Featured By Owner 1 day ago  Hobbyist General Artist
It's very helpful :)
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:icondahuuundge:
dahuuundge Featured By Owner May 19, 2015  New Deviant
I'm thinking of contacting a Japanese doujin artist and commissioning him to draw me a two sided dakimakura art. He has never done a commission before nor does his webpage contain information regarding art requests.
How do I go about asking him if he is willing to take this commission?
I have never requested a commission before, so what extra detail should I tell him aside from "draw me a two sided dakimakura art for this character"?
I'm not sure what to set my maximum budget since I don't know what is the average price of commissioning dakimakura two sided cover arts.
Reply
:iconarynchris:
ArynChris Featured By Owner May 20, 2015
Oh, wow.  I had to look this up! :D

It seems that there's no special way body pillow art gets priced; you simply commission as you normally would for that art, then take the digital file to a pillowcase maker to get it printed.  I would recommend finding your pillowcase maker first, and finding out what their size requirement is, before contacting an artist.  It would be unfortunate to go all the way through the commission process, have art you're happy with, and then find out that the art is too small to use.  It appears that 2000x6000 pixels is a common requirement, or higher for a better-quality pillowcase.

Once you're ready to contact the artist, the first thing you should do is ask if he takes commissions.  Be sure to say commissions, not requests (or whatever this is in Japanese-- but doublecheck your vocabulary before using a language you're less familiar with).  Just make sure to tell him that you would like to pay him to make art, but the art is for only you alone, it is not for a business.  He may say no, if he prefers commercial work (it pays better) or does not have the spare time, or if you have difficulty understanding each other.

If he says yes, you should tell him that you:
1. have never commissioned anyone before
2. want dakimakura art, front and back of pillow
3. of X character (show refs of your favorite outfit or appearance or facial expression, because he will most likely draw the chara exactly like the references you show)
4. whether you want the character nude or wearing clothes, etc.
5. need a file size whatever (2000x6000, or whatever size your pillowcase maker wants)
6. ask what price he would charge for this

Japan does have PayPal, so if you decide that his price is reasonable, paying him should be easy.  It would be better to sign up for PayPal (if you don't already have it) a few days or a week in advance, to make sure your bank account links correctly and you're comfortable using their website.  It's up to you whether to pay the transfer and currency-conversion fees-- if you don't, the fees will come out on his end-- but if the fees are more than 10% of your agreed payment, it's courteous to pay them on your end.  PayPal doesn't have an option for the buyer to pay those fees directly, but there's a confirmation page before the money sends, and you can see how much you're sending and how much they will receive after fees.  I usually play with the amount a little until the page shows them receiving our agreed amount instead of less.  That's entirely up to you, though, and not every artist expects the buyer to pay the fees.

Do you speak Japanese, or is the artist good at English?
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:icondahuuundge:
dahuuundge Featured By Owner May 21, 2015  New Deviant
Thanks a bunch for the detailed reply!

I know some basic Japanese, but I can always get my messages checked before sending it to the artist. I think I will include both English and Japanese text when I send mails to him, should the artist also know English (which will be great because my Japanese skill is very basic). 

As for the PayPal options, I agree that it's courtesy to pay the fees, so I will do that as well. In your article you mentioned Simple, Safe, and Practical payment options. Do I let the artist set the terms of pay? Or do I request something like 50% upfront and 50% when he sends me the final images? What's the simplest, safest, and most practical Paypal option for both me and the artist in the case of commissioning dakimakura art?
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:iconarynchris:
ArynChris Featured By Owner May 22, 2015
Np.

How to do payment is very much up to you.  The artist may in fact take commissions and have a preference already, in which case he should tell you when you ask for a price.  If he doesn't, suggest your own.  What I've found works best for me personally is to figure out what I'm comfortable with based on the price.  If the artist wants 100% upfront and I'm not going to miss the money (say, $10-30, I'm not going to get massively upset if that amount is stolen, but I'd be a lot more upset over $100 or so), then I just go with it.  If they're asking for it all upfront and I'm really not comfortable dropping that amount of money without a guarantee, that's when I try to negotiate the terms.

My recommendation in your case, since it's explicitly for a dakimakura and you have zero use for sketches, is 50% at the sketch and 50% when he sends the final watermarked image.  Or, if he does the entire work at once and does not show WIPs, 100% at the end.  I normally don't suggest that, understand... for normal character art, it's usually better to pay at least some of it upfront.  The difference here is that you have zero use for incomplete art and the artist does not appear to take commissions (or not often enough to talk about it), which suggests that the artist will put their personal work first.  He may not get around to your commission in a timely manner, or may forget about it entirely in the wake of other projects.  But if he does do the work and just shows it with a watermark, you have no reason not to pay him and get that watermark off so you can use it for your pillow.

I also recommend giving him a deadline.  Especially if you choose to pay some of it upfront or at the WIP stage.
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:icondahuuundge:
dahuuundge Featured By Owner 4 days ago  New Deviant
Thanks again for your reply!

When we talk about payment options I will suggest 50% at sketch and 50% at final watermarked image. 

Since I'm no artist myself, I'm not sure how long it will take to draw a 2000x6000 resolution double sided dakimakura art. Should I also ask him how long it will take for him to draw and set a deadline based on his estimation?
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:iconarynchris:
ArynChris Featured By Owner 4 days ago
Probably a good idea.  There's no standard amount of time to do art of a given size; some artists work faster or slower, some put in more detail than others, and some have other work which must come first.  It's impossible to know these things if you haven't worked with the artist before or they don't tell you.
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:icontheranter1:
TheRanter1 Featured By Owner May 17, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
What would you suggest for an artist who's taken excess wait time and insisted the money up front? I actually am ok with paying upfront most of the time, all over and done with so I don't owe them anything, and I know everyone has their own work speed and through art trades etc I've been on the receiving end of the pestering every few days attitude but this is 6 months with no wip or even a solid communication since. I know the artists track record to an extent so this isn't a scam per say this is more talent but self abmitted bad work ethic. Some of the commissions I see her upload now are 1-2 years in the waiting and that's not really something I'm uncomfortable with. I've been thinking about asking for progress but she's also big on the "no rushing" deal.
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:iconarynchris:
ArynChris Featured By Owner May 17, 2015
If she takes that long and insists on "no rushing," then she's well aware that she takes that long, or that she now takes that long if she didn't originally.  If you're not comfortable with the wait-- especially if she's provided no WIPs or any other indication that she's started working on it-- you're well within your rights to ask for a refund.  Just explain that you didn't understand how long the wait might be when you paid her and that you aren't comfortable with it now that you know.
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:iconnahyeni:
Nahyeni Featured By Owner May 14, 2015
This is such a helpful journal :D

I was wondering though, is it okay to use other artist's art for reference in making you own character?

Because I've seen many people commission artists using references belonging to other artists. 

Generally, from what I've seen, anime references are more okay than using other people's character's picture or an artist's personal works but I'm not really sure?
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:iconarynchris:
ArynChris Featured By Owner May 14, 2015
It's frowned upon.  Sometimes commissioners are interested in personalized fanart and just neglect to say so; other times, commissioners can barely draw stick figures, and using an image they found online saves them time and grief, especially because many artists refuse to draw without visual references (for good reason); but sometimes, a commissioner is genuinely trying to steal a character and claim it as their own, which is why it IS considered worse to use someone's personal work than a famous anime character.  The anime character is famous, or at least widely recognized-- nobody can actually steal it, because every anime fan will call them out on it.  But personal work and OCs that aren't in films or video games are more obscure, so less protected, and characters have sometimes been stolen and become more well known as the property of the thief than as the property of the true creator.  Proving true ownership can be a difficult legal and social battle, sometimes a losing battle, so creators are understandably worried about it happening.  Whether they are the one being stolen from or just the witness, artists who notice will often-- not always, but often-- get upset about it.

If a commissioner wants fanart of an anime (or video game, etc) character, a friend's character, or any other character they don't own themselves, it's best to be upfront about it.  I've done that a few times, commissioning art of the cast of Firefly and getting art of friends' characters as Christmas gifts, etc.  The main thing is, you DON'T want the artist to think that you own the character or let them write in the description that you own the character, because you don't and it looks like theft.  Always state who owns the character, if the owner is not you.  If you say nothing, and the artist doesn't recognize the character, the artist will assume it's yours.

If a commissioner wants to use images they found online as references, because they can only draw stick figures, they should be upfront about that as well.  It's still frowned upon... but most artists do understand the problem and will work with the commissioner to make something unique out of it.  I highly recommend doing it only once per character.  First, find an artist with the same native language as you.  Second, don't find just one image that looks good-- find two or three, no more than four, which each have part of what you want for your character.  For example, one anime character has the hair, one video game character has the weapon, one personal work from dA has the pants, and a celebrity photograph has the jacket, shirt, and boots... and then you say that your character also has a different eye color than the anime guy.  Viola, you have a unique character design.  You will never have to 'borrow' reference images for this character again.  Do it only once for each character, be honest about what you need and why you are using borrowed images, and it's not a big problem.  I really do recommend an artist whose native language is the same as yours, though, because even a mild language barrier can make things difficult when using piecemeal refs.
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:iconnahyeni:
Nahyeni Featured By Owner May 15, 2015
Thank you for the detailed response ^^
I was just inquiring since I've seen many do that, but not sure if I should if I should call them out on it.

I have another question:
Since I've also seen it happen, a person I've seen commissioned something with references taken from many things but the thing is the references she was taking them from was from a commission of someone's character. I do think that's wrong but if they're just taking parts/designs of certain things is it ok? (I'm just wondering, because I feel like I should call them out on it but they're not exactly ripping off the whole design..)
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:iconarynchris:
ArynChris Featured By Owner May 15, 2015
:shrug:  It comes down to the same thing.  Using another person's character art as a reference or partial reference for one's own.  At least if it's only a partial reference, there's a legitimate chance that they just had the same idea and that person's commissioned art was the only example of it they could find online.  It's not an uncommon problem for first-time commissioners.
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:iconnahyeni:
Nahyeni Featured By Owner May 16, 2015
Okay thank you!
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:iconarynchris:
ArynChris Featured By Owner May 16, 2015
Any time.
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:iconwunko:
Wunko Featured By Owner May 13, 2015
WOW. Great write-up about commissions! This is helpful for people who have never asked for a commission before. 

For me, I have had situations where the artist never e-mailed me back even though they are active on Deviantart, Twitter, etc. and they got the money up front. I hear from the artist a couple of times then never again. 

I try not to commission much anymore because of this. However, other than these few, there have been several other artists who were honest and great to deal with.
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:iconarynchris:
ArynChris Featured By Owner May 13, 2015
Yeah... It's a common problem, sadly.  I'm still a little puzzled whether most of these types intend upfront to scam people or whether it only occurs to them once the money is in hand.
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:iconwunko:
Wunko Featured By Owner May 13, 2015
I hear you. That probably sums up most of them since we basically have no recourse. I also feel like some of them in general just aren't responsible people and don't know how to conduct business with others.
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:iconarynchris:
ArynChris Featured By Owner Edited May 13, 2015
There are times when I sit back and think of how rare the situation is, stacked up again aaaaall the times I've commissioned someone.  But even then, it's simply true that not everybody is cut out for freelancing.  Or holding a job that requires direct interaction with customers, or personal accountability, or financial responsibility. =\

EDIT:  In the interest of fairness, I include myself in that latter statement.  I've got panic disorder, and in my specific case, that means I can't be the artist (or hold most jobs), because I freak out into a blind panic when there's any pressure or deadline.  But I also haven't taken money from anyone without ever giving them that thing they're paying me for-- I just did it as fast as I could and refused to take commissions anymore.  And I apologized for the problems and delays, once I could handle communication again.  What I have trouble figuring out, when other people accept the money and then disappear like that, is whether they're like me and just have more trouble owning up to it, or whether they are criminally minded and just kept playing the game until they had money from enough different commissioners to satisfy them.
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:iconwunko:
Wunko Featured By Owner May 13, 2015
I agree. Not all artists are bad. The artists that I had smooth transactions with had great communication and so I was very understanding of the delays due to things like work and school.

I respect your honesty and I like how you dealt with that commission situation. :) There should be more people who own up to their mistakes and don't just take money and run off with it. Personally, I own up to my mistakes at work and when I owe something (or borrow) I make sure to pay it back. I could not live with myself if I grabbed someone's money and left them hanging.
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:iconarynchris:
ArynChris Featured By Owner May 14, 2015
That's pretty much exactly how I feel about it.
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:iconhappymeals69:
HappyMeals69 Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2015  Student Digital Artist
Thank you for the pointers buddy! I'll add this to my Fav just in case I need it :)
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:iconarynchris:
ArynChris Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2015
Very welcome, and I hope it proves useful. :)
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:iconpokemonlover2014:
Pokemonlover2014 Featured By Owner Apr 2, 2015  Student Artist
Do you know if commissions are safe or not?
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:iconarynchris:
ArynChris Featured By Owner Apr 2, 2015
It depends on the artist.  Often, you can tell based on their history and how they want to be paid.
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:iconpokemonlover2014:
Pokemonlover2014 Featured By Owner Apr 3, 2015  Student Artist
Okay thanks!
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:iconangelcandy100:
angelcandy100 Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2015  New Deviant Student Artist
I really want to commission T__T but I don't have point.
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:iconarynchris:
ArynChris Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2015
^_^  Well, actual money (that can be sent through PayPal) is more useful than points anyway, since most artists do not accept points as payment, so that's just as well.  Until then, how about offering art trades with people of the same skill level as you, or requesting free art?  Both will give you some experience working with fellow artists, and give you a chance to practice your skills as a commissioner ahead of time.

If you're new and don't know many people yet, the best and fastest way to request free art or offer a trade is in the forums.  To request free art, go to DrawPLZ; to offer trades, go to Projects! :)
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:iconangelcandy100:
angelcandy100 Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2015  New Deviant Student Artist
Okay
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:iconzedyeo:
ZedYeo Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2015  New Deviant
Hi ArynChris,

Thanks for the pointers. Very helpful!
I'd like to hear your opinion if it's okay to talk to a few artists regarding their interest for commission before deciding on one?
It's for a book I just wrote. I'd like to be polite but efficient :)

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:iconarynchris:
ArynChris Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2015
Absolutely.  To be frank, discussing your commission with a few different artists before choosing one is just good business sense.  Your needs are slightly higher than a non-commercial art commissioner, because you will need a contract, a guarantee of the work being done on time and of good quality, and almost certainly be paying more for the full copyright; taking extra time to ensure the commission goes well is never a bad idea or a waste of time. :)
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:iconzedyeo:
ZedYeo Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2015  New Deviant
Thanks ArynChris. I took a wee bit of time to reply, cuz I'm uber new here and didn't check my inbox. Oops!
Have a great day!
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:iconthemonsterinurcloset:
First of all, thank you for this. I wish I had seen this before. 

Second of all, I have a question. How long should one wait before checking on the status of a concept sketch?

Here's my situation: A while ago I started asking around and looking for someone to design a tattoo for me. My requirements were some basic elements and then they could do what they wanted with the design. I finally found someone I liked. Their work is beautiful and they're very active. I contacted them and that day we decided on a price. They said they'd get to work on a few sketches that week. So far, no money has gone between us (and none will be going until I get a sketch that I like), and it has only been two weeks. While no specific date was set for anything, I would like to ask if they're at least working on it. I've been dropped and ignored before when it's come to commissions, and it's a horrible feeling. At the same time, I don't want to seem like a pest or anything like that. Should I wait longer or is it okay to ask?
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:iconarynchris:
ArynChris Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2015
Very welcome.

Two weeks is reasonable, especially since they said they'd start sketching in the first week.  They should at least have something to show you right now, even if they aren't personally satisfied with it and would like more time to work on sketching. :)
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:iconthemonsterinurcloset:
I see. Thank you. ^^
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:iconarynchris:
ArynChris Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2015
Hope it helps!
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:iconlioxan:
LioXan Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
great work! this is exceptional helpful for any artist or commissioner out there! thank you very much.
may i put a link to this guide under my commission price list? :3
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:iconarynchris:
ArynChris Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2015
Absolutely. :)
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:iconrakpolaris:
RakPolaris Featured By Owner Jan 30, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Hello there! I just read this "tutorial" and it helped me a lot, even if I am not a newbie here on dA, but I found it really helpful.
I was just wondering, if I could translate this text to Spanish? As I said before, I found it really helpful and it seems that many spanish speakers aren't very good with english, so its hard for them to understand how commissions works, etc. It would also help spanish deviants when they try to commission another artist who is not/ does not speak spanish, and of course, spanish artists that aren't sure what to expect when they first offer commissions here in DA.
I will give you credits for the text and all, don't worry on that part ;)
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:iconarynchris:
ArynChris Featured By Owner Jan 31, 2015
Absolutely! :)
When you're done, please show me?  I do not speak or read Spanish, but I would love to post a link to it at the top of this article.
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:iconpassionphoenix123:
passionphoenix123 Featured By Owner Jan 27, 2015
Heya, just asking what can I do if I already paid an artist for a piece, and then they went radio silent? I tried contacting on skype and on DA, but she never replies. She seemed to be a regular and good artist that post, but she never replied and I'm afraid that I've gotten scammed. How do I know if i got scammed and how can I get my money back? Is there like a complaint I can lodge? Can artists be sued internationally for not delivering on a commission?
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:iconarynchris:
ArynChris Featured By Owner Jan 28, 2015
Hm.  Suing internationally... yes and no.  Most likely, you've been scammed (whether or not that was the artist's original intention) and will never see the art or your money back.  Other than posting publicly on your or her profile(s), and submitting a report to Buyer Beware (which is independently run and has zero authority), there is probably no way to register a complaint.  This is a largely unregulated cottage industry.

If enough money was involved that you feel it's worth suing over, many attorneys work internationally and there will be someone who can help you with that.

...To be honest, if you know that she is still alive and active, just not responding to you personally, the first step may be to contact a lawyer and have that lawyer send her a notice of your intent to sue and that she can refund the full amount within X timeframe to avoid being taken to court.  Sometimes, a good scare is all it takes to get someone to stop being criminal.  Whatever you do, though, take the advice of your lawyer, and the moment it's your lawyer talking to her, don't say anything or respond to her yourself.

Depending on the amount of money and her country of citizenship or residence, you may stand a good chance of getting your money back, or none at all.  To some degree, that depends on that country's laws... but more importantly, whether those laws are enforced.  If she's in China, for example, you are in the same boat I'm in and stand no chance of getting your art or money, unless you manage to intimidate her.  Unfortunately.  If she's in Europe, the U.S., or Canada, you can probably sue successfully.  I'm not sure about other countries and regions.  A lawyer would know.
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:iconpassionphoenix123:
Thank you for your advice! I think 50 USD is probably not worth suing over, lawyer fees tend to be way more than that.

I really wish there were more regulations and laws on the private commission industry though. Its hard to distinguish artists that are scammers and honest ones. Especially since its all online.

Btw i think the artist is in russia, so i guess the suing point is moot anyway.

Thanks again for your help.
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:iconarynchris:
ArynChris Featured By Owner Jan 29, 2015
Eek.  Yeah, good luck with Russia. :P

Np, and I hope you have better luck in the future.
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