February 3, 2022

How Much Does It Cost To Hire An Illustrator (Complete Guide)

hire an illustrator

Illustrators are skilled individuals who create sketches, draw concepts, design products, etc. Hire an illustrator to bring you ideas and brand message to life.

Illustrations have long proven to help clients deliver messages and help customers digest the idea behind it. Just having the best product or service is not enough. 

If your target customers recognize your brand through illustration, your business’ success might be a step away.

What is an Illustrator?

Illustrators are skilled individuals who create sketches, draw concepts, design products, etc to bring ideas to life. They help turn ideas into visual representations for a specific use.  

Businesses make use of different types of illustrators. For example, in-house illustrators are mostly hired by industries who require a continuous supply of output and require a quantity of work or constant checking in. Advertising and publishing agencies use in-house illustrators more frequently.

Majority of freelance illustrators work on a per project basis. These are artists/designers who are working with multiple clients at a time versus an in-house illustrator that works under a single company.

If you’ve never tried hiring an illustrator before, you’ll learn some gists of costs and considerations to come up with the best decision.

Some Industries that uses illustrations 

  • Computer Systems and Design
  • Motion Picture and Video Industry
  • Scientific,Technical and Other Professional Services
  • Advertising and Publishing
  • Architecture and Engineering

Cost to Hire an Illustrator

Illustration rates vary under certain considerations mainly on level expertise, ample experience, location, and current market conditions. With all demands of illustration jobs, Illustrator salary is different  based on requirement from industry to another. Which illustrator cost is right for you, will depend on the illustrator you decide to work with and your project particulars as a client. 

  • An expert illustrator, with years of experience obviously commands a higher fee. They’re the ones who work faster, have a more-specialized approach, and deliver higher quality work.
  • A contract illustrator, or a freelance illustrator, who is still in the process of building a client base can price up their illustrator services competitively as well. 

Rates typically charged by illustrators in order of experience are:

Entry Level: $15- $18 per hour

Mid - Career: $20 -$25 per hour

Expert: $30-$35 per hour

Understanding the Cost of Illustrations

As an individual who requires the work from an illustrator, the rates you’ll pay depends on the scope of design, how you're going to pay and your budget. Here are a few different ways illustrators have been paid for illustrations.

Hourly Rate: This fixed rate per hour that ranges from $25–$150. This rate is preferred if you need a few illustrations to get done for a short term period. And more importantly, if you already have a specific scope or idea of the illustration you need done. For illustrators working hourly, expect different prices relying on the levels of expertise. You basically have the freedom of modifying the scope as long as you are willing to pay. Knowing what you want and getting the best illustrator prior, before handing out the design task minimizes your expense on an hourly-based rate. 

Weekly Rate: This is a fixed rate per weekly basis, this ranges anywhere between $500–$2,500. This time- rate is preferred by individuals or companies who require bulk illustrations weekly. As long as negotiations regarding the scope and the style of illustrations between you and the illustrator and the number of illustrations or output were clarified. This weekly rate will save you time and expense than an hourly-based rate. 

Project Based: This illustrator rate is being paid a flat rate per illustration can cost anywhere from $25-$1,000 per illustration or per project respectively. Until the project is done or a number of illustrations that we’re required to finish is completed, the work is not over. With this method the only thing that can cause the price of the project to go up is a change in scope or what is typically known as “Scope Creep”. You have to understand, the pricing adjustments need to be done if this happens in the middle of the project timeline, a reevaluation with the illustrator is crucial before proceeding. 

Royalties: Usage right is considered in this method of payment, where the illustrator is paid using the percentage of your earnings using the illustrations. For example, if 1–10% of commission is agreed, then the illustrators get that amount per product sold that uses the illustrations.

Services/Products: This payment method is more of a value exchange. This is a method where Illustrators use their services in exchange for goods or services.

Just remember, it really depends on how experienced that artist is, make sure to check the illustrator’s portfolio or require a paid practice design before arriving at a decision of employing one. The fee is going to be on the high-end for sure in terms of design complexity.

Effects of Usage Rights on Illustration Cost

What governs the illustrator’s and client’s limitations of use of illustrative work is defined in the Usage Rights. It regulates the utilisation of the creative material beyond what was initially mentioned in the scope of work. Most often, illustrators specify the type of rights that gives clients a choice how to manage and maximize the usage within the limitation. You’ll see most of the time the rights of use cost is reflected in the total project cost. Here are some examples of rights of usage you need to know about.

  • Rights Managed: This right provides clients the ability to use the illustrations in a specific manner. Commonly, this option restricts use of artwork based on a certain period of time, the medium used, the design size, the format followed, and the location or where the illustration is going to be used. This usage option, typically is less expensive just because the client has limited rights.
  • Royalty-Free: The option gives the right to use the illustrations or artwork in a recurring way. This means that the illustrator charges a one-time fee as payment for the repetitive use, usually by that specific client only. But the artist retains the full rights to the illustration. Exclusive use of illustration costs 20% to 50% higher than rights-managed options.
  • Work for Hire: Under the contract signed and agreed by both parties, this permits the individual or the purchaser full rights of use and sole ownership of the creative artwork.

How Revisions Affect Illustration Cost

In marketing, branding and advertising, most illustrators stipulate specific rounds of revisions they can allow in a creative work project. Costs increase when clients presume they may require more than two revision cycles down the line. This provides you a general understanding of how much you will pay at the end.

Let’s take hourly vs project-based pricing into comparison. 

Oftenly, project based pricing states the number of revisions allowable under specific guidelines. The major differences between project-based vs hourly pricing is that with hourly pricing, you can require revisions as many times and as long as you’d need. This assures the illustrator that no matter the additional revisions you’ll require you’re going to pay an exact amount at the end of the project. In short, when you hire an illustrator a project-based pricing typically ends up saving you more money compared to hourly rate.

To give you a perspective. Let’s use this scenario. 

For example, you’re an ecommerce seller who just created a product landing page for your shop. You want to utilize illustration with a distinct style to help explain and display what your product offers on your page to your website audience.  You basically need a header illustration, six smaller illustrations and four icons.

You are down to choosing between two illustrators both with similar skill sets. One offers you an hourly rate of $100 per hour and estimates 24 hours to complete the project. In other words, the illustration costs $2400 in total. 

The other illustrator offers a $3200 flat rate for the project but offers 3 revisions if needed to be. Both options seem attractive, take note that the first illustrator is estimating the price of the project will be a full $800 less than the second.

Given that, you decide to go with the illustrator via hourly rate, the project progresses. But you come back with a bit more revisions than you expected. The illustrator then, had to do more tweaks and revisions than initially expected or you’ve never expected. So, instead of the original 24 hours he estimated, he has now over worked 30 hours on the project.  and says it will take 10 more hours to finish the project. Your original estimate of $2400 is now looking more like $4000. If you decided to go with the second illustrator’s rate of $3200 considering it covers all of the tweaks and revisions, you would have saved $800.

You may be in this tricky situation, but trust that these kinds of circumstances happen most of the time. In this very situation, hourly rate illustrators may make more money but may leave a sour taste in the clients mouth after the project is done because you as a client ended up paying more than you planned for. The chances of  you as a client coming back to work with that illustrator is slim to none. 

So, choose your designer or illustrator according to expertise and do not hesitate to spend more for quality of work and timely delivery.

Traditional vs. Digital Illustration Costs

Traditional hand-drawn illustrations seem to be more expensive but not not always necessarily costly, than digital creative illustrations. Generally, overall costs of drawings, murals, and paintings depend on the size and medium of the finished piece. In the case of traditional work the medium is canvas or a wall or surface or any physical print medium. Usually, a muralists and or a traditional illustrator’s rates depend on the design's diameter and visual complexity of the artwork.

The reason why digital illustrations or projects tend to cost more is because of the medium used. Digital mediums, in the case of graphic illustrations, use apps and programs that allow revisions to be done instantly and easier which makes way for more revisions requests. And remember that, the increase of the illustrator’s time of work and  commitment results in expensive illustration costs.

Illustration Costs by Project Type

Illustrators with high expertise and a solid experience in creating advertising or commercial graphics often have the potential to provide a rough estimate for certain types of creative projects. Here are some samples:

  • Brand identity design (logo or icons, graphic illustrations): ranges from $200 to $1,000
  • Corporate identity kit (business cards, stationery, etc.): ranges from $250 and up
  • Newsletter design (news, events and update, etc.): ranges from $1,000 and up
  • Promotional materials (brochures, flyers,posters etc.): ranges from $1,500 and up

How Much Should I Budget for Illustration?

Your Timeline Can Change Everything

When figuring out the budget for your illustration project, you should always think about how long the timeline period you need the illustrations completed.

Some illustrators have multipliers based on how quick a project should be completed. If you want a quick turnaround, usually the usual cost of the project is multiplied by 1.5 or 2 times. An illustration project that normally costs $1000 to complete then when you add the multiplier the total cost becomes $1500 to $2000. Though factors like complexity of illustration and relationship with the client may affect it, it depends on the illustrator’s costing at the end of the day.

Each illustrator has their own method of dealing with clients and projects with regards to time frame or deadlines. You can say that a quick turnaround project is possible, but expect that with time pressure and commitment required from the illustrator it will definitely be going to cost more than one within a lesser timeframe. 

You always have to remember that your timeline can really change everything when it comes to the budget for a project aside from the level of expertise of the illustrator.

Quality vs Quantity

“What you get, is what you paid for”. 

As mentioned above, the level of expertise is going to affect the cost of hiring an illustrator. Student or beginner illustrators are generally cheaper than professional or expert illustrators. Not to generalize, but not necessarily that more years of experience mean better skillsets. And not all newbies are great ones either. A great illustrator is a sum of experience + talent.

A good rule of thumb in the matter of making a decision, is to think that in order to get better quality you need to invest more on it over quantity. One high quality illustration will represent your brand much better than several low-quality illustrations. Choose quality over quantity all the time.

If you have a budget of $2000 for illustrations, you can either hire an entry level illustrator to create 6 low-quality illustrations or hire a pro illustrator to create a 1 high-quality illustration for the similar price. The best option between the two would definitely be the latter.

Have a Clear Understanding of What You Want

The best possible route to make a realistic estimate of your illustration project, is having a good knowledge of what your illustrator’s capabilities are and an accurate picture of what your project entails.

If you reach out to an illustrator with a project idea with no concrete information to provide, you can expect that the illustrator will be able to give you only a broad estimate. Illustration costs could easily go up as the project goes on. Instead what you need to do is sit down and figure out what you want. 

To explain easier, here's a perfect example.

Let’s put it this way, you are a startup owner and are currently in the middle of building your brand. You have an idea of the branding style you’re excited about and have crazy ideas on what you want. So, you reached out to an illustrator to provide you an estimate. When asked about the details of your logo type and design guideline, you said you just wanted to see 3 options and you give the illustrator a freedom to brainstorm and create the design. The illustrator presented the estimate as $3000 for the 3 logo types. You agreed and got the ball rolling leaving the illustrator with the creative work.

As the illustration project went on, you realized, the designs made weren't really something you wanted. It wasn’t something you visualized, because you found something closer to what you visioned. So, basically everything was hanging up in the air for you both. You then decided to sit down and went over to brainstorm again, then came up with 3 more designs. And the price changed to $5000 to reflect the new logo illustrations made. You're happy to pay more, because the second try ended up successful and you got the best logo for your startup company.

These situations turn out great sometimes, unfortunately, sometimes they don't.

Remember, that illustrators may have the knowledge or capacity, skills to get the job done but sometimes as a client you need access to your ideas and place them openly on the table, so your illustrator could catch them fully. 

This way an illustrator can put a decent price on the illustration project. More importantly, this keeps you on your budget. And minimizes your extra costs, by the end of your engagement. 

How to Save Money on an Illustrator 

Hiring an illustrator is the best investment you can make for your business. But what if you’re on a tight budget? If you are in dire need of illustrations for your business and you have an insufficient budget to hire an expert illustrator and you want to spend less, the smartest and most cost-effective move is to use DesignStripe

DesignStripe is a simple, powerful and fun customization tool. You can be your own illustrator. The possibility of mixing design elements, changing colors directly and downloading the output instantly is outstanding. You can get started on your branding, website, company and illustrations right away! 

Explore a massive collection of illustrations that you can customize for any type of business. Check out limitless choice of design elements and colors to make your illustrations unique and standout.You can swap out objects to create different scenarios. You have the ability to go from a minimalist to a much more complex style in a click, with ease.

For only $20, you have full access to all illustration styles available in our DesignStripe library. A huge savings compared to hiring a full-time illustrator that’s paid by the hour, weekly or per project!