How to Commission an Illustrator: from finding inspiration to the final design

Commissioning an illustrator is an exciting journey that can get your projects to really stand out from the crowd. But how do you find the right illustrator for you and your project?

From the initial search through to signing off on that beautiful final design, we’ve mapped out the best ways to commission an illustrator and how to make the collaboration work for both of you.

We’ve enjoyed commissioning and working with a host of talented illustrators over the years. We’ve created beautiful publishing and licensing projects, effective hoardings for hospitality brands, as well as punchy campaigns and brand identities. Below are just a few of our favourite collaborations.

We commissioned illustrator Lorna Scobie to make meals more playful with these colouring sheets for Bill’s restaurants

Look here, there, and everywhere

So how do you find the perfect illustrator to bring your project to life in the first place? There is a great deal of agencies representing illustrators. Central Illustration AgencyHandsome Frank, and Folio are just a few examples of where you can start your search. Pinterest and Instagram offer endless illustrator portfolios to scroll through, and blogs like It’s Nice That are another great resource for inspiring your next collaboration. If you’re on the lookout for the freshest upcoming talent, attending graduate exhibitions can also be a fantastic way to snap up and commission new and exciting illustrators.

We commissioned nature-loving Clover Robin to illustrate Botanical Brain Balms, published by Filbert Press

In brief, communication is key

Approach the partnership with a solid grasp on your concept. While a great collaboration allows space for creativity to run free, miscommunication can be expensive. To avoid confusion and designs that don’t hit the spot, setting clear parameters early on helps keep projects running smoothly, budgets on track, and creativity flowing.

Provide the illustrator a brief that specifies any imagery you need and the style you’re looking for. Showing examples of the illustrator’s own work that inspired you, along with rough sketches, reference materials, and mock layouts really helps you to communicate the vision you’re after to the illustrator.

Now with your visual plan laid out, be clear on your timelines. Allow space for looking over mock-ups and making revisions. And, although it’s easy to overlook in the excitement of starting a new project, be sure to specify all the essential file specifications like size, resolution, the number of colours, and any space you need for typography.

We commissioned Dick Vincent to illustrate chapter openers and spot illustrations throughout the book Write Every Day by Harriet Griffey

Pennies for thoughts bring big rewards

Whether you prefer a scribble of arrows or a queue of bullet points, navigating the feedback stages can be a challenge. Providing detailed feedback on the first rough sketch is important and can iron out any wrinkles early on, and the final design will reap the rewards from spending time on these finicky steps of the commission.

We worked with Hello Marine and agency Meiklejohn to bring to life Jimi Blakes eclectic style for A Beautiful Obsession

Now the ink is dry

When the final illustration is ready, it’s time to apply it across your final piece! Whether that’s a book cover, a newspaper advert, a hoarding or a series of flyers, collaborating with an illustrator you love and guiding the project from commission to fruition is a truly inspiring experience.

If you need help with a project or commissioning an illustrator please get in touch.

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