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Dwwrider’s Guide on Art Commissions on deviantART (last revised September 2014)


This guide is based off of my personal experiences of commissioning artists on deviantART.  I hope future art commissioners or artists who take commissions find this information useful.  I'll try to update this guide once a year.  Please look at the title to see when this was last revised.


All the information in this guide is a recommendation and results will vary.  I wish the very best for the commissioner and the commissioned. 

Table of Contents:

Phase 1: Determine the Subject/Topic of the Commission
Phase 2: Search for an Artist on deviantART and Other Websites
Phase 3: Learn about the Artist’s Commission Availability, Rules, Rates, etc
Phase 4: Screen Your Candidates
Phase 5: Communication with the Artist
Phase 6: Developing a Commission Write Up/Description with References
Phase 7: Payment
Phase 8: Give Feedback to the Artist
Phase 9: What You Can Do with a Completed Commission
Additional Tips & Pointers

Phase 1: Determine the Subject/Topic of the Commission

I believe the first step to a commission is figuring out what you want drawn.  Everything related to your commission depends on this decision.  The design, details, elements, subject matter, etc., you want in the picture will determine which artist draws/creates it, the amount of detail required, the size, the style, the type of drawing, the color, the price, etc., etc.

Start with a general idea of the picture you want in your mind and then write down some notes about it.  Do this over a period of time and flesh out your idea.  As time passes, add specific details to your description.  Spend time translating the picture in your mind into words and phrases.  This exercise will help refresh your memory of the important details you will want in your commission and it'll help guide the future artist who you'll hire.

Tip #1: Get Inspired!  Then Get Ready!

Use audio and visual media like movies, music, books, comic books, graphic novels, music videos, games, and other media to stimulate your creativity.  These activities and items will help you get into a mood that's mentally stimulating.  It'll help motivate you into thinking about what you want created.  When you're on a creativity buzz, tilize different resources to collect ideas or themes you would want in your commission.  If it's a film, watch it again to study the details you would want.  If it's music, find the theme or emotional notes you want reflected in your commission.  If it's specific images, begin collecting and organizing them in folder dedicated for reference images.

Starting a collection of reference images will greatly assist the artist you hire in the future.  Rather than using a your words or descriptions, they'll have visual samples to use as models.  You can begin creating your collection by searching on deviantART for the specific subject you're interested in or by using any image search engine on the Internet.

Phase 2: Search for an Artist on deviantART and Other Websites

After you’ve determined what you want drawn, begin the search for an artist.  You can accomplish this through multiple venues and here are several places you can begin your search.

My first suggestion is to use the dA search engine as a research tool.  Chances are someone has already drawn what you want and you can screen the results to find artists' whose style you like.

In the search box, use keywords related to the subject/topic of your commission and review the results.  Your keyword search will pull up dozens of possible matches of what you'd like drawn.  Browse through the different results and select pictures that are attractive to you.  Examine these pictures and determine if you like the drawing style of that artist.  If you do like the artist, look at the artist’s journal posts for information and see if they take art commissions.  Also, browse through the gallery of artist you’re examining and judge the quality of their other pictures.  This will help establish your opinion of the artist and whether you like their style or other work they’ve done.  Also, it's common to find your artist has links to a Tumblr, Blogspot, or their own personal website with their material posted there.  Most definitely, visit that site and take a look.

A second way to find an artist offering commissions on dA is searching through the Job Services Forum,….  This forum is for artists on dA who advertise their availability for commissions.  Read their post and examine their gallery to see if you like their style.

A third way to find the right artist for you is Favorite’s Gallery hopping.  First, you find a random artist by looking up the subject matter you want drawn.  Then, go into their Favorite’s Gallery: the gallery that lists pictures they like.  Chances are good that pictures they put in their Favorite's Gallery will be similar to the pictures that they draw or post in their own gallery.  Now, you have a wide selection of different and random artists who draw the subject matter that you are interested in.  You will discover that lots of people share the same interests that you have and their favorite pictures selections will match pictures you like.

A fourth way you can also search for artists through online auction websites.  Artists sell their services on eBay,, and a keyword search of “art commissions” will pull up auction listings.  Also there is a private auction service at the Comic Art Community webpage .   I have never used this service and I cannot vouch for it.  Please use outside online websites at your own discretion.

I have intermittently used eBay to purchase an art commission.  Each time that I did, it turned out the artist also had ties to the dA community.  The commissions went well, but there are a few more hurdles involved if you use eBay.  If there are any issues or conflicts, eBay is the arbiter of the dispute.

Tip #2: Switch Phase 1 and Phase 2:

Following the phases chronologically is optional.  I’m writing these phases as a list of recommendations, not as a series of mandates.  I’ve looked for artists with an idea in mind or looked up artists with no ideas on my mind.

Tip #3: Organize a Favorite Artists List

There are lots of artists you will encounter whose style you’ll like.  They won't always be available for commissions though.  Create a list of your favorite artists and save them into a Favorite Links and keep a list of potential artists you’d like to commission from.  Make one list for artists who are actively taking commissions and a separate one for those who are on hiatus/vacation.  That way, you’ll always have or know an artist who is available for art commissions.

Phase 3: Learn about the Artist’s Commission Availability, Rules, Rates, and other Pertinent Information

After you’ve found an artist you like, determine if they are available for commissions.  In general, the artist will post a link/thumbnail/image marked COMMISSIONS in their journal, although not always in capital letters.  Search through an artist’s journal carefully and find the information or link leading to the information you’ll need.  Also, check their Shoutboard, Shoutbox, and if it’s posted, their website to check for their commission status/prices/rules/rates/availability, etc.  If it’s not on their latest journal page, go through Previous Journal Entries and see if they have commission information posted in older journal entries.  Many times, I’ve found commission information about an artist in older journal entries.

In the Commission section, the artist will state their rules & limitations: what they will draw and what they will not draw.  It is important to read the information in this section carefully because it will answer most of your questions.  Artists may also list preferences on what they will draw and won't draw, so be aware of that.

You should also look for the rate the artist charges for commissions.  I have seen two types of commission rates: the flat rate and the hourly rate.  The flat rate is a set price the artist has for a specific type of drawing.  For example, an artist may charge $15 for a single character pencil sketch, $25 for a single character CG inked line art, and $35 for a single CG character color.  They may also charge a separate fee for a background.  The hourly rate is how much the artist will charge per hour of work, and the length of work will depend on the type of picture you want commissioned (sketch/line art/color/CG/background/etc).

Prices will always vary from artist to artist, country to country.  To each artist, belongs their own unique price.  deviantART is an international community and it has artists who take commissions on an amateur basis and those who do it for a living.  Expect prices to be nonnegotiable.  It is up to you to decide whether you want to pay for the commission and not on the artist who offers commissions to lower their prices if you dislike it.

Here’s good example of how an artist will present their commission rules:


Funeralwind lists contact information, what he’ll draw, what he won’t draw, the price, his availability, and the status of other clients.

Here are some other examples of commission rules as posted by the artist:


[Holly Bell]




Phase 4: Screen Your Artists/Candidates

Before you jump into a commission with an artist, do your homework.  Check their gallery and see if they've completed commissions for other people.  Gauge if their work or progress seemed timely.  Read reviews and posts from satisfied or dissatisfied customers.  By screening your artists at this phase, you can lower your chances that you'll commission an artist who will wind up disappearing on you.

This phase is designed to limit your heartbreak.  Inevitably, you're going to wind up commissioning someone who takes your money and runs.  It's hurtful and it sucks, but it's going to happen.  However, you can do damage control now before you send any money out.  Establish that the artist is trustworthy, then build on that trust by commissioning if you believe in them.

Phase 5: Communicating with the Artist

If you have any questions, look through the artist’s FAQ or their Commission Rules first, prior to contacting them.  Most likely, they've been asked your question before and they posted an answer to your question.  If you cannot find the answer you’re looking for, then send them a note or an e-mail.

Please be polite and courteous whenever you contact an artist.  First contact with an artist is the first impression you make on them.  Etiquette will help establish a good relationship between you and the artist.  It helps make a good first impression if you send them an e-mail or a dA note with proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation.  (I understand English is not the first language of many residents on dA and this request is aimed for residents of the US and/or other English speaking countries.)  Also in relation to the previous sentence, please understand the artist you contact may not speak or write English well either.  Please be flexible and patient when it comes to communication.  In most situations, the artist will understand what you want, but have difficulty communicating that information to you.

After you send an e-mail or a note to the artist, please patiently wait for a response.  Instant replies are not a reality and patience is a virtue.  An artist’s inbox get full and it takes time to catch up.  I once made the mistake of sending a follow up e-mail to an artist, two days after I sent the first one.  In reality, they had gotten my request for a commission, but they had a limited amount of time on their hands and could not respond immediately.  Please learn from my mistake: patience is the key to good communication.  An artist who is interested in taking your commission will answer it as soon as they possibly can.

Phase 6: Developing a Commission Write Up/Description with References

You have the subject/topic, the artist, and now it’s time to explain what it is you want drawn.  There are lots of details to fill in and it’s important to list them clearly and in an organized fashion so the artist understands what you want.  The better the presentation of the details, the easier a time the artist will have in drawing your commission.

Here is a sample list of details you may need to submit to an artist:

Number of characters
Eye color
Glasses or not
Hair color
Skin tone
Footwear or not
Accessories including jewelry, hair pieces, bracelets, watches, etc
Mood of the character
Mood/atmosphere of the picture
Background or not
Size of the picture (head, bust, waist, full body)
Drawing style (anime, manga, real life, CG, cel, traditional, comic, paint, Copic markers, colored pencil, etc)
Final price of the commission

Tip #5: Use Complete Sentences

Here is an example of how to take that list and turn it into legible paragraph.

Hello, my name is DW and I'm interested in a two character commission.  I would like a full color commission done in Vector.  Both of the characters are women and their names are Sandra and Becky.  Sandra has long brown hair, down to her shoulders, with brown eyes and glasses.  Becky has short red hair and she has green eyes.  Sandra is Caucasian with tan skin and Becky is also Caucasian, but her skin is pale white with freckles.  Neither of them are wearing makeup and they are going on a shopping trip.  They’re wearing designer wear jeans, shoes, and blouses of different colors/styles.

They are standing up and holding shopping bags in each hand.  Sandra is talking and Becky is listening.  I would like a simple background.

I read your price rules and I believe I will be paying $55 dollars for the commission.  Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Tip #6: Go from Top to Bottom

After writing so many commission write ups/descriptions, I developed a useful writing strategy.  First, I outline the details of the character's face and then I begin to describe what they look like from the neck down.  From head to toe, I fill in details about what each section of their body looks like.  You can use this idea or reverse it, by starting at the feet and working upwards.  Whatever works for you is what's best.

Tip #7: Find Good Reference Pictures

Your commission write up/description should also mention/contain references pictures for the artist.  A picture is worth a thousand words.  Reference pictures serve as better cues for the artist than a phrase or a giant paragraph of words.

Search for reference pictures on dA, on Google images, and other image search engines.  Select pictures that clearly show what you want to the artist.  The better the picture you select as a reference, the more likely the artist will incorporate the idea/concept you want into the commission.

Tip #8: Follow Your Artist's Rules

Some artists I've commissioned state very clearly in their commission rules what information they want to create a commission.  They've simplified your job by telling you what they need.  It falls on you to give them exactly what they ask for.

Example of a Commission Write up: “Title: Eyes are a Window to the Soul

Here is an example of a commission write up I submitted to an artist, [Arcanux], for a commission he completed in December 2007.  I developed the write up first and then I wrote a short story for the commission.

Subjects of the picture – Rachel Grey and Polaris (X-Men, Marvel Comics)

Story – Heroines Rachel Grey and Polaris were selected and assimilated by the Phalanx to become enemy agents.  Rachel was the first victim and she infected Polaris shortly thereafter.  Polaris awakens in her room under the control of the Phalanx with Rachel also inside, awaiting further orders from their controllers.

Physical Description – Landscape layout, darkened background/hushed lighting

Rachel is casually posing on the right side of the picture with Polaris on the left side of the picture.  This is a close up of the two characters.  Polaris is sitting at the edge of her bed and her hands are resting on the bed.  Rachel is two feet away, standing, and facing forward.

Rachel is dressed in her green and yellow Marvel Girl costume.  The top is like a baby doll spandex t-shirt and she has on that green and yellow miniskirt with matching yellow gloves and yellow boots, no sunglasses.  Rachel’s hairstyle is short and is cut a little above her shoulders.  She has a slight smile on her face.

Rachel Grey references:

Polaris is wearing a sheer green nightgown that goes down to above her knees.  She has her hair down and appears relaxed, but under the rigid control of the Phalanx.  Her mouth is slightly ajar as the Phalanx are still reworking her mind.

Polaris references:

Rachel is telekinetically floating a grayish cloud of Phalanx nanites in her left hand.  Around the grayish cloud is a blue aura, which represents her psionic powers.

Both women have their eyes covered in the Phalanx mesh.

Phalanx eye reference:

Here is the final product with the short story:…

I had a specific request for Polaris’ nightgown because I found one on the Google Images.  I added that reference to my write up, Arcanux read it, and he drew it in the commission.  The final product turned out very well and I was pleased with it.

I have dozens of commission write ups saved on my computer.  If you’re interested in any commissions I’ve posted, you can contact me with a note and I’ll see if I can accommodate any requests for additional examples.

Phase 7: Payment

This is an important concept to understand.  There are no uniform rules governing art commissions on deviantArt.  The commission system is entirely based on trust.  Artists will post their payment instructions in their commission rules section.  The rules are different for each artist and they’re designed to protect them and you from fraud.  There are artists on dA who've completed a commission and never got paid, or vice versa, someone paid, but never got their picture.  Artists dictate the terms of payment.  There are no ands, ifs, buts, or arguments about that.  Abide and follow their rules and practically everyone will prosper.

You should expect to pay at least half of the commission up front.  Some artists require the entire payment prior to starting.  These are basic rules of engagement.  Payment or partial payment guarantees the artist is compensated for their time and time is money.

Here are some payment options that can be used: PayPal, United States Postal Money Order, Western Union wire transfer/money order, Xoom, and Amazon Payments.  These are very good services to use because there are receipts proving payment was sent and receivership of payment.  Each of these payment options have distinct advantages and disadvantages, which I will break down.

PayPal,, is an online payment service that requires a credit card and/or bank account and a valid e-mail account.  This is the payment option that I prefer the most because the transaction is instant and there is a digital trail of information that proves payment was sent and received.  PayPal is also free to use (for the commission buyer that is).  However, a downside is not all users on dA have access to a PayPal account.  Thus, it is important to know alternative forms of payment.  Also, artists who receive payment will pay PayPal a set fee to receive their payments.

United States Postal money orders, including international money orders, are purchased at the U.S. Post Office and are valid tender in the U.S. and in other countries.  Postal money orders look similar to a bank check and function the same way.  The sender will write the name of the recipient on the money order and the recipient will cash in the money order at the Post Office.  Postal money orders are purchased with cash, cost a small fee, and can only be cashed at a U.S. Post Office with valid identification.

The cost of international money orders varies from country to country and are a different color.  Postal money orders are an older, but highly reliable method of payment that does not risk using your credit card or bank account through the Internet.  The downside to a Postal money order is that they cost extra to purchase and they must be mailed in a secure envelope to the artist.

Western Union wire transfer/money order is a financial service that can send money domestically (United States) or internationally.  To find an available shop that offers these services, use their website:…  This service is an excellent alternative for international payment as Western Union has offices in many different countries.  However, there is a fee that Western Union charges to use their service.  The fee varies from country to country.  Currently, it’s $15 for most Latin American countries.  So for example, if the commission costs $30, you will actually pay $45.  $30 will go to the artist and $15 will go to Western Union as a transaction fee.  Western Union can send money online via a valid credit card and e-mail account or through carbon copy receipts that you fill out at a registered Western Union wire transfer service store.  The carbon copy receipts will contain the financial transaction number and will be useful if anything wrong occurs.

Xoom,, is an online money transfer account that functions similarly to Paypal.  You register with a bank account and it allow you to wire money directly into the bank accounts of select countries.  There is a transfer fee for any transaction and the fee varies on the amount of money sent and to which country it is sent too.  One advantage to Xoom is that it's a cheaper alternative to Western Union and it provides access to countries that Paypal does not.  The downside is the transaction fee you have to front for any and all transactions.

Amazon Payments,… , is a new alternative to PayPal.  Users register with a bank account and they utilize an username as their log in.  Money is transferred into the account from a bank account and after that, it can be sent electronically to the receiver if they also have an Amazon Payments account.  I have not used this form of payment yet, but it, it appears to be an alternative to PayPal.


It is too unreliable to use the Post Office to send cash domestically or overseas.  There is a high risk the payment will get lost or intercepted and never reach its destination.  There is no way to prove that you sent the payment or that the artist received the payment.  Since there is no paper trail, receipt, or proof that payment was ever sent, you or the artist are left stranded if the payment gets lost.  The burden of proper payment is upon you: the art commissioner.  You must find a way to send payment and ultimately, prove that it was received, in case there is ever a dispute between you and the artist.

Follow up Question #1: What if the Artist Says They Never Received the Payment?

This is an important hypothetical question to ask because it can happen.  I made the foolish mistake of sending money through the mail and the artist never received it.  I knew better, but I was hasty and too eager to get the commission started.  I mailed the payment overseas and it never arrived.  In a situation like this, there is no recourse.  There is no way to prove that I sent the money.  No way to prove that the artist received it.  Nor is there any way to prove the payment was lost in the mail.  There is nothing that can be done and that is why you do not send money through the mail.  However, there are things that can be done if you use the safer methods of payment.

If you suspect fraud, do a follow up with the service that you used to pay them (either PayPal, Postal Money Order, Western Union, or Xoom).  PayPal and Xoom keeps digital records of when the payment was sent and when it was received.  Contact their support services if you have any problems.  Postal money orders will give you a transaction slip with its identifying numbers on it.  Keep it and go to the Post Office and speak to a manager if the payment was reported lost or stolen.  The same applies with Western Union.  Call their toll-free help line and read from your Western Union receipt if the payment was lost or stolen.

deviantART has no policy on disputes between an artist and the people who commissions them.  After several consultations with the administrators, I have been told they will not intervene in a dispute because art commissions are a private transaction between two people.  However, they will intervene if there is a public flame war on the forums or in the galleries.  The administrators will not tolerate name calling, libel, or harassment.

If there is ever any dispute about payment, be civil about it.  The moment insults and angry words exchange, the less likely the situation will be resolved calmly or to anyone’s benefit.

Very Important Tip #2: Keep a Record of All Communication

Create a folder in your Inbox and keep a record of all communication between you and the artist.  This will serve as a personal record of when you contacted them and when they responded to it.  This also includes keeping a financial record of all payment transactions.  Know when you paid the artist, how much, and by which payment system.  That way if questions arise, you can present information clearly and correctly.

Phase 8: Give Feedback to the Artist

In most situations, the artist will send a work in progress image of your commission and it’s imperative you respond politely and appropriately.  Study the picture and find things you like and things you would like changed.

When you respond to the artist, compliment them on their work and list the things you liked in the picture.  Your compliments validate the artist’s work and builds a dialogue.  Honesty is the best policy.  Find actual details or things you liked and pass that on to the artist.  There might be some things you would like changed, so be concise and explain clearly what it is you would like changed.  The artist cannot read your mind and draw the image exactly like it is in your head.  If you want something changed, be polite on how you ask it.

The artist may also have questions regarding the picture, like specific details or instructions.  Answer those questions to the best of your ability and be flexible.  No one’s perfect and the artist is doing their best to meet your request.

To organize your Work In Progress pictures (WIPs) or rough drafts, create a folder in the appropriate directory and reference back to these drafts whenever you need.  From time to time, go back and look at them to watch the evolution of your picture from a sketch to the final draft.

Phase 9: What You Can Do with a Completed Commission

Congratulations, it’s a commission.  

You own the picture, but you do not own the copyright for the picture.  This means you may post the picture in your deviantART gallery, on your website, in an image gallery, your own website, Facebook etc., but you should not attempt to make a profit off of the picture.  You should not start selling prints of the commission because the original work belongs to the artist.  You should not Photoshop or edit the picture and then declare it yours either.  Ultimately, the copyright belongs to the artist who drew it or to the company that owns the original copyright.  It is deeply unethical to attempt to pass of their work as your own or to attempt to personally profit off of it.  If the commission is an original character, you have to take the extra step of purchasing the copyright from the artist if you want to profit off of the picture.  That is done by negotiating with the artist, paying substantially more than the original commission price, and obtaining written permission from the artist granting you the copyright.

deviantART’s policy on commissions is not very clear and it took a tangle with the administrators to clarify to me where I can post them.

If you did not draw the picture yourself, then you should not post it in your normal gallery.  You may post the picture in the Scraps section of your deviantART gallery only.  The category you submit it is as is “no category”.  This adheres to deviantART policy on posting artwork that is not created by your hand.  Yes, you did pay for it and yes you do own the picture, but you did not draw the picture and therefore, it cannot go in your gallery.  Your gallery is reserved for artwork that you drew or collaborated on by actually drawing or coloring it.

Go to deviantART's help policy to search for specific answers.

If you have unresolved questions about dA policies, visit the Help chat room and discuss your questions with an administrator

Additional Tips & Pointers:

1. Support an artist in need.  Life is unpredictable and emergencies happen.  I have met many artists in a financial crunch and they aren’t begging for money.  They are willing to do honest, quality work in exchange for payment.  These artists warrant your attention first.

2. Read the journal of the artist that you’re interested in.  This will help you gauge their personality, their likes, dislikes, temperament, and commission availability.  Also, it will help inform you if they are an artist in need.

3. Watch artists whose art style you like and stay updated on their status.  They may not be open for commissions now, but in the future they may be.  You’ll only know when they are available, if you allow yourself to be kept informed.

4. Don’t ever haggle over the price of a commission.  This is not a swap meet.  The artist set their prices that way for many reasons and they should not be expected to change them because you, singular you, have an issue with it.  Commissions on dA do not pay as well as a real job.  This is a pursuit of passion for the artist and it is their time and effort you are paying for.

5. As a corollary to haggling, look for commission sales.  Looking for an art commission in your price range is the same as looking for a good deal.  Sometimes an artist will have a special sale or sales price, it’s random.  I’ve experienced this with several artists, who sell quality commissions for a spur of the moment low price.  It’s to your advantage to be on the lookout for a good sale.

Purchasing commissions in bulk is similar to the sales price approach, but it’s a little different.  I consider purchasing in “bulk” to mean paying for three or more commissions at the same time and at a sales price.  I’ve done this once and I paid for about six pictures for $150 dollars.  That comes out to be $25 a picture and that’s a good price for quality work.  The main difference between bulk commissions and sales prices is that you pay a large sum of money upfront to the artist and it takes several months to complete the entire set of commissions.  Whereas when you buy at sales prices, you’re purchasing commissions one at time, usually, for a limited time only deal.

On a related note, sometimes an artist commits to a sales price out of immediate financial need.  Please don’t be predatory and only commission artists who advertise themselves at sales prices.  If you truly want to support an artist, commission them in their good times and in their bad times.  

6. Please don’t tell an artist you’d love a commission, but you’re broke.  You’re coming across as someone who’s wishy-washy and there are better ways of complimenting an artist.  Send them a real compliment and leave out the part where you're broke.  If you’re short on cash, get a job and then commission the artist after you’ve got money in the bank.

7. This is a tip for artists who are interested in doing commissions for money.  Don’t expect to make great money or to make a real job out of this.  The pay is sporadic and seasonal by nature.  Art commissions occur by the human whim, and humans are pretty damn whimsical.  Do art commissions as a hobby or as a project on the side, and have a real full time job.  Art commissions should help pay for things on the side, not for major items like rent, food, and loan payments.

8. Nothing is for free.  Don't commission anyone offering "free commissions".  You wind up paying money and sometimes, you'll get nothing in return.  The best expectation you should have is to get what you pay for.

9. Don't commission a friend.  If things go sour, it will be awkward to pressure your friend to pay you back or finish the commission.

10. If you're a commissioner, be prepared to face the worst case scenario: your artist will never finish your commission and you're not getting your money back.  It's sad, but true that you're going to get ripped off eventually.  There's definitely some does and don'ts.  Don't proceed to rant on that artist's gallery.  You're going to come across as the bad guy to the public.  Don't make threats to them by e-mail, note, or other communication because it's illegal for starters and to repeat myself, it makes you look like the bad guy.

What you can do is make one public post on your gallery indicating the chain of events and then let it stand.  There's no realistic way you can pursue the artist and recover your losses.  If you believe that the artist you ripped you off is going to prey on others, send a polite warning to interested persons, but don't be too pushy about it.  One warning will suffice.  

You can also turn your loss into someone else's gain by finding an artist with a proven history/background of finishing commissions.  That will help restore your faith in the artist community.
Title: Dwwrider’s Guide on Art Commissions on deviantART (Last Revised September 2014)

After completing several commissions over these past few months, I felt obliged to write my own guide on how to get an art commission on deviantART. I hope this guide educates and enlightens artists and art connoisseurs alike.

This guide is not possible without the multitude of artists I have commissioned from. Thank you for the wonderful artwork and I appreciate the positive experience I have had on dA.

On a final note, I am deliberately omitting a section regarding what to do if the artist rips you off or the finished commission didn’t come out exactly how you wanted. These are sensitive subjects that I don’t think I’m qualified to give answers. Use your best judgment is the only advice I’m wiling to offer at this time.
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Tsukiakari-Aya Featured By Owner Edited Sep 2, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I have a question, I'm new to this whole commission thing but i'm planning to try it out.. So is it ok if I just post the finished art of the commissioner in my gallery, stating that it is a commission for that specific person? and when being 'payed' can they just give me points in my donation pool? 
Sorry if it's a stupid question. i'm just really confused. 
dwwrider Featured By Owner Sep 2, 2014
Questions are good.  Ask away.

I looked at your questions and I have good news for you.  Since you are the artist who created the picture, yes, you can post it in your gallery, credit your commissioner, and ask them to pay for it with a points donation.  It's a Win-Win-Win scenario.  As the artist, you have the luxury of setting your rules on everything related to the commission, the process of completing the commission, and the finished product as well.  You can outline what you will draw, how you want to be paid, how the art will be posted, etc.  I have seen many artists post their own commission work in their gallery to show off, advertise their work product, credit the commissioner, and other methods of public display.

Here's a sample for you.  These are three artists I've commissioned this year who post their work publicly, credit their commissioners, and get paid cold, hard cash.

John Becaro:

Sonia MS:

Sean-Loco-Odonell: sean-loco-odonnell.deviantart.…

These are good samples for artists who need role models for the commission process.  Their journal outlines very clearly what they'll draw, what they won't draw, what to expect during the process, prices, and other very good ideas.  There is a reason why I commissioned them and that's because they're organized and they know what they're doing.  That and they can draw women very well.  That helps.  A lot.
Tsukiakari-Aya Featured By Owner Sep 2, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you very much ^u^ Your answer has helped me understand what I've been so confused with.  
dwwrider Featured By Owner Sep 3, 2014
I took a closer look at your gallery last night.  You've got the right idea and you have a good set up on how you can accept commissions.
Tsukiakari-Aya Featured By Owner Sep 3, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you.  I'm still trying to get the hang of it, but I really appreciate your help by answering my questions. 
BeespokeBagsandMore Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I need some advice, paid for a commission and paid extra for it to have extra work added to it ect and was given examples of previous work. However upon receiving final product it is no where near the quality and artistic level of the examples and is extremely basic in terms of shading, anatomy and background ect. Whats the politest way of solving the issue or do I just accept what I got?
dwwrider Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2014
That is a problem.  Check the artist's rules and see if they have anything about revisions or making changes if asked during the process.  That may give you some leeway to ask nicely for changes.  Otherwise, you can be politely firm and ask if they'd make specific changes or revisions because you thought it'd match the examples they sent you.  They may blow you off or they may make the tweaks.  You don't have to accept it initially, go ahead and ask.  If they are rude and they won't make the revisions, make a point of never doing business with them again and make it public that this is what you got.

It's not in their best interest to piss off customers or potential ones either.
SlBERlA Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
I used the commissions widget on my page, but it doesn't have the Request Commission button when I'm making a commission. What should I do? :)
dwwrider Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2013
I tested this myself and this so-called "widget" does not appear to be designed to advertise that you are available for commissions.  Rather, it appears designed to purchase a specific picture that you have completed.  I don't believe that there is a fix for it.  H

However, I believe there is a solution.  You may want to "feature a deviation" and use that as an example of your commission artwork style or create a new post that outlines your commission prices and feature that prominently.  It's an advertisement of look at me, you can get a commission button, but as a deviation/illustration rather than a traditional button.
saturdays24 Featured By Owner May 1, 2013
I'd also add recognize the artists limitations, what we can do depends on our level of skill and the medium we work in.

I personally specialise in photoshop pictures but if I cant find a source image that matches what you're after you are out of luck.

I'll try and create something that matches the feel of what your going for but the reality is I cant create the thing thats going on in your head exactly because words really dont translate all that well.
dwwrider Featured By Owner May 1, 2013
That's a fair point. When I do my edit of the guide this year I'll try to remember to add it. I would however, put the burden of getting that good source image on the commissioner. I understand it can be hard for you the artist to translate what I want so it falls upon the commissioner to find that great reference.
saturdays24 Featured By Owner May 3, 2013
I agree a good source image is probably extremely useful for an artist that actually draws, as someone who only does photoshop by collecting hundreds of images and putting them into one piece I'm limited by what's out there.

But for art work source images must be everything.
miinora Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This is really comprehensive. Thanks a lot for all of the information and advice :)
Pandamanga21 Featured By Owner Dec 31, 2012  Student General Artist
Thank you so much for this!
stubborninsomniac Featured By Owner Dec 19, 2012
what does the final product of a commission look like? does it come in the mail on paper? what type of paper does it come out on?
dwwrider Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2012
99% of commissions I've paid for are digital commissions. Very rarely do I receive them on paper. As for the type of paper, I don't really know. I'd have to ask the artist because I can't tell.
stubborninsomniac Featured By Owner Dec 23, 2012
XNekoOrionX Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2012
Well Said, Friend. Well Said.
SabertoothChikn Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Hi there :iconfoxhelloplz::iconfoxbaibaiplz::iconfoxyayzplz:I am new at holding commissions and don't know how to accept payment.

I've read about most of the paypal conversations but I'm still confused. In order to link the buyer my paypal or email do I just right click the url or just send them my email address....?

Sorry for bothering you but I just figure it's best to get this quesion out before I dig a hole I can't climb out of :iconsweatplz: sorry for all the foxes...hey you could say this is a foxy comment :iconspongebobgrinplz:....yeah bad joke :iconbadpokerfaceplz:
dwwrider Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012
Your e-mail address linked to your paypal account is the only information you need to provide to your buyer. When I'm sending a payment to an artist, I ask for their e-mail account, and that's what I enter to send money to them.

It's not a silly question if you've never done it before. Also, make sure the password to your paypal account and e-mail account are secure. That way you won't have issues like having either account hacked.
SabertoothChikn Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Ok, I think I understand now Thank you for the reply.
darkallegiance666 Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
Featured - [link]
goobfishy-is-i Featured By Owner Nov 28, 2012
Good stuff.
moonmystery Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
are there commissions using just deviant points (or whatever their proper name is) ?
dwwrider Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2012
Yes, these exist. I personally don't use them myself, but I have seen them exist in one format or another.
yngtadpole Featured By Owner Oct 12, 2012
I'm actually looking for a commission right now. Was really helpful in writing up a commission with references.
Medlilove Featured By Owner Sep 18, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
How do I bring a link to my Paypal account to my dA page and have the person I'm doing a commission for pay money into my Paypal account? Do I need to give them my email address? I physically don't know how it works...
dwwrider Featured By Owner Sep 18, 2012
Your Paypal account is registered to an e-mail address. That e-mail address is what you'll need to post publicly or, you can send it in private to the person who will pay you.

When I'm sending a payment in Paypal, the screen includes the following text below:

To (Email or mobile phone)


What are you sending money for?
I'm paying for goods or servicesI'm sending money to family or friends
carverhouse Featured By Owner Aug 11, 2012
Thanks for this. :-)
lalato Featured By Owner May 27, 2012
That's very helpful, common sense information. Nice job. I hope both commissioners and artists read this.

Personally, I find it really helpful when artists have a commission journal entry that describes their specific guidelines. I don't mind e-mailing or noting an artist to get that information if he/she has indicated that commissions are accepted. However, it makes both our lives easier if the artist has thought of what they will and won't do... and what their prices are likely to be. If an artist is far outside of my price range it's good to know right away so I don't bother them with needless e-mails and notes.

As someone that is commissioning art, I'll do my best to describe the character in detail and to include as many references as possible to make the artist's life easier. The way I figure it, the easier I make it for the artist, the more likely I'll get what I want. More importantly, the more likely the artist will be able to get me the results more quickly than if I do a piss poor job of describing the character or scene. Beyond that, it also means that artist will be happy to work with me in the future.

Anyway... kudos on the guide. :)
lalato Featured By Owner May 27, 2012
Also of note, some of the links in the guide are bad.
dwwrider Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2012
Yup, fixed that. Thanks.
LegionaireB Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
This answers SO many of my questions, and it is written in such a well-reasoned and unbiased manner.. Thank you very much.
Moonmistwolf4 Featured By Owner Apr 18, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
The only thing that I am curious about is, how do you get the money? I still new and am just about to start commissions so I can buy things for my room, and possibly a Premium Membership. I understand that you draw the picture for the buyer and stuff, but how do you actually PAY them -3-
dwwrider Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2012
The old fashioned way to take payment is to accept it by check or money order. You cash those in at the appropriate location.

The way I pay other artists for commissions is the more normal way. I created a Paypal account and I submit payment to that artist's Paypal account. The Paypal account functions like a bank account. They can move that money to a different bank account or they can spend it (Paypal can be used to pay for things on eBay and other online shops).
Nuffnut Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2012  Student General Artist
This was very helpful! Thank you for posting it!
Tetrodoxin Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
Hello, I just wanted to say, a very nice guide, thank you for your effort of making this =)
XxLapizLazulixX Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2011  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
~uhh.i have a question...(still new in DA..been here for 10 months but was inactive for the first 4 months...) when you do commissions,is it really necessary to send the commissioned work or a copy of the original file to the person who asked you to commission it?..or its fine if we just post it in our gallery and stating in artist's comments that its a commissioned work..?
dwwrider Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2011
It sounds like you are the artist drawing the picture, so, you have the privilege of making the choice of how you plan to send the art to your commissioner, ahead of time. It's best to have it planned out before you are even paid to draw the commission as the person who commissions you will know how they will receive the commission.

To return to your question, you'd like to know how you're transmitting the finished commission to the person who commissioned you. You can send them an e-mail with the commission. You can send them a hard copy by mail. You can post it in your gallery, send them a note directing them to your gallery, and let the whole world see the commission.

If you do post the finished work in your gallery, of course, please state this was a commission for so and so. Here are a few examples where the artist I commissioned posted the finished work in their gallery: [link] , [link] , [link] , and many others (albeit, I know you may not be able to look at all my posted art at this time. Maybe that's the for the best).

My recommendation is, have this planned out and explained ahead of time to the person who will commission you, how exactly you plan to send them the finished commission. If you have a good scanner, sending them an e-mail with the picture is good. This may mean you have to create a brand new private e-mail account specifically for art commissions (so you don't use your own private e-mail account that's for friends and family). Or you can let deviantART do your dirty work for you. I've had a few artists who just sent me a note, which mean I had to grab the picture from their gallery. It's not my preferred way, but, I did get my picture.
XxLapizLazulixX Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2011  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
thank you very muchhh for answering my question!!!it sure helped me a lot<33333!!!
akkibox Featured By Owner Nov 19, 2011  Professional Artisan Crafter
I breezed through this quickly because it's late and I should be getting to bed. I'll read it thoroughly later, though. I can tell it's going to be very helpful. Thank you!

One question though--do I need to write up a contract? DA forums says I do but most people here seem to go without one. It's all very confusing.
dwwrider Featured By Owner Nov 20, 2011
Contracts are optional. People recommend a contract because it protects all parties involved, including the artist and the person buying the commission, in case anything goes drastically wrong. The two basic "wrong" situations being, the artist does not get paid or the commissioner never receives their artwork. What the contract would do is, it would provide proof that the commission was supposed to be paid for and received and one would be able to take it to Court if necessary to enforce the contract.

Not everyone has a legal background, but, the squishiest thing about making a contract is, if something goes wrong, you have to find a Court that has jurisdiction over the party who is at fault, i.e. the one who is screwing over the other party. I supposed you'd file a small claims action for breach of contract and try to convince the judge to sanction the party at fault. Good luck with that.

I purchase commissions from artists. I don't do contracts because of the difficulty of going to Court in case something goes bad. I got screwed over by an artist in New Zealand. I'm not exactly going out of my way to hire a lawyer in New Zealand to file a complaint for $50. Similarly, I got screwed over by an artist in Maryland. I can't afford to fly to Maryland, file a small claims complaint, appear at the hearing, and press my case (again over $50). From my perspective, a contract, wouldn't be worth it even if I tried to enforce it through Court.

Commissions are the Wild, Wild West. The only thing that will help is if you're honest.
akkibox Featured By Owner Nov 20, 2011  Professional Artisan Crafter
Thank you so much for the info. It's really helpful!
MrPr1993 Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
This looks good...
Kyas-Essex Featured By Owner Oct 23, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you for this tutorial. :thanks:
Weirda208 Featured By Owner Oct 12, 2011  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Hello :)

Your guide is so helpful and I would like to ask something...

(there aren't stupid questions,only may be stupid I go on and ask)
I'm just wondering, what people do after finishing...a sculture?plush?A jewerly/charms set?

A parcel with commissioned work is sended to commissioner or it gets only photos of it...?
dwwrider Featured By Owner Oct 12, 2011
I've never commissioned it myself, but I imagine, if I commissioned an artist for any of those items, the artist is going to ship them to me. Now, as the purchaser, it would be fair for me to pay extra for the shipping or know that will be included in the final cost.

Photos would not do. I would want the physical product.
Weirda208 Featured By Owner Jan 27, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you so much for the reply :aww:
drwr Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2011  Hobbyist
I have a friend who i'm teaming up with to do comissions using DA and paypal what is the proper way to have them pay (for example note them your email address linked to the paypal account?)

also is it acceptable to send people commissions digitally (for example through email) or do people expect to have the picture delivered to them when they are looking for commissions?
dwwrider Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2011
For your first question, my answer mirrors what you said in the parentheses. If the customer wants to pay through paypal, e-mail them the e-mail address linked to the paypal account and they'll be able to send the payment to that account.

For the first part of your second question, it's perfectly acceptable to send commissions by e-mail. For the second part of the question, the customer who commissions you, their expectations of how the commission will be delivered will be what you told them ahead of time. What does that mean? When you advertise that you are selling commissions, explain very clearly that you are either sending the commission digitally or sending a physical copy (or both, if the commissioner wants it that bad). Most of my commissions are digital only and I knew they would be digital because the artist explained that to me ahead of time. I have no problems with digital only commissions, they're great.
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