Illustrators Australia encourages clients and members alike to follow a broad set of guidelines when commencing a new project using illustration.  These guidelines are intended to produce a mutually beneficial outcome for both parties, and ensure that everyone has a basic understanding of Standard Industry Practice.  For example, a lot of clients new to the industry do not realise that commissioning an illustration does not automatically mean they own the artwork, and that the illustration cannot be used for any other purpose other than what was agreed upon with the illustrator.  Copyright / ownership always remains with the illustrator unless you have specific permission from the illustrator in writing (such as a contract) for buying the copyright in full and have provided agreed payment for such.  Most illustrators would be reluctant to sign over their full copyright, but may offer licensing instead.

For first time authors seeking to approach a publisher, please note that it is NOT a requirement for you to find an illustrator, or commission one, for your manuscript proposal – most publishers prefer to source the illustrator themselves and will enter into their own contractual agreements with them. For authors who wish to self publish, it would be wise to develop a budget and business plan before approaching an illustrator.  Illustrators get many proposals for “no budget” spec work, and most will not be interested, or able, to work in lieu of future earnings unless you have credible credentials.

There is also a tendency for many of the smaller publishers to expect illustrators to work for free with the promise of “exposure” for their work.  Illustrators Australia does not endorse or encourage this practice.

Illustrators work as individuals in most cases and they will set their own Pricing/Quotes and Contracts.  You should discuss the topics below for your project and you should always use a contract wherever possible.  Illustrators will usually have one of their own or you may have one, and both parties must discuss and agree upon one.  This should cover most of the topics mentioned here.


Right here!

Look through the portfolios on the IA website for styles you require (you can contact the illustrator directly, though in some cases they may refer you to their agent).

The following are things that should be discussed with the illustrator at the beginning of your project:


Are they available for your timeframe?


It’s very important that you select the right illustrator for the right job.  Before you pick up the phone, take some time to look at few illustrators' portfolios and take note of their style.  Do they use realistic figures or cartoon-like figures?  Do they incorporate painterly texture or flat digital images?  Do they lean towards bright vibrant colours or do they only have subdued colours in their samples?  Do they do come with conceptual ideas or does their area of expertise lie with rendering someone else’s idea.

Have a think about what your brief requires in these terms, and take them into consideration when you’re selecting your illustrator.  Hiring an illustrator who has a particular style and trying to make them work in another form is a good way to get off to a bad start.  Always point out particular samples in the illustrators portfolio that might be relevant to your job.  This will be very helpful to your illustrator when the job begins.


  • What is the size (pixels/cm) of the artwork?
  • What bleed is required for artwork that is to be printed?
  • Format of the final work - if original artwork, will you be scanning yourself, or do you wish the illustrator to provide a scan?
  • If in digital or scanned format, what format do you need the file to be in: JPG/PNG/TIFF/etc, DPI, CMYK/RGB, printer profile, etc.

Do you have a Budget? 

Always ask for a quote but if you have a budget set in concrete you may want to let the illustrator know this first.


  • Is it for one use or multiple i.e. Where will the finished illustration/s end up?
  • On a website, a poster, brochure, greeting card, book cover or all of these?
  • Illustrators may work out their fees per usage.

Area of use

Australia only, globally, Europe etc

Cancellation/Kill fees

If a client cancels a work in progress or rejects a finished artwork for reasons unrelated to the artist’s performance, the artist has a right to compensation. The amount is based on the stage at which the project is cancelled. This should be determined at the contract stage.

Period of Use

How long do you want to use the illustration? 
Illustrators can offer different licences for use, e.g. 12 months, 2 years


The illustrator may license the work to you for a period of time and purpose for a fee (the ownership remains with the illustrator).  It is a legally binding agreement.  Once expired, the rights revert back to the illustrator and they may re-license for further use should they wish to:

  • Exclusive – is exclusive to you (one party) to use the illustration for the ways set out in the original agreement (the copyright/ownership still remains with the illustrator
  • Non exclusive - the illustrator can license out to others as well as you plus use the image themselves (the copyright/ownership still remains with the illustrator)

Reviewing sketches

Depending on how the artist works, it is usually best to ask for rough sketches to begin with, to ensure that the assignment progresses to your requirements.  It is a good idea to discuss how many rounds of sketches are included in the quote before you begin.  Most illustrators are happy to provide one or two alterations, but it is reasonable that the illustrator will charge extra fees for changes (in some cases) if it is beyond the original brief.  Make sure you have left enough time for the illustrator to make any changes well before your deadline.

Try not to ask for an unrealistic deadline, you will not have sufficient time to review the progression of roughs before the finished work is begun.

The original finished artwork, as well as the rough sketches always belongs to the illustrator, unless there is an agreement for you to also buy the artwork.


IA does not recommend the sale of the illustrators' copyright to clients, if you are requesting full buyout of their copyright on an image then you need to understand you are asking the illustrator to never use that image again, meaning they will not reap any financial benefits from their own image, including CAL fees and/or royalties (CAL payments are given to the 'creator' of the work, when an illustrator signs a contract giving their copyright to the Publisher they are giving away future CAL payments that illustrator should be entitled too). You as the client/publisher must be prepared to compensate the illustrator if you insist on buying their copyright, this means double or even three times the original quoted price for the image. Ask yourself, do you really need to own the copyright? Can you instead use a limited exclusive license? 

If you would like to know more about CAL payments Copyright Agency Limited

Copyright and Moral rights lasts for 70 years after the death of the illustrator/artist.

Note: Moral rights are personal rights relating to the illustrators reputation.  They cannot be sold.  These rights include:

  • The right to be identified as the author (right of attribution)
  • The right not to have the work falsely identified as someone else’s (right against false attribution)
  • The right not to have the work used in a derogatory way that is detrimental the reputation of author (right of integrity)

For more info on Copyright you can also check out the following links:

Arts Law Centre has many info sheets and lots of information on everything copyright and contracts!

National Library of Australia