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Different Art Markets and What to Expect

Well, I'm finally planning on taking commissions now that I've done something I might be willing to pay for, but for me subject matter isn't really an issue. I really don't care what I draw as long I am paid to draw it, which puts me in kind of a unique situation.

Where do I market myself?

Because there isn't an obvious answer I thought I'd ask you guys about the different markets and compile an info post that way (which will hopefully be of use to others too). Where do you go to sell superheroes? What about Disney style? Do you need to have your own character and a huge portfolio? Do people care about backgrounds? Are cheesecake shots a vital part of your gallery? Is there a common scamming M.O.? Do customers assume they have rights to that sort of image? That's the sort of information I'm interested in.

Just to make it easy here's a form that might help you organize your thoughts/include questions you might not have considered, but feel free to comment however you like.
Type of work:
What sells:
Price ranges:
Sites to use/advertise on:
Need to know info:
What to watch out for:
How people view artists:
Any additional comments:

Edit: For clarification, I'm talking mainly about individual commissions. Corporate commissions are also interesting (just a different kettle of fish), but feel free to discuss that too.

Edit 2: There's some great advice in the replies, but just to steer things back on target, I'm also interested the more niche specific information. How is the anime market different than the furry market, different than the superhero market, etc. It's less "How do I do commission basics," more "Where is this market centered (in terms of websites), what do they look for, do they only like digital, etc." Very genre specific info.

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( 31 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 11th, 2012 08:17 pm (UTC)
Interesting, when you say markets, are you talking about doing work for individuals (like is generally seen here in this community) or established companies? There's a lot to this, far more than what you've listed.

As for myself, I'm in both the 'furry' world taking commissions, and I've done work in the distant past for a few companies, and I'm now moving into the weird world of music/album design/concepts for merch. And each time I think I've got something figured out, I learn something new.

There is a LOT to list, to school you with regarding all of this.

Backgrounds? People like my background work, I get people who specifically come to me FOR it. Do not discredit the power of making an environment for the characters - it can add a lot of $$ to your prices as well, which is a benefit.

As for rights, customers often assume a lot of things, so it is up to YOU to recognize what is legal, and explain it to them. Granted, most companies know the legal work for hiring artists, but many 'general' commissioners don't.

And my own personal tip that a lot of people tend to forget: learn to network. Yes, it can be aggravating because sometimes a person is a jerk, but they can present you with great opportunities for your advancement. And you'll not want to be nice to them, but ya gotta do what you gotta do. Get your name out there, do cons, heck, even start drawing gift art for people. It frustrates me to see people crying that they don't have any commissions coming in or anyone interested in their work. Well, get out there and make a name for yourself, don't sit there waiting for people to find you.
Jun. 11th, 2012 08:29 pm (UTC)
I edited it to reflect that this is mainly for personal commissions, but I am quite interested in corporate commissions too. It's just such a different beast! I certainly appreciate you raising the issue and that's definitely something that seems like it might warrant its own discussion later.

I know that my questions were really just the beginning, they were more examples rather than anything, I know there's a lot to learn, but a basic breakdown goes a long way!

Thank you for your response!
Jun. 11th, 2012 08:24 pm (UTC)
I do furry stuff geared towards a furry market on Furaffinity.net. (That's a whole lot of 'fur' in one sentence!) My rate for a full color image is $60 USD + $25 USD per character. Backgrounds are $25 to start. Not many people care for backgrounds unless they have a full illustration in mind. I certainly do enjoy doing them when someone does commission them.

If you're able to do a very Disney animal style? Then yes, FA is a decent place to set up. Just keep in mind that it can be difficult to get yourself going if you chose to stay a "clean only" artist or go to "cheese cake" max. With that said, it is most certainly NOT impossible to set up shop. I have a few people on my watch list that are clean only and they have no issues filling their slots when they are open.

Now, if you choose to do adult content, I've found it does help to have an "avatar" or main character to draw people's attention in. For a short while customers were able to get adult pieces of their characters with my main OC for double the price.

A few things to keep in mind is to be clear and concise with what you are offering. I've held sketch sales where people try to sneak in backgrounds or environments when the commission price does not allow it. IE: "I want my char sitting and watching tv!"

I don't have a lot of experience working on other sites like DA. I do a lot of porn, admittedly, so there's very little draw to my work outside of that. (Which is fine, so long as it keeps paying bills!)

I'm going to have to second Hellebore. Network. Network. Network. I've watched the accounts of prolific commissioners just in the hopes that they'll maybe see my work and commission me. :) Also be careful on how you conduct yourself on the site you're setting up shop on. I can't tell you how many times I've avoided artists just by how I see them acting.
Jun. 11th, 2012 09:19 pm (UTC)
You're so right about the "clean only" galleries on FA. I'm experiencing that now. XD

Also, how do you recommend networking? Admittedly, I'm not all that active on FA (I try to be, but I don't have a lot of interest in the site) though I am pretty active on DA.
(no subject) - celestinaketzia - Jun. 11th, 2012 10:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - grandioze - Jun. 12th, 2012 01:19 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sekhmet - Jun. 12th, 2012 12:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 11th, 2012 09:04 pm (UTC)
Like above, there's so so so so so much more to this than can be explained in one post. But I'll toss in a few small things. My background is mainly conventions of various kinds (comic, furry, anime) with a 10+ years of experience in freelance illustration, with college education on top of that. (Just so you know where I'm coming from!)

Type of work: Primarily cartoony/anime, Adult comics, then furry, then finally conceptual design for mascots (Conventions mascots)

What sells: Generic things for the entire spectrum, from DND characters to wolves and foxes in furry. But what sells the most is my adult work which I've had published on some paysites. (Club Stripes, Hardblush and Slipshine)

Price ranges: Single character commissions range from $75 up into the hundreds depending on detail and complexity. I am not a background specialist so I do not focus on them. Adult commissions are double that, comic pages range in $200 a page (full color, 100 for non).

Sites to use/advertise on: Deviantart, Furaffinity, Tumblr, Twitter, and Personal Website ( I stress making your own site first and foremost)

Need to know info: Email and website info is all I give people beyond my internet name. My real name is irrelevant to most.

What to watch out for: People who ask me to do art for free without a budget or offer to pay. The whole "It'll get you exposure!" excuse is a redflag of all redflags. I also turn down commissions for overly complex designs as I've gotten picky over time.

How people view artists: Many don't seem to appreciate them or understand that their talent has a true demand, and so they don't feel it has a value. Some do appreciate them, but those customers are rare. So keep them! Some people act as if art isn't a "real job" on top of that, so you have to be positive and confident or those types will bring you down.

Any additional comments: There is no magical key to finding what sells. My advice is to find something YOU like, make it your own, sell it and you will gain the fanbase you want. Drawing what you enjoy sure beats making art for everyone else's interests, and can drain you really fast. I learned this the hard way, and now I draw what I enjoy and people follow me for that - not for some niche I'm trying to fill. I created my own niche.

Edited at 2012-06-11 09:07 pm (UTC)
Jun. 11th, 2012 11:48 pm (UTC)
Sex sells, lol, all I gotta say. But seriously, where ever you decide to settle down (personal commission site or an artist site - I suggest making your own site and direct commissioners to it from various social/art sites) just list that you do Ratings G-XXX and you're comfortable with most/all fetishes and quirks. Also included that it doesn't matter the species or type of commission (Furry/Anthro, Human, Fantasy, etc) or whatever you're more comfortable with doing, I know a few artists like to point out their strong and weak points as a heads up to commissioners so they aren't disappointed when they see the outcome of their piece.

Type of work: Personal Art (OC, Fan Characters/Fan Art, IRL Gifts, etc)

What sells: Mature~Adult Artwork

Price ranges: Depends on your skill level and how long you've been perfecting your style(s)

Sites to use/advertise on: DeviantART, Fur Affinity, Nabyn (if you can get an invite), Tumblr/WordPress/Blogger, Facebook, Twitter, Personal Website or Blog

Need to know info: Create a basic TOS/TOU (Terms of Service/Terms of Use) and add onto everytime you hit a bump in the road with commissioners

What to watch out for: Requests if you're not offering them, Discounted prices if you're not offering them,

How people view artists: I don't try to view them as my friend, even if we've exchanged some off-topic conversations or even personal details. I just don't think they would care too much for every commissioner they give their information, I dunno, most (like me) don't feel "worthy" of their time or attention.

Any additional comments: I suggest invoicing commissioners with how much they owe you, don't leave paying you up to them ask for an email they can reach you at for any questions or updates as well as the one they use for Paypal. Make sure you have a form laid out for them to fill in when they commission you and keep a schedule/list of whose currently commissioning and at what stage you are currently at with their commission readily available for them to easy find and keep note of. Keep personal feelings and the sort out of business, updating your customers on personal ordeals and sudden absences are ok but telling them in detail about why you're gone or how you're moody and you hate being bugged about being asked for updates because it makes you work slower. That's a bit of a put off for most people and tend to make them wanna walk the other way.

Edited at 2012-06-11 11:51 pm (UTC)
Jun. 12th, 2012 12:06 am (UTC)
I think most people have said all the basics, so I'll add in my two cents.

Cheap sells. You'll more than likely make more money selling cheap things. $5 chibis or sketch, or $10 line arts, stuff like that.

When I first joined FA I offered $10 per character colored sketches. I built up a little fanbase from that, and did $5 IAs. The IAs has additional options so the images would range from $5 to $20. I made up a huge fanbase with those over the year, and it just went from there.

I suggest cheap IAs. I improved a whole lot over 100 images and I made good money doing so. Just make sure to keep them cheap and easy so you don't get overwhelmed. And you'll build a regular fanbase as well, who will more than likely purchase more commissions.
Jun. 12th, 2012 07:29 am (UTC)
It's only idea to sell yourself so cheap if you can crack out those chibis and icons very quickly. If you can do three five dollar chibis in an hour you're good, but if those chibis take you more than an hour to complete then you are actually hurting yourself.

Proportionality is a good thing to consider when endeavoring in anything.
(no subject) - sekhmet - Jun. 12th, 2012 12:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - edenpilgrim - Jun. 12th, 2012 01:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - teekchan - Jun. 12th, 2012 11:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 12th, 2012 04:08 am (UTC)
I'll give you my little bit of advice. I don't necessarily do a lot of business but I do pretty OK when I am on my A-game for advertising and I have a couple repeat customers.

Type of work: I sell all kinds of OC art (furry/feral/human/were/etc etc)

What sells: Cheap things and small things, for the most part (but cheap art seems to attract the worst customers!) I sell a loooot of badges/ACEOs at conventions and online I sell a lot of "colored sketches." Furry art is what most people ask for. I do mostly pin-ups I guess, not always naked or sexual in nature.

Price ranges: I have been steadily increasing my prices as of late, which seems to have driven off a bit of my business. Repeat customers still purchase art from me, though!
My sketches start at $10 and it all goes up from there.

Sites to use/advertise on: I do all of my business through FA. I find the FAForums are a pretty good place to advertise/answer wanted ads. Also just.. post a lot of art to FA in general to get yourself noticed.
Also don't try doing commissions through deviantART. That is a losing battle.

Need to know info: Definitely come up with a comprehensive TOS that discusses your policy on refunds, cancellations, and changes to the artwork. People will get you there if you aren't prepared.

What to watch out for: People who seem really indecisive or who are particularly nitpicky on cheap commissions. They'll get you to invest way more time in the product than it is worth and they won't like it anyways. I promise.
Also you may want to keep an eye out for people who try to get too chummy too fast, especially if you present a professional image. Those people may be scoping for discounts or free stuff.

How people view artists: I really prefer artist who are professional. They seem less likely to take the money and run or produce a subpar piece.
Not everyone understands that art takes time, though, and so they'll demand cheap prices. Don't give in, those guys are jerks.

Any additional comments: Think about dollars-per-hour when setting your prices. Too many decent artists charge cheap rates and so people come to expect it. Bottoming out the prices not only hurts you but it hurts everyone else, too. I ran a cheap sale for awhile and while I "made money" it was hardly worth the effort I put in and I would say it was a net loss over all. Not to mention, all those people who snapped up those cheap drawings totally lost interest in me when I raised my prices.

Also, never stop advertising and never stop posting. There is a lot on the internet and if you don't keep reminding people that you're out there, they might forget about you!
Jun. 12th, 2012 01:28 pm (UTC)
I saw that you mentioned ACEOs and had to comment. I have had no luck with those at cons!

I thought it was because I was working anime cons but I have had no luck at furrymeets either. I sell them for about $0.25-$0.50 for the copies(which are printed on display quality card-stock as well as being signed and numbered.

I had some originals, too, but no one seemed interested in at all.

Maybe you could get me some advice on those. :)
(no subject) - tanginello - Jun. 12th, 2012 07:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 12th, 2012 06:03 am (UTC)
Guh, this. I wish I'd gotten on Tumblr earlier, or started watermarking my stuff or something earlier for exactly this problem.
Jun. 12th, 2012 07:23 am (UTC)
Know your own limits when taking on loads. Speed is a bigger factor than some people will give credit to when they consider when taking on commissions. If you can't complete something in under an hour's time don't charge under ten dollars, even if the image is a small icon. Even if that small icon takes you two hours to finish and you're selling it for $10 it means you are making far below minimum wage for highly specialized work. Only sell what you know you can accomplish.

Base your prices on how fast you can complete your work. If you have received formal training factor that into your prices. Also keep material costs in mind. If you are not making enough to cover your materials you are losing money by selling work.

Try to avoid doing gimmicks and challenges unless you know you can easily complete the work very quickly and with good quality. The less unfinished work you owe people the better. Filling up a que with several hundred names might be tempting but it's far wiser to set limits for yourself. Weekly or daily ques are wiser, but make sure you can complete your que by the end of the week or day.

Be mindful of trends. If fahsion scarves are popular and you know you can make some good quality scarves don't be afraid to hop on that bandwagon. Opening up for badges before the con season hits is a good idea, too.

Remember neatness in your execution. If work is neat, clean, and well presented then the errors in the work(because there will always be errors in your work. No artist is perfect) will be less obvious. Things to remember when considering neatness include but are not limited to clean cuts and splices in both digital and traditional work, intelligent use of bleeds, color correction when taking the work to print, avoiding any 'muddying' with colored media, and of course avoiding any actual 'grime on the image or items themselves. By dirt and grime I mean substances should not be on the product like grease from fingers and other junk. It's also extremely tacky to sell products with bodily fluids on them, especially considering there is a chance of spreading disease; I don't know if blood-painting is still a niche.

In short, make sure your work is something you want your commissioner to show off when they receive. Never sell damaged product. If you damage something in production or post production and you cannot repair it without it still showing the damages you need to start over, this is why it's important to work quickly and to charge enough to compensate for any mishaps during production. If you can see something wrong in a product endeavor to fix it as soon as possible.

Be confident in your work but don't be arrogant. There is a very fine line between those two in the business. A confident person is proud of their work but has a good solid understanding of what they are capable of and their confidence will show in their work.

One last thing. Don't let your commissioners bully you. Even if you behave like a proffessional some people will not always treat you that way. Many artists in who do fandom work online are treated like the personal art slaves of whatever community they cater to. You're a person, too. Establish a reasonable TOS and don't let customers abuse you. The customer might not always right, but still try to conduct yourself ethically.

Don't do anything shady.
Jun. 12th, 2012 10:38 am (UTC)
In terms of your edit, from what I've seen, Anime vs. Superhero vs. Furry market is this.

Furry markets tend to gear towards original characters more. You'll rarely get people asking you to draw established characters unless its to be paired with their own. People here pay less than other markets.

For the anime markets, I see a lot of fanarts crossovers, and some OC work here and there. As a commissioner purchasing work, I see people charging more for a single piece than the furry world. Though an issue that I've run into with artists in this market is that they don't seem to take their commission work as seriously as furry-centric artists do. It's come to the point where I generally won't purchase art from someone who gears themselves to the anime market first and foremost.

Superhero (from what little I've seen) is going to be strictly fanart. I have no idea about pricing as it isn't an interest of mine.
Jun. 12th, 2012 01:24 pm (UTC)
From my experience most people doing the super-hero art are commissioned from established comic publishers like Marvel. To get into that sort of thing requires that you submit a portfolio to those companies.

If your work is good enough they will contact you to do a cover or couple page spread. If you are REALLY good you might get hired on for inks, linework, or colors.

Some titles are more or less 'off-limits' or very exclusive. It's not too hard to land a position doing an Iron Man cover or two but for titles like 'Hellboy' the only artists that are going to touch that are Mike or people he personally selects.

Comics aren't a bad gig if you can get into it. A friend of mine and fellow student did a two page spread for Iron Man recently and made about $400 from those two pages if I recall.
(no subject) - celarania - Jun. 12th, 2012 08:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - celarania - Jun. 17th, 2012 03:37 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - houndofloki - Jun. 22nd, 2012 12:40 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - celarania - Jun. 22nd, 2012 02:33 am (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 13th, 2012 04:07 am (UTC)
This topic seemed pretty interesting, so I thought I would chime in! I haven't seen a whole lot of people on artists-beware dealing with the sort of niches I focus on, so perhaps my perspective might be useful.

I'm mostly in the "anime" niche. I do a lot of fanart commissions, but a fair bit of OCs as well. From a combination of heavy personal preference and high demand, almost all the work I do centers around women or girls, especially lesbian shipping and erotic artwork. I do fantasy lesbian work (elves, demons, human/animal hybrids) and fantasy OCs as subset of my main focus, and finally I do a little bit of cute furry art on top of it - mostly Pokemon and female anthro characters.

What sells: Color, absolutely, and pretty much exclusively - I've never had anyone approach me for a sketch, lineart or type of commission other than my full CGs, even though I offer other types of work and have suggested prices listed in my commission info. I tend to get compliments on my coloring, so that might be part of it, but overall I think the "anime" market really loves vibrant colors.

My price range has been slowly becoming more defined as I go along, since I haven't been doing this for very long, and it's still not an ideal representation of time/effort/demand. Since most of my work is two character pieces in full color, I usually make $22 to $35 per piece depending on what kind of background the commissioner wants (or if they want one at all). Single character pieces tend to be $15 to $22. I'll probably be gradually raising those prices, though, as I've found that I have a lot of people lining up to buy art and I'm spending a bit too much time working for the amount I make!

Sites to use/advertise on: DeviantArt, I've found, has been pretty slow for me, and I've only gotten about five people from there asking for commissions in the past year or so. Only one of those was taken so far; I can't remember how some of them worked out, but one commissioner seemed to have absolutely no idea what he wanted, and in the end I just had to let the offer die because he couldn't decide on an idea. @_@

Obviously, since I do a lot of lesbian porn, I couldn't post the works that I was putting so much effort into on DA, as I was doing commissions for friends and through word-of-mouth. Just a few months ago I decided to sign up and begin posting on Hentai Foundry (NSFW - warning applies to pretty much the whole site, as you can imagine). I've found that the reception there has been very good for me, and I've become quite busy with commissions coming through there. :) Not only that, but I've found that my works get more attention on HF than DA, despite HF not having any groups in which to post your works.

They accept a lot of different subjects on that site, as well as furry art. If you're someone who does porn and can cater to anime/video game/comic/etc fandoms, I would definitely recommend advertising on HF.

That about covers what I had to say - though there's one last thing that's worth mentioning. I've found that in the "anime" niche, especially when it comes to porn, I get a lot of people who seem to have never commissioned an artist before, or are simply unclear on what they want. The best solution to this that I know of is to be very upfront with people and work out as many details as possible before any money changes hands. Good advice in general I suppose, but especially if you do not want to do lots of edits. @_@
Jun. 13th, 2012 10:49 am (UTC)
Oh wow, they accept furries on HF? I might just have to start posting there as the uneasyness with FA has had me looking for a second place to set up shop.
(no subject) - magicalondine - Jun. 13th, 2012 11:13 am (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 17th, 2012 07:39 pm (UTC)
I'll just note here that while for the most part sex -does- sell, I get far less requests for adult commissions, and my adult pieces actually get less attention. Don't get me wrong, I do prefer clean-to-nude art, but I'm surprised that even offering adult commissions I don't get takers. [Granted I have very little adult art in my gallery, but that's aside from the point, as I know other clean artists who get bothered for adult art].

You -can- actually make a decent start on FA with little to no adult art, I have less than 10 pieces in almost 300 that are adult in nature, I've been on my page just over a year, and have 11k pageviews and almost 1k watchers. Advertising is extremely useful.

Another thing that may be of assistence, but is very difficult for some artists, is to have a high rate of turnover. Full body flats are my best seller, and I can generally turn those out in a couple of days, real life willing, usually within a week.
Jun. 25th, 2012 12:22 am (UTC)
This is a very belated response lol but I didn't see anyone mention this, so I thought I would:

MMOs and other video games are a growing niche market. If you can customize a character in a game, someone out there will want artwork of it. Some big examples are WoW, Skyrim, SWtOR, CoH, and maybe Diablo III at this point.

You've also got smaller freebie games or sites like Gaia and Neopets. A lot of people still like their Gaia avatars and will pay for custom art (keep the transactions off the Gaia site though - as I recall they frown upon real money art transactions).

People also love fanart of their favorite game characters. League of Legends has a huge playerbase and people will pay for custom artwork of their favorites.

Even if you're not a big gamer, keep an eye on what's popular.

Edited at 2012-06-25 12:23 am (UTC)
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