How to Hire an Artist

How to Hire an Artist: Tips for Hiring an Outstanding Illustrator for your Next Project:

Finding the right illustrator can be a challenge. Whether you decide to use Bob Ostrom Studio or someone else it pays to know what you’re looking for. If you’ve never had the opportunity to hire a professional before here are a few tips that will help you find the best possible artist for your project.

Know What you are looking for.
Every artist has his or her own style. Many artists are versatile but no artist works in every style. Look for the artist who specializes in the type of art you are looking for. There are many artists and styles to choose from so be patient and make sure you leave yourself enough time to find the right one for your job.

Try starting with a simple Google search. Check out a few artists websites. Notice that no two are alike. Some are very professional with a highly focused direction, while others may choose to show a broader spectrum. Regardless as you begin to move away from the top ranking sites  you may also begin to see a drop in quality. Being a professional artist is an extremely competitive field. Artists work hard to make sure they are seen. There is a reason those sites are at the top of the search.

Some artists work with representatives and some are independent. Generally the better the quality the higher the price you will pay whether you are dealing with an art rep or an independent. Remember though that with higher quality artists you are not only paying for a more appealing image you are also paying for experience, but more on that later.

Determining a Style
Before you contact an illustrator take a few minutes to determine what you are looking for.

Who is your target audience and what is your demographic?
Determining who your potential audience is and what appeals to them is a great first step for helping you chose the proper illustrator. Here are a few tips to help narrow things down:

Describe your customer.

  • Are they male or female, both?
  • How old are they?
  • What kind of things do they like or pay attention to,
  • What kind of things do their peers like or pay attention to?
  • Where can you find them?
  • How do they find you?
  • What is their income bracket?

Crating a detailed profile on your potential customer will help give you a better idea where to begin. Once you’ve determined who your market take a look around. See what else is out there.


What is your competition doing?

This your chance to really stand out and get noticed. Instead of putting something out there that looks like everyone else consider trying something a little different that’ll get you noticed. Finding the right artist will help.


Shop around

Visit an artist’s website. Look at their style and level of presentation. You can tell a lot about an artist by the way he or she presents their work. Take a look around and see what type art they are displaying. How long have they been an artist? How successful are they? Do they have recommendations, a recognizable client list, have they received any awards.
Experience is the name of the game.

Most artist’s would love to illustrate a picture book but that doesn’t mean you should hire them. Do a little homework first to make sure you are choosing the right artist. Can they draw or create the style you are looking for consistently? Does their portfolio contain the right art for your demographic or is it scattered and lacking direction? Has your artist been published, if so where? Try searching their name on Google, LinkedIn or Amazon to find out more about them and their level of expertise.
Hiring the wrong artist for the wrong  job can be time consuming and expensive. Your project is no place for on the job training so be sure to hire someone with the highest level of expertise you can afford. Always check out who your artist has worked for and examples of jobs they have done. A good artist will be proud to display their work and answer any questions you might have about past experience.

You get what you pay for.
Why do some artists charge so much more than others? Without a doubt experience is worth paying for. The art you display will directly affect the perception of your company or business. This is no time for bargain shopping, always hire the best artist you can afford. It is always better to spend a little more and get the best quality possible rather than trying to save a few dollars and ending up with something you can’t use.

Successful artists are not just good at making pretty pictures they also know their market and understand production. They know the difference between file formats and what will work best for your project. They can talk to your printer and help give you exactly what you need saving you time, money and aggravation.

If you’re not sure about the difference between vector or bitmap art and which one you need ask your artist. He should be able to explain in simple terms explaining the pros and cons of each. Do you need a jpeg, tiff or png? RGB or CMYK format? An experienced artist will know which one to use for your particular project and why. Even if your artist works in traditional media the art will still need to be scanned and translated into a digital format at some point. If your artist doesn’t understand these simple requirements you might want to shop for some one else who does. The proper format is crucial and could mean the difference between your project looking great and becoming a costly disaster.

Questions your artist may ask

Here are a few questions your artist might ask. Use this list to have your answers prepared before you talk so you don’t forget or leave anything out. It’s best to be descriptive and include as much information up front as possible. The clearer you are with your artist the better chance you have of getting back exactly what you asked for.

Always start by describing your project in detail.

The more information you can provide the more accurate your illustrator can be. Don’t be afraid to include your illustrator in your creative process or as a part of your creative team. A good experienced illustrator will often be able to help you with creative suggestions or finding great new approaches to your project you may not have even considered.

Here are a few questions (in no particular order) you will want to think about before you begin.

  • What is the artwork being used for?
    • Who is your target audience?
    • What is your goal?
    • What style you are looking for?
    • Are there certain color preferences or other considerations?
  • Production
    • How many illustrations will you need?
    • What is the size(s) and or format?
    • Where will you be using the art?
    • What is your deadline ?
    • What is your budget?
    • Can you put me in touch with your printer?
  • Contact information
    • Who is the main person in charge of the project ?
    • What is the best way to reach that person or people?
      • Email?
      • Phone
      • Other

What is the artwork being used for?
Different uses mean different file requirements. Knowing who your audience is and where your piece will be used make a big difference in style and approach. What might work well for one audience might not work well for another. Do you have a goal?

A piece of art that needs to be many different sizes will require a different solution then one that will be printed at a specific size. The demands for the web are completely different from print. Knowing the different places your art will be used will help me determine the best format(s).
How many illustrations will you need?
What is your budget?
Most illustrators charge by the project not on an hourly basis. One size does not fit all. Many artists will charge you different rates for different types of usage. They may charge less for limited usage then they will for a total buyout because once the copyright is sold the artist no longer has the potential to make money from that image. Determine which usage works best for you and be sure to negotiate the rights with your artist up front at the beginning of each project so there no surprises later on.

I prefer to charge by the project and am happy to give you a quote before we begin. If you have a limited budget that’s okay chances are we can find a creative solution to fit your needs.

Can I talk to your Printer/ web designer?
Why on earth would an illustrator want to talk to a printer. Simple, every printer has certain requirements when it comes to artwork depending on what type of equipment he is using. He can tell the artist what type of file will work best for his machinery. Similarly a web designer may also have certain requirements for artwork and file format.

I’ve worked with many printers over the years and I speak their language. If you have any questions about the process just let me know and I will be happy to explain.

What are your deadlines?
It is very important to spell out your needs and plan out a schedule at the beginning of the project. Most artists work in stages and will submit artwork to you within a certain time frame. A typical schedule witll start with sketches and proceed from there. It is important to be realistic about your needs. Be sure to provide you povide enough time for the best job possible. Some artists may ask for an additional rush fee if your project’s deadlines are unrealistic. Different artists work at different rates, if you’re uncertain how long it takes just ask.

I am very efficient with my deadlines but too little time will probably mean having to make a few compromises. Art takes time. Always think ahead and make sure to leave plenty of time for your project. Leaving extra time will assure you always receive the best quality.

How would you like the art delivered?
An experienced artist will make arrangements for delivery at the beginning of each project. Digital artwork is great because it is so easy to work with. Some programs can produce rather large file sizes though. If you have an FTP site or another preferred method of delivery let your artist know. If you don’t chances are your artist will have a quick efficient way to deliver files that are too large for email. Most artists have experience in this area and have worked out a delivery method that should be easy to use and eliminate headaches.
Make sure to resolve this issue as early as possible so you don’t run into any problems on you due date. I have several methods of deliver I use based on costumer preference.

Who or how many people are involved in the decision making process?
The more people involved in the approval process, the higher the potential for miscommunication. Pick a leader or point person for your project and be sure to have all direction go through that one project leader. If it absolutely must be a committee decision make sure everyone involved in the decision making process signs off on direction before you involve the artist.

Conference calls are fine as long as it doesn’t waste everyone’s time. Be clear and decisive and do not leave big decisions unresolved. Ambiguous direction will be costly.

If you do not have a contract or written agreement, ask the artist to provide one for you. Do not hire an artist without something in writing. Be sure to spell out all the details of your project including delivery schedule, usage, copyrights, payment schedule and any other important information that might effect the outcome of your project.
You may also want to include a kill fee in your contract spelling out what happens if the project is cancelled for any reason before completion. This will protect both you and the artist by allowing you to understand ahead of time what happens if for any reason the project needs to be terminated.
I am happy to provide an agreement if you need one.

Enjoy the process
Working with an illustrator should be a fun and rewarding experience. Hiring the right illustrator will not only make you look great but will add great value and marketability to your project. If you have not worked with an illustrator in the past or need a little help organizing your project please feel free to contact me. Whether you plan to hire me for your next project or someone else I am always happy to answer any questions you might have about how to improve your project, hiring an artist or other any other art related questions.

For more information on hiring me for your project please visit my contact page.

Illustrating an eBook

ebook, dinosaur, dinos, bob ostrom, julia dweck, amazon

I’ve been working with author Julia Dweck on an eBook about dinosaurs. We’ve been having tons of fun with this book and it should be coming out any minute now. Here’s a quick behind the dino-scenes look at how to illustrate a dino-eBook.

Illustrating an eBook step 1:

This book is a based on a poem about dinosaurs.  The theme for this particular page was about a dino party at night. I wasn’t quite sure where to go with it so I sat down with my iPad and started sketching. As you can see my initial sketch is pretty rough but loosely blocking things in allows me play around, have some fun and not get too attached to the drawing. After trying a few different directions I decided to go with a dino-pool party.

Rough ipad dinosuar sketch by Bob Ostrom
Rough sketch done on the iPad

Illustrating an eBook step 2:

I was pretty happy with the rough so I printed out a version so I could trace and clean up. I work with super-cheap copy paper… mostly because it’s super cheap. Sometimes I go directly from the iPad to Illustrator but in this case I was having a little trouble getting the exact look I wanted. Whenever that happens I throw down a fresh piece of paper and grab a pencil. I guess I’m just an old school guy because pencil on paper never fails.

dinosaur pool party sketch by Bob Ostrom
The final sketch of the dinosaur pool party. Done it red pencil, scanned to photoshop and cleaned up a bit.

Illustrating an eBook step 3:

The next step is to drag everything into Adobe Illustrator and create the line art. It’s all done on layers because as you know there are about 37 different types of e-readers out there and they come in all shapes and sizes. That means we’ll probably need to shift things around to fill pages better when the proportions change. Having things on layers makes that A LOT easier.

Adobe Illustrator line art by Bob Ostrom Studio
Line art is created in Adobe Illustrator.

Illustrating an eBook step 4:

Once the line work is complete the illustration is colored in Illustrator and then assembled with text in InDesign. Even though I had roughed out the book in advance I thought this illustration looked better flopped. That’s the beauty of using tools like Illustrator and InDesign they are super flexible and allow you to make changes on the fly (of course depending how fussy you are that can be a double edged sword). You young whippersnappers out there with your fancy technology will not appreciate the magnitude but to us old timers being able to make changes as you go is something we used to only dream about. So that’s my story. From here it’s off to Julia for review then straight to production. If all goes well you’ll be hearing about the release of this book very soon. Thanks for reading.

dinosaur pool party illustration by Bob Ostrom
Flopping the final illustration using Adobe InDesign.

Adobe Photoshop Tip – Working with Smart Objects in Photoshop and Illustrator.

Working With Smart Objects

image right clicking smart objects

I’m not going to go into all kinds of details about Smart Objects this is just a quick tip I hope some of you will find useful. Recently I was working on some files for a client. It was a sizable project with lots of little moving pieces. Somewhere along the way I lost a couple of Illustrator files that went with the project. Because of a tight deadline I didn’t have time to track down the missing .ai files. As luck would have it I did however have them placed in a Photoshop file as Smart Objects.

Here’s the really great thing about Smart Objects, by right clicking the layer in Photoshop you can edit and save them in Illustrator.

Here’s how it works:

• Open your Photoshop document.

• Find the layer with the Smart Object you want to convert.

• Right click the layer.

• Select Edit Contents from the sub-menu.

• The Smart Object will be opened in illustrator.

• Make corrections to the vector art if you have any

• Save the illustrator file someplace you won’t lose it next time

• High five yourself for saving tons of time and being super tech savvy.



*Special thanks to my buddy George Coghill for his excellent advice.


To Learn more about Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign come see me at:

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