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Creating Artwork for Clients: A Walkthrough From Start To Finish

This article is an overview of how I create a vector illustration for a client. This article will specifically hit on how to handle the client side of things. There’s another article I’ve written on the vector creation specifics, so I won’t dive too deep into that in this article. Whether you are an artist/graphic designer, or a screen printer who does their own art, I hope this article can help you learn a bit on how to handle custom artwork requests. Note: much of this article can also apply to client artwork creation using clipart, rather than custom drawn art.

For this article, I have specifically chosen a picky/more challenging client, so that you can get an idea of a more difficult scenario. Most clients you might work with don’t have as many revisions as this one. (depends on your level of artistic talent)

The first thing you will have to do when talking with a new client, is finding out what they want. Sometime they will come to you with just an idea, sometimes with a rough sketch, sometimes nothing. If someone comes to you without much of a direction at all, that should be a red flag. If you try and start work for a client who doesn’t really know what they want, then you will end up spending a lot more time than you want revising things, and might not even be able to get to a final solution for them. Make sure to encourage and pull as much info as you can out of your client’s head. If a client is vague (which most of the time they are) then it’s up to you to ask questions and suggest approaches until you feel you have enough info to start the project. This is a technique that takes time to develop and master. Fortunately, this particular client had given me a sketch that they had a high school student draw for them, but of course they wanted it to be professionally drawn. After reviewing the existing art and asking some questions, I came up with my quote. It’s always best to try and quote a client before you force them to commit to anything. (becoming comfortable with quoting projects is another complex topic, feel free to PM or email me about it for me info).

After I received the 1st half payment (up to you on how you bill your clients), I looked up some fox reference to help with the drawing. The 2 fox characters in the reference pic above are from the client, for the style they wanted for the fox. (I know, one is a stop motion character and the other is a very cartoony drawing, not really similar at all). Now time to start the drawing.

So, I created the sketch for the client. I always like to email a sketch to a client, first, before spending all that time creating the vector artwork. It’s much easier to revise something in the sketch stage, rather than after the image is finalized. Now it’s the waiting game, giving the client time to review the sketch and get back to you. I usually email them again on the 3rd day, if I haven’t heard anything back by then.

Ok, so the client liked where I was heading with the sketch, but decided they wanted clothes on the fox and the fork prongs tweaked (they sell these special pitchforks, so they wanted the shape of it a little more specific). The sketch above is my revision. Emailed to the client and waiting for their thoughts…

So, the client came back saying now they didn’t want the clothes. I tried to encourage them that he looked more appealing in clothes. It’s ok to gently suggest things to your clients, but when it comes down to it, most of the time it’s easier to do what they want, rather than getting in a debate. After all, they are the paying client, right? So, after my gentle suggestion was turned down, I made sure they knew that it was no problem to revise him. Also, they asked for his hand to be lowered, touching the fork handle as well. I should note, most of the time, clients will tell you all that they want tweaked on a drawing all at once. This client made no mention of the issue with the “hat tipping” hand until this point. Sometime this happens and you just have to roll with the punches. Sketch emailed again for review…

After a quick final tweak of the hand grip and the angle of the fork, I received approval on the sketch and I was able to move on to the inking, vectorizing and coloring of the artwork. Another note: it is really up to you on how many sketch revisions or vector revisions you are willing to do within your quoted price. I normally only allow up to 3 revisions within the quoted price (sometimes more if the client is super nice, or if the revision is super easy). I normally don’t go through the trouble of shading a vector character like I did for this one (because of screen print color limitations) but since the client paid more and the image will be used mostly on paper prints, I decided to approach it this way. A low-resolution jpg of this vector art is then emailed to the client for approval.

After a series of changes to the fork part of the pitchfork, I finally got “official” approval. To explain, after the 1st change, in the 4 part picture above, I emailed it to the client for approval, along with the phrase: “Any additional revisions may be subject to charge” in my email. Now normally, this sentence has magical powers and all of a sudden, your client emails back saying, “it’s prefect!” It isn’t 100% effective. This client in particular was ok with an additional charge to get the fork tweaked a bit more. When you are working with a client, it’s always good to keep track of your time. If your clients’ revisions go beyond the quoted price/time frame, then be up-front with them about additional costs. If you don’t then they will take advantage of the revisions system.

Again, here’s the final piece. It’s tough to create artwork for clients. Sometimes they will be a pleasure to work with and other times they will make you want to rip your hair out. The thing to always keep in mind is to be as professional and courteous to them as possible. Also, keep in mind that not every client project you work on will be a piece of artwork that you want to hang on your wall or print on a t-shirt for yourself. You are making art for a client, not for yourself or your particular tastes. Overall, creating artwork for clients can be fun, challenging, and rewarding. Best of luck and feel free to ask questions and I will try my best to answer them.

Thanks for reading!

If you would like to learn more, visit my CorelDraw tutorials on Youtube: ‪FreelanceFridge's Channel‬‏ - YouTube or have any other questions, feel free to email me through my website: Welcome to James Koenig's Freelance Fridge: Artwork, Design, and Illustration -James Koenig, Freelance Fridge​

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That was my dream back in high school but I got an art teacher that I didn't get along well with so I ended up going into Accounting instead. And now 30 years later I have worked my way back into art but am still not where I wanted to be with it. I really admire the ones that get to do it from the start!!! And you really do a good job of it too!!!
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