How to hire a good illustrator

How To Hire a Good Illustrator (Plus: Go Behind the Scenes of Comic Style Elearning)

“If you can’t follow along, and get an idea of how characters are feeling without word balloons or any other text, the artist hasn’t done their job.”
— Nate Lovett

The following is an interview with illustrator, cartoonist, and concept artist, Nate Lovett (@natelovett).

Since 2005, Nate’s work has been impressively wide-ranging: elearning, comics, coloring books, character designs, and storyboards. He has worked with Random House, Nickelodeon, Image, Hasbro and many others, too numerous to mention.

Comic Style Elearning Planning
When I commissioned Nate for a small elearning project, it was a remarkably imaginative experience. And, as a matter of fact, it still inspires me today.

As you probably know, when you design elearning, you spend a lot of time thinking about look and feel (i.e. graphic design).

But, what if you didn’t have to deal with any of that?

Well, you could focus instead on creative direction, instructional design, scenario design, game elements, and other facets of engagement and learning.

So, if you design elearning, I highly recommend you read this interview. In it, you’ll discover…

  • How fast an illustrator can design
  • Where to find good illustrators
  • Pricing projects
  • and much more…


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Ryan: If I was looking to hire an illustrator for an elearning project, what professional title would I use for my search? “Illustrator?” “Graphic Designer?” “Comic Book Artist?”

Nate: I’d say the main one would be “Illustrator”, since most “Comic Book Artists” would fall under that. Mainly though, you’d want to find someone who has experience with sequential art.

Ryan’s note: Sequential art is an art form that uses images deployed in sequence for graphic storytelling or to convey information. See Wikipedia.

Ryan: How fast can an illustrator turnaround initial sketches or design mock-ups?

Nate: Turn around time can really vary on the artist you’re working with. There’s some artists out there who work really fast, while others aren’t. When it comes to comics, the average workload is one pencilled page a day, most artists you find can do this, though there are some that can do more in a day. I’d suggest asking whomever you’re interested in working with for a more accurate answer.

Ryan’s note: In other words, with solid storyboarding and creative direction, an illustrator may have your elearning project “designed” in a week. This frees up time for an elearning designer to focus on interaction design.

Your typical comic-style drawing process: Pencils, Inks, and Colors.

Ryan: Nate, you’re just one person but capable of adding so much creatively to an elearning project. Is your skillset the norm?

Nate: My skillset sort of came about out of necessity, though there are others who offer my same skill set. Most comics though are broken into teams of two or three, a penciller, inker, and colorist, though a lot of pencillers are starting to ink themselves, or inks are skipped all together and the pencils go straight to colors. I’m capable of doing all three steps myself, which can be beneficial since you don’t have to communicate with a variety of artists, but at the same time some teams of creators work so well together they may as well be one person.

Ryan: I found you on DeviantArt (the world’s largest online art community). Is this a good place to find talented illustrators? Or is there a better more efficient way?

Nate: Deviantart is a good one, but a lot of artists have started using sites such as Tumblr and even Facebook.

Ryan’s note: How did I use DeviantArt to find an illustrator? First, I had a general illustration style in mind. Then I searched Deviantart for an illustrator that fit that style. After that, I searched that illustrators “Random Favorites” on their profile page. (Illustrator’s typically favorite similar work.) I repeated this process of following profile favorites, and in no time I had a list of illustrators who fit what I was looking for 🙂

Ryan: How much does custom illustration cost?

Nate: Cost is another one of those things that really can vary on the artist, due to their experience and other possible attributes.  A good thing to keep in mind whenever hiring for pretty much any art service is a basic pyramid of options. At the three points you have Fast, Good, and Cheap, but you can only choose two. If you want it Fast and Cheap, chances are the quality is going to lack, if you want it Good and Fast, it’ll will probably cost more, and so on.

I estimate projects primarily based on the time it will take me, as well as the potential difficulty of the project. On average I’d say my rate is approximately $250 per page, for full color, but as I said that can vary.

Ryan: Regarding a custom learning experience, can an illustrator really recreate any environment (uniforms, office, workplace setting, etc.)?

Nate: I’d say any good illustrator should be able to, but it’s good to keep an eye out for examples of what you’re looking to do in the artist’s work. For example, if you’re looking for someone to do a project that’s set in a big city, with lots of skyscrapers, cars, etc, it’d be better to find an artist with lots of similar work, instead of someone who has only examples of farms with horses. That’s not to say that the farm artist can’t do it, but there’s nothing that says they can either. I’d say look for artists with a variety of work examples that show off their versatility, and you will most likely have better luck.

Ryan: What other skills does an illustrator bring to an elearning project? I’m guessing storyboarding is one?

Nate: Storyboarding and sequential art walk hand in hand in many ways, with the exception being that storyboards are individual pictures, while comics put numerous ones on a page. A good comic book artist should have a good grasp on both emotion and storytelling, since those are key aspects of comic book art. If you can’t follow along, and get an idea of how characters are feeling without word balloons or any other text, the artist hasn’t done their job.  Now that’s my opinion, but it is also one that is shared with many others in the comic community.

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Want to read another article on comic book style elearning?

Read this article where I discuss how to optimize comic book style elearning and, move from stock photography to illustration (click here to read).

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