Why You Should Pay Artists For Sample Pages

A reader on our Facebook Page asked

Hey Alex, I’m curious, when you look for artists, do you go strictly by their portfolio or do you pay for sample panels?

I thought my answer might be useful for others so I’m posting it up here. 🙂 Here’s what I wrote back:

Well, actually, I’ve done both. When I’ve cast a wide net while looking for an artist — like on DigitalWebbing or GutterZombie — and thus I’m considering complete strangers, I will definitely want them to draw (or color) a sample page of our work. And my rule is — if I ask you to do work for me, you get paid. I pay a full page rate for a full sample page of sequential art. (There have been a couple of very enthusiastic artists who have done a free page for me, but that’s the exception and not my preference.)

Paying for a sample page does a lot of nice things:

  • It shows you are for real (there are a lot of crackpots out there looking for artists)
  • It shows you pay very quickly (or should!) which will distinguish you from 95% of everyone else out there
  • It gives a greater incentive for the artist to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (or even a Work-For-Hire contract, so there is no confusion about ownership of the characters and you can use the samples in a blog post or whatever)
  • It gives you access to much better talent (few experienced artists are willing to draw a sample page for free)
  • Working on a sample page for pay gives you the option to ask for revisions, which allows you to get a real feeling for what it’s like to work with an artist
  • Making art is hard and time-consuming, it’s IMHO just the right thing to do and shows you are a client who gets it

So, yes, as you can see, I’m a believer in paying for samples (even though truthfully, it can get pricey – that’s why I spent a lot of time narrowing down the pool to 5 or 6 real contenders when I was conducting the search to find Vitto for Tough, for instance.)

The only time I haven’t asked for a sample page has been when

1) The portfolio art was jaw-droppingly stunning with good examples of sequential art.


2) They were recommended to me by an artist I really trust

which is what happened with the current penciler of Tough: Chapter 3. Yaoi 911 Ace Extraordinaire Winona Nelson recommended him strongly, I looked over his portfolio, we talked workflow a bit by email and it seemed like a very good fit. And so far, that has definitely proven to be the case. 🙂


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