Finding the Right Artist, Part 4: Hiring the Artist

This is the fourth and final installment in my Finding and Hiring the Right Artist series where I cover Hiring the Right Artist. If you missed the introduction (or other posts in the series), please start here.

  • You ARE NOT a well known writer
  • You want to produce a comic book, manga, or graphic novel (there are different rules for books outside of those types, e.g., children's books, etc.)
  • You want high quality artwork
  • You don't have a high quality artist friend who is rich and will work for free

Who do I hire?

Now that you have several hundred responses to your ad (check my post on finding the right artist if you don't), you need to figure out who to hire.


I put together some bullets based on my experience and what I learned from Brandon Easton's blog post (podcast) to help:
  • Make sure the artist's style matches the style you want for your comic. (This should be described in your ad along with examples images.)
  • Don't hire artists that don't follow directions:
    • If you ask artists to submit sample artwork via email and they don't (instead reply to post or try to DM you), pass. (They probably aren't going to follow instructions later.)
    • If an artist doesn't include artwork, pass. It isn't your job to ask them to, move on.
    • If they argue about rates (or anything else), pass, i.e., do not respond.
      • Brandon ran into artists trying to argue with him over rates (before even being hired). I didn't run into that, but if you do, just move on and don't respond.
  • If the language of your ad isn't the artist's first language (English for me), make sure they read and write your language well (becomes clearer as you exchange more emails).
  • Whittle down the submissions to roughly 15 finalist.
  • Ask all finalist to submit a drawing of your main hero/protagonist (provide description and art examples to give them an idea of what you have in mind).
  • Create a spreadsheet containing the artist's name, country, portfolio link(s), hero/protagonist submission link, and finally your critique of their portfolio and submission (example below).
  • Have an artist friend (or hire an artist you trust) review and critique the finalists in the spreadsheet (more below).
  • Do a quick video interview with the top three candidates.
    • You can use Google Hangouts or Skype. If you want to do a phone conversation, that is fine too.
    • Important thing here is that any job should require an interview, don't hire anyone who won't do one.
  • Hire the right match after taking into account your review, your artist friend's review, and the interview.
  • Write a nice note to the finalists that didn't get the position. They put some work into trying to get the position, you want to thank them for doing that even though they didn't get the position.
  • Keep the top three finalist as fallbacks in case the main hire falls through for any reason.
  • You are the boss now, so remember they are working for you. Be fair but protect yourself and your assets.

More Details

Some of the bullets above need to be expanded a little bit.

Making the first cut

You need to cut down the hundred(s) of submissions to roughly the top 15. Because I used a gmail account, I did this by sorting each submission into one of three gmail labels I created (other email providers should have something similar). Here are the labels I created:
  • Not match
  • Maybe another project
  • Potential
You can also add a label for the continent they live in to help as well. After a week or two, you will probably have 40-50 in your 'Potential' label.

Go through these and pick the top 15.

Record Top Picks in a spreadsheet

After I had my top 15, I put them into Google Sheets. You can use Microsoft Excel or whatever Spreadsheet program you want if that doesn't work for you, but you will need to share this spreadsheet with a friend. Google makes that very easy, so I went that route.

Here is a template of my Google Spreadsheet. I included partial examples with links to help.

Most artists will give you links to a website, Tumblr, Deviant Art, Instagram, etc. Include those in the spreadsheet (easy to add), so you and your artist friend don't need to dig through emails for the right portfolio.

If an artist sends you the files directly, you should upload them to Google DriveDropbox, or something similar, and add that link to the spreadsheet.

Feel free to make a copy of the spreadsheet and use it for yourself! :)

Ask for a sketch of your protagonist (hero)

For all finalist, I asked them to draw the main protagonist (hero). They already knew the style from my ad, but I gave them a little extra reference material (images from the web) to see what they came up with.

Below is one of the emails I sent (with image references for them). Feel free to use it as a template.

Artist Name,

Thanks for applying!  I am asking all the finalist to draw two quick sketches of the hero in the style I outlined but with your influence.  (I mainly want dark and bleak.) 

The first sketch should show the complete hero. He would dress and look similar to these examples: example 1, example 2 (though not that style, I want it to have a manga feel and be in your style). 

TODO: Add more description of character here if you need it. I added more information about how my character was different from the images. 

The second is a face sketch to match the character you drew above in the same style. Here is a image of the face above to help (again, not this style but your own). 

Feel free to send low res versions of both, and I will make my decision by the end of the upcoming week. I have a couple additional questions below. Thanks!


Portfolio and Submission Review

Once I had the submissions, I wrote a review (about a paragraph) of the artist's portfolio and submission art in my spreadsheet.

Get some help from an artist

It's really important to get an artist to review your finalist. It shouldn't take more than two hours.

If you have a friend, ask them. If not, you probably have a friend who knows someone that works as an artist that can help.

I actually did the latter, and I offered to pay a small fee. She was happy to review the art, and it only took her about two hours.

This was invaluable. She pointed out weaknesses and strengths that I totally missed as a non-artist. It really helped me finalize the top three.

It's also important you ask your reviewer to rate the artist from 1-10 (10 being the top mark). This helped me figure out who to hire when I had a tie.

Top Three and Interviews

Pick the top three from all the information now in your spreadsheet.

Inform the top three candidates, and request an interview (should only need to be 5-10 minutes). Get a feel if you would work well together.

I used Google Hangouts, but you can use Skype or an old fashioned phone if that's better.

If they don't want to do an interview, it's probably best to pass.

Hire the final candidate with contract

Now that you have your artist, inform them! :)

Get a Work for Hire Agreement as the contract and make sure you include page rate and page output.

For output, your artist should be able to deliver a full issue within 2 months (20-30 pages in color). A black and white issue should be slightly shorter. However, I have heard that inking takes the most time, so you may not save that much time with just black and white (just keep that in mind).

Once you get the signed contract back from the artist, inform the other finalist and send the hired artist your script.

Don't send script or notes to other finalist until the contract is signed!

Things could go south with your first choice, and you don't want to eliminate the other artists until everything is finalized.

Send out thank you emails to other artists

Make it nice, they put in quite a bit of work. Be especially observant of their responses as well. If they are nice, they might be the next artist you hire.

If you don't get a response, then you should probably scratch them off your list of backup artists.

Now what?

I decided to do a concept phase first where the artist drew each character and main location. I blog about all the details here.

It will actually save you a lot of time and headaches later, so I strongly encourage you to at least read about it. In addition, many artists will do it at quite a discount or for free.


You finished my blog series on finding and hiring an artist, and you should have a talented artist working on your first issue.

I hoped the series helped. Please add comments if you feel I missed anything. Thanks for reading!


P.S. - If this helped, please support me by reading my free webcomic halfwing, thanks!


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