Sample finished painting Guide to Types of Commission References for Clients

        So, you have decided to commission an artist to bring your vision to life. Exciting! But, you may feel unsure about how to go around communicating your idea. Every artist works differently, of course, but here are some things that help me visualise the artwork. If you're thinking "Well, I want to send in a doodle, but I'm concerned it may not be good enough..." here's some good news. :)

I will use my personal painting "Valor" to showcase the types of references that may have been used for it.

Important Note: Everything on this page is there to spark your imagination, there are no hard and fast rules to references! There's no such thing as too many references. If I need more info from you, I will ask you in the preliminary e-mail - don't worry, I got you!

Text Description

The simplest and the most effective reference is a good ole text description. Books and written text have always inspired me and I find it easy to visualize images from written text. It may be something like: listing the characteristics, a short description, a story snippet. If you would like to send in a snippet from a story, please keep it to 500 words or less. Unfortunately, I do not have the spare time to read longer stories, books, or descriptions. Please do include information that is easy to overlook, such as: skin and eye colour, height and body type, hair, skin markings, and so on.


Images are great because they communicate so much! You may send in: an assortment of photos and screenshots, a link to an IMGUR album, Pinterest board, a Tumblr/aesthetic post... If any photo resonates with you and represents what you would like to see in the final artwork, send it over.

In the example below, you can see an assortment of folk clothes details and hairstyles that were mixed with armour, and the eagle references. The woman with the golden headband represents the type of attitude and make-up that I was going for.

Photo reference samples


Perhaps you find it easier to think in doodles. They're also fine, and don't worry if they're "bad"! The important part is that they communicate an idea, in this case the pose of the characters and a rough environment.

Doodle example


If a different artist made artwork of your character before and you think it's a good representation of what they look like, it is alright to send that in. Keep in mind that I will not copy or trace another artist's work, it is for inspirational purposes only.

The artwork below is my own concepts for the painting, but let's pretend for a moment they are somebody else's. :D

Sketch and artwork sample

Anything that communicates your idea!

Perhaps something unconventional? It just might work, as long as it communicates the core idea. If you are unsure if something will be helpful to me, just ask!

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