Thursday, May 27, 2010

Commission Painting; Your Thoughts

Old School here with a question for the blogosphere. What are your thoughts, opinions and experiences on commisiion painting and conversions.
As time goes on, the members of Dark Future Games have picked up more and more conversion work around the FLGS and to a lesser extend other areas and all the the folks we do jobs for seem pretty happy. We don't charge the prices that you see on the internet, so we were wondering what folks out here thought of commission painting in general. Have you had good or bad experiences? Has price prohibited you in the past? What kind of work would you (have you) have done and what would you just paint yourself? Do you prefer when comission sites offer prices up front? We are looking for any and all feedback as all of the combined experience out here is greater than what anyone could ever muster alone, so please post away.


  1. A good set of questions, and timely. I've been wondering about this myself because I've been considering the possibility of doing some commission work. As such, I'm afraid I have more questions that answers in this comment...

    The problem for me is that I don't really know where to start.

    What's the going rate that you mentioned? I'm not really sure that's clear. I've not really seen anyone posting prices (excepting the golden daemon quality stuff, which is astronomical as you mentioned).

    How do the transactions work exactly? half up front, half upon completion? Would you post pictures on the blog so that the "client" would see the product before sending money, etc? Is it bad form to post photos on the blog?

    Like you, I wish there was some clearer direction in these matters.

  2. I prefer to do the painting myself, but might consider commissioning sculpting for something, or perhaps conversion for something I can't get right myself. I've done some (free) painting for friends before, they seemed happy with the results.

    For those who simply don't like painting, I think it can be a good solution. For reasonable prices, it can be a good way for them to get a painted army on the table. Up-front prices would be good, with caveats that certain jobs may be more/less, and it's a good idea to talk the project out with the customer to be sure everyone understands what the end result should be.

  3. I think the biggest struggle is the time a person puts in to paint versus the fee they charge. Its a conflict to me that my time is worth a certain amount but for that amount the client doesn't expect my time but my expertise. So if I expect to be paint 10/hr to paint because of my level of skill and it takes me 10 hours to paint a squad of 10 tac marines I'd have to ask 100$, however the client base isn't going to pay 100$ for a squad of 10 marines unless they're are some pretty high quality mini's.

    I've always had this conflict looking at commission work and its very hard to reconcile what I expect to be paid and what the client is willing to pay. I've turned down a lot of jobs just because it doesn't seem worth it.

    Fortunately for the blogsphere I'm broke now so I'm looking to work for 8 year old asian boy wages, so bring it.

  4. I prefer to do the painting myself as that is a huge part of the hobby in itself. I have perused commission sites and the fees just seem outrageous for something I could basically do myself.

    I wish there was a service that would simply prime and put a solid foundation color on the selected parts and send it back to me so I can do the actual fun/artistic part. This would simply speed up my own painting process and I could still feel satisfied with the finished product.

    I have considered several times to have some custom/green stuff type work done to make squad champions stand out. Because it is beyond my ability I would be willing to pay for it, especially if I could have it sent back unpainted.

  5. I normally chatge by the job. Do they want a three color and based paint job or do they want the kilts to be painted in the 42nd Blackwatch tartan? Always set down with the patron and have them describe to you exactly what and how they want something painted. While you dicuss this take notes and then when you are finished repeat the notes back to them. People will change their minds between the time you get their models and when you deliver them painted. Having the notes lets both of you know exactly what was requested.
    A basic paint job for a single infanrty model ,$3US each, thats me receiving the models preassembled and already primered. If they want me to assemble the models thats more, they want me to prime them thats more, they want a bunch of different colors then thats more, anything that is going to add time to the process adds to the price. If they have a big lot of models I usually cut a discount because once I get the scheme downpat I can assembly line paint a group quicker.
    Always keep a painting journal with what color was the base primer,which colors you used and on what parts of the model, how many coats and what kind of washes you used, etc. I have painted up armies for several people and most have came back with figures they added to their army and wanted it painted to match the originals.
    I usually like to send them progress pictures of the painting. This helps get the model colors right the first time and avoids the "I wanted this black not brown" It also reassures the patron that you are working on their figures.
    As for payment I once had a patron say "What would you do If I didn't pay you?" and without hesitation I replied "Sell them on ebay, the models are worth more there than you are going to owe me." The only time I took money up front was if I needed to buy specific paints for the job or if I would have to order more paint for a larger job. I always prefered for the patron to provide the colors they wanted used so there would be no misunderstanding on which grey they wanted the ammo pouches painted.
    Hopefully there is some good advice above that will save you some anxiety.

  6. It depends on the job. My first big paint job was in trade. My brother dropped the ball in painting an SOB army for a guy offering and entire Brettonnian Army. I picked up the job and rushed it in a week of hard labor while in college to his satisfaction. Now I charge a start rate of $10 an hour. That menas if it's unassembled, that will factor into the time. Hey, if getting paid to work at McDonalds is $8, then anyone should be willing to pay the $10 if they don't want to paint themselves, and I get to have fun while getting paid. If $10 (which is cheap) is not worth paying, then you paint it yourself. A friend of mine stays busy painting at GW level for a single client, about 20 hours a week and is paid by the one client twice my rate, and is happy to pay for that level. To each his own.