Avoid 7 Common Mistakes When Commissioning a Painting

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Advice for Collectors

If you have ever thought that commissioning a painting is an overwhelming, complicated or convoluted process, it doesn’t have to be! You can get a custom painting with little effort and be thrilled with it by applying the advice in this article.

7 Mistakes that Collectors Make

Know the pitfalls.

Here are 7 mistakes that collectors can make when commissioning a painting:

  • Not having a clear idea as to what you want, or not being able to describe it to the artist
  • Choosing an artist that hasn’t produced paintings in the style that you want
  • Choosing an artist that lacks communication skills
  • Choosing an artist that lacks business skills
  • Choosing an artist that lacks experience working with collectors
  • Not knowing where the painting will be displayed
  • Not understanding what you need to know

Solution - Find An Artist with the Right Talents

The best way to ensure that you are satisfied with a commission is by collaborating with an artist who has the right talents - (1) produces work you already like and (2) who is business savvy.

Artistic Style That You Already Like

By working with an artist whose work you already like, you’re setting the artist up for success. An artist should not work on a commission in a medium or style he or she isn’t familiar with. Your being familiar with the work of an artist equips you to have a good idea as to what he or she can create for you.

Do Some Homework. To find an artist whose work you like, you’ll need to do a bit of homework. Here is a guide I wrote to help you, How to Commission a Painting - 5 Simple Tips for Buyers.

Artist Rachael Harbert creates a commissioned painting in her studio
Abstract artist, Rachael Harbert, working on a commissioned painting

Work with a Business Savvy Artist

The artist you hire for your commission should also be business savvy. He or she should be able to guide you through a discovery process, asking you all the right questions to ensure that he or she can deliver you what you want. This discovery process will be good for you, too - you'll either be reassured that you know what you want, or you'll discover that you want something else.

Even if you don’t know everything about a commission process, the artist should act as your go-to person, a subject matter expert... to educate you and take the guesswork out of the process.

Also, if the artist can’t deliver what you want, a true professional will be upfront about it right away!

Work with an Artist Who Leads the Discovery Process

A business savvy artist will take the lead in discovering what you want by asking all the right questions; see the list below. It will be evident to you that the artist is Experienced, Responsible, Honest, and Reasonable.


  • Does the artist have a defined commission process? Review the picture at the end of this guide for an excellent example of an artist with a defined commission process.
  • Is the artist asking me questions to help both of us understand what I really want? Content, Colors, Size, Style, Where the painting will be displayed
  • Does the artist guide me on finding visual examples of what I like/want?
  • Can the artist provide me examples of his/her commissioned work?
  • Can the artist provide me testimonials?
  • Does the artist cover all the technical details, such as…
    1. Style options and/or examples?
    2. Size options and/or examples?
    3. Pricing and payment options?
    4. Timeline?
    5. Will the painting be loose or stretched?
    6. Will the painting be display ready when you receive it?
    7. Will the artist provide me pictures so that I can approve the painting?
    8. How can I make changes to the painting?
    9. How will it shipped, and when will it be delivered?
    10. Do I need it installed?
    11. Do I need it framed?
    12. What happens if I don’t like it? Can I return it?
    13. Do you offer a guarantee?
    14. If you are interested in an unveiling party, will the artist assist you with this?


  • Does the artist respond to your inquiry in a reasonable amount of time?
  • Does the artist take charge of the commission process, acting as a project leader?
  • Does the artist seem willing to help?


  • Is the artist upfront about what he/she can’t or isn’t willing to do?


  • Is the artist making outlandish statements and/or promises?
  • Is the artist listening to my input? It is wise to allow the artist control over his/her artistic freedom, since this makes the artwork unique. However, a professional understands that creating a custom painting for you means that you’ll have some input – like colors – and the artist should welcome your input. After all, a commission is a collaborative effort.

Example of a simple and clearly defined commission process

Example of a simple and clearly defined commission process of 5 steps

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