Maria Brophy


  • and make good money doing it!

    ‘Strategies for a Successful Art Business!’
art licensing / Deal Making / Pricing

What to Charge for Art Licensing – Royalties Advances and Flat Fees

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Slay those Dragons, Fear No More!

(Artwork provided by the wonderful, fun and talented Sara Jane Franklin.  Check out her blog here!)

When you need to have your sink unclogged, there’s little difference in price from plumber to plumber.  I think that at one time in the past, the wise plumbers got together and said “let’s all charge the same high price so we all get paid well!

If only artists could do the same, then pricing would be so much easier!

In the art business, while one creative can garner $10,000 for a painting, another can only get $500 for the same size and medium.

Many artists have a hard time financially because they just don’t know what to charge.

Often, artists will turn down a good opportunity because they are paralyzed by the fear of making a mistake and charging too little.

And when it comes to licensing your art, there are many different ways to be compensated.

(Licensing Art means – you retain all copyrights © to an image, and license, or “rent”, the art to someone for either a one-time use, such as in a magazine or advertising campaign, or for a longer term use to print on products, such as a t-shirt line or pottery, greeting cards, etc.)

FEAR THE LICENSE DEAL NO MORE – I promise you that once you begin to understand how these things work, you’ll feel more confident with deal-making.

With confidence comes more deals, and no more lost opportunities.  So please, read on!

The most common methods of pay for art licensing are:

1 – ROYALTY:  This is where the manufacturer pays the artist a royalty percentage of their gross sales.

2 – ROYALTY WITH ADVANCE UP FRONT – Sometimes there will be an advance payable up front, which is later deducted from future royalties.

3 – FLAT FEE – A one-time fee is paid instead of royalties.

Okay, but how much moola do you ask for?!  Below are a few guidelines:


Before we get to the topic of how much to ask for, let’s make sure you understand how royalties work.

Royalty payments are calculated based on the total (gross) revenues generated by the licensee (manufacturer) for your products.

Red Flag Warning:  Never agree to get paid your percentage based on the Licensee’s revenues minus their expenses.  This is an impossible number to quantify.

ROYALTY RATE EXAMPLE:  Let’s say that you have agreed to license your art to Perry Pickle Manufacturing for t-shirts.  They plan to sell the t-shirts to a chain of stores called Racey’s.  You have agreed to a royalty rate of 6% with a $3,000 Advance up front.

This means that Perry Pickle Mfg is going to pay you 6% of their total gross revenues generated.  Since they agreed to pay a $3,000 Advance up front, they paid you the advance at the time that the contract was signed.

In their first quarter, Perry Pickle Mfg received $100,000 in revenues for t-shirt sales of your line to Racey’s.

That means that you would receive a royalty payment of $6,000.00 ($100,000 x 6% = $6,000.00), MINUS the advance of $3,000.00 up front.

The advance is “recoupable against future royalties” so your first royalty payment would be the $6,000 minus the advance amount of $3,000, and you would have been paid $3,000.00.

Okay, now let’s talk about how you arrived at the 6% royalty rate:


  • The TYPE of product being produced
  • The QUANTITIES expected to be sold
  • The POPULARITY (STRENGTH) of the artist or brand

THE FIRST FACTOR IN DETERMINING ROYALTY RATES is the type of product being produced.  The average royalty rate varies from product to product.

For example, the average rate for art lithographs ranges between 5% – 15%, compared to 3 – 6.5% for wristbands.  The average royalty rate is a good starting point for determining what the rate should be.

There are a few resources that will help you learn what the average royalty rates are, such as artists groups and reference books.

To find out what others are being paid, connect with artists who are experienced in licensing through online forums and groups such as Linked In.  Ask the members what the average royalty rates are, in their experience, for a particular product.  These groups can be very helpful.

THE SECOND FACTOR IN DETERMINING ROYALTY RATES is the expected (or projected) sales volume.

The higher the volume, the lower the royalty:  If the products will be sold in mass market retailers and in mass quantity, the royalty rate will be less because mass market retailers (like Wal-Mart, Costco) demand better prices, which means tighter profit margins for the manufacturer.

Usually, an artist will earn more money from a lower royalty rate when products are being sold in mass market, than they would with a higher royalty rate for products being sold in small mom and pop shops.

The lower the volume, the higher the royalty:  If the products will be sold in specialty stores and in smaller quantities, the royalty rate should be higher.

For example:  A t-shirt manufacturer that sells in mass market stores (Wal-Mart, Target, chain stores) might pay 4-6% royalties.  A t-shirt manufacturer that sells in smaller channels such as core skateboard shops might pay 6-10% royalties.

If the artist is well known and their art is a proven seller, the royalty rates would be on the high end of the scale.  If the artist is unknown and new to licensing, the royalty rate might be on the lower end of the scale.

In some cases, a licensee that works with artists on a regular basis will have a standard royalty to offer to you.  At that time, you can decide if you want to accept their offer, or negotiate for more

FLAT FEE PAYMENT:  A flat fee is a lump sum that is paid up front at the time the contract is signed.  There are no royalties that will be paid later.

Flat fees may be calculated by image (i.e. $500 per image x 10 images = $5,000); or they may be paid in one specified sum (i.e. $2,500 total).

The flat fee method is best when the licensee is either a small company that does low volume, or is a start-up company that does not have a track record of sales.

The disadvantage to a flat fee royalty is that if the product sells above expectations, you may be missing out on sharing a piece of those revenues.

The best way to protect against the possibility of missing out on a piece of a great selling product is to have a short term, such as a one year or eighteen month contract.

With a shorter contract, if sales are very good, the licensee will want to renew, at which time you will be paid again, or you can negotiate for a better deal.

How much of a flat fee should you ask for?  Like all deals, the range is wide.  I know of some artists who charge as little as $100 per image for a flat fee license.  In the greeting card industry, an artist might be paid a flat fee of $275 – $500 for a card design.  I’ve had deals in the action sports market where I charged a flat fee of $1,500 per image, with a price break if they license multiple images.

The flat fee amount that you get will depend upon: 1- the strength of your brand, 2 – the competition in the industry and 3- what the licensee is willing to pay.

The most important thing is that you get paid what you feel that your art is worth and that you are happy with the end result.

ADVANCES:  An advance is a dollar amount that an artist is paid up front, due at the time of signing the contract.  The advance is usually non-refundable, and is deducted from future royalty payments.

What I love about advances is the most obvious:  you receive a payment up front.

Often in licensing deals, you won’t see royalties for a year or more because it takes that long to develop a line, sell it and get it shipped to stores.  The advance is money NOW, which is when most of us need it.

I use the advance as an insurance policy should something go wrong.  It hedges against the possibility that there will never be royalties paid in the future, because if a company is willing to pay an advance, than that means they are committed fully to the product sales.  Without commitment, sales often won’t happen.    Sometimes the products never make it to the marketplace or are dropped from the line.

And that means No sales which means No royalties.

The main reason we almost always require an Advance for Drew’s work is that it helps me to weed out the serious people from the not-so-serious.

If a company is willing to pay us an advance, I’m more convinced of their commitment to the success of the product sales.

Red Flag Warning:  If the deal you are about to enter into is going to require an excessive amount of work on your end, it’s crucial to require an advance or a design fee to cover your time.  That way, you don’t have to wait the 12 months or so that it takes for royalties to generate before you get paid.

Since there is no guarantee that a license will generate any royalties at all, an advance is insurance that you’ll be paid something in the event anything goes wrong.

What could go wrong, you ask?!  The client is so excited and they plan to put a lot of effort into the line.

One personal example is when we did a deal with one of the largest toy companies in the U.S.  They went bankrupt one month after we gave them the artwork for a kid’s skateboard line.  Drew had spent weeks working on it.  Thank God we were paid a generous advance so that Drew’s time was covered.

Another time we signed on with a kid’s clothing company.  They had their Drew Brophy line ready to go, after weeks of work on our end.  Then a new partner came in and changed everything.  The line never made it to retail and no royalties were generated.  We had been paid an advance up front, so we didn’t lose a month’s worth of work for nothing.

The flip side to all of this is that for every deal that isn’t successful, there’s one that is successful.  You have to sign on with many companies because some will be duds and some will be good.

Remember, there are no set-in-stone pricing structures for licensing or for art deals.  You have to be creative and come up with a deal that works for you and for your client!


PS:  Read Beware of these Red Flags in Contracts for more food for thought.   

Would you like your own licensing agreement template that you can use again and again?  My new  LICENSING AGREEMENT/CONTRACT TEMPLATE PACKAGE is now available.  This package makes it easy for you!  Complete with a template that you can change as needed, and instructions, this is the perfect short, simple agreement for artists not yet ready to hire an attorney.  More details here:  Licensing Agreement Contract/Template

PPS:  To gain a greater understanding of Art Licensing Contracts, what to charge, how to protect yourself in a deal and much more:  Check out my e-Book, co-written with artist Tara Reed, called How to Understand Art Licensing Contracts.
This eBook will save you years of experience, time & money.  It will prevent you from getting into bad deals and show you what’s reasonable to ask for.
You’ll feel more confident going into each deal with this reference by your side.  It’s truly a must-have reference for all artists who are licensing their art!
OR:  If you need help with a deal that you are currently negotiating, I can help!  Check out my consulting services!


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166 Comments What to Charge for Art Licensing – Royalties Advances and Flat Fees

  1. Sherif

    Hi Maria. When I am finished with my logo design, do I have to send it to the buyer digitally (JPEG etc.) or can I give him the hard copy? (I created the logo on paper not computer.) And if I do have to send it to him digitally, why?

    1. Maria Brophy

      A professional artist will provide their client with the digital file, ready to use, in either a vector or jpg format or both. The idea is to give your client what they need to use the art you have provided.

      However, you can give them the hard copy, just make sure that when you give the client a price quote, they know how they are getting it. When they receive the hard copy, that means they have to then get it scanned and cleaned up for use. Which means they will have to have to take an extra step, and maybe even hire a graphic artist, to do it.

      When you give a price quote, find out first from the client how they need the file. Some will want it in a vector file, some in a jpg, etc. These are things to discuss with your client early on.

  2. Sherif

    What’s a vector exactly? To be honest with you, I broke cardinal rule #1 and that is to have a briefing, discussion, price quote , etc about the work, but the thing with that is I know the guy who started the clothing line, and was so gung-ho about it that I just started working on it because I had the perfect concept. So like many artists, I may have put myself at a serious disadvantage because now, I have to explain everything to him that should have ALREADY been explained including the hardest part and that’s my price. And I’m just hoping that all this time and work wasn’t wasted. And in any case he has questions about anything, I want to competently explain myself so he knows that im not just arbitrarily coming up with a number. A little background on me… I’ve been working on a sketch for 3 weeks now and have 3 finished colored sketches ready for him to choose from. Considering the time it took me to formulate the concept, draw and fill in the sketches, to buy my supplies, and that its a logo that I’m signing all the rights to, I’m charging $500, but he won’t know that until I meet with him to show him the final product and that’s where I’ll have to explain everything and find out if he’ll say no, or negotiate for a price I don’t deem worthy of my time and effort. I feel like I can go to $400, but any lower and I feel like I’d be selling myself short. A little background on him…He started clothing line a year ago, but is not doing so well because its slow. He loves the design and we both feel it will bring more business to him. He also told me he’s not making much money now because its slow so I have a bit of trouble thinking that maybe $500 may be too much for him, but I feel like that is worth my time/expenses for everything and that I think is fair considering everything I mentioned, but he may not be on that level, so that’s where my explanation comes into play. So all your help and suggestions are seriously appreciated and sorry for the long message I just want to give you a clear idea on where I stand with all of this. Thx a million.

    1. Maria Brophy

      Sherif, all of the details you gave me has no relevance at all to what you charge or how you run your art business.

      I say that with love, because I want you to understand how you can, in the future, work as a professional.

      You have to determine what services you will provide, and for how much, and then offer this to your clients.

      That being said, with this situation going forward – have your meeting, give them your price of $500 and see what happens.

      This is going to be a learning process for you.

      You will learn what to do and what not to do, in future deals, after this situation.

      Also, if you plan to continue to work as an artist doing logos etc., please buy a copy of The Graphic Artists’s Guilde Guide to Ethical Pricing, and, take classes on the basics of photo shop, etc. You need to know minimal graphic design and you absolutely should know what a vector file is.

      Hope this helps! :)

  3. Dave

    I have a dilemma. I did a mural for a karate studio at a square foot price. The client didnt know what she wanted and since my kids go there i did the design for free to get my foot i the door and felt i would use it again for other studios who might want aready made design. Now she wants to use it on t shirts to sell and assumed she had the rights in the cost of the mural. I told her i retained the rights and would be willing to liscemse the image. I got the impression that did not sit well. What do ido?

    1. Maria Brophy

      Dear Dave,

      The ideal situation would have been for you to have given the owner a price quote in writing, that included a statement that says “Artist retains ownership of copyrights to the art.”

      But, now you’ll have to educate after the fact.

      Let her know that you own the copyrights to the art. But you are happy to license use of the artwork to her for a fee. Tell her the fee and let her know that once it’s paid, you’ll give her a written document giving her rights to use it for a period of time (2 or 3 years) for tee-shirts.

      It’s her choice if she wants to use the art and pay the fee or not.

      Her opinion of you charging a fee is irrelevant!

      After all, you’re paying for your kids to go there, right? Or is it free?!

      As a side note, you could offer to give her the rights to use it for tee-shirts in exchange for 6 months free karate for your kids. That would be a great deal for all of you.

  4. Sherif

    Hi Maria, I spoke with the buyer yesterday, and he said he already has a graphic designer to work on the logo to make sure its proper for a logo and that he was going to completely change one color of a portion of the design.(He asked for a couple of sketches with my own take on color and he would give his feedback on it so we can get to a color he is satisfied with–he chose to change the color of that portion entirely). Does that still make it “my” design or does that not matter because its his logo that wants to look like that? I would just like your take on it. Also, can’t a graphic designer add any color he wants to a design? And if so, can’t I just create the design and just sell them that and let the buyer fill in their own color, or does it depend on our initial discussion on what they want the design to be and how they want it to look like? (He also told me to meet with him in a couple of weeks to get paid so that is very exciting, but I still don’t know if he’ll be willing to pay for my asking price, so we’ll see. Thanks again for ALL of your advice and knowledge.

    1. John (Dee Dee) Cameron

      I’ve been designing and drawing my whole life, I’m almost 53. Mostly for free. I did have a stint, as the Designer for the largest Promotional Toy company in the country and second in North America. It was the best but I got paid crap. They got richer, Not I. I have an opportunity to Design Logos for a Paranormal Investigative company. It could become big. I was thinking about taking a lump sum for about 5 Drawings. Years ago I would take a 40 of Rum for them. lol. I used to be a Sailor. I just don’t want to charge too much or get ripped off, as I often do and did. So, should I take the lump sum? I would just hate to think that I could be the guy who only charged 100 bucks for the logo of the largest Paranormal study group on the planet…..someday, maybe. Thank you.

  5. Richard L

    Hi Maria

    Great article thanks!

    I had a contact from a choir today asking to use one of my images on their album cover, but the CD is sold commercially, so I think I should make some money from any usage we agree to.

    It’s being sold via their website, so not sure what kind of turnover they will make from it, so I think a flat fee upfront would be best, judging from your article.

    Very useful as I didn’t have much idea how to go about this, as it doesn’t happen to me often.

    Best wishes
    Richard Lyall
    (Richard Lyall Design; Liverpool, UK)

  6. Tessa Wright

    PERFECT article for my quandaries on upcoming projects! I was so lost, but this really helps. Thanks a bunch

  7. Violet

    Thanks for this post! I just liked your fb page and I look forward to learning more about the art world with a business perspective. I have a lot to learn and this post really helped!

  8. jeanne illenye

    I’ve been approached by a woman who asked for pricing on licensing but it seems to be contingent on a crowd funding campaign at her end, meaning I’d provide an image free until funding goal is reached. I’m an oil painter and she’s a client who has a new book publishing business with 15 authors. She states: “What I am asking for is an image to use for the cover design and the header for the new website. You will receive free online publicity and exposure to your work. When the campaign funds I will pay you the agreed upon price for the rights to use your images. If the painting is sold through the campaign you will be paid for that also. If you feel that this is a good way for free exposure of your work at no cost to you, I would like the rights to use the images that we agree upon until the end of the funding campaign in April.” My questions: Does this sound okay? Also, what should I charge for my image on her book cover & website header as well as tee shirts, book bags, notecards, etc.? I’m at a loss for what to charge. Many thanks, Jeanne

    1. Maria Brophy

      Dear Jeanne, Thanks for reading and for your question.

      If you believe in the project this author has, and you want to be a part of it, because you feel passionate about it, then yes it’s worth experimenting to see where it goes.

      I wouldn’t ever go into a deal with the intention of getting “free publicity” because there’s no such thing. There is no publicity value in being a part of a crowd funding project, or most projects for that matter. So that shouldn’t be a deciding factor.

      If you decide to do it, limit the usage only for the book cover and website banner in the beginning. All the other things are extras, and you should put off discussing those items until later. (Because you may find out, later, that you want more for those extra items).

      How much to charge for use of your art on her book: if you have a copy of the Graphic Artists’ Guild guide to Ethical Pricing – there are suggested prices in there for book covers. The price you agree to (for example $1,200) should limit the license to the first print run. After that, you would renew the license for a new fee.

      I hope this helps!

      1. jeanne illenye

        Thank you, Maria, for your prompt response. I never lend much credibility toward the concept of “free advertising” either. To me it’s someone’s way of asking for something for nothing. I’m thinking since this is totally new for me, and I’m acquainted with this woman and her website, to pursue it. I will purchase the book you’d mentioned, and hope to receive it very quickly as she wants fund raising to be concluded in April. I suppose I should have a contract of some kind as well and did see some free contracts online but which appeared complicated. I like your idea to limit the use of my artwork initially to the website header & book cover and will limit it through April, reserving another contract for promo items, book cover & purchase of my painting to another contract. I don’t want to lose this opportunity, but I wonder if she’ll be shocked at a price of approx. $1,200. She’s already published a book via this process with Balantine Books and was met with success so is doing another book…don’t know the publisher. Any other info I should know? BTW, I never knew this was so potentially profitable, i.e., $1,200 for use of my work on a book cover…wow. Wonder if she’ll go for it?? Thank you!

      2. Maria Brophy

        Dear Jeanne,

        The $1,200 was an example of what you can charge. Typically pricing depends on many factors; such as, how many books will be in the first run, and other details. I’m not sure what the going rate is for a book cover illustration – but the Graphic Artists Guide to Ethical Pricing should give you a range of high to low, and the number of units that fall under that range.

  9. jeanne illenye

    Thanks again, Maria, I’ve also been researching online in the meantime. Turns out she’s self-publishing so no regular run, etc. Sounds like a small project. I’ve seen pricing $500-$2000 as a mid-range for image use on book cover but that’s w/ regular publisher. Licensing for other materials is something else again. Then she wants to buy my painting for the highest contributor during her fund raising efforts to offset publishing expenses. So not very straight forward…. Tks for your valuable input. ;o)


      Just a post script from last year…. That woman had me jumping through hoops doing a painting for her book cover for FREE, promising free advertising, said my shade of blue for hyacinths wasn’t lavender enough for her, wanted free copyrights to my painting, etc. Crazy! Bottom line I blocked her emails and have for over a year been periodically checking for her so called book and never saw anything. If ever I encounter that kind of thing again I now know to just say, “NO!” Thanks again for your sage advice!

  10. Peter

    hello Maria, you have a great informative post, which allready helped me to see some basics!

    I was contacted by an online art gallery, which likes to licence a specific artwork from my own gallery. The other gallery is selling giclee prints, framed art, and stretched canvas, primarily through flash sale partners online…

    I am new to licensing and would like to know, how high an “advance” should be in this case, and what royalty percentage ?

    Thank you, Marie !

  11. Elaine

    Hi Maria, I just wanted to update you – after some negotiating I finally closed the deal and my art image will be used on a website. I approached the process as two businesses working in partnership to benefit each other. I successfully used to get an idea of how to value my art image. I stayed firm on my fee, but in exchange for a few things the client wanted I negotiated to have an art reception every year of the contract, where both parties invite our patrons, thus benefit from each other. I will have my art exhibited and for sale at the place of business, which gets a lot of traffic from ideal patrons. I will also get samples of their product for my use so that I can be familiar with their product. I included that I was to have recognition on their website with a link to my website. I was pleased with the final deal and so was the other party. I’m excited to see the finished website and appreciate all your help!

  12. Peter

    hello again,

    is there a site for all restricted images ?

    if I PAINT a protected building, celebrity or other item, will I get in trouble licensing my art, or is it my freedom to paint everything ? (1st Amendment)

    1. Maria

      Hi Peter – legally, you cannot commercially sell art that you copy from someone else. And you cannot license art that infringes on someone else’s copyrights or trademarks. Just as someone else cannot copy and sell the art you create and own.

  13. Paulina Garces Reid

    Hi Maria,
    If you create an image for a small town retailer to use for a year. Should you include your name on the logo (art). Even in you copyright it. Thanks so much.

  14. Cynthia

    Fine Art America recently offers the ability to License. Could you give me some wisdom or advice whether or not I should participate? This is all brand new to me. Marketing myself and licensing. Thank you.

    1. Maria Brophy

      Cynthia, What is Fine Art America? Do you mean the website where they print and sell your art prints? If so, then yes, try it out and see how it goes. There is no long-term commitment there, they pay you when something sells. You can cancel anytime. It would be worth trying it out.

      1. Cynthia

        Yes, they are a website that sells prints and the artist can sell the original as well. Thank you for responding to me so quickly!

  15. Cynthia

    I have another question. Fine Art America offers Royalty Free and Rights Managed. These are their terms:

    Sell royalty-free and/or rights-managed licenses.

    Set your prices as high or as low as you want to set them. The prices that you set are exactly how much you’ll earn – yes, really!

    Control which images you want to sell… which sizes you want to offer… and which licenses you want to sell.

    Change your sizes, prizes, and license types at any time.

    Add, edit, and delete your images at any time.

    Create your own custom licenses. If you don’t like the terms of our pre-configured licenses, you can create your own custom licenses using your own terms and language – yes, really!

    Sell your images on other licensing sites. We don’t require any exclusivity, at all.

    Give it a try! If you’ve hesitated to try image licensing in the past due to low commissions and long-term commitments, here’s your chance to test the waters while remaining in full control.
    Which one do you recommend I go with?

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  17. Gio

    Great article! Just got approached for the first time by a small clothing company that wants to print a few of my designs on their apparel. They asked me what I charged. I used your article along with a few others as a guide and explained I charged an advance of $200 plus royalties of 6% of products sold. (They mostly sell tshirts.) Also told them that I would want to retain ownership of the designs. They said that the royalties fee were to high and that they would need to have ownership of the design.

    Where should I go from here should I try to meet them halfway somehow or just say no thank you?

    1. Maria Brophy

      Dear Gio, thanks for the comment and question.

      The answer to your question depends on what your long-term strategy is for your art business.

      Do you plan to create a name and brand with your art? If so, then you should think twice before selling all rights to your artwork, as you lose control over it and where it goes when you do that.

      However, if your business model is to sell your art outright, then it’s okay. Just make sure you are paid properly. Typically, an illustrator is paid 3 – 4 times as much when the art ownership is transferred to the client.

      If you need help with this, please consider setting up a consulting call with me and I can help you. See my consulting page for details on how I work

      1. Bernadette

        I would like to start selling my art work in digital format . This not for commercial use but for individual who would like to print it out on canvas or paper. How do I license it so that the buyer only use it for himself or as a gift, and doesn’t share it or print it and resell it?

  18. JoeD

    “I think that at one time in the past, the wise plumbers got together and said “let’s all charge the same high price so we all get paid well!”

    You’re right, they did. But you’re forgetting that they also went to the government and asked them for protection so that if anyone else wanted to charge less it would be a criminal offense. Gov’t was all too happy to help them for some kickbacks.

  19. Anahid

    I Maria,I am a contemporary artist & would like to license my paintings to hotels & office buildings,what are the first steps that I should take before starting? Thank you so much
    Anahid M.

  20. Jenn

    Hey Maria — I’m so glad I found your blog, it’s exactly what I need — however, I’m on the opposite side of it, I’m the “business owner”!

    I’m starting a biz (have very little funds, am totally bootstrapping this) and my products will all be created by other artists. They will all be clearly credited, their bios will be on my site, I’ll link back to their sites and stores — point being, I am enthusiastically crediting them for their talent and art and expertise.

    I want to create a fair contract system for them, where they get royalties for every sale. However, I’m just starting out and as I said, have *very* little funds to get this biz going. How do I know the best way to compensate them? A small flat fee + royalties + “temporary” rights to their art? A larger fee with no royalties and I get full rights to the art?

    BTW, the auidience is a relatively small niche, and I don’t expect to have a huge volume of sales, especially for the first while.

    I REALLY appreciate any thoughts you have — my whole goal here is to partner with artists, compensate them fairly, while bootstrapping my way to a solid biz. THANK YOU!

    1. Maria Brophy

      Jenn, thanks for the question.

      It’s in an artists’ best interest to keep their copyrights and not sell them outright.

      In your case, you would want to set up a license agreement for a time period (2 or 3 years, and it can be renewed when it’s up, if both parties want to).

      Royalties don’t make sense with a small company that plans to have little volume.

      It’s not worth the artists’ time and effort for a tiny company to sell only small volume and then pay royalties – because then the artists are getting little tiny $20 checks every quarter. It’s not worth their time (or yours!).

      I recommend to artists doing deals with start-ups / small companies to get a flat fee up front for a license term of 2 or 3 years.

      But, with you as the business owner, I have to ask why you will bother with this business if you know already that your sales will be minimal. Setting up a website, dealing with multiple artists, having products made and then inventory management, etc. requires so much money and time. To make something like that successful, you have to have a lot of marketing / advertising money to invest. It sounds like you don’t have the funds to put into it.

      You might want to re-think this endeavor until you can get start up money for advertising, marketing, SEO, etc.

      That’s the only way it has chance of being successful.

      That’s my 2 cents for what it’s worth!

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  22. Hailey

    Hi Maria- you are so helpful! I have a few questions. I just got asked by a up and coming equine apparel company to design jewelry for their upcoming spring line (which potentially could be more seasons). I spoke with the owner of the company and he mentioned with another designer, they did a royalty on the FOB price, and that he would rather do a flat fee for designs this time around. His reasoning was that 1) the royalty payments was a pain to track 2) the previous designer has designs in multiple collections versus me just having my items starting in one collection and it will just be easier if it was a flat fee. I’m sure he is doing this from just a business standpoint as well, but I want to make sure whichever I choose is best for both parties. Thoughts?

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  24. Chris

    I am a photographer who has been asked by a painter to make a painting based on one of my photos. Typically I would charge a $100 flat fee (not an advance) plus 5% of gross sales of commercial products using the derived work. In this case, this painter wants to produce a book of his paintings including one based on my photo. If he had to pay all his sources 5% of the sales of the book, he would make no money. Is there a common way to approach a license where the source material is used in a compilation?

    1. Maria

      Dear Chris, this is a great question. The only way the artist could produce this book with any chance of recouping his expenses and maybe even making money from it is to not pay anyone royalties.

      If he has a number of photographers that contributed to the book, he is going to have to ask them to grant a license with no fee.

      My husband’s art is printed in about two dozen hard-back books, and not one of the authors paid him rights (there’s just not enough money in it, and each book had a number of artists contributions). He did it for free. In return, his name was printed in the book, and sometimes the author will send him one or two copies of it.

      I recommend allowing the artist to use your image for a flat fee and forget about asking for royalties for a book (but charge royalties for other merchandise). Put a limit on how many copies, and make sure it’s non-transferable.

      I hope this helps!

  25. Donia

    Hi Maria – I was recently approached by a Fine Art Consulting Firm that outfits 4 and 5 star hotels around the world with art they print on their own presses. The prints are giclées for the guest rooms which they print and frame themselves, but they propose to give only $5 per print to me as the artist.

    I have no experience with even single-use licensing (which is what this would be, for a specific amount of prints), but this seems very low to me. I asked how many prints would be made in total and the size of the prints (as obviously that would alter the total I am paid) but they didn’t have that information… actually, as I was writing that I just got an email from the rep saying there are only 45 rooms and the print size is approx 30″ x 35″ — and since it’s so few rooms she’s going to see if she can negotiate a higher rate…

    I’m looking online to find what would be a typical rate for a project like this, but mostly am finding licensing for products, royalties, etc. I came across your wonderful article and thought you might have some insight – however general – on the topic…
    ethyrical artist

    1. Maria Brophy

      Hi Donia, thanks for the comment, glad you found my blog!

      When it comes to selling art for corporate collections, such as hotels and hospitals, etc., there is an entirely different way of pricing.

      Typically, artists who sell to art consultants print their own, as it’s hard to know exactly how many prints the consultant is really going to do.

      And, when selling to an Art Consultant, you would charge them 50% of the price they are selling to their client. For example, when you sell giclees that you print you could roughly say the price to art consultants comes to 50%. Its not always exact. Some are paid as a commission while others are paid for the project and therefore don’t really take a commission.

      Art consultants that do their own printing tend to offer very little per print.

      But, that’s not to say that you can’t set your own price, and if she wants your art, she will take it.

      A general guideline for standard sizes in the corporate market. If you print it yourself, is about $400 for each 36″x24″ – they can then charge their client $800 plus the cost of framing.

      If they are doing the printing, then you could charge $100/per image, and require a minimum of 50 pieces (for a total of $5,000).

      Or, work it out some other way. But yes, $5 per print is WAY too little!

      There is a fabulous book written on this topic, by a woman who specializes in selling art to art consultants – in it is pricing, etc. Check it out here:

      Or, set up a consult with me and I’ll help you work it out!

      Thanks, Maria

  26. Daniel Noll

    Hi Maria. Do you have any suggestions on how to royalty license an image that will be used as a basis for another work of art? For example, a painter (who appears to be handsomely paid for his work) wants to use a photograph of mine as the basis for a painting that he has either been commissioned to paint or will sell in his gallery. What approach (or % royalty) would you recommend in this case?

    Thank you for your help, and for an exceptionally useful article.

    1. Maria

      Dear Daniel, thanks for the question!

      I haven’t priced something like this out before, so I’m not sure what the going rate is. But, what I have found in this biz is that there is no “one-size-fits-all” rate anyway, and we have to just make it up as we go!

      So, for this situation, I would offer the artist rights to use your photograph for a one-time fee, for a limited time period (say 3 years). How much should that one-time fee be? Pick a number – $300, $500, $800, $1,500. Really, the amount should be what feels good to you and what the client will agree to.

      There is no guarantee that the art or reproductions will sell or that it will do well. You just can’t know. I wouldn’t assume that the artist is going to make a killing off of it!

      However, if at the end of the 3 year term, the art is selling extremely well and they want to renew their agreement with you, then you could work up a flat fee up front plus a royalty arrangement (8%-10% on each sale).

      1. Daniel Noll

        Maria, thank you so much for the thorough response. Very helpful. In this case, the artist that contacted us was commissioned for one large-scale piece. After some discussion, it was clear he was poking around for something for free. So, in the particular case that motivated my question, it did not work out. However, the thought process and possible framework you suggest will prove useful — for me and for others, I’m sure.

  27. Daniel Parker

    Thanks for this post Maria.

    I am a freelance photographer in the UK. I have bee approached by an agency that produces posters for larger distributors such as B&Q etc. to use some of my travel images. They have suggested the flat fee system for 3 year exclusive usage. They are being very careful about stating a fee and are leaving it to me to suggest a figure, but I have absolutely no idea where to start. I’d really welcome any suggestions,



    1. Maria Brophy

      Daniel, thanks for the question. I would come up with a one-time fee that takes into consideration that the images will be printed and sold in quantity. The fee should be something that you feel good about and that they will agree to.

      I would limit the “exclusive” part of the agreement to posters and prints only.

      And make sure the contract allows you to buy the posters/prints at the lowest possible distributors price, so you can sell on your website and at your shows, etc. if you wish.

      If you want me to help you with this, please go to my Consulting Page and set up a time for a call. Thanks!

      1. Daniel Parker

        Thanks Maria, you flagged up a couple of issues that I hadn’t considered. Presumably I could request that a photo credit is printed on the prints, even if it’s just in small type at the bottom?

  28. Lelo

    How much should I charge for a concept that I have patented? Just an idea of an amount. The concept is a new and improved system for taxi drivers to use.

  29. caitlyncarlisle

    Hi Maria,

    I am creating a promotional campaign for a model agency to announce their launch. Within this poster-size foldable book, there will be a removable poster with an illustration I am also creating from scratch. Everything from concept to completion of this project is mine. I have been an illustrator for year but have only recently landed some larger projects. I am also building up my art direction portfolio so this seemed like a good opportunity to show both my AD & illustration skills. However, this is a last minute project for a colleagues’ company so I know we have skipped some important steps as far as a agreements go. However, nothing has been given over or taken to the printers yet so I hope I can still find some room to negotiate. I just have zero idea what to charge for this type of work. It is art direction, graphic design, layout, sourcing and illustration rolled into one. The min. run is a 1000 copies with the newsprint printers I have found, which will cost around $550/750 (b&w/color). As far as I know, this will be a one time distribution. However, that is something to specify as well. I normally charge $45/hr. for my design/illustration services & they have offered $500 flat fee. This project will take me at least 20 hrs. I know this is much too low but I as I said I don’t know what to ask for in this specific case. And as for any reprinting/distribution of either the entire book or just the illustration, what would you recommend? They won’t be selling this, so I don’t know if royalties apply. However, it is meant to bring in business and this is a whole other industry I’m not quite informed enough. I hope you can help me answer some of these questions. Thank you!

    1. Maria Brophy

      Dear Caitlyn, Thanks for the question. First, never start work on a project without first properly quoting out a price for it, in writing, and then getting a 50% deposit up front.

      This project requires a lot of work and would be properly priced starting at $2,500 and goes up from there, depending on the entire scope of work. (Often, we outsource the graphic portion of projects like this, and it costs us about $600 to have a graphic artist do such a project, for the graphic part only).

      For this one, I’d say work it out with the client; give them a price that you feel is fair to you. Let me know how it goes.

      I suggest you buy a copy of the book Graphic Artists Guild Guide to Ethical Pricing. It will help you with future deals.

      I hope this was somewhat helpful!

  30. bobby hyde

    I am making a copywrite agreement with an artist. The project will be to heat transfer to a “T’ and leggings. Maybe the print shoppe will put one
    on ‘T’ or three diagonal and one on thigh? The shoppe is photography and scanning the image to their grid. I will purchase the two clothing items and making them cotton of ‘Fruit of Loom’ . I am searching for leggings. I am making licensing agreement with the artist and signature on art. I wish to pay the 6% you mention on the heat transfer itself which is already expensive. I want the clothes to be saleable at a special price. (2.50 + 4.00 + 6.00 + 6.00 + 6% + 20% = wholesale) aprox 23.75$. I don’t know if its possible, yet.
    I want to add a Jersey ‘Flyaway’ maybe if I can make an ‘ensemble’.
    Presently I want the two-piece. only.
    I have your questions and answers and I think that to start the expenses are enormous. We have to buy leggings retail and market the ‘sets’.
    Does this beginning sound good business practices?
    Bobby Hyde

  31. sony p

    Hi Maria,
    Thanks for your informative and easy to follow article. I was approached by a retailer about designing her company logo.
    In this case, since it will be a specific design for her company, does it make sense to retain a copyright for the design?

  32. Rashmi Thirtha

    Dear Maria,
    Thank you for this article and I am glad I found your blog. I have been getting licensing requests recently and am a bit overwhelmed. Have being doing some research. I have been contacted for licensing an image of my artwork for an oracle deck card.
    The publishing house wants to license one of my artwork images for a non-exclusive upfront one time payment. Do any of you have experience with this kind of licensing? This is a first for me. How much would you charge for something like this as this is a one time upfront payment for licensing one image ?
    This is their offer – ‘If you’d like to be involved, it would be a matter of simply licensing your image/s on a non-exclusive basis, other than for another oracle and/or tarot card set. Apart from this, you would be free to use your image/s for any purpose you like and further license them to anyone you like, but not license the same image/s for another oracle and/or tarot card set. You would be paid an upfront, once-off payment for the licence to the works. If you are interested we can send you a Pdf of the licencing agreement for details.’
    How much do I charge for something like this?
    Thank you.

  33. Haley

    Hello Maria, thank you so much for this article! I’ve been a freelance Graphic Designer for a few years and have generally worked out my pricing kinks with that, but I’m new to illustration and have a question. I posted a piece I did on Instagram and got an offer to buy not only a print but also the rights to the image. The buyer is a small mom & pop shop in the city who is planning on using it for their gift cards and their website; no advertising as far as I know. I’m so stuck on what to charge for the rights, since the piece was something I had already created for myself, just for fun! It’s about 8″x8″ watercolor, somewhat complex. I was thinking of starting with simple, internal usage rights somewhere around $500, and going up to a full buyout of $1,500, does that seem fair? I’m so unsure!

  34. Montana F

    I did not sell my painting to them but they will use my oil painting of their business on items. I will be getting 10 percent of t shirts , post cards, etc.

    They asked how long I would get this. They would like a time year cap? What should I tell them? 5 years? It’s a small business, not a Walmart.

    1. Maria Brophy


      Most license terms are 2 or 3 years long. Once the time period (term) is up, the company can no longer sell products with your art unless you renew the contract. The term is up to what you and the client determines is best.

  35. M F

    Is there a time limit on royalty? I’m getting 10 percent on all items made but they want a time limit. In years I suppose?

    1. Maria Brophy

      Dear MF, as I mentioned in my comment to you earlier, your typical license agreement will have a term, or time period. Once that term is up, the license ends. Royalties end and the right to use your art on their products ends as well. So, the term of the of the license agreement is whatever you and your client agree on. Why don’t you just offer them a three year agreement, and after 3 years, if you both are happy with the sales of the products, you can renew it at that time?

      1. Paulina Reid

        How do you know that the client is no longer using your image to reprint the item after the term is up? The client may have purchased a large inventory of the item and it may be lingering in the store for longer than the time of contract.

      2. Maria Brophy

        Paulina, thanks for asking this question “How do you know that the client is no longer using your image to reprint the item after the term is up? The client may have purchased a large inventory of the item and it may be lingering in the store for longer than the time of contract.”

        In art licensing, your client is the manufacturer, not the retailer. The manufacturer has to stop making and selling your products when the agreement expires. However, whatever is already sold to stores and is in stores irrelevant – the buyers from the stores are not your client, they are your client’s client. Hope I explained that well enough. Let me know.

  36. Donald Canavan

    Quick question: I have a painting from 1985 of an Arial photo of my grandparents farm that hung in their farm house. It was left to me after they past away. Some family members would like prints of it. I contacted the company that made it. They don’t do paintings anymore, buts till do areal photography.(they still have the original photo.) I asked about licence 2 or three copys, there are local professionals that can make some nice prints. I want it done professinally. How much do you think a licence of this nature will cost. This is for personal use only.

    1. Maria Brophy

      Hi Donald – this is tough one to answer, because it’s not for commercial use and no monies will be made off of it. So the answer is, the best fee is whatever is agreed upon between you and the owner of the image. Sorry, I know that’s a frustrating answer! But, why don’t you do this – come up with a dollar amount that you feel good about, and offer it to them. See what they say. Maybe offer $100 – and if they say yes, it’s a win-win all around!

  37. Rafael

    I would like to start a business in US to print canvas with famous paints like Leonardo D Vinci, Donattelo, Rembrant, etc.
    Is there any fee or royalty thatI have to pay for each reproduction to somebody? Who will be the collector? Where do I have to subscribe my sales and demonstrate the quantity of reproductions sold.
    Is there any way to learn more about this?

    Thank you very much

    1. Maria Brophy

      Rafael, it’s possible that some of those artworks you mentioned are in the public domain, and if so, you can reproduce without owning royalties to anyone. Do your research and find out. Google each one to find out.

  38. Joe Boyle

    About forty years ago, a friend was showing in a sidewalk art fair in Santa Cruz, CA. He asked me to come by to help pass the time. When I arrived he pointed to a departing guy and said he had come by twice and was going after his wife. He wanted to ask $200 for that painting but was afraid and would have taken $100. He asked me what I thought. I told him to ask for $800. I liked that painting and would like to have it today. Anyway the guy came back with his wife and when he heard $800, he wrote the check and left with the painting. End of story, except my friend bought dinner that night.

      1. Ron Francis

        Yes, money is relative.
        I sold a painting for $28,000 and was feeling a little guilty because it felt like so much. (Not that I got all of it.)
        Anyway, I found out the client bought another painting the same day for $600,000.
        That put things in perspective for me.

  39. Barbara

    Hi Maria,
    There are a few of my works that I would like to present to start a T-Shirt line.
    Could you tell how do I go about getting these art works into the hands of those that do this sort of thing? and or to see if there is interest?
    Thank you!

    1. Maria Brophy

      Hi Barbara! You’ll have to research the best t-shirt manufacturers and present to them your line. Go into stores that your work would fit best with, look at the tees being sold, find out who makes them, then set up a time to present the art. I wish you the best!

  40. Jay A

    Hi I was contacted to have a landscape photo of mine used for about 500 greeting cards.

    Would this be a flat fee situation? I’m thinking charging 250? And should I write a contract? I’m not sure what a contract might look like for this situation. Thank you for any advice you might be able to give!


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