How To Commission A Painting

Written by Nicole Nicholas


Posted on March 01 2016

A while back, I sold a large commissioned abstract painting to a local family here in Calgary. 

Since putting the painting up on my site, I’ve had some inquiries from visitors about how the process of creating a custom, commissioned painting works, so I thought I’d write a post to go over the process and show everyone how it’s done!

(Here’s the abstract painting I created, as mentioned above)

What’s the Difference between “Commissioned” and “Ready-Made”?

The main difference between buying a pre-made painting and buying a commissioned piece is the process, and the customization options available.

When buying a pre-made painting, you know exactly what you’re getting right from the get-go, since the painting is already made. You won’t need to put any extra time or effort into deciding how it’s going to look, and you can take it home (or have it delivered to you) right after making your purchase.

With a commissioned painting, the world is your oyster! You can have pretty much anything created that you can think of, or you can take a painting that already exists, and change up certain aspects to suite your own style. For example, maybe there’s a painting you like, but you wish it were just a bit larger, or smaller, or had different colours mixed in, or you want all new colours entirely. That’s when having a unique piece created, or “commissioned” might be just what you’re looking for.

My Latest Commissioned Piece – The Story

In the example mentioned above, the commissioning process started with an email inquiry that came to me through my website’s contact form. I received some questions about how commissioning works, and the general pricing structure for larger pieces. After a few emails back and forth, we exchanged further information over the phone. We went over the basics of what that family was looking for, such as their preferred colors, size, and also which painting(s) from my website they liked best.

For this family, their favourite paintings were “Descent” and “Sincere", but they wanted a larger version made and also preferred to have red, black and white as their primary colours. 

Knowing this, I took images of the two paintings I had already made and Photoshopped them into variations of the originals, which matched the colours they wanted (as shown in the images below).

 Variations of the Original Painting, Created in PhotoShopVariations of the Original Painting, Created in PhotoShopSizing Variations

After seeing these variations, the family decided they liked the red, black and white version of “Descent” the best. They also opted for a deeper profile than normal (about 1.5 inches thick) and to have three panels instead of one.

What to Consider when having a Painting Commissioned

  • Size and Shape – Make sure the painting’s dimensions suite (and fit on) the wall you want to hang it on
  • Number of Panels – Do you prefer a single or multi-panel painting? Be sure to discuss the panel layout with the artist to ensure things are kept in balance
  • Depth of Profile – Determine how far you want the canvas to come out from the wall (the thickness of the sides of the painting). This is based on personal preference, but keep in mind that the deeper the profile, the more expensive the painting will be. The artist may also need to place a special order for uncommon lengths/depths of stretcher bars
  • Colours – Be sure that the colours you choose match the décor of the location you plan to hang it in. It’s best to speak with the artist about your colour choices, as they will usually know what pallets go well together
  • Finish – Your painting will need to have a protective coating added, to finish the piece. This ensures the painting will remain vibrant and protected for years to come. Some common varnishing finishes include matt, semi-gloss, gloss and high gloss. The artist will usually have recommendations, based on the style of the painting you want made
  • Amount of Texture – This varies based on the artist and the type of painting being commissioned. Generally, the abstract paintings I make have a medium to significant amount of texture to them
  • The Artist’s Timeline – Is painting the artist’s full time or part time job? Do they have other work on the go that has to be completed prior to starting your piece? These are good questions to ask the artist prior to commissioning the painting
  • Cost – Generally speaking, you can expect to pay a bit more for a commissioned piece than a ready-made painting (depending on the artist). This is due to the added time it takes to consult with the artist, as well as any additional time spent on retouches

After a few months, from the initial email to the final coat of varnish, the painting was finished and up on their wall. We went from the original single panel, green painting to a 3 panel, red painting that was almost three times the size.

I’m very happy to say that the family was thrilled with the new addition to their home!

Here are some pictures they sent me of the painting up on their wall:

If you have any questions, or would like to know more about commissioning a painting, feel free to send me a message.