The same old question

People have been asking me a lot if they could commission me with their ideas and how great that would be and so on.
As soon as we move to a price estimate, the discussion ends or the possible client tries to haggle.
Prop makers, cosplayers, and other artists don’t just create something within a few hours. Every project goes through a process of planning, getting the right (amount of) supplies, crafting, molding, casting, finishing, packing, shipping and so on.
Even if the material costs aren’t that high, look at the time I spent on crafting.
My Ebony Helmet alone took me 2 full days (24h) to build it from scratch and put all the details with Apoxie Sculpt. Oh, and it wasn’t painted yet.

Would you work on a project for over 50–100 hours?

Ask yourself “Do I want to spend 50 hours of my free time to make something for someone for free?” Your answer is probably “no”.
I hope it is.
Because 90% of the people who ask me about commissions expect me to make a custom piece for them and give me $150 in return. Because they think “Oh, she’s pro anyway and does it in no time!”.
Erm no, she isn’t and she doesn’t.
Even pros spend hours and hours on little details on a prop to make it right.

We can take a few of my props I’ve done for myself as perfect example. These were no commission requests, only private projects of mine.
But the costs of the builds cumulated and look at how much I paid for a “small” Blade of Woe build:

Blade of Woe build

Materials needed
– Apoxie Sculpt, PVC sheets $ 60
– Silicone $ 392 (2 buckets)
– knife, clay, hot glue, other tools $ 0 (from my stock, value $ 100)
– polyurethane resin $ 147
– iron powder, sanding sponge, paint, $ 0 (from my stock, value $ 100)
– leather brown $ 50
– various shipping costs for materials $ 100
Total of $ 749

Time spent
– sculpting +40 h
– mold box making with laying out clay 10 h
– pouring/mixing silicone 2 h
– casting 1 h (preparation, powdering, casting)
– finishing (sanding, weathering, wrapping the handle) 2h
Total of +55 hours

Ebony Armor build
(Armor, gauntlets, boots, helmet)

Materials needed so far
– Apoxie Sculpt $ 0 (from my stock, value $ 50)
– craft foam $ 40
– Worbla $ 250 (3 XL sheets)
– heat gun, knife, other tools $ 0 (from my stock, value $ 150)
– spray paint $ 150 (primer, black, silver metallic, grey metallic)
– black leather $ 100
– buckle $ 8
– boots base $0 (got it for free, value $ 60)
– elastic black bands $ 30
– black body suit $ 40
– pantyhose $ 10 (for a helmet fix)
– various shipping costs $ 100
Total of $ 728

Time spent
– +80 hours (2 weeks of my holidays on xmas)
– +120 hours (working days, weekends)
Total of +200 hours
(lost count to be honest)

Now let’s assume you give me $ 10 for every hour I spend creating your armor…

Of course you’d say “are you nuts?”, but as an artist I too want to get paid for my work if you decide to commission me.
And my work is worth its price like everyone else’s.
Here’s a great video from Bill Doran at PunishedProps in which he explains why custom commissions are expensive. So before asking an artist for a commission, please keep in mind that we are not here to work for free. Always check out an artist’s FAQ and never ask if they could make something cheaper for you. It’s rude and after all, you want something from them, and they always can refuse you request :)

One Comment

  • Blake says:

    If I wanted to commission you for something like, the Mace of Molag Bal, and have it look authentic, and have it be strong enough to stay stable when I swing it, like as a prop in a video, how much would the commission of the item’s creation cost?

    And I don’t mean swing it at anyone, I just mean swing it at thin air and cut the videos to look like I’m swinging it at someone.

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