My Apartment Art Commission Process

When I know that I’m going to be moving out from an apartment soon, I commission a digital artist to draw it for me. Then I print it out and I have a cool art piece. If you love your current place but you don’t think you’ll spend the rest of your life there, you should consider doing the same.

Digital artists are much cheaper than I think they should be. I’ve paid artists between $200-$500 CAD for my commissions1, generally spread across one or two additional housemates. (You should expect to pay more – I limit my own commissions to the common areas since my bedrooms tend to be very plain, and solely used for sleep and other private activities. Also inflation.)

You can also consider hiring artists from developing countries if you want your dollar to go further, but I don’t have any advice on how to seek those folks out specifically.

You’ll be looking at around 10 hours of effort on your end, frontloaded but spread out across 2-4 months. I detail my process below.

But first, here are the pieces that I’ve commissioned so far:

2019 artist, 2021 artist, 2024 artist

Aren’t they sick as hell??? I love them so much. Okay, let’s get you started on yours.

I’ll stick a sample email script at the bottom too.

Commissioning An Art Of Your Living Space, Step By Step

  1. come up with a budget
    • talk to your roomies if you have them, and come up with a price you’re willing to pay altogether. I think my apartment commissions are probably 15-30? hours of work, multiply that by how much you’re willing to pay a skilled artisan for an hour of work. (i should note that in 3/3 cases for me, the minimum budget ended up being like 30-100% more than what the artist was willing to accept. digital artists often decline to charge reasonable rates for their labour.)
  2. find 2-3 viable artists
    • endorsed strategies involve browsing r/wimmelbilder, the twitter/tumblr hashtag #isometricart, and google imagesing “isometric apartment layout” and clicking around. for maximal exposure to artists that are open to work, search for “isometric”, but note that the pickings there are fairly scant. in many isometric tags I find a lot of rendered stuff but I prefer to go for more trad art forms as I expect renderings to be more time consuming (expensive), harder to edit, and worse for the amount of detail I want. also, you don’t need to commission specifically an isometric piece! you can go wild at this step finding any artist who illustrates interiors in a way you like.
    • while browsing, it could be a good idea to save sample images that you like; you can then pass them on to the artist of your choice as reference for what kind of art appeals to you.
    • find artists whose work make you feel actively excited, when you think about having your own apartment done in their style.
    • check out the portfolios of artists you like. you’re looking for portfolios with a pretty solid number of pieces, ideally at least like ~5 years of stuff, and maybe a consistent style if it’s a style you like. new artists could be high variance, and for all you know you might be messaging a talented 15 year old who will drop you like a hot potato when they need to start studying for an exam in earnest (my little brother has turned down commission inquiries for this reason when he was in high school).
    • I don’t think AI art is good enough to do this kind of work yet, so I’d stick with traditional digital (lol) artists for now.
  3. email the viable artists
    • email the artists whose portfolios passed the vibe check, letting them know what you want to commission them for and your budget, and asking for a quote if they are open to working with you. having 2-3 artists on hand here is good because it’s kind of 50/50 if any particular artist online is accepting commissions. don’t take it personally if they decline, or if they quote a price that’s above your budget.
  4. clean your apartment, and take good quality reference pictures of the entire space.
    • you can go a room at a time, but I generally like to do the entire thing in one go over a weekend.
    • if you can, also provide a floor plan.
    • make note of particular things you definitely want to emphasize in the finished piece, and make sure you have especially good photos of those. in my most recent commission I specified that I really wanted the art on the walls, the two blahajes that live on the couch, my lumenators, and my fake plant collection to be reflected in the final piece.
  5. come to an agreement with the artist on process and price.
    • this’ll happen over an email or two, and I’ve never seen it involve formal paperwork. more experienced artists will have an established workflow that they’ll forward you, otherwise you’ll do some negotiating, in which case:
      1. offer to pay ~50% up-front or immediately after receipt of the first draft, with the rest to be sent upon receipt of the finished pieces. (some artists will refuse and want only a lump sum payment at the end.)
      2. discuss the art feedback process. generally, you should be able to provide any amount of commentary at the “passing drafts back and forth” stage, and then once the piece is starting to become finalized, you get one or two more rounds of small revisions. will discuss this more in the next step.
    • let them know the dimensions that you want the final piece to be in. printed pieces must be at least 300dpi to print well, and you probably don’t want to deviate from standard poster/frame sizes if you don’t want printing and framing to be a pain in the ass. if you don’t want to think too hard just offer them the following range of sizes for the final piece:
      1. 6000×6000 px (20′ x 20′ square)
      2. 4800×6000 px, landscape or portrait (16′ x 20′ squat rectangle)
      3. 5400×7200 px, landscape or portrait (18′ x 24′ tall rectangle)
    • if you want access to the full photoshop/art application working file, mention this here. the artist may refuse, this may cost extra, or it can just be totally fine depending on the artist, and I think it’s nice to say something like “I don’t expect something tidy and neat” if you’re asking for it (but only if you mean it). I generally don’t request this but I’ll happily take it if they offer.
  6. wait for drafts to come in and give revisions
    • depending on the artist’s other obligations, this could happen quickly (once or twice a week) or slowly (multiple weeks between revisions). when you see the draft, tell them what you like and don’t like. give precise, detailed feedback (e.g. “this television/kitchen island/window/room should be wider”, “can you emphasize the plants/bookshelves a bit more”, “the armchair should be redrawn at more of an angle”, “the colour of the sunlight here looks amazing”). I’ve generally had 3-5 rounds of drafts and revision commentary for each, but YMMV. Some artists only offer one or two, in which case prepare to offer more detailed commentary per round.
      • remember that you’re dealing with a painting and not a photograph; don’t let small inaccurate details get in the way of vibes.
    • respond with feedback in a timely fashion, and be understanding when the artist fucks off with radio silence for weeks at a time. that’s just how their kind operates, trust the process
    • you may have to re-explain some requests you’ve had at the beginning, or to repeat a few revision requests that they forgot to incorporate, this is normal.
    • when the piece is approaching being finished (ie when the attachments the artist sends starts looking like it could be plausibly hung up on your wall), you should limit requests to small revisions. stuff like revising the shape of a desk or the colour of some shoes on the shoe rack, not changing the layout entirely or adding 50% more detail. you can offer more money to do bigger overhauls at this stage but it can make artists grumpy and I would suggest not going down that route, so it’s important that you do a good job conveying what you want in the drafts stage. this is less intimidating than it sounds, since ideally the artist you’re working with has an aesthetic that you adore by default. i generally get 1-2 rounds of small detail revisions, but again, YMMV.
  7. get the final piece and pay the artist promptly. or maybe those two things in reverse order depending on artist preference.
    • generally, through the drafting process, you work with images that are downscaled/not full size, but still big enough to see all the details for providing commentary reasons. the full size hd image is what is unlocked by the final payment.
    • as I understand it, tips are not generally expected, but they can make an artist’s day if you choose to be generous.
  8. send the full size, finished piece to the printer of your choice. ask for it to be printed with full colour on poster paper.
    • I’ve historically had a great time with catprint for art prints; they have an online ordering process where you just upload your HD image files and use the dropdowns to select the paper you want, and you’ll also see the price get updated live while you work2. they ship internationally. i use luster gloss poster paper for larger prints when working with them, and in 2021 the cost was around $10 USD per poster for the dimensions I recommended above.
  9. pick up a nice frame at michaels or amazon or any other frame purveyor of your choice.
    • if you went with catprint as your printer, the frame will likely cost more than the print lol
  10. put your framed art on the walls and enjoy!

Sample intro email

Subj: are you open to a one-off commission?

Hi [name],

Hello from [country or city]! I recently came across your work on [site], and I really like your [description] aesthetic! I’m wondering if you’d take a commission from me to do an illustration of my apartment – I’ve attached some references for styles I like and approximate level of detail expected.

My budget is around $[amount], but this is very negotiable. I’ve seen [link some images from their portfolio that you liked], and [explain why you like those images]. I’d love for you to do something similar for this piece if you’re open to it.

Let me know what you think, and if you have any questions. I’ll of course be very happy to take many reference photos for you.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

[your name]

misc notes/considerations

  • each artist is going to have a different temperament and working style, so take my step by step guide as like, the general process that I expect to minimize hassle and maximize goodwill on both sides, instead of The Canonical Way Art Commissions Are Done – there really isn’t any such thing.
  • I wouldn’t deliberately limit myself to artists that only work in vector files because they seem to be a relatively small subset of artists, but vector art (art rendered with mathematical formulas on the back end, instead of pixels) is great because you can scale them infinitely without losing image quality. my 2024 artist happened to work with it (she’s open to more work currently) and it’s great.
  • pixel art is also great for cwispy high quality scaling – just ask the artist for the fully unscaled version (the tiny one that would be a few hundred pixels across at most), and then you can upscale them yourself using your image editor app of choice. google upscaling pixel art for tutorials.

  1. I often want to pay them more, but, okay. Imagine a venn diagram, where one side is “artists that I am able to find on the internet” (e.g. digital artists that post their work on twitter/reddit and have portfolio sites), and the other side is “artists that are willing to do apartment commissions” (e.g. they’re not saturated with a steady stream of professional projects). My understanding is that most folks in the middle are generally doing it as a side gig, and dollar signs that are too big might actually scare them off? That being said, my latest piece was done by a professional, and that was a great experience. ↩︎
  2. a lot of the walls on my apartment comes from me scouring the internet for HD art images, running them through an AI upscaler a few times, and then sending them off to catprint. I also heavily endorse doing this, but if you are, note that the price comes down like 5x if you organize your online order in a specific way, because each job costs a lot, but each additional page in a job is priced marginally. so instead of submitting each image as a separate job, sort your images into a couple of standard poster sizes, and then start one job per poster size, and upload all the images for that dimension into that job. ↩︎

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