Pet Portraits

Pet portraits make incredible personal gifts and are a great way to immortalize our fuzzy friends. This is the most popular of my commission requests and I’ve built up a decent variety of styles from my previous commissions but I am always excited to paint something new so please don’t hesitate to make custom requests.

This section includes very important information about digital art commission for buyers.



You get what you pay for - know what you're buying

Buyer beware!

A quick search for “pet portraits” can take you to sites like Etsy where you can find hundreds of listings for “custom pet portraits” at a huge range of prices. You’ll even find star sellers with great reviews selling and shipping framed poster-sized pet portraits for around $30! That’s less than the price of most picture frames that size, let alone a custom artwork.

If it sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is. 

Most sellers claiming to sell “custom pet portraits” are really just slapping a quick filter over your photo, maybe doing some quick edits on photoshop to make the photo seem like it was painted, printing it out on cheap glossy paper, and sticking it into a cheap cardboard frame. That’s the only practical way to make any reasonable margins of profit on prices that low. 

The trick is lying by omission. These sellers aren’t technically lying, they are, after all, giving you a custom digital piece. By running your pet’s photo through an effect or filter, they are creating something that’s customized. But they’re not sitting down at a digital art tablet with and hand painting an original digital painting from scratch. You’re getting a touched-up or algorithmically created product, not something designed from an artist’s vision or craft. 


So, is this a bad thing?

For many customers, this kind of commission is suitable for what they’re looking for. There are really cool filers and effects out there that a savvy photoshop user can apply and churn out a nice custom pet portrait in under ten minutes which allows them to sell the product for very low prices. 

I don’t personally have anything against this practice as long as it’s not advertised in a misleading way. Hell, if you’re looking for a similar product at that price point I’m happy to make similar commissions, but it’s important to be upfront about what you’re selling and what the client is getting. 

My issue is that many sellers are claiming to be offering a custom digital pet portrait and implying that their product, which they are selling for $20-$35 dollars is a custom painting hand-made by an artist, which is rarely if ever the case for products at that price. 


So then, what is a good price for a hand-painted work of art?

The world of art is a strange and finicky beast. 

The truth is that it is all subjective. A work of art is only worth as much as someone is willing to spend on it. For many clients, the difference between a cheap $30 edited digital photo of their pet is just as good as a hand-painted commission. To them, the $30 filter job could be a better deal for what they want. For other clients, hand-painted custom artwork from an artist they like is worth the higher price. 

The truth is that when you’re looking for a high quality painting, you should do some fair research. Artists with a larger following or who have been featured in galleries or are better known will most likely have higher prices. The same is true for artists who work slowly and could take days, if not weeks, to finish their product. There are other artists who may have a faster work flow and can set lower prices.

You should always try to see their body of work/portfolio and see what kind of art they produce and if they have reviews or testimonials, look at those too. Some artists publicly list their prices or may have flat rates for certain types of commissions. Others may charge a different price on each commission, depending on the request. Keep in mind, that even if it takes a master artist less than an hour to create a painting, it took them years, sometimes decades of learning and gaining unique experience to be able to create it. An amateur artist could spend weeks trying to create something similar but failing at it. 

This is why when it comes to art, charging by the hour might make sense to some artists, but it may not make sense for others. You’re not just paying for the time spent doing something, but the skill and years of experience of the artist doing it. 

Some charge more, depending on the medium. Typically, physical media like oil on canvas that requires extra materials and time for drying will be priced at much higher rates than a digital painting, even if the resulting design is comparable. 


Know what you want to get, and what you’re willing to pay for it

So in short, the perfect price is whatever the client and artist decide is right for both. Know what you want and how much you’re willing to pay for it.

Don’t get scammed paying $300 bucks for someone to spend five minutes running your pet’s photo through a couple of images and doing some light editing. 

Similarly, don’t go to an artist expecting to pay $30 bucks for a hand-painted work of art that can take days or decades of painting experience to create and get offended when their prices are way above what you were willing to pay. 

So then, what's the difference between a digital painting and a physical one?

1. The Medium

The main difference is the medium, or the materials used to create the product and the required techniques that each one requires.

With traditional paint on canvas you have to consider all the materials that go into making it: the canvas, the primer, paints, brushes, lacquer, thinner, etc. These things all come with their added cost and waiting for a painting to dry in layers adds to the time required. 

With digital paintings, a digital artist typically will be using a tablet and a specialized pen as well as a painting software like Photoshop, Clip Studio, Procreate, or Krita. 

You have less recurring costs with digital art since you don’t have to buy paints (although many digital artists do pay for new software brushes and digital tools) but you have a larger initial investment since you have to have a tablet and a specialized computer with a strong graphics card and good storage (especially for artists that create large files), not to mention pay for software licenses.

2. The Process 

There is a misconception that digital art is “easier,” and I don’t think that’s true. Let me break down some fundamental differences. 

As someone who paints both digitally and traditionally, I will say that the process can be similar or different, depending on how I go about the process. 

The biggest obvious benefit of digital art is speed and flexibility. Since you don’t have to deal with setting up materials, cleaning brushes, using a physical palette, or waiting for paint to dry, digital art is typically a much more streamlined and faster process. I love being able to tap the screen to pick a new color for my brush and not have to worry about cleaning it or disposing of dirty brush water or mineral spirits. This is also great for allowing me to show clients different options and being able to make certain changes quickly and easily.

With digital art, you can also save multiple different versions of a piece to try different things, work in separate layers, undo actions with a few keystrokes, and the list goes on. 

This is why many people think that digital art is “easier.” They may understand the ease of use and automation that comes from using specialized software, but that’s not necessarily true. 

My favorite way to paint digital art is to work in one layer, pick a “textured” brush with similar properties as oil paint, and work from the background to the foreground, blocking the painting off in main colors and tones, and filling in details as I go. If I make a mistake I typically just paint over my mistakes or things I want to change, just as I would with a traditional painting. I prefer this method because it helps me not rely on tools like layers and helps me focus on the wholeness of the piece. It also allows me to blend colors in a more traditional way. Because of this, the process or the techniques to make a lot of my digital paintings are very similar to what a traditional painting would be without the hassle of having to deal with paints or brushes – which is why I can sell digital paintings for much less than a traditional one. 

Learning digital art has a steep learning curve, especially when figuring out all the hundreds of tools and settings that painting or graphic design software has to offer. Certain tools may save time, but learning how to use and apply them correctly takes a lot of practice. But those tools can allow an artist to do so many cool things that a traditional painting has to offer!

3. The Product

This is usually what the client cares the most about, for good reasons. They want to know what their creation will look like.

Will it be a emailed file, a framed painting, a phone case? With digital art, it depends on what you want and how much you want to spend. There is more flexibility in turning a digital art file into a finished product than there is with a traditional painting which can be framed and hung, and that’s pretty much it. 

A digital painting, once it’s finished, exists as an editable file in whatever software the artist painted it in. It can be saved, and reopened later to make modifications. A digital image of the file can be exported in a number of image formats in a number of resolutions. 
Large files can be made for larger prints. These large prints can have an astounding amount of sharp detail up close even when blown up to large sizes.
If you want art to be used on a large print or surface, that needs to be specified from the start since you can shrink down a large image, but you can’t take a small file and expand it to a larger size without losing resolution. 
Other than size and dimensional considerations, there’s an almost endless amount of things you can do with a digital file. 
Most clients want to have something physical they can hold and look at, not just on their computer or phones, but in their home. I work with RT Art for high-quality art prints so if you want the final product to be a framed high-quality print, I can certainly get that done, but the added cost of printing, framing and the materials will be added to the commission’s final price. 
Other clients just want the digital file to print out themselves later on.
All commissions include a copy of a full-sized high-resolution digital file of the painting, but if you want me to facilitate the printing of the file, I can work with you to figure out the added cost for the materials and shipping. 
I use Redbubble to facilitate the creation of products using digital designs such as canvas prints, t-shirts, phone cases, mugs, hats, and many many other things. This site handles all of the production and shipping to clients directly.