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Mar 26th

You need a licence for that

The illustration industry works on the basis that artists grant licences to clients so they can use the illustrations for a particular purpose, in a specific region, for a certain amount of time.

The illustration industry works on the basis that artists grant licences to clients so they can use the illustrations for a particular purpose, in a specific region, for a certain amount of time.

For every job you take on you should have a defined licence agreed with the client up-front. The scope of the licence will affect your fee.


Most of the time a client will tell you what the illustration is going to be used for (Book cover, Packaging, online only, etc) as you need to know that to complete the job. It’s not always clear however, and sometimes there will be multiple uses for the same illustration. You can ask the client if it’s not obvious, or if there are multiple uses, they can give you a list. Sometimes your client will extend the usage later down the line. If you agreed to a fee for one specific purpose and the client asks if they can use it for something else as well, they should offer you an additional fee.

Magazines will often have an online/ digital version too. This is pretty standard now and doesn’t entitle you to any extra money usually.

Usage terms

Some usage terms a client may send to you can be a bit unclear. Here are some terms you might encounter:

  • ATL: (Above the line) – Above the line advertising refers to mass media where the idea is to reach as many people as possible, often to increase brand awareness. Billboards, TV ads, Print ads in Newspapers or Magazines (See Press) Clients using this method have big advertising budgets.
  • BTL: (Below the line) – Below the line is more focused to reaching specific people or groups of people. Email marketing, Direct mail/ flyers, brochures for a product, Social media marketing, events, In store advertising (see POS) Clients using these methods may have smaller budgets and only want to reach people they think are likely to buy.
  • TTL: (Through the line) – Rarely used, but this includes broad mass media advertising (ATL) as well as a more targeted strategy (BTL)
  • POS: (Point of Sale) – Sometimes referred to as retail. This is mainly in store advertising. A shop may have a Coca Cola branded drink fridge. A mobile phone store will likely have several posters around advertising a new product or service.
  • OOH: (Out of Home) – This is similar to ATL and refers to advertising that is outside or in public spaces. Billboards, Posters on bus shelters, ads on public transport etc.
  • Press: This refers to ads in magazines and newspapers. Depending on the size or reach of the magazine, it may fit into ATL or BTL. A national newspaper is ATL, but Land Rover magazine for example is pretty targeted. You are unlikely to find an ad for a new Samsung phone in such a specific magazine.
  • Internal Comms: This means it will be for internal company use. A staff magazine for example. The general public may never see it. Generally lower fees for Internal comms.
  • Print: Printed items like flyers, press ads and posters. Doesn’t apply to packaging
  • All Media: This means the client wants the flexibility to use the illustration for lots of different kinds of things. They probably won’t use it for everything, but they don’t want to have any limitations. The price should go up for all media.

Territory/ Region

This is the area that the work will be used it will usually be defined by a country, a continent or global. Sometimes it can be more specific, for example Transport for London will only advertise in London and certain commuter towns. Some territories are defined by language, like the German speaking DACH region (Germany, Austria and Switzerland)

Generally speaking, the larger the territory, the higher the fee should be, although some countries have lower general budgets than others. The UK and US are pretty good, but Australia and Canada for example are usually quite a lot lower.

A UK magazine may have a counterpart in the US that also want to use your illustration. The territory is larger, so you can ask for a higher fee.


How long will the client use your illustration for? Advertising campaigns may run for a year or they might only run for a few weeks. An illustration in a monthly magazine will only be used for a month, but magazines will usually ask for something like a 90 day exclusivity period so you can’t re-sell the illustration to another magazine until that time is up. It’s fair.

The duration is harder to define for books as the publisher might not know how long it will be printed for. The duration can be limited to the first edition of the book. If a second edition is printed with the same illustrations, the publisher should pay you an additional fee.

The longer the duration of use, the higher the fee should be.

When the time runs out, if the client wants to keep using your illustrations, they should offer an additional fee.

Sometimes the client might not use the illustration straight away so they may ask for a 1 year license ‘from first use’ for example.

Perpetual licences mean the client wants the option to use the illustrations without a time limit. It’s quite common, but if this is also an exclusive licence it means you can’t re-sell the illustration to another client.

Confirm your licence before you start working

Some combination of these factors will make up your licence and guide your pricing. Work out the licence and get it in writing early on, so both you and the client know exactly what the deal is. Make sure the contract reflects the agreed licence terms accurately, whether you receive the contract at the start, or the end of the job. Sometimes clients will send out template contracts or agreement forms that have standard terms in place that don’t match what you have agreed.

Agreeing a licence doesn’t have to be any more complicated than confirming by email, you can just write:

‘Print brochure cover + Online version, Uk Only, 2 years’ for example.

Consider your licences carefully. A perpetual licence doesn’t mean you are handing over your copyright, but an all media, perpetual, worldwide, exclusive licence amounts to about the same thing. While you technically own the copyright, you can’t do much with it, and the client has complete control over it.

See more of Jasmijn Evans’ work here and follow her @jasevansillustration


  1. Demetria Duley says: says:

    Excellent article over again. I am looking forward for your next post:)

  2. […] on rights and licences etc. So, before you begin work on any project, make sure you discuss licence terms and summarise them in an email to the client, or use something like the AOI’s Commissioner […]

  3. M Taylor says: says:

    Hi James,

    I was reading the part about ‘Perpetual’ and just wanted to know, what if I had a license that says, ‘a non-exclusive, perpetual,
    non-transferable, non-sublicensable, worldwide right to use and reproduce the Licensed Image in any and all media
    for all purposes other than the prohibited uses specified’ Would that put me in a bad unprotected position in regards to the licensed art?

    Thank you.

    • James replied: says:

      Hi, this looks like the client can use the image for the specified purpose for as long as they want in any media they want. They can’t sell your image to another company. But it’s non-exclusive, so you are allowed to resell the image to another client or use it for whatever you want too. I don’t think it’s necessarily bad. This is common for illustration made for online articles as they may never be taken down, so they need the rights to use it forever. The only potential issue is that they can use it for any other media. Use your judgement on what you are delivering: Can they use the image at any size? (do they have vector files or High res PSD?), is the image specific to a particular article or could it potentially be reused more broadly by the client?

  4. Spark Deeley says: says:

    The information above was very helpful. Do you by any chance have a sample of the correct wording for a contract for illustrations that are to be used for merchandise. I want to make sure that my work and I are properly protected.

    • James replied: says:

      I’m afraid I don’t, but generally speaking, you want to know how many units are being made and of what. What happens if they make more? (and how it affects your fee/royalty) How much the units will be sold for, and your share of that (Wholesale price?). Also where the items will be sold. 1 store, or 100 stores?

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