Whenever I have talked with others or had enquiries about commission work, or selling already completed works, it always seems that people massively undervalue the work required to build, modify and paint a kit. Whereas I can understand that if you are new to the hobby, or have never done any modelling then you are going to assume that the cost for a commission, or making an offer on an already completed and painted kit is going to be the cost of the kit + paint + a little time. This is in most instances however, the offer is nowhere near enough. The value is not in the kit and paint, it’s in the work itself.
I can understand too that, if you are into Gunpla or Mecha kits and enjoy building them, that you perhaps just don’t have the time to paint them, and want to ask someone else to do it to a standard level without all the bells and whistles to display in your collection. This is where you need to think – you will be seeing it as just a paint job – most modellers will be seeing it as exercising their art form.
What many people do not realise is that by buying a completed work or by asking for a commission, you are not only putting a value on someones time and material, you are also putting a value on the level of skill – which can take years to perfect.
Anyone can paint a kit. Yes. Anyone. You snap off the pieces, grab a brush, spray can or air brush and cover the plastic in paint. Not anyone however can do it do a degree that has fantastic visual impact. This takes experience, skill and dedication to an art form. This is why when some experienced modellers are offered virtually the cost of a kit in return for work, they’re quite rightly sometimes insulted.
So how much should you pay to commission a modeller for their work? This is of course down to each modeller so there is no way I could give you a right answer, but here’s a few tips to bear in mind when asking.
- How good is the modellers work? This one has a little subjectivity to it, and can vary depending on a modellers style, but it’s worth doing your research first. Look at previous works. Compare it to others. Do you want this modeller to work on your kit? Think about how much money you have set aside for this project. It’s unlikely a multi-award winning and internationally recognised modeller is going to work for very little money, but it’s worth asking.
- Does the modeller do commission work? This should be your very first question. Save time and ask this first.
- Where are they based? Remember that exchange rates and costs of living are very different around the world. You are best off looking for a modeller from the same region as you to not only save on shipping, but also not to end up paying far more than you should.
- Have a set budget? Make this clear right away. If you’re noticing no one is interested, it’s likely not enough.
- Be clear on what you want. If you want to rely on the modellers creativity, this is fine, just make it clear as to what elements you want. Have a kit in mind. Most of the time the person wanting a model kit painted has the kit, and will send it to the modeller to be worked on. If not, make sure you can get hold of one. Some kits can be tricky to find at a good price. Find examples of other work you liked. Communicate as much as possible.
- Make an agreement. Once you are happy with what the modeller is offering, summarise what you want and make an agreement with the modeller. Once work starts, major changes can jeopardise a whole project. Every modeller is different of course so perhaps ask (if you feel you might) if it’s ok to request small changes during progress. Remember too, paying any money up front will require a higher degree of trust. Don’t get scammed. Exchange emails, don’t do everything over messaging apps or Facebook. Get acquainted enough to ensure this modeller is the real deal.
- Don’t treat modellers like a company. Modellers are people, not companies. Be polite please, this is not a boardroom deal. You might expect that in any exchange of money for a service, this entitles you to being a customer with consumer rights. It does in a way, but does not entitle you do be an asshole to someone you’ve not given any money to. Most modellers are hobbyists, meaning they will be working on your model in their spare time. As most of the time there is no legal agreement for services rendered, keeping a good relationship will result in a win-win every time. You’ll get a great model, the modeller will get paid for their time, and hey, you might make a new friend.
- Let the modeller give you a timescale. You can always ask for a work to be completed in a certain amount of time and if so it should be made clear very early on, however every modellers life is different with varying levels of spare time available. Ask them how long they expect a project to be finished. They will of course know better.
Remember, a multi-million dollar Dali oil painting is not worth the 100 pesetas he paid for the canvas and oil paints.
How much should you offer to a modeller, for a kit already produced? Sometimes the modeller already has a price in mind and will communicate this, and other times they’ll ask for offers. What’s important to remember here is how good the work is, the history of the modeller, perhaps how well known or respected they are among other modellers and most of all, how much you like the work. Remember, a multi-million dollar Dali oil painting is not worth the 100 pesetas he paid for the canvas and oil paints. Give them an offer worthy of their art. I’m not saying offer a million dollars, just be realistic by factoring in craftmanship.
Of course, don’t let any of this put you off ever asking a modeller about commission work or to enquire about a kit on sale. Most of us are approachable, decent folks who enjoy the interaction. Just understand that sometimes it’s frustrating to have your time wasted, or your work devalued unintentionally, and hopefully this will make things a little clearer. As I’ve mentioned a few times, every modeller is different and may not even agree with what I’ve written, and it’s all based off experiences I’ve had and others who I have talked too. Receiving a request for a commission is a real honour and gives us good vibes, and getting a good price for our work is equally gratifying. I will always recommend however, if you don’t have the money for a commission or completed work, get yourself into painting and detailing. It’s not as expensive as you realise, and all it takes is time, dedication, education and interaction.
Anything to add? Did I miss something or got something wrong? Got some experiences of commissioning, or being commissioned to do work? Good stories? Bad? Do share!