Art Licensing – How it works

Can I use your work for my website?

Art licensing, and example: Megacerops as Breakfast
“Megacerops at Breakfast”
This was the first artwork that I ever licensed. An Austrian newspaper used it in a science article.

I get asked this question quite often. Someone contacts me and wants to use one of my artworks on their website, novel cover, album art, etc. This is different from an illustration contract in that the artwork already exists. Someone just wants to use it. Enter the world of art licensing.

What is art licensing?

Art licensing is how someone can legally use art for their book cover, product label, website, etc.  When you license an artwork, you enter an agreement with the artist that allows you to use the artwork with the permission of the artist. Generally, you of course must pay the artist. Compensation usually takes the form of a flat fee, royalty, or both.

Flat Fee

When it comes to art licensing, a flat fee is a one-time payment. It can be, and often is, just a simple fixed amount. Sometimes though the amount can vary based on the number of units of the product that will incorporate the artwork (note that when an artwork is put on a non-media product, such a coffee mug or tie, it is called a “design”, and when it is placed on a media product, such as a book cover or album cover, it is called an “illustration”). For example, say you wanted to use an artwork on a line of coffee mugs. The artist might charge a base fee of $100, but an additional fee of $0.001 for every mug you intend to produce using that design. The thing about this form of licensing fee is that you pay the artist up front.


A royalty fee, on the other hand, is something you pay the artist after a period of time. A royalty is a percentage of sales you made for your product that used the artwork as a design. For instance, using the coffee mug example again, say you sold 100,000 mugs for $1 each. If you had a 1% royalty agreement with the artist, you would owe that artist $1,000. When it comes to royalties, there is usually some form of payment schedule, e.g. annually.

Exclusive vs. Non-exclusive

Something else to consider when it comes to art licensing is whether you want an exclusive or non-exclusive agreement. In an exclusive agreement, you have sole right to use the artwork, whereas, in a non-exclusive agreement, the artist is free to license the work to others. Naturally, exclusive agreements tend to run a great deal more expensive, that is, if the artist is even willing to enter one.


One last thing to keep in mind is that licensing agreements generally have a time limit. That is, they are only good for a few years. After that period has ended, you can no longer use the artwork in the production of more of your product unless you renew the license, and, depending on the success of your product, the artist may wish to renegotiate the terms.

Licensing Services

In order to make things easy, some artists will use a service or agency to handle licensing of their works. For instance, I use a website called You can license just about any of my works through it. Here is the link: 

License Daniel’s Art

So, if your looking for some art to use for your commercial projects, think about licencing existing works. It may take a bit of searching to find the perfect work to fit your needs, but it can save you loads of time and money over contracting an artist to create a work from scratch.


P.S. If you liked this article, please consider signing up for my newsletter. I send it out every Wednesday and it includes links to my latest artworks, articles, and videos, as well as discounts, deals, and freebies!


4 Replies to “Art Licensing – How it works”

  1. Good summary article!
    And thanks for the heads up regarding
    I’m not quite ready for ‘prime time’. But have a better understanding. And Pixel looks pretty good.

    Subscribed and found a couple of your items on Pixel that would make great gifts.

    Thanks for posting at DA.

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