Comics artists illustrate comic books for publishers in the comic book industry. They also work for other print and electronic publishers, as well as for the advertising and public relations industry. Most are self-employed freelancers who are responsible for negotiating their pay with publishers and other clients. The Bureau of Labor Statistics cites an average salary figure of £20,215 for independent artists as of May, 2009. The page rates listed below are from the Graphic Artists Guild Handbook.
Comics are a sequential art form, with a visual story being told over time. Comic artists draw comic stories as a series of several small illustrations for each page of comics, called panels. Some comic artists handle both drawing and writing, especially in the independent comics publishing world. In mainstream comics publishing many artists are specialists, handling pencil drawing, ink drawing, colouring or complete painted art.
Comic artists working for mainstream comics publishers work for a page rate. Typically they draw characters owned by the publisher. They work with no claim to the ownership of the art. In some cases, mainstream publishers pay a royalty in addition to a page rate on comics that sell well. Page rates for pencil art run from £65 to £162. Rates for ink art run from £48 to £130 per page. Colourists make £65 £97 per page for colouring over ink art. Rates for complete painted art run £195 to £260 per page.
Independent comics publishers have popped up like daisies in recent years, releasing many fine comic books and graphic novels. Comic artists work with them on a contract basis, earning a percentage of the cover price of each book sold. A typical contract pays 8 per cent of the cover price for sales up to 5,000 copies, and 10 per cent for sales of 5,000 and above. A 100 page graphic novel selling for £7 that sells 5,000 copies would pay the artist £3,900, a rate of £39 per page for drawing and writing.
Editorial Comic Illustration
Consumer and business magazines hire comics artists to produce editorial comic illustration. Magazines such as the "New Yorker" and the "Atlantic Monthly" pay in the range of £650 to £1,105 for a full page of colour comics. A full page of colour comic illustration for a business magazine such as "Fortune" or "Business Week" pays £975 to £1,625. These jobs go to established artists at the top of the field such as Robert Crumb and Peter Kuper.
Advertising Comic Illustration
The advertising industry uses comic art to enhance advertisements appearing in magazines and other printed materials. A full page of colour comics for an ad appearing in a national magazine pays £1,625 to £3,575. A comic page advertisement appearing in a speciality magazine pays £650 to £2,275. Comic artists negotiate the usage rights for the work with the client, with the fee covering a limited number of appearances for the comic.