So, lately, I've been seeing a lot of tension between commissioners and those seeking commissioners on various places. Either people have unrealistic budgets or the prices for a commission is "ridiculous" and I can't say how many times I've tried explaining material costs and labor cost, not to mention all the disrespect and rude comments flying back and forth from both sides and all that SO HERE IS A BLOG POST ABOUT IT.
There are different reasons why people seek cosplay commissions - whether you have no artistic ability whatsoever, don't have the time, are lazy or would prefer something of higher quality than that of ebay and so on, there are things that one should know and to expect before seeking out another individual for a commissioned piece.
Have you tried looking online? I personally don't recommend buying from Ebay/China/Halloween stores, etc mainly due to the sizing, accuracy and quality that you get for the price. I mean, if you're not terribly picky and if you are on tight budget, then go for it. Moreso, if you cannot afford those prices, do not expect a commissioner to charge the same price or even less. Oftentimes, the costs of materials are higher than the price of what you can get a full costume from these places. Most commissioners will try their best to work around budgets and may go with cheaper materials, however, while you might be fine with cheaper materials and less details, in the end the costume reflects that person's work and abilities. Cheaper materials may work for your budget, but it might not work for the commission and what it entails. It may not sit or flow the way it is suppose to or look right. Some materials just can't be switched out either. For example, a bodysuit can't quite be made without stretchy fabrics, otherwise it won't hug your body correctly and it will be difficult to move around in, plus you runt he risk of it being too tight or too loose.
A commissioner, specifically for cosplay, has taken the time, often at least two years to teach themselves the tricks and methods needed to sew and make cosplay items. It takes time to learn about the various fabric and materials available, It takes time to learn to use the sewing machine and its different functions as well as a serger and or embroidery machine. It takes time to learn to read a pattern, modify a pattern and draft one up from scratch. Of course, it also takes time to shop, cut and sew up a costume (or draft, build, paint props) from start to finish. For props, it takes time to learn how to use table and band saw, and lathes, and whatever else. It also requires access to a shop whether it's available at one's school, neighborhood or home. Running a shop is expensive. School tuition costs money, a shop like TechShop, has a monthly/yearly membership fee and classes are generally required on top of that to be cleared for access. Running one at home require upkeep and electricity costs.
Fabric on average costs $10/yard. Something like broadcloth (usually used for quliting) is $3.99/yard. Special occassion/bridal fabrics can be anywhere from $3.99-$19.99/yard and pleathers and spandex can be $9.99-$21.99/yard. It really depends on where you shop and what's available to you. Not all of us are near Los Angeles or NYC to get the better fashion/fabric district deals. Joann/Handcock fabrics doesn't have a wide variety as one might think. Shopping online often takes time, as one would have to order swatches to make sure that that fabric would meet the needs of a project.
On top of fabric costs there are also the costs for a costume: thread, ribbon, bias tape, trim, buttons, zippers, fasteners, elastic, dyes, paints, interfacing, embroidery thread, hot glue sticks, hot glue gun, beads, lace, rhinestones, jewelry findings, heat 'n bond, hem tape, muslin.
For props and accessories materials include: insulation foam, Worbla, bondo, fiberglass cloth, fiberglass resin, Cast 'n Craft resin, resin pigments, sand paper, glues/bonding agents like epoxy, craft foam, foam board, wood/metal, plaster of Paris, plaster strips, silicone mold kits, primer, paints, etc.
For wigs, depending on the wig and style materials include: the base wig (anywhere from $25-65), wefts, wefting needles, wefting thread, wig stand/foam head, hair spray, freezing spray, spiking glue, wig dyes or sharpie/copic markers, leave-in conditioner, wig shampoo and conditioner, hair clips/bobby pins/ hair ties or rubber bands, etc.
Material costs can, very well add up and they will also vary by design, what you want and the commissioner's approach. Here are a few breakdowns of material costs for various costumes:
*12 yards of satin @ $7.99/yard = $79.90
*12 yards of lining @ $5.99/yard = $71.88
*12 yards of chiffon @ $9.99/yard = $119.88
*3 yards organza for the bow @ $9.99 = $29.97
*2 spools of thread @ $2.79/each = $5.58
*Zipper = $2.99
Material costs: $360.20 + $25.21 tax = $385.41
-Undercoat (the longest)
*4 yards white fabric = $51.96
*2 yards red (around the waist front and back) = $25.98
*4 yard white lining = $23.96
Top coat (+ hood, shoulder layers and sleeves = the most layered)
*6 yards white = $77.94
*6 yards red lining = $35.94
*2 yards white = $25.98
*2 yard red lining = $11.98
*4 yards = $39.96
FABRIC COSTS: $293.70 + $20.56tax = $314.26
**Kyokou Sakura from Madoka Magic:
*4 yards of a dark red/maroonish fabric @7.99/yard = $31.96
*2 yards of white fabric @ 3.99/yard = $7.98
*2.5 yards of black fabric @ 3.99/yard = $9.98
*2 yards of a pastel red fabric for the skirt @ 9.99/yard = $19.98
*1 yard of rgrey spandex @ $12.99/yard = $12.99
*Bias tape/trim = $1.99
*Fabric paint = $3.99
Material cost: $88.57 + tax $6.20 = $94.77
**Blue Rose from Tiger and Bunny:
*2 yards of dark blue pleather @ $8.99/yard = $13.49
*3 yards of light blue pleather @ $8.99/yard = $26.97
*1 yard of gold pleather to make trim out of @ $14.99/yard = $14.99
*3 yards of white spandex @ $16.99/yard = $50.97
*Thread in blue, light blue, gold and white @ 2.79/each = $8.37
*Zipper = $2.49
*Head piece materials = ~$50-75
Material costs: $192.28 + tax $13.50 = $205.78
Also keep in mind and different body types and sizes require different amounts of fabric and materials. The fabric requirement for a small person will not be the same for a bigger or taller person.
A lot of commissioners do this as their main source of income, if not their only source of income and most charge anywhere from minimum wage to $10/hour. So, by that logic I usually put it in the way as, you may have a normal part/full time job for your main source of income to pay rent and bills and you clock in and record every hour you work and get paid for every hour you work. You pay taxes and so do we. You buy groceries, so do we - etc. So charging a little more than minimum wage isn't unreasonable by any means as we aren't just greeting guests, taking orders, stocking shelves, whatever.
Labor generally breaks down like this:
*Researching for and purchasing materials
*Finding more references
*Drafting/modifying a pattern to your measurements
*Cutting out the fabric according to the pattern
*Making sure it fits on the dress form (or you, if you're local)
*Serger-ing and finalizing hems/seams
*Making adjustments as necessary
*Detailing: i.e. beading, painting, etc
*Digitizing embroidery patterns/files
*Adding zippers, buttons, snaps, velcro, etc
-Casting final forms in resin
*Cutting out the wood/metal/acrylic
*Hand sewing in wefts
**May also require accessories to be made
It's easier to set price points for things such as wigs as they can be treated much like regular salon services. Keep in mind though that wigs are not the same as your own head of hair. There are a lot less fibers/hairs to work with and usually extra has to be added in order for the base wig to style-able like normal hair. Some salons have wig services which are almost, always a lot more costly than normal hair styling services due to the nature of wigs. So, prices can be set according to length of the wig and or what type of service is needed: cutting, dying, styling/up do's/spiking.
Same with plushies. I've has someone compare a plushie commission to a costume commission before and I assure you that material costs and time are vastly different between the two. So, to compare the two and expect the same prices is rather unreasonable.
Shipping will vary per item and destination. Wigs that do not require a custom box can fit in a flat rate priority mail padded envelope and be shipping for about $8 within the US. Something like a school uniform can fit in a medium flat rate box and be shipped for about $12. Full costumes and armor vary. International prices also vary and of course there is a price difference between the post office, UPS and FedEx and extra fees apply for services like tracking, signature confirmation and or insurance (and perhaps customs for non US deliveries).
Everyone works at a different pace. A partial costume or small piece can take 5-10 hours, full costumes start at around 20 hours and fully elaborate costumes and armor pieces can take 50+ hours. So the more detail and material, the more material costs, time and labor it will take.
After having read all of this, I hope that everyone is more well aware of what goes into making cosplay costumes and anything else that may be related. I also hope that people understand a little more about the material and labor costs and why commissioners charge what they charge and why the prices may seem "ridiculous."
Now, if you've read and understood all of this and are still wanting to have someone commission something for you, please do the following when seeking a commission, whether you are contacting someone directly or posting on a forum:
Deadlines: It's best that you look for a commission at least a month or two in advanced. Many commissioners are booked months in advanced and not everyone is available on the spot. Though if you are in need of something rather quickly, be prepared to pay rush fees and possibly for express shipping. I can't I suggest looking for something with a deadline of about a week or two.
Reference images: Not everyone knows what character or item you may be referring to as not everyone has seen or played every video game, anime, movie, etc, so high-res screen caps, or concept artwork is the best way to go. Figures are also handy.
Measurements: Earlier i mentioned that not everyone is the same size and that everyone requires a different amount of fabric and materials which makes a world of difference when determining material costs so more or less may be needed. I'm not sure why some people absolutely refuse to give measurements and expect us to give a quote. I mean, they are just quotes but I like to be as thorough as possible, to prevent any under/over charging for materials and it just makes things less messy.
Lastly for both sides: BE RESPECTFUL. It really should go without saying, but some people just can't ever be happy and they have to be like that old lady who complains that their soup is too hot or cold or something. We are human beings just like you and we work hard. We can't answer emails within 30 seconds (though if you've asked a question and waited over two weeks, I'd start to worry). Things can be frustrating, but that doesn't mean you have to lash out at us. We might've made a mistake, some times things do come up and we may miss your deadline, progress or updates might not be as frequent as originally wanted but again, we're human. Understand that your commission is probably not the only commission we have nor is it the only thing we have going on in our lives (and to not expect this is rather selfish and ignorant imo). We have emergencies, bad days, school, maybe a job outside of commissioning, etc just like everyone else. Don't cuss at each other, don't yell at each other - proof read and think about your words before clicking "submit" or "send". Ask yourself, "Would I like it if someone treated me this way?"
If you have read all this and still can't comprehend commissions for whatever reason, then I suggest you purchase a basic sewing machine (which can be bought for less than $100) and learn yourself. Only then, will you truly understand the time and costs it takes.
I think I've covered everything... There's another great tid bit on artist and commission written by someone else here [link]
Feel free to ask any questions, and spreading the word would be super nice