How to Commission a Pet Portrait Painting

How to Commission a Pet Portrait Painting

Choosing to commission a pet portrait painting can be an exciting time, and also an emotional time when the painting is in memory of a lost pet.  I’m here to simplify the commission process in 5 easy steps:

 Select an Artist

When selecting an artist for your custom pet portrait painting, it’s important to determine if you would like the pet portrait digitally painted or hand-painted.  If you aren’t sure, there are two great ways to find out: 1) Just ask! 2) If it seems inexpensive compared to other artists, it may be digital. Since digital art doesn’t require as many materials, it is often (not always) less expensive than a hand-painted pet portrait.


Once you have determined your preference, the next step is to look for an artist who produces custom portraits of pets that you enjoy, love, and fit your style. Finding artists on social media by using common hashtags such as #petpaintings #petportraitartist #petportrait will generate a variety of artists and artistic styles. Pay attention to what you prefer - oil painting, acrylic, or watercolor. This will help narrow down your search even further! For example, I paint pet portraits with oil paint.  Oil paint is made to last centuries and is light-fast so you don’t have to worry about it fading over time.  Oil paint needs oxygen though and can’t be framed under glass.


Another great way to find an artist is to use Google to search for a pet portrait artist. Looking for a local artist? Head out to local art events and seek out artists who paint dogs, cats, birds, and other pets. During this process, it’s important to select an artist with experience painting pets so you receive a painting that is created with experience, love, and an understanding of the pet’s essence. (learn more about how I started painting pet portraits here). Make sure you look through your artist’s portfolio (social media and website) to ensure that their style matches what you have in mind. There are so many amazing pet portrait artists out there and each one has their own unique style.


The last bit of important information for artist selection is that not all artists accept commissions all the time. Most pet portrait artists open their commissions only a few times a year and limit how many they can take on.  For example, my current practice is that I open my commission once a month for 2 weeks, or until my spaces fill up.  During busy times of the year, this practice may change, and commissions will be open less frequently.

custom dog oil painting of a miniature schnauzer

 Collect Reference Photos

Once you have selected your artist, it’s time to choose the reference photo of the chosen pet for their painted portrait.  Some artists may have specific requirements around this, so always check with them first.  However, others are just looking for a photograph that will “translate” well into a painting.  This is usually a photo where the pet is close enough that the details of their eyes can be seen, a flattering pose, and lighting where the pet is clearly seen without being washed out.  Want to learn more about this?  Check out How to Choose a Reference Photo for more information and examples of reference photos.


I am always happy to receive more than one reference photo so I can choose my favorite.  I will then discuss my favorite/s with the commissioner (you). This helps us work together as a team to choose the best photo for the painted pet portrait.

Bernese mountain dog photo reference for pet portrait oil painting  Bernese mountain dog oil painting on an ornament

An excellent reference photo of a Bernese mountain dog compared to the final painting

 Determine the Size of the Painting

For some, this step is easy because it’s about their budget. For others, it can cause decision paralysis!  I recommend starting with the location where you would like the painting to hang.  Begin with a generic idea of the size and then discuss it further with your artist.  Some artists, such as me, offer square, rectangle, and even circle options for the pet portrait!  In my experience as a pet portrait artist, I have found that depending on the pet's pose and general face/ear shape, they may fill the space out better on a square versus a rectangle canvas.


Looking for more information on this step?  Check out this article here to learn more about choosing artwork sizes.

 Consider the specifics

Do you want a specific background color?  Are tags and collar included in the portrait? Is there a toy in the photo that you want to be included?  Do you want the painting to be hung in landscape or portrait?

 Not all artists will allow their commissioner this sort of control. However, many, such as myself, are happy to accommodate these simple requests.  Once a commission order is placed, I e-mail a survey to you where you can fill in this information or even choose “Artist’s Choice!” if you have no preference.

oil painting of a commissioned dog portrait of a shichon

This commissioner requested to leave the bowtie and the tag in the painting

 Wait Patiently

This is the easy part!  You’ve done all the work that you can do. Now it’s time to let your artist work their magic and create a beautiful, lifelong treasure of the pet via a hand-painted pet portrait.  Some artists will send progress photos during the painting process while others wait until the end. I prefer to send a photo of the completed painting and video (optional) of the painting process to share after the painting is completed.  This way, I can stay in my creative zone and trust my experience all while still sharing the painting experience with you, my commissioner. 

Congratulations, you are now on your way to commissioning a pet portrait!  I hope that you enjoy the process with a much clearer insight into how to get a custom pet portrait!

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.