Header Image: Skeb.jp
One regret of mine is that I never learned how to draw adequately, let alone well. While my work on The Otaku’s Study and my career away from this site has regularly seen me tackle web design, collateral production and content creation with ease, I do struggle when it comes to putting pen to paper or stylus to tablet. This ultimately means that if an idea comes to mind of artwork I would like to see which doesn’t exist yet, I need to pay real money to commission an artist to do so. In the English-language market, there are quite a few options. These range from art websites such as DeviantArt and FurAffinity, to services which provide you with YCH (Your Character Here) artwork to bid for such as YCH.commishes.
But if you have favourite Japanese artists on services such as Pixiv, then the language barrier may prevent you from outright enquiring whether an artist is taking a commission. This is where Skeb.jp comes in, a Japanese artwork and voiceover commissioning service, which to date has received over 100,000 requests and has thousands of artists taking requests from the public. Like a small but growing number of Japanese artwork sites, English-language support is incorporated into the website. But even more substantial, is the ability for English-writing users to submit requests of their own through the DeepL Translation service. Having had my eye on this service for a good few months now, last week I jumped on last week and made a few commissions. Was the experience easy or excessively complicated? Keep reading to find out!
The element I like most about Skeb is the level of transparency those browsing the website receive about each artist. Each artist profile provides a direct Yes/No answer around whether they are taking requests, a sample of their public works, approximate rates (minimum and recommended), and the time it takes them to deliver the requested artwork typically. Doing this saves much unreasonable back-and-forth between client and artist about simple information. Instead, the website has you fill out a request form (example below) which allows you to provide specifics and payment.
The simple one-page form allows you to enter an overview of the artwork you want to be commissioned (which is translated into English), provide a sum you are happy to pay, determine whether or not you want the artwork to be SFW (Safe for Work) or NSFW (Not Safe for Work) and a few other specifications. Some components of this form (eg. whether NSFW requests are acceptable) can be dictated directly by the artist. Otherwise whichever the client dictates cannot be switched by either party after being submitted. The application is then sent off to the artist, which they have the exclusive right to accept or decline.
Depending on the deadline selected, the artist either has 30 days to accept with a delivery deadline of 60 days after submission, or 7 days to take with a delivery deadline of 90 days after submission. This is arguably one of the better systems I have seen. With other services without an intermediary such as Skeb, clients would typically have to pay directly to the artist, and use the trust system that the artist will deliver. With Skeb, you make an upfront payment which is fully refunded to you if a) Your request is declined or b) the deadline has passed without a final product being submitted.
The limits, especially on English users, can be prohibitive at first. First of all, artists generally do not provide price sheets outside the minimum and recommended price points. Therefore, if you love a sample of an artist’s work and want something of equal quality, then you have to assume how much it is worth and hope the artist accepts. If the artist declines, then should you wish to send through another request, the price is temporarily raised by approximately 25% per instance. The service also discourages contacting the artist themselves about your request, with the risk of the messaging party having their account frozen. Therefore, sometimes it felt like sending through a request was a game of chance.
DeepL is a fantastic machine-learning translator service which I use regularly. But adding to the game of chance, translations can on the odd occasion come out with surreal interpretations. These include instances of こんばんは being complemented with a dozen exclamation points, to things which don’t match what you wrote at all. Not only do you have the occasional translation issue to deal with, but character limits. Artists can dictate whether they want requests which are 140 characters in length or 1,000 characters in length. In theory, this is great, as it allows artists to dictate whether they want brief requests which will enable them to use their creativity or extended requests that use more of the client’s creativity. But with the 140 character limit, it can get tough to write more than a small sentence or two in English within the count, before they are shortened considerably into Japanese.
According to the client guidelines, “Once work has been delivered, it can be used secondarily as an avatar on social media or blogging sites, as well as for personal viewing purposes.”. Keep this in mind as you will need to seek permission from the creator to gain an expanded license for commercial or broader usage.
While there are a few considerations above which you might need to consider when using the service, for having some great Japanese artists tackle my original characters, I was highly satisfied with the service offered by Skeb. The best way to put it was that, despite the small issues, it really works as an art requesting and delivery service. Plus, artists can provide clients with PSD files, which is a big tick to me! Whether you want a Twitter avatar which highlights the supremacy of the Lalafell race in Final Fantasy XIV or some lewd fanart of a favourite anime character – it is very likely you will find an artist to tackle it on Skeb at a reasonable price.
All commissions made for the purposes of this review were paid out of my own pocket, and I was not contacted by Skeb or offered anything to write this.