What Does it Mean to License an Artwork?

What Does it Mean to License an Artwork

As an illustrator or designer, you pour your time, creativity, and talent into your artwork. It’s a big part of your identity and your professional portfolio. So, it’s understandable that you want to make sure your artwork is protected and that you get credit and compensation for your work.

One way to do this is by licensing your artwork. To licence your work, you must collaborate with an editorial illustration agency like Illo

This article will explore the basics of artwork licensing and how it can help you as an artist or designer.

Why license your artwork?

There are several reasons why you might want to license your artwork:

  • To protect your work: Licensing your artwork can help protect it from being used without your permission. This can be especially important if you sell your artwork online or make it available to a wide audience. By licensing your artwork, you can specify exactly how it can be used and ensure that you’re properly credited and compensated for your work.
  • To generate income: Licensing your artwork can be a way to generate revenue from your art. Depending on the license’s terms, you may earn royalties each time your artwork is used or sold. 
  •  To promote your work: Licensing your artwork can also be a way to get more exposure to your work. You can reach a wider audience and gain new fans and followers by allowing others to use your artwork.

Types of licenses

There are several types of licenses you can use to license your artwork. Some common types include:

  • Exclusive license: An exclusive license grants the licensee (the person or company using your artwork) the exclusive right to use your artwork. This means you cannot license your artwork to anyone else during the license term. 
  • Non-exclusive license: A non-exclusive license allows you to simultaneously license your artwork to multiple parties. Non-exclusive rights are generally less expensive than exclusive licenses, but they may not offer the artist as much income potential or protection.
  • One-time use license: A one-time use license grants the licensee the right to use your artwork once for a specific purpose. 
  • Unlimited use license: An unlimited use license grants the licensee the right to use your artwork as often as they like for a specific purpose. 

How to license your artwork

If you’re interested in licensing your artwork, there are a few steps you can follow to get started:

  1.   Determine your licensing goals: What do you hope to achieve by licensing your artwork? Do you want to protect your work, generate income, or promote your work? Answering these questions can help you decide which license is best for you.
  2.   Set your terms: Decide what terms you want to include in your license agreement. This can consist of the length of the license, the geographic region where the licensee can use your artwork, the specific uses allowed (such as on products or in advertising), and any other requirements or restrictions.
  3.   Create a license agreement: A license agreement is a legal document that outlines the terms of the license. You can create your license agreement or use a template to help you get started. Make sure to include all the terms you’ve decided on.


Licensing your artwork can be a useful way to protect your work, generate income, and promote your career as an artist or designer. By understanding the basics of art licensing, you can make informed decisions about how to share and monetize your work.