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  • Writer's pictureBethann Garramon Merkle

SciArt illustration contracts for your science communication project (Using Images-A Primer, part 5)

Updated: Jan 26

This article is the fifth in a series aimed at helping you enhance your scicomm and sciart by avoiding visual plagiarism. It will do so by laying out some best practices for dealing with images (which are, by their nature) visual intellectual property protected by copyrights.

NOTE: I am not a lawyer, and no part of this article or series should be construed as legal advice. 

Please chime in, in the comments or by contacting me, if you have suggestions for how to enhance this article or the series.


A line drawing of a child pulling the stopper out of a small glass vial
Hiring an illustrator doesn’t have to feel like wizardry. A well-written contract can simplify and enhance the experience. (Student assessing stream water quality, © B.G. Merkle, 2017)



In addition to the 4Cs of commissioning SciArt, there are four major considerations you will need to take into account when you work with an illustrator.

They are: contracts, what you want, your time frame, and what you can spend. This article breaks down the first of those, contracts.

Contracts are essential. Fair contracts are expected. Generous contracts are ideal.

This holds true whether you call the document a contract, an MOU, a purchase order, or an agreement. A contract ensures that everyone involved with the project knows what the goals and terms are, what each party’s responsibilities are, who pays who how much and when, how and when the contract can end, etc.

Writing a fair contract is essential if you want to have a fully productive and mutually beneficial relationship with an illustrator. And, writing a fair contract is essential, since you do want great drawings that are made by someone who is earning a fair income from contributing their professional expertise to your project.

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