What makes top illustrators on Patreon so successful? These creators succeed on many fronts to receive the support they do (such as building their audience, establishing rapport with that audience, etc.). Part of that success comes from having a strong mix of rewards.
If you’re looking to find your own success on Patreon, this article will help you decide what rewards to offer your patrons in exchange for their recurring pledges. To that end, we’ve included sixteen of the most popular (and most lucrative) rewards offered by illustrators on Patreon.
That said, this article is intended to put useful information at your fingertips. But it’s up to you to decide which rewards are right for your creator business. These rewards drive the bulk of top Patreon illustrators’ pledges (not in order — pick the ones that are right for you).
Ready to turn your creative passion into a thriving business? Get started on Patreon today.
You make beautiful art; your fans love to appreciate beautiful art. So releasing full size, high-quality images tends to make them pretty happy. Even better? High-quality images that are neatly formatted for their desktops and laptops.
Many artists, like the unstoppable Sakimi Chan and WLOP, give full quality images or wallpapers at the $1 tier to encourage first-time patrons. These are often images they were going to draw anyway; rarely are there ‘patron only,’ full-size images offered for $1 or $3 tiers. For example, the images WLOP shares as wallpapers are adjusted images from the comic.
Other artists use wallpapers and other high-quality images to push value to higher tiers. For example, high res images don’t appear until the $20 tier for ALICE IN DISSONANCE, and Vicki Tsai pushes value to her $5 tier.
What can work for you depends on what price your audience is willing to pay to support you, how much extra time you’re spending on reward delivery, and which tiers you want to emphasize for patrons.
Early updates make the most sense for comic and animation artists whose audiences eagerly await the next story development. Michelle Czcajowski of Ava’s Demon, for example, set up her reward tiers almost entirely around increasing early access: $3/mo supporters get some sneak peaks, $5/mo patrons get “some sketches and previews,” and $10/mo patrons get to see previews plus “secret art stuff” for the comic before it’s brought to life.
But you certainly don’t have to be producing serial content to make early access rewards a success. Hannah Alexander, who creates art and costume designs, includes early access in her rewards mix. Or, consider MissMonster’s approach: not only does she release sneak peeks of in-progress works, but she announces new shop offerings to her patrons before release to the general public.
Access to a private community—Discord is a popular choice made even easier with our integration—can be incentive enough for your most loyal fans to send a few dollars per month your way. Some creators offer it for any level of membership, and some reserve it for higher tiers.
Peter Mohrbacher, for example, offers Discord access to all of his patrons. Not only has it served as a place for his community to grow, it also gave him more ideas: offering prizes outside of Patreon to encourage fan art (which, incidentally, would drive more traffic to his project). He had seen so many great reimaginings of his Watchers that he just had to share.
That’s not to say that a Discord channel is the only place you can grow a community: some use their own websites, Facebook groups, forums, and other corners of the internet.
Test-renders. Brush packs. Sketches. PSD or Lineart files. There are so many ‘extras’ that you can share with an audience interested in learning how you do what you do every day.
For example, Ty Carter shares PSD files and brushes as part of his $5/mo tier. Artist Kawacy pushes PSD files and brushes to the $10/mo tier, but offers accompanying explanations to increase their value.
If your audience includes other artists who want to learn, these bonuses are a great addition to your rewards mix.
Since we’re on the topic of fans who want to learn, another popular reward that caters to artists in your audience are voice-over tutorials/process videos.
Wildlife artist Jason Morgan offers voice-over painting videos for all $4+ patrons. His entire Patreon page is built around teaching others the skills he’s built.
Some creators stick to explaining art they would produce anyway; some also provide topical tutorials that dive into a specific technique they use when making their art.
One way to drive traffic to your tutorials is to post teasers like Jason does, or post full-length process videos without commentary on Youtube. Some artists will post the videos without commentary for free, then charge for the same video but with voice-over commentary.
If you have tutorials or painting videos that you think your patrons would love, check out Patreon's Vimeo integration. With this integration, Pro and Premium creators can offer access to exclusive Vimeo videos as a tier benefit. And the best part is, once you set up your permisions on Vimeo, you won't have to leave your Patreon page to upload and share the videos with your patrons.
Here's what Patreon creator Epic Rap Battle had to say about the integration:
“The Vimeo integration is both secure and seamless - the way things should be. It offers a sleeker interface for both creators and patrons to use and opens up possibilities for using more video content on Patreon.” — Epic Rap Battles Of History.
For more information, check out the blog post titled, A New Way to Share Exclusive Video on Patreon with Vimeo.
Or, if you're ready to start using the Vimeo integration to share exclusive video with your patrons today, subscribe to any paid plan at Vimeo. If you don’t have a paid subscription to Vimeo, sign up for their free 30-day trial for the Plus or Pro plans and try it out. Sign up now.
Once you sign up for Vimeo, check out this support article for detailed instructions on how to set up the integration.
If you make a comic (or something similar that you distribute to your audience on a regular basis), you can give patrons the option of appearing in your comic as one of your minor characters.
Sometimes, as in the case of Jason Porath’s Rejected Princesses series, that means a once-per-year appearance in the background of a comic. Other artists, such as Peritian, offer multiple appearances (with patronage for that tier capped at manageable levels). Artist Color-LES puts patron-characters on a monthly rotation.
This reward is especially helpful for artists who have some traction with their audience—but want a special reward to draw attention to their Patreon campaigns.
Scenes that never made it to the public comic. Relationships that your characters don’t (and won’t) have in the official comic. NSFW versions of your drawings (see our community guidelines for more on what you can do with NSFW content).
Bonus offerings like these let cater to your fanbase without compromising what you want to do in your canon art and comics. Some artists even do a certain amount of fan art each month (while offering patrons voting privileges on which characters to do).
Note: To learn more about Patreon’s policies for adult content, please read the community guidelines. Adult content cannot be displayed publicly on your Patreon; it must be behind the paywall and accessible by patrons of 18 years or older.
Yes, this reward is exactly what it sounds like. Some creators offer black-and-white versions of their art for patrons to color! Jasmine Becket-Griffith does this effectively by including the pages in her $5/mo tier.
Amy Brown, a watercolor artist, offers coloring pages at several tiers, also starting at the $5/mo level of support. It’s a strategy that works for comic artists as well: the Namesake Team offers coloring pages from their comic, Namesake, starting at the $1/mo tier.
Tutorials aren’t the only educational tool you can leverage when rewarding patrons: for the right price, many creators offer group and/or private art lessons. Irshad Karim built his Reddit community and Patreon around offering critiques and drawing up lessons for his fans to follow.
Or, consider Modern Day James: he offers critiques, group lessons, and private lessons (with each becoming progressively more expensive as more value is added). If you’re not sure how to charge, consider how much you might pay (or charge) for in-person lessons, then price accordingly.
If what you create is “evergreen”—i.e, it ages well (this will be true for most artists)—you can also make an archive of creations that patrons can access. It could be process videos, patron-only artwork, bonuses from the past, or even livestream recordings (which Modern Day James offers his patrons at the $5/mo tier). Peter Mohrbacher opens up his Dropbox archive to $30/painting supporters.
The creators mentioned above grant immediate access to all archived content; others release old content to new patrons over a longer span of time. For example, let’s say you have ten in-depth tutorials you’ve released to your audience over time. Instead of showing them all at once to new patrons, you could let patrons pick one old tutorial per month to get in addition to the current month’s offerings. (Note that, currently, this must be done manually—but depending on your audience and reward levels, it may be worth the extra work to have this kind of personalized option available).
It all depends on what you have to offer and which method of offering it will attract sustainable patronage.
If someone starts offering ‘behind the scenes’ content, it’s usually one of the following: either it’s informative and educational, it’s mostly personal, or it’s a mix of both.
Illustrator Fran Meneses uses Patreon Lens to give her patrons a slice-of-life experience, plus posts a podcast every two weeks talking about stuff she’s doing and what’s inspiring her. Her behind the scenes is mostly personal; higher tier supporters get access to a monthly Q&A where they can ask more serious questions about making it as a freelancer, becoming a better illustrator, and more.
You could also use Lens like Shayla Maddox does: as a vehicle to document her creative process for all her patrons to view and enjoy.
Successfully leveraging behind the scenes content is all about understanding your audience—and knowing what you, as a person, are comfortable sharing.
It’s not unusual for creators to forgo physical merchandise because fulfillment is difficult—and time-consuming. But for many illustrators, printed works can push significant value to higher tiers.
In fact, a few dedicated patrons can provide consistent support in a way that one-off print sales can never do. Plus, your patrons are more likely to pay top dollar for original works. How you structure tiers depends entirely on how you prefer to be compensated for your labor and creative genius.
Some creators, like Skirtzzz, go for monthly packages with (mostly) predictable contents. Alternatively, you can offer physical merchandise only after your patrons have been around for a while (such as sending a print or small original work after your 6-monthiversary together).
Finally, you can always rely on discounts: if you have a store, but don’t want to set up your patreon with physical merch rewards, you can offer patrons a discount on your existing inventory.
Speaking of things that take work, but have greater value… it’s always worth considering commissions. Some artists use Patreon so that they can cut out commissions altogether, and some use it to cut down on who can even request commissions (i.e., ‘if you’re not a patron at X tier, I won’t do commissions for you’).
Manaberry, for example, gives patrons first dibs whenever she has open slots for commissions (which doesn’t always happen). Others give patrons discounts on commissions.
But, offering commissions as a reward encourages recurring work when priced at the right tier. Too low, and commissions will eat up the time you wanted to spend on your own projects. Too high, and no one will buy. It may take some trial and error before you find the level that’s right for you! If you’re still in doubt, consider finding other creators like you and studying their pricing.
Fans love to be the ones you listen to when you’re evaluating ideas and deciding what to do next. Whether it’s access to a patrons-only “suggestions” box or voting on which fanart you’ll draw this month, gives patrons a voice in your work (but only to the extent that you allow).
Many creators use polls as an early-tier reward to say ‘thanks’ and give a little push to fans who are on the fence about becoming patrons. Others reserve it as a higher-tier reward combined with other offerings. For example, Vivienne Medrano pushes polling to the $20/mo tier.
Q&A can work really well for creators willing to engage with their fans. Discord is one way to host a Q&A, but some artists do livestreams or pre-recorded videos to answer fans’ questions as well. You can answer questions about your own life, about being an illustrator, about freelancing, or about any other topic you feel comfortable engaging.
Robin Sealark, for example, mixes up Q&A’s with group painting sessions, games, and challenges for her $5 tier supporters. You can even stream your creative process live… if you dare.
Saying ‘Thank You’ goes a long way. And when it’s a public shout-out to the fans who keep you fed? Even better! Simple recognition rewards—like a list of patrons on your website—are a nice way to reward lower tier donations.
And for your more generous patrons, you can offer things like…
- Getting their names in the print edition of your comic,
- Recognition in a printed guide for an exhibition (see Sam and Sadhbh),
- Getting a special star or color to mark them as high-level donors on Discord or in the comments on your website,
… or any other way that fits with your art and medium.
These sixteen rewards are enough to get you started, but they’re not comprehensive. Hopefully, you can pick and choose the rewards that mix well with your business style — while coming up with some unique offerings that suit your art and fanbase.
As you choose, you’ll need to keep pricing in mind. Is the effort in creating the reward worth the time? Which tiers should you concentrate on?
Given what you know about your business and audience, which of these rewards and tiers would be most lucrative for you?
Know what you want to offer to your fans in exchange for monthly membership? Sign up for Patreon here.