How to Custom Graphics: Part 3 (Original and Existing Art)

by Wagner Skis / Feb 03, 2023

You've decided to do a custom graphic for your skis, but now what? While some people see this as an immense opportunity for creativity, others find it overwhelming and don’t know where to start. This is the third of five articles helping you hone in on places, avenues, and ideas to find and kick-start your creativity.  

Let's talk about using existing art or having original art created for your skis.


How Does Hiring an Artist or Illustrator Work?

We LOVE when you want to commission an illustrator or artist to create original artwork for your skis. We also love it when you want to use an artist’s existing work on your skis--but these are both slightly different processes than having the design team at Wagner design your skis. Read below for details of making your graphic concept a reality.

Hiring an Artist
When you opt to commission an illustrator/artist/outside designer to create a design specifically for your skis (including friends/family/business partners), we send you or your artist a template of your specific skis to use as a guide. Although we are there to answer any questions you may have, and provide feedback to technical issues, you work directly with them to execute your layout and vision. For some Custom Graphic skis, there are times when we will even request that you hire an Illustrator/Artist if we feel that we can’t properly craft your vision for your graphic using/manipulating existing artwork.

Artwork by Ian McMullen

If you hire an artist/illustrator to create a physical painting, sculpture, installation, or college, we will need to get that artwork scanned or photographed professionally to guarantee that we get the best resolution possible to print your graphic. Most of the time your artist/illustrator will be able to do this for you, or know someone they know and trust to do this step. If not, we can help with this–just contact us.

All digital artwork–including photography–needs to be built at a certain standard for us to print. For more detailed information, check out the graphics section of our FAQ’s here.

Asking Permission for Pre-Existing Artwork
Ever seen a piece of art that you want to take anywhere? We have a lot of people who want to use band posters, album covers, artwork, and emblems that they feel connected to and want to use on their skis. Legally (and morally), we need and require permission from the artist/school/designer to put any pre-made artwork on any of our skis. This can be as small as a college logo, or as large as a full-ski piece of art.

Painting by Wayne McKenzie

Generally we ask you to reach out to the artists and companies for permission to use their art. For the most part people are very accommodating (although some may charge you anywhere for $25 to $1,000 for use).

A few tips that seem to help are:

1. Let them know you're a fan/admire their work,
2. Let them know it's for custom skis, so it will only be a single, personal use, and
3. Be specific about what piece you'd like from them.

We are happy to help; but hearing it from you–the fan–seems to work the best.

Public Domain Artwork
By definition, public domain art is available to the public as a whole and therefore not subject to copyright laws. For that reason, public domain pieces are fair game for your topsheet! Learn more about public domain artwork here.

Why We Love Using Artwork by an Illustrator or Artist

1) You have more control over your graphic.
While our design team consider ourselves brilliant designers, we are limited by using/manipulating existing artwork. Illustrators and artists have specific styles they’ve perfected over the years–and that we, frankly, cannot recreate or repeat. It’s a bit like asking a Chevy mechanic to work on your McLaren! Sure, we’re in the same industry, but we have very different knowledge bases and styles.

2) We LOVE supporting living artists.
While so many of our classic House designs like Matchbox are stunning, we really get the warm-fuzzies knowing a living artist is getting paid to do what they do best. Outside illustrators/artists also inspire us! Art is not created in a vacuum, and working with people with different styles also pushes us to be more creative. Anything that pushes us to be more creative is a good thing.

How else do we support living artists? Check out our Artist Series Graphics here.

3) The most rewarding graphics are both art AND skis.
Although it does take more time and effort to have original artwork made by a commissioned artist, the rewards are far greater than building a graphic using existing artwork. When it is time to retire original artwork skis from the mountain, often people hang them on their wall!

Commissioned artwork examples

Check out some of the commissioned artwork that has been created for our clients through the years:

 Artwork by James Saarela
 Artwork by Neil Kohney
Artwork by Brandon Berkel

Pre-existing artwork examples

Here is some examples of existing artwork that has been permitted for use for our clients through the years: 

Artwork by Yoyo Ferro
"Phish Donuts" is just one example of using music-inspired existing artwork.

How to Hire an Artist

We can help you find the right artist! We have found some great people using Fiverr, Instagram, friends, family, acquaintances, or we can refer you to artists we’ve used in the past. Even Google can provide some artistic direction or vocabulary to narrow down your hunt.

The cost of creating or licensing original artwork is outside of the custom graphic charge for the skis. We will help guide your artist/illustrator with technical questions to make their work the most successful using our system of dye sublimation, and will have formatting/sizing/layout to do on our end to make the skis a reality.

Design Tips

1) Talk with your Wagner designer before hiring an illustrator
We are heartbroken when skiers come to us with illustrations/art for their skis that are designed to the incorrect ski shape or poor resolution. Please contact your Wagner Designer before any art is created for you, or we will most likely have to have your artist re-create the design to fit our art needs.

2) K.I.S.S (Keep it simple skiers!)
This is self explanatory. Simple, pointed designs almost always turn out better than complex, busy designs. Remember: most skis are viewed from at least 5 feet away, so tiny details are often lost, while large designs really pop.

3) Have enough time to let your artist/illustrator do their best work.
Like Miracle Max said, "you rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles." Although deadlines are important to keep us all on track, you will get a better thought-out and executed piece from your artist/illustrator if you give them time to think through a project. A painting that is done in a day will be very different than one created over a month–it gives us creatives more time to refine your ideas and craft your vision for you. This is why we think the summer is a perfect time to hire an illustrator/artist for your custom graphics. At no time during the ski season will you have a few months to work back-and-forth with your artist, and let their–and your–creative juices flow.

If you are interested in getting an artist/illustrator create original artwork for you, please reach out to us and discuss your concept. We’re more than happy to help you make your skis dreams come true!

To start your custom journey, click here.



How to Custom Graphics: Part 1 (Vector Graphics)
How to Custom Graphics: Part 2 (Wood Veneers)
How to Custom Graphics: Part 4 (Photography)
How to Custom Graphics: Part 5 (Putting it All Together)


Article by Tatiana Armstrong

Tatiana Armstrong is a former in-house graphic designer at Wagner Custom Skis. She has been a sucker for skiing since she was in the womb, and will do whatever it takes to get some untracked turns. 


Start your custom skis journey with Wagner Custom Skis