Hiring custom artist for a card game?
January 3, 2011 12:32 PM   Subscribe

I'm designing a card game and I have most of my own art for prototyping, but eventually want *real* art. I have no place where to look for such a thing or how much it would cost. Does anyone have any ideas on what sort of going rate such a thing would cost? Do you pay by the hour? Any tips are greatly appreciated.
posted by symbioid to Work & Money (7 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Among the various indie(video)game devs, the current trend seems to be to troll deviantart for an artists you like, then offer then offer them a flat-rate for their work.
posted by Oktober at 12:35 PM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Art is usually paid for by the piece or a whole project. Given that a card game will usually have dozens if not a hundred + pieces of art, it's a big project.

If you get a professional... things will probably be expensive, but they'll be consistent and reliable. OTOH, the economy is pretty bad - you might get someone who'll cut a good deal.

Alternatively, you can go through amateur artists like Deviant art, though you'll have a hard time finding someone who will do a full project and be consistent and time conscious at the same time. It might be best to get a stable of artists instead.

You'll also have to be aware that art that looks good, might not look so good when it's shrunk down to card sizes, so keep that in mind as well.
posted by yeloson at 2:16 PM on January 3, 2011

Best answer: A card game doesn't just have a person to do illustrations. It also needs a graphic designer for all the infotext and the flavor, possibly a collaboration between the illustrator and graphic designer for box art, packaging design & execution, advertising (fliers, postcards, posters, tshirts worn by teams at other gaming events, & so-on), and more little fiddly things that probably haven't even occurred to you yet.

Depending on the type and mood of your card game, I'd advertise in college art and graphic design departments, on deviantart, craigslist, and your local game stores. Request to see a portfolio of their work. You should probably offer a flat rate per card, and then more or less on the other, non-card projects (box, logo, and poster design would be the big ones.) That way, you can get a few different artists to work on different cards, because a project like this can be a very big one. A solid graphic designer will do all the annoying parts of making sure it all looks cohesive, and ensuring that things print well, and it's rare that you'll find one who is also a quality illustrator.
posted by Mizu at 4:55 PM on January 3, 2011

Best answer: If you're not in any rush, just go to GenCon this summer and talk with other card game publishers there about it--indeed, you have a great opening question (how do you do this on your own) that easily leads to the opportunity to demo your game for them and see if someone's interested in publishing it for you and saving you the start up costs. Plus, you can meet tons of professional gaming artists in person and just ask them what their usual deal is.

Otherwise, ask this question on BoardGameGeek.com's game design forum, or send a personal message there to someone who self-published a product you admire.

In theory, $300 would get you into GAMA, which once upon a time offered a mentorship program and IIRC private mailing lists for questions like this (although I may be conflating their mailing lists with other private industry lists on similar topics). But that seems like an unnecessary expense at this stage.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 6:30 PM on January 3, 2011

Response by poster: Sucks that they moved to Indianapolis. I'm in Madison, would've been damn easy to attend Milwaukee! I'm still keeping an eye on the thread, lots of great comments. It's all scary. I'm not fully ready, yet, to actually have stuff published. I'm still in the testing phases. I got the game with my own art made up at The Game Crafter (I *highly* recommend their card service, and I got it hella fast!)... But to really have a final product I need some real art and design (including the manual, box, etc...)

So yeah, a graphic designer is essential.

My friend's wife does design teaching, and some basic illustration and all sorts of art stuff, and she said she might help, but I want to have a backup plan, and beyond that, I'd still want to compensate her for her work. I guess I'll keep an eye out on Deviant Art and look for online Portfolios right now. I have a lot of the concepts done, but the execution will need the professional touch. I appreciate any more feedback/comments that hopefully will continue to show up here :D
posted by symbioid at 8:20 PM on January 3, 2011

Best answer: You've probably discovered it by now, but the BGG forum has a sticky on self-publishing with this to say:

"Hiring an Artist. If your final game will include graphics that you are not prepared to do yourself, consider hiring an artist to accomplish the creation of your game’s art based on your sketches, specs, and ideas. I recommend that you ensure the game works in a prototype form before you hire an artist for final artwork. Typically, one-time fees are preferred by artists with half payment up front and half upon delivery. There are plenty of accomplished artists on BGG and even a Graphic Artist Guild. If your search on BGG turns up short of who you are looking for, simply do a Google Image search for "Game Artist", "Sci-Fi Artist", "Graphic Artist", or even something more specific such as "Conceptual Spacecraft art". Many portfolios and samples are available online. Review the website of any artist that catches your eye and inquire if they take commissions. Another way to find game artists is to look at who is credited with the graphic design for your favorite existing games. Check the "Artwork By" information on the game’s BGG entry which should list the artist(s) credited with the work. Contact them directly.

"One word of advice on working with artists is to give them some flexibility. If you over-constrain the work they must produce, you’re limiting their own creative drive. You want them to enjoy the project as much as you do and rather than spend time defining exactly what each ‘thing’ must look like, give a general idea and let the artist do the work. If things aren’t quite right, don’t be afraid to say that you have something else in mind. Ultimately, at this point, you are the customer."
posted by Monsieur Caution at 2:41 AM on January 4, 2011

Best answer: Depends a bit on what style you want, but if you're talking about a CCG genre game (a la Magic, L5R, etc.) then you're talking about generally somewhere between $150-700 per card illustration as a flat rate payment, due on acceptance. You may also want to look through the RPGnet freelancing forums to get a feel for the industry rates for that kind of thing, and look into what it's like to wear an art director hat, as that is the role you'll be adopting. Remember you get what you pay for on places like DeviantArt.

Make sure to:
-Have a planned budget that includes some wiggle room
-Have an idea of what you want the game overall to look like before starting the commission process and be able to relay that to your artists
-Plan for it to take at least two months for all of the art to be finished, if you're using multiple artists and then sending it to the graphic designer
posted by tautological at 2:41 PM on January 4, 2011

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