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Commissioning Artwork

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GamesOnTheBrain
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Joined: 07/24/2008

Does anyone have even the slightest idea how much it costs to commission an artist to do the artwork for:

- a game's box
- a few hexagon tiles
- a rulebook cover
- a few illustrations in a rulebook

Once you buy it, do you have to pay royalties?

OrlandoPat
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Joined: 10/16/2008
How to find an illustrator

Here's what you do:

Step 1: Find a list of commercial artists that might be interested in your project. This is easier than you might think. Go online and look for "illustrators". That's primarily who you will be dealing with. There are also "artists" out there, but illustrators specialize in what you're looking for. Take a look at the web sites and note those whose styles match what you're looking for.

Step 2: Put together the specs of your project. This is the list of what you need to have done. Be as complete as possible.

Step 3: Contact the people in the list you created in step 1. Give them the list of what you'll need to have done. Find out how they charge (by the hour or by the project). Find out what their policy is on edits. For example, what happens if you don't like their design? Also find out how they handle overages and their availabillity. What happens if it looks like the project is going to take longer than expected? Do they have availability when you need it?

Don't just talk to one person! Get multiple quotes. If you have one person who you really like - but who is more expensive than everyone else - go back to him/her and say "look, I like your artwork the best, but I can't justify spending the extra grand on it. Could you work with me on the price?"

Be nice and professional and insist that they are the same. The last thing you want to get stuck with is an arrogant artist who believes he knows your business better than you do.

You don't know the price of your job until you talk to the illustrators. There are just too many variables to factor in. So, don't be shy. Talk to them and be up front about what you're looking for.

If you need a good starting place, contact David Hile at http://www.hiledesign.com/. He heads the team that did Calaboose for us. No I'm not getting paid for this referral. He's just a great guy who is both really helpful and really talented.

Good luck!

Anonymous
Commissioning Artwork

Orlando could not have put it any better. Though I will stress one detail a bit more coming from the illustrator’s side of the fence. When you do look for an illustrator be as descriptive about what you want as possible, you’re shopping for a product and the only way they can deliver exactly what you’re looking for is if you give them the specifics.

Taking a bit of time at the beginning of a project to find a few reference photos of what you want will save you both time and money in the end. You do not even need to know how to describe what you want if you can give an illustrator some reference images.

Also remember that often times less art is needed for a project than some may think at first. How many games use the box top illustration for the rule book cover? Also games like War of the ring do not have artwork on every card. If you use less art than you will be able to afford a better art and have a better looking product.

seo
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Commissioning Artwork

From a graphic designer/illustrator experience, I can't agree more with Super: be as specific about what exactly you want to help the artist give you a more accurate estimation of cost, and produce the kind of images you're looking for. If you know of a game with the illustration style you're looking for, provide the potential illustrators with images of that game.

It's also important for you to check previous works of illustration from whoever you decide to contact, to have an idea of how much his style matches your requirements. Even if he doesn't have anything similar to what you're looking for, seeing previous works might give you an idea of how much he can adapt to fit your idea (as some illustrators have a very defined style, while others can adapt more easily to different styles). It can even work the other way around: you might change your idea based on some illustrator style.

Seo

Anonymous
Commissioning Artwork

I have just completed my second game, and I ended up finding artists from deviantart.com. It is a site for artisits and illustators, most of them amateur, but some very talented people as well.

There is a job offer category on the Forum, and you can post your specs. You will get many, many responses. I would suggest trying to define how much you want to spend or at least a range.

As these people are scattered all over the globe, some of the rates are very competitive. More important than price is getting great artwork for your project in your budget.

Just another approach.

GamesOnTheBrain
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Commissioning Artwork

Thank you all very much for the suggestions. I'm definitely going to bookmark this discussion. It would make good wiki material.

I hope you don't mind if I ask again though, can you give me some idea of how much money were talking about here?

Let's take Settlers of Catan for example. There are a reasonable, but not overwhelming, number of cards. There are the tiles. And of course, there is the box and rulebook art.

Can anyone give me a best guess as too how much money may have been spent on commissioning this artwork?

Also, is it the norm for a game company to pay royalties on the artwork, or are they typically royalty-free?

Anonymous
Commissioning Artwork

From my experience, you can pay as little or as much as you want on your artwork. I have seen artwork go for as little as $1 per image. On the other hand you can pay a lot more.

If you only want to pay $1 and you have the time to look for the right artist, I am sure you could do it. If you want to exapnd the pool of people that you want to consider, then expand your price. At $50 to $75 per image you will find many talented people willing to help.

I paid $15 per image for the images I comissioned. I have all rights, and pay no royalties. The artists are also credited for their work in the game.

Anonymous
Commissioning Artwork

I would say the illustration work for settlers would cost a bit, because it's fully painted and done to a really high standard I would put each image in at about $100-$150

7 hex
9 cards
1 box top
So I'm guessing they paid anywhere from 1000 to 3000 for that game.

Along with an illustrator you will need to find a graphic designer or art director who can take all the illustrations and turn them in to a final product. a small project will not require an art director though if a company will have a sustained product line (a TCG, or minis game) an art
director is really valuable.

as I'm not a graphic designer i don't know how much they charge for making print ready files.

In the end pricing is really subjective. Just remember that money spent on art is not wasted, in todays marketplace if your game does not have attention grabbing art you will not sell.

Ps
15 an image is a really low rate that i will not work for again.

OrlandoPat
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Joined: 10/16/2008
Not to contradict Super...

Not to contradict Super, but if you're on a budget, small projects (like what you're describing) can sometimes be handled by the illustrator (or the illustrator's company).

Calaboose, for example, is a card game with a handful of images, a two page rulebook, and a box. I wrote the rules and all the copy for the cards. Dave (the illustrator) did the artwork, and then I worked with Beth (someone who works for Dave) to make sure everything was layed out the way I wanted it.

If you're willing to put forth the effort, you''ll find that you can take on a lot of the "supervisory" roles (art director, editor, etc.) yourself. It's risky, but it can save you a lot of money.

My two cents on the "production ready files" thought: Don't work with an illustrator unless they can produce production ready files. This means that they can produce CMYK vector based files. Adobe Illustrator is my preference, but the specific application probably isn't important. Make sure you have an illustrator who can produce files that you can send directly to your printer. If you have questions about the format, just check some of the printers' websites (or call them) to see what formats they accept.

If an illustrator says "sure, you can have the jpegs", hang up the phone and never talk to them again. Illustrations that only look good on the computer are worse than useless. If that sounds like the bitter voice of hard-earned experience, it is.

seo
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Re: Not to contradict Super...

OrlandoPat wrote:
My two cents on the "production ready files" thought: Don't work with an illustrator unless they can produce production ready files. This means that they can produce CMYK vector based files. Adobe Illustrator is my preference, but the specific application probably isn't important. Make sure you have an illustrator who can produce files that you can send directly to your printer. If you have questions about the format, just check some of the printers' websites (or call them) to see what formats they accept.

If an illustrator says "sure, you can have the jpegs", hang up the phone and never talk to them again. Illustrations that only look good on the computer are worse than useless. If that sounds like the bitter voice of hard-earned experience, it is.

While I think I understand your point (and if I do, I agree with you), let's get one thing clear: not all illustrations can be vector based, nor do need to in order to be "production ready files".

Many illustrators might produce high quality raster files and save them as low compression JPEG files to acheive excelent printed results.

The important issue is not JPEG vs Vector but, as OrlandoPat said: "Make sure you have an illustrator who can produce files that you can send directly to your printer." That is what you should worry about.

Raster (JPEG, TIFF, etc.) or Vector (Illustrator, FreeHand, Corel) will be a matter of the illustration style rather than a determining factor for quality. But you'll allways be safer with vector as you can enlarge them without quality loss. But then, don't let anyone fool yourself by saving a low resoluiton raster image as an EPS file, or place it inside an AI file. It will still be a low res bitmap. Ask for 300dpi TIFF files and you'll be fine with raster images. This applies to bitmaps placed into Illustrator too.

Seo

FastLearner
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Commissioning Artwork

Right, with raster files (JPEG, TIFF, BMP, etc.), it's all about resolution and image size. All photos are raster images, and most illustrations are, too. It's just that the illustrator has to have produced the original (and scanned it, if appropriate) at sufficiently high resolution.

There are many illustrations -- I'd even say most, in the more attractive boardgames -- that simply cannot be vector images.

Knowing about that and how to hire and direct illustrators is precisely why you would want to pay for a graphic designer or art director who knows his/her stuff. In fact, it's a big part of why anyone ever pays me for it. :)

Be careful where you think you're saving money. Desktop publishing has made a lot of old jobs obsolete, but the DTP graphic designer and/or art director has a lot of real professional knowledge that actually is worth money.

-- Matthew

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