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Cost of artwork

6 replies [Last post]
Joined: 06/07/2016

For a game I am working on I have found multiple pieces of art on DeviantArt that are perfect to be used as card art. How much should I expect to pay for rights to use the art?

Obviously the answer is "it depends", but if you could give me A best guess for limited use rights on a single item of already created art?

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
Believe it or not...

Buying "individual" pieces of artwork from various artists can be MORE costly than having CUSTOM artwork done for your game.

I was discussing this very topic with another designer ... and it seemed like pieces that were done for other projects (other games) may be available for use (because of ownership rights, etc.) -- because the person who commissioned the artwork did not ask for exclusive rights to the artwork.

So yes you can buy existing illustrations -- but at the same time, if you are buying a piece of art here and there, the price could be more expensive than having an artist do 50 custom illustrations.

Part of the reason is VOLUME, when you are asking for custom illustrations, you have a certain volume or amount of illustrations you need to get done. And since that could be in the tenfold, your per piece costs can drop (in price).

To give an example: 50 x $85/illustration = $4,000+. Where as individual pieces of artwork (existing - and one-off) can go for $100-$200 per piece. Granted $100-$200 is less money than $4,000+ ... you've got volume in one case and in the other it's just disparate artwork.

Hope this helps. Cheers.

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
Ownership rights

Also as I mentioned, you need to be certain that the artist has the RIGHTS to resell some previously made illustrations. If they were made for another game -- you may be wasting your time, since the ownership (IP) may belong to another party and not the artist.

But you could approach an artist saying: "I like your artwork, would you be available to do some custom artwork for my game?"

And then volume, amount, sizing, time, artistic style, etc. are all factors you can play with to get the artist to agree to a "per project" price (as opposed to individual price per artwork).


questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
More on ownership

Just wanted to add, that another aspect to commissioning illustrations is the fact of "Ownership". If you are working on a "per project"-basis and make the agreement that the artwork becomes exclusively yours upon delivery, well then the artist CANNOT resell your game's artwork.

BUT that doesn't mean he cannot use it to showcase his style, ability and the various projects that he has worked on.

So the bottom line is that a Deviant Artist may showcase his work with all kinds of illustrations from different projects ... but his hands may also be tied with IP ownership and therefore those illustrations you want to buy for your own use (in your game) may not be possible.

Just be aware of that ... it's very important.

Joined: 02/16/2014
Most game companies nowadays

Most game companies nowadays buy the art completely, leaving the artist able to display the work only for portfolio reasons and occasionally prints (this area gets muddy since some companies enforce their IP protection more strictly than others). In general you won't be able to use work that was already created by a professional because most of the work they display was in use already.

Expect to pay a bare minimum of $250 for a single illustration since the going rate is criminally low already and any less is essentially starving the artist of a living wage. You could probably negotiate a lower rate with a large enough order, if you offer a certain percentage up front, and offer some breathing room for the deadline and creativity displayed during the project. For example, I did some work for FFG and while the wages were not exceptional, the game I did work for was something I'd been looking to work on and the art director was very willing to work with me if any issues came up (which fortunately they didn't).

Your best bet is to simply email some credible artists asking their going rate, and trust that they aren't trying to rip you off. Also, be sure to have a budget already planned out in advance since many artists would be willing to work with you if it seems like you've got a solid business plan established.

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011

Before you commission ANY artwork, make a "budget" for your game. Why? Because this will bring one step closer into understanding how much that $200 (or higher) piece of artwork is going to affect the COST of how much you need to sell your game for.

Typical Game-related budgets for illustrations on cards are about $3,000 USD. Which is about 35 to 40 illustrations assuming that your game has 100 cards but there are duplicates. That works out to from $75 to $85 per illustration.

But look at it from the other angle: if you ONLY sell 500 game sets at let's say $40 USD... That leaves you with about $5,000 of profit (rough estimate). All you time and effort in designing the game leaves you a little bit for your efforts. But your artist makes a little LESS than you as the designer who has spent countless hours designing, playtesting, marketing, planning, KS-ing, shipping, coordinating, etc. And then you need to share that money with partners (if you have any).

Therefore your investment in MAKING the artwork is just that: AN INVESTMENT.

You hope to make it back - and maybe get back into the "Black" with a profit... Giving you a positive balance on your game. So don't let an artist BS you that they need MORE MONEY. Of course everyone wants THOUSANDS of dollars for their art. But they are UNAWARE about the reality in Board Game Design. The margins are SLIM and take a lot of effort in making them... Sticking to a budget is a way of showing you have a plan and cannot afford to go over.

Obviously if you get 10,000 backers - you can offer a BONUS to your illustrator -- and the other members of your team. That's a nice gesture if you are able... But my KS experience is that anything less than 1,000 backers is a failure and a total waste of time.


Note: And I say this with all honesty. With all the EFFORT put into "TradeWorlds" -- we are borderline. The countless hours of editing cards, making newer prototypes, discussing changes, refining the game, making corrections, etc. And with a TEAM of 7 members that actively contribute to the outcome... It's a very lean ship we drive.

We have four (4) business partners, two (2) artists and one (1) writer. All that is a lot for the small-ish game ... that needs a hell of a lot of marketing and advertising to get the goal we made of $42.5k. It's not much if you look at the players involved.

OLG is looking into getting BETTER pricing and we should have a better idea what is left over from the KS... Because we offered a really competitive price on the KS, we almost gave away miniatures, we had a HIGH shipping subsidy, and the price to make the game was relatively high when it came to traditional distribution channels (for future sales).

So IDK - if there will be any profit left over.

We'll know next month when the quotes come in and we have an assessment to see if there are any profits left over to be split among the business partners since artists and our writer were paid upfront...

It's a machine to make an A-rated game. Not a solo effort (rarely). I have seen some pretty amazing solo efforts... but they are not the norm.

Joined: 01/27/2017
Related question

To expand on this question a bit, is there any value to illustrations for a prototype when you want to explain the theme/play to publishers but have no intention of taking the game to KS or production oneself?

Certainly don't expect a discount from the artist since it's my decision to limit the use of the artwork... just wondering if it would in any way help sway a publisher.

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