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How much should prototype art / graphic design cost?

8 replies [Last post]
rosset37's picture
Joined: 09/23/2009

I have a game that has been thoroughly play-tested and I'm ready to create a professional prototype for submission to publishers and agents. How is the rate for graphics design work at this stage typically determined? (components that need design work listed below) Is it by hourly rate, or a single quote for the whole job? Is it typical for designers to take a low fee up front with a percentage of any sales/royalties on the back end, or are these fees usually all up front? Finally, what is a middle of the road fair price to be charged at this stage?

The main components that need art/design are:
-the box
-board (about 24" x 16")
-1 deck of 14 cards
-4 player cards where players track their game status/movements (single sided, about 8" x 5" each)
-limited graphics in the instruction manual.

Redcap's picture
Joined: 07/26/2008
I have found that graphic

I have found that graphic artists are not cheap, most people use free art assets and create working prototypes.

I am not a professional graphic artist ( merely a freelancer) and depending on how detailed your project was I would charge around $100-$500.

Dralius's picture
Joined: 07/26/2008

If you were going to make a prototype to attract investors I would say spend the money.
Otherwise use clipart and make if fully functional. Functionality is the key not flash.

There are others who will tell you otherwise but from working closely with publishers for years I’ve come to the opinion that a fancy prototype is not needed. If someone does license it they will have the artwork redone to suite their taste. At least this is what happens most the time. There are always exceptions.

jeffinberlin's picture
Joined: 07/29/2008
Dralius wrote: If you were

Dralius wrote:

If you were going to make a prototype to attract investors I would say spend the money.
Otherwise use clipart and make if fully functional. Functionality is the key not flash.

That's correct--don't invest any extra money for illustrators or graphic designers unless you are self-publishing (something I would also warn against for your first game). Clip art and desktop publishing can already produce nice-looking prototypes. Spend the time yourself to make it attractive enough that people would want to playtest it. Make components that help explain the rules (include helpful symbols on the cards, rules summary on the board, etc.) and also show their connection with the theme. See my blog for examples of many game prototypes that have been published by Berlin designers:

Also be wary of agents (and certainly don't pay anyone up-front to sell your game for you). Find which publishers would be attracted to your game, and contact them yourself. Try to make appointments with publishers at game conventions, or approach them there personally if an appointment is not possible. This is how most game designers get their games published (unless they already work for a large publisher's in-house design team). People do business with people.

simons's picture
Joined: 12/28/2008
If you do go ahead with art...

From my experience, it is usually pay for the piece, and I have never heard of artists taking a small fee up front and getting a cut later (unless they are friends or associates of the game designer).

If you do decide that you want the graphics listed above, my advice would be to figure out exactly what you are looking for, and then find online discussion groups for artists (such as Tell them what you want, and get people to quote you a price.

You might also want to consider posting things separately, or being clear that you will get things piece-mail (i.e. one artist for the board, one for the cards, etc).

To give you a ballpark figure, I went around things slightly differently, because I wanted just instruction manual artwork. I picked a price, and asked people how many drawings they would be able to do for that price. For my $100 budget I ended up getting 5 drawings (people said they'd do everything from like 3 to 10, I think, I picked the 5 because the artist's work looked really good). Generally, good art = more $$$.

imagegal's picture
Joined: 06/15/2010
Cost of graphics

Word from the pros I've contacted is not to spend a lot on a prototype because, as others have said, a publisher probably will want to tweak the artwork anyway. It is better to do a neat, playable board that gets your idea over and not get caught up in the graphics presentation.
If you are at all handy on the computer and have any decent graphics programs (I use Photoshop Elements and Picture It!7 to do tons of stuff) you probably can do the graphics yourself. And it only costs $35 to copyright whatever you are developing in the way of text and images until you are ready to go for a provisional patent.

Joined: 08/01/2008
I'm an illustrator and while

I'm an illustrator and while I would need some more information to give you a definite number, I'd charge around $200.

You can see my art here:

jeffinberlin's picture
Joined: 07/29/2008
copyrights and patents

Advice from every pro game designer I've ever talked to: don't waste your time and money on copyrights and patents. Once you publish, your game is copyrighted. Patents don't protect game ideas, and are usually laughable (I've heard people filing patents for roll-and-move mechanisms). Game mechanics and themes are not protected by any of this stuff.

And it really doesn't matter. Dominion has a great mechanism, and it's making a lot of money for the designer. It's not completely original though, but that doesn't matter. And it doesn't matter that there are lots of newer games borrowing the mechanism now. Good games do well, and if you are the first to innovate, you'll do better...until someone takes the mechanism you've invented further (that's why people like Knizia do variations on their own mechanisms--before someone else does!).

Joined: 12/22/2010
I agree with most of the

I agree with most of the comments above:

Don't spend money on getting artwork for your prototypes. You can use clipart and any art skills you have to pretty-up the prototype if you want - and it can make the game more presentable - but shelling out money for art isn't a good idea at that stage in the game design. If publishers like the game, then they'll be willing to commission art for the game - generating the art isn't the responsibility of the designer.

I hope these comments help. Good luck on your design.

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